Didn’t get to see all the Oscars best picture nominations? We’ve got you covered — the Foghorn reviewed each film in the running for the coveted award.
‘Parasite’ — dir. Bong Joon-ho
“Parasite,” the first Korean film to win the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, is a relentless depiction of wealth inequality that proves that, for a 21st century audience, very little is as terrifying as the fact that we all live in the grips of late-stage capitalism.
To describe it simply, “Parasite” follows a poor family as its members adopt different identities, pretending to be unrelated to one another, and gain employment in a wealthy family’s home one-by-one. Chaos quickly ensues.
The poor family’s infiltration of the wealthy family’s household allows Bong Joon-ho to depict the parasitic relationships that capitalism necessitates — “Parasite” brutally demonstrates that under capitalism, in order for the rich to exist, so must the poor.
Unlike most films, it’s impossible to point to single, standout elements that make “Parasite” brilliant — rather, every aspect of this film is as close to perfect as anything I’ve ever seen. Bong’s incessant devotion to rhythm in his montages, the film’s sharp metaphors, and the incredibly talented cast all culminate in an intelligent, ruthless masterpiece. With “Parasite,” Bong has cemented his status as one of the greatest directors of our time.
‘1917’ — dir. Sam Mendes
History will remember “1917” as the “one-shot war movie,” and it is true. Through computer-generated imagery, a constantly-moving camera, and clever editing, it does cement itself as an impressive technical achievement. But save for one beautiful night time sequence, the film brings nothing else to the table. Its story is a dull propagandistic tale of heroic warriors, and its one-shot gimmick distracts from any action scenes, making them feel like a chore to sit through. The events feel too removed to have any emotional impact. But, of course, the academy loves a simple war movie with no real courage, so expect it to do well on Feb. 9.
‘Jojo Rabbit’ — dir. Taika Waititi
Amie C. Lu
Taking place in the final months of World War II, director Taika Waititi (“Thor: Ragnarok”) turns one of the darkest chapters in human history into a tale of compassion and redemption through “Jojo Rabbit,” delicately balancing satirical humor with darker scenes that ensure that viewers don’t lose sight of the brutality of the Nazi regime. We are introduced to 10-year-old Johannes “Jojo” Betzler (Roman Griffin Davis), who, encouraged by his imaginary friend, a comically child-like rendition of Adolf Hitler (Taika Waititi), joins the Hitler Youth. However, upon his arrival at a Nazi summer camp, Jojo discovers that the life of a Nazi doesn’t suit him and ultimately unravels his propaganda-fueled anti-Semitism and develops empathy, learning that life is about more than being full of hatred.
My favorite part of the film demonstrates Waititi’s balancing act, taking place when Hitler and Jojo are hanging out in the latter’s bedroom before he heads out to camp and start talking as though they are characters out of “Superbad” (“Heil me, man!”)
“Is it dangerous out there? — Yes, extremely.”
‘Ford vs. Ferrari’ — dir. James Mangold
“Ford vs. Ferrari” is like if your dad wrote a “Fast and Furious” movie: history, Matt Damon, Ford, and Ferrari. What makes the movie work, and makes it so critically acclaimed, is the chemistry between the characters of Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles (Matt Damon and Christian Bale, respectively). When the two of them are on screen together, it adds magic to the story. Director James Mangold keeps the film’s racing sequences engaging and interesting without a marathon of cuts. He uses Damon and Bale’s dynamic performances as the backbone of the movie, and it is sublime. However, the movie is slow in its buildup and lacks memorable scenes. Its plodding first act takes the air out of the audience’s initial excitement and leaves much to be desired. Ironically, this film lacked that extra gear that could have made it truly great.
‘Marriage Story’ — dir. Noah Baumbach
I cry nearly every time I watch a movie. After “Marriage Story,” I think I’ll need to have the lump in my throat surgically removed.
The script leans heavily on its leads in order to breathe life into the story, even in its mundane moments, and thankfully Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson are more than up to the task. Driver in particular manages to capture a sense of hopelessness that’s both impossible to look away from and positively heart-wrenching. (And it goes without saying that Laura Dern’s performance is absolutely electric.)
There is no “villain” in this story. There are simply two people who had once chosen each other and are now clinging desperately to the one thread of commonality they have left: their love for their child. It’s this desperation that lies at the heart of Baumbach’s film and makes it such a gut-punch of a watch.
‘Joker’ — dir. Todd Phillips
Ladies and gentlemen, raise your hand if you’d like to join the club of people who talked s— about “Joker,” but then went, saw it, and actually enjoyed it.
“Joker” serves as an origin story for Batman’s nemesis. We see the character of Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a middle-aged man who works as a clown and is a caretaker for his mother, go through misfortune after misfortune, eventually leading to his ultimate downfall into insanity, apathy, and inhumanity.
The film forces the audience to consider what spun Fleck into this web of brutality and how each of these events could have prevented his ultimate demise — holding up a mirror to society. It forces viewers to compare the events of the film to greater, more relevant issues such as wealth inequality, unjust politics, and mental health treatment.
In just over two hours, the audience will feel themselves gaining immense sympathy and empathy for Arthur Fleck while simultaneously watching him brutally murder people and incite a massive, violent riot across the city of Gotham.
‘Little Women’ — dir. Greta Gerwig
I remember the first time I read “Little Women,” as a little fifth grader who fell in love with Jo’s tenacity, Amy’s creativity, Meg’s kindness, and Beth’s virtue. From watching the original movie with my mom at age 11 to seeing this new rendition with her during winter break, I have been awestruck by the character dynamics and heart-warming story of the little women for years. Greta Gerwig’s version did not disappoint, as she put a modern spin on the beloved plot and brought its characters to life with the casting of some of my favorite actors, such as Saiorse Ronan (Jo), Emma Watson (Meg), and Timotheé Chalamet (Laurie).
The time jumps wove together the story’s past and present in a beautiful way. I fell in love with Jo’s character arc as she followed her writing aspirations (a narrative I know all too well). The cinematography, combined with the incredible score, all-star cast, and the comforting feel of the movie itself caused me to fall in love with “Little Women” all over again, begging everyone I know to see it — or see it again. I absolutely loved finding myself in each of the March sisters and am strongly rooting for that best picture win.
‘Once Upon A Time in Hollywood’ — dir. Quentin Tarantino
Julian E.J. Sorapuru
“Once Upon A Time in Hollywood” is an ode to the new-Hollywood era of cinema with a similar amount of quirks and personality as Quentin Tarantino himself. It has all the trappings of a Tarantino film: great dialogue, a colorful cast of flawed yet likeable characters, and a gripping soundtrack. Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, and Margot Robbie all give entertaining, charismatic performances, bringing 1960s Hollywood back to life.
This might not be the film for those who don’t have an infatuation with Hollywood or enjoy dialogue-heavy plots. However, there is no shortage of absurd set pieces, such as a fight with Bruce Lee and a chilling visit to the Manson Family Ranch. The pièce de résistance is certainly the wildly entertaining, chaotic scene which rewrites the history of actress Sharon Tate’s story. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” proves that Tarantino is in his comfort zone and at his best when subverting famous historical moments.
‘The Irishman’ — dir. Martin Scorsese
Martin Scorsese’s latest mob epic is masterful, yet self-indulgent.
Backed by a $160 million budget, an all-star cast featuring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, and a script adapted from a mafia crime novel (“I Heard You Paint Houses” by Charles Brandt), “The Irishman” has all the makings of a classic Scorsese movie.
That said, with a tedious runtime of three and a half hours and source material that, topically, is nothing new to Scorsese, “The Irishman” feels like a riff on everything the filmmaking legend has done before.
Scorsese’s schtick is a good one, but in a pool of more diverse, more timely, and more original movies, I wouldn’t deem “The Irishman” worthy of best picture.