After an arduous campaign season, the nominees for the 95th Academy Awards were finally announced by Academy Award winner Riz Ahmed and actress Allison Williams via livestream early Tuesday morning from the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.
Of the 301 films considered, 54 emerged with nominations in 23 categories, but just 10 managed to receive a nomination for the coveted Best Picture award. The field of contenders this year is notably diverse in style and tone, from the profoundly comedic “Everything Everywhere All at Once” to introspective period pieces à la “The Banshees of Inisherin,” and — in a rare move for the Academy — major blockbusters like “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water.”
The 2023 field of Best Picture contenders is noticeably broader than those of previous years — nominees included both Hollywood darlings and obscure arthouse films. This could be the Academy’s attempt to draw in greater viewership to the awards ceremony on March 12. Last year, despite the buzz garnered by Will Smith’s controversial Oscars slap, the Academy experienced its second worst ratings of all time, bested only by the year previous.
As of now, the masterful “Everything Everywhere All at Once” seems to be the frontrunner for Best Picture, amassing a total of 11 nominations — more than any other nominee this year. However, the film has some stiff competition. Read on to see what the Cardinal staff has to say about each of this year’s Best Picture nominees.
“All Quiet on the Western Front”
Edward Berger’s 2022 adaptation of Eric Maria Remarque’s novel “All Quiet on the Western Front” translates plain prose to brutal, pictorial visual language. What begins with a quiet and pastoral landscape turns eventually to ceaseless carnage and violence underscored by gripping cinematography and individual performances from Paul Baümer. “All Quiet on the Western Front” is a seminal reworking of the original book that relentlessly pummels and violates. It’s not a necessarily pleasant viewing but instead one which pays respect to the magnitudes of human brutality and turmoil.
— Kai W. Li, Arts Editor
“Avatar: The Way of Water”
Since “Avatar” was released in 2009 and became the highest grossing film of all time, it has been subject to discourse surrounding its cultural impact and jokes about its lengthy runtime. Director James Cameron seems to have taken those critiques and retorted with an astounding three hour and twelve minute sequel.
Cameron’s latest is, to put it lightly, a masterpiece. The sequel follows protagonist Jake Sully, his wife Neytiri and their family, whose lives are uprooted following the return of humans to Pandora. In order to protect their tribe, Jake and his family flee their home, finding solace in a coastal tribe. With well-executed themes of anti-imperialism and environmentalism, mind-boggling visual effects and emotional storylines, “Avatar: The Way of the Water” is a phenomenal sequel that proves Cameron’s continuing pentalogy can win over audiences and critics alike.
— Annika Bereny, Staff Writer
“The Banshees of Inisherin”
"The Banshees of Inisherin," written and directed by Martin McDonagh, is a stellar tale exploring the abrupt end of a great friendship. Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson give touching performances as Padraic and Colm, respectively. Kerry Codon delivers a standout performance as Padraic's sister Siobhán, who offers intelligence and rationale against the irrational reasons for the friendship’s abrupt end. Both characters make you feel the loss of their falling-out as well as the lasting effects it has on themselves and the people around them. With the help of Ben Davis, McDonagh does a fantastic job of showing the growing separation of these characters through excellent cinematography while also highlighting the beauty of the Irish coast. Lastly, McDonagh shows his genius as a director by enhancing the movie’s commentary about friendship and loss of humanity via setting the film during the Irish Civil War.
— Kennan Chojnacki, Staff Writer
My first impression of “Elvis” was one of absolute hysteria, thanks to my mom Gina. Gina has been a fan of Elvis Presley since childhood. Sitting before the big screen with my sister and I perched comfortably on either side, my mother could barely contain her excitement. As the movie progressed, we were transported into the fanatic world of Elvis Presley through Austin Butler’s spectacular performance. The use of modern musical theory interwoven among iconic rhythm and blues tracks made the film a perfect piece for viewers of all ages (Note: points were removed from my rating due to Tom Hanks’ unsavory and frankly annoying performance).
— Athena Kafkas, Staff Writer
“Everything Everywhere All at Once”
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is undoubtedly the best movie I have seen this past year. From its outstanding editing, set design, world-building and choreography to unforgettable performances by Michelle Yeoh, Ke Huy Quan and Stephanie Hsu, this movie definitely checked all the boxes for me. And to only have a budget of $25 million and five people in the VFX department — just wow! It definitely felt like I was on an emotional rollercoaster all throughout the movie. It's equal parts exhilarating and exhausting, tied in with hilarious, gut-wrenching fun. The movie itself is simple yet extremely effective in plot and writing, allowing the actors to leave everlasting emotions and thought-provoking questions about the contemporary world. With that being said, this movie deserves to win because when we pull back the curtain — in this case the universe jumping and crazy shenanigans — the viewer is left with a profound and relatable story of self-discovery and family reconciliation.
— Alicia Zilch, Staff Writer
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” feels at once tributary and personal, pushing irreverently against the scrim of its genre. Its setting within an eclectic multiverse often feels pointed and intensely parodic of Hollywood tropes without losing its intention, sincerity or voice (its stylistic flairs of old retro-Hong Kong martial arts films feel, at least for me, deeply nostalgic). In all its visual fractures and cinematic oddities, what truly ruptures and overwhelms you is the emotional sincerity of its characters and their actors. It’s why the film feels large and allusive without confounding grandeur with excess.
— Kai W. Li, Arts Editor
Directed and written by Steven Spielberg, and inspired by his life, “The Fablemans” tells a heartfelt coming-of-age story centered around Sammy Fableman, played by Gabriel Labelle. Although the movie may over-fantasize life and pull the audience out of the film, the solid emotional beats highlighting the dynamic nature of life keep the watcher emotionally invested. A standout performance adding emotional weight is Michelle Williams’ portrayal of Sammy's Mom, Mitz Fableman. Williams does a fantastic job highlighting her discomfort and inner suffering as an artist trapped in a boring, hierarchical family. At its heart, the movie is an ode to rising artists and old cinema that highlights the beauty and sacrifices one must endure to succeed.
— Kennan Chojnacki, Staff Writer
The only words to describe Todd Field’s “Tár” are riveting, mystifying and gut-wrenching. The film follows master conductor Lydia Tár who is stunningly portrayed by Cate Blanchett in what might be the best performance of the year. At the movie’s onset, Lydia is at the height of her career — she’s an esteemed conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic orchestra, has a new book on the way and teaches a masterclass at Juilliard. However, Lydia’s egoism and flagrant abuse of her status soon catch up to her as her life begins to unravel in a spectacularly and utterly horrifying way. Expertly crafted and performed, “Tár” is one of the most competitive nominees for Best Picture this year and would be well deserving of the distinction.
— Noah Fellinger, Arts Editor
“Top Gun: Maverick”
At first glance, “Top Gun: Maverick” is an unlikely Best Picture nominee. But unlike its military propaganda predecessor, this iteration depicts the titular Maverick (Tom Cruise) as a man working through feelings of irrelevance and loneliness in a world that’s moved on from the aggressive masculinity of the 1980s. It’s a far more compelling story arc that Cruise executes masterfully alongside a new cast of Top Gun recruits, including Goose’s resentful yet delightfully fruity son, Rooster (Miles Teller). The added character depth, when combined with the original movie’s exhilarating midair antics and invigorating sound effects, makes Top Gun’s sequel a summer blockbuster worthy of Academy praise.
— Tyler Katzenberger, State News Editor
“Triangle of Sadness”
“Triangle of Sadness” starts out with promise but ultimately ends up feeling about twice as long and half as deep as it should be. The core premise — a luxury yacht has a disaster-filled night and eventually strands its passengers on a deserted island — has most of its potential squandered by on-the-nose portrayals of upper-class entitlement and hypocrisy. Parts of the film are definitely entertaining, especially the drunken ramblings of Woody Harrelson as the ship’s Marxist captain, but it hardly feels Best Picture-worthy. However, the performances and direction are solid, and class satire is all the rage right now, so a win wouldn’t be too surprising.
— Spencer Ball, Staff Writer
One of the most harrowing and powerful movies in recent memory, “Women Talking” is a film that delves into the complex and emotional lives of women in a remote Mennonite community. In the film, the women of the Manitoba Colony discover that the men who have controlled them through religion their entire lives have been using anesthetic to rape them for many years. This sparks a debate among the women: should they leave or stay and forgive their abusers? The film expertly balances the gravely serious subject matter with raw humanity, making it a truly moving and impactful viewing experience. The performances by the all-female cast are outstanding, particularly those of Claire Foy and Frances McDormand. “Women Talking” is a must-see film for anyone interested in exploring the complexities of gender, power and religion. Though it might not be a clear frontrunner for Best Picture, the award is certainly not out of reach.
— Noah Fellinger, Arts Editor
Tyler Katzenberger is the State News Editor at The Daily Cardinal. He has covered numerous protests and written state politics, healthcare, business and in-depth stories. Follow him on Twitter at @tk_kutz.
Noah Fellinger is an Arts Editor at The Daily Cardinal. Follow him on Twitter at @Noah_Fellinger.
Annika Bereny is a staff writer for the Daily Cardinal specializing in state news and politics reporting. Follow her on Twitter at @annikabereny.
Kai W. Li is an Arts Editor at The Daily Cardinal covering music, visual arts, and film. Follow him on Twitter at @kaijuneli.