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Best Predictions for Best Picture

Goooood morning, Backseat Directors! (I say “good morning” because I’m currently working the graveyard shift at the hospital, and thankfully I have a little downtime). 

It’s February: a month often ruled by Valentine’s Day, but thankfully both the single and the attached can enjoy watching the Oscars! And in celebration of this annual event, I thought I’d give you all my take on the nominees for Best Picture. This is at the request of a friend of mine, who describes watching the Oscars as “taking a picture of a strange log because that’s what all the other tourists are doing.” In hopes that he and some of you will enjoy a look into this year’s Superbowl of films, here are the 2019 Best Picture nominees (along with my humble recommendations). I’ve listed them in descending order of how likely I think they are to win the top prize:

  • 1. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
  • Recommendation: GO SEE IT…or…MAYBE A MATINEE?

I’ve gone back and forth with my recommendation for this one, so I just put both. I have strong feelings about Quentin Tarantino’s (literal) overkill in films but I cannot deny he is a talented filmmaker, and this film is fascinating from start to finish. The ending is….well, I think it’s pretty clever. I’m not sure how to talk about this movie without spoilers, so I’ll just say the ending sparks some good discussion and possible nightmares about home invasion. My prediction is that Tarantino will walk away with his first Best Picture statue, and if not it’ll be the one for Best Director.

  1. 2. Joker
  2. Recommendation: GO SEE IT!

The most controversial of the nominees, Joker is the first comic-book movie to be honored in the Best Picture category; although, Joaquin Phoenix is not the first actor to be nominated for portraying the titular character. I have a hard time recommending this film because it is unsettling, to say the least, but I’m glad I watched it as it has sparked a lot of important discussions about mental health, trauma, and violence. Whether it meant to be or not, Joker has become relevant and political, and if you are going to have an opinion you will just have to go see it. It would be a bizarre choice by the Academy but I have a feeling it will get more recognition that we expect.

  1. 3. Ford v Ferrari
  2. Recommendation: GO SEE IT!

This movie is a thrill ride, and definitely more family-friendly than the previous two nominees. Despite its length, I never got bored or wondered how long I’d been in the theater (and this coming from a girl who couldn’t tell a Ford from a Ferrari without looking at the logos). Christian Bale was robbed of an Oscar nomination here for his acting performance. Bale and Matt Damon are a powerful duo that keep you engaged throughout an extended runtime. You are missing out if you don’t catch this one in theaters: Le Mans was meant to be experienced on a big screen with surround sound. Good luck driving the speed limit on your way home!

  1. 4. 1917
  2. Recommendation: GO SEE IT!

This is my personal favorite of the list. Like past nominee Dunkirk, 1917 approaches war films in a new way by making the entire movie appear to be one continuous shot. It is incredibly disciplined film-making, giving exposition and character-development while trying to bring you intimately into the trenches of WWI with the two leads, so that by the end you are exhausted from the tension and the sheer weight of the task set before the protagonist. And of course, it lands all the more because it is based on the real-life experiences of the director’s grandfather. I think it is a solemn and satisfying tribute to the sacrifice of men and women in the armed forces—I look forward to a re-watch.

  1. 5. Jojo Rabbit
  2. Recommendation: GO SEE IT!

Are you surprised that there exists a comedy about a gung-ho Nazi Youth and his imaginary friend Hitler finding a Jew hiding in their home? Believe it or not, it sits among the Best Picture nominees—but it deserves its place. I’ve been a Taika Waititi fan since Hunt for the Wilderpeople, as he has a special talent for weird movies that make me belly-laugh and tear-up. I can think of no one better to answer the question, “What would it be like to grow up a Nazi?” I also feel this is Scarlett Johansson’s best performance to date: she is hilarious and stunningly poignant, as well as heroic. 

  1. 6. Marriage Story
  2. Recommendation: STREAM IT

(Note: Marriage Story is steaming on Netflix)

Since it follows the story of a couple getting divorced, I wonder if the title is cynical? Perhaps suggesting that with any marriage divorce is inevitable, thus making the two terms interchangeable. The whole movie rides entirely on spectacular acting performances by Laura Dern, Scarlett Johansen, and Adam Driver. The script is witty and powerful, though that makes it feel more like a play than a film (which I know is a turn-off for some but not for me). I enjoyed watching it at home on a quiet night in, but it might be worth a date night at the theater if you’re going out—maybe for Valentine’s Day?

  1. 7. The Irishman
  2. Recommendation: SKIP IT

(Note: The Irishman is also streaming on Netflix)

I don’t think this movie is worth seeing in theaters, and I think most people agree because a staggering number streamed it on Netflix rather than leaving home. I had to watch the movie in two parts because of its long run time—which felt more bloated than essential for me. Perhaps a mini-series would have been a better medium? De Niro, Pacino, Pescini, and Scorcese all prove themselves as individual masters of their craft, though something kept it from feeling like a masterpiece; and honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about anti-aging CGI. 

  1. 8. Little Women
  2. Recommendation: MAYBE A MATINEE

This movie falls under the category “Movies To Take My Mom To.” It’s an important category for me, because there are few things tame enough for my mom to stand but entertaining enough to keep her awake in a dark theater; this is one of them. I’ve seen other film versions of the Louisa May Alcott tale, but this is by far the best of the bunch: mostly due to the editing and directing. If you are in the mood for some excellent 1800’s banter, this movie is exactly what you’re looking for. It provides some much needed hope and light amidst some pretty heavy subject matter on this list.

  1. 9. Parasite
  2. Recommendation: NO GO

Unfortunately, foreign cinema has yet to break through and nab the top Oscar prize, and I don’t think Parasite will be the one to finally break the glass ceiling. Though thought-provoking and on matters of society and class barriers, I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed this film. It left me feeling like there are no good guys in a world like ours. It’s an uncomfortable conversation to have, and perhaps that haunting feeling is precisely why this movie performed so well. I’m certainly outnumbered as far as my opinion is concerned, but I’d love to hear your thoughts and how this movie affected you; I just recommend you wait for Redbox.

And those are the nominees! I’d just like to add that no matter what recommendation I might offer about a particular film, I’m very grateful for filmmakers who share their talents and tell these incredible stories through the movies. It’s a beautiful thing that my list looks different from so many others, and I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on these films and how they’ve impacted you! So Happy February, and Happy Oscars!

About the Author
Although I consider myself equally Californian, Oregonian, Nevadan, and Mexican, I currently reside in Reno, “The Biggest Little City in the World!" I love watching and playing most sports (I played rugby in college) but since I’m an adult with bills to pay, I also work in surgery at a local hospital. I come from a big family; if you speak Spanish I’ll force you to be my friend to help me practice. Most importantly, I’m super excited to be a part of Backseat Directors!

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