Oscars 2020: the best of the best

The Oscars are just around the corner and predictions on who will win big are running rampant. Eight films are nominated for the highest honor of Best Picture this year, and this is my take on four of my favorites.

One of the top-choices for award pundits is Sam Mendes’s tense war thriller “1917.” Mendes shoots and edits the film to give it the appearance of being shot in one continuous take, a gimmick that has been the film’s biggest selling point to audiences. The single shot is disorienting at the start, but it keeps the audience locked into the action and makes the movie feel like you’re watching a video game. The cinematography isn’t enough to make this film truly stand out to me, though, and with its limited dialogue and simple plot, it’s hard for me to see “1917” as truly deserving of Best Picture.

While there’s plenty of outstanding movies nominated this year, one of my favorites is Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women.” This charming remake is filled with A-list actors that breathe new life into their famous characters. Gerwig’s clever editing adds fresh perspectives to this classic story and gives the worn-down plot a much-needed refurbishment.

Saoirse Ronan’s Jo March is iconic and spunky as ever, but my favorite character is Florence Pugh’s rendition of the traditional villain Amy. While Jo stays steadfastly the same independent spirit, Amy has more room to grow and is given all of the funniest lines. Even though Laura Dern (“Marriage Story”) has the Best Supporting Actress race locked up, it’s nice to see Pugh’s name on the list too.

Noah Baumbach’s indie “Marriage Story” feels calculated to win an Oscar. It’s a modern-day “Kramer vs Kramer” that exposes the trials of divorce and disentangling yourself from the person you loved the most. Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver pull out all the emotional stops in this one, crying and fighting their way to acting nominations and critical acclaim. Award voters might pan this flick due to its Netflix pedigree, however, and while it’s not the worst film that was nominated, it’s not at the top of my list.

Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, and Azhy Robertson in Marriage Story (2019)

The dark horse of the Oscar race this year is Bong Joon Ho’s buzzy thriller “Parasite.” This Korean drama/comedy focuses on the disparities between the ultra-wealthy and the shrinking middle class in South Korea and the fascinating symbiotic relationship between the two. It has a powerful message but never feels preachy. Instead, the affable characters push the story along effortlessly and subtly change the genre several times right under the audience’s noses. Everything feels meticulously planned and perfectly executed and there’s plenty of symbolism to explore (if you’re into that kind of thing). Don’t let the subtitles scare you off because “Parasite” just might win the Oscars this year.

Kang-ho Song, Hye-jin Jang, Woo-sik Choi, and So-dam Park in Gisaengchung (2019)

   Send article as PDF