Oscars Best Picture Challenge: Part 1

The 2020 Oscars ceremony is February 9. It’s a shortened season, but I’m determined to see and review each of the nine Best Picture nominees. In the spirit of a shortened season, I’ve decided to conquer the writing portion of this challenge in three parts, publishing snippet reviews of each of the nine nominees.

Let’s dive in! Here are my thoughts on 1917, Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood, and Parasite.

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1917

Much lauded for its technical feats and sheer genius in filmmaking, 1917 was a film I wanted to see regardless of the awards recognition. Full disclosure, I’m not big on war films. However, after reading all about Sam Mendes’ work being filmed in one shot, my curiosity won out.

Mendes’ film takes place during World War I and follows two young, British soldiers given an impossible task: go deep into enemy territory to deliver a message that will save 1,600 men from an almost certain death.

I was floored, not only by the one shot filming, but the incredible imagery presented. Particularly the use of light and shadows. The use of one-shot filming also put the viewer smack dab in the middle of the action, something I think a wartime film calls for.

Beyond the technical aspects, the acting from our two leads – Dean-Charles Chapman and George MacKay – was superb. Chapman plays Lance Corporal Blake opposite MacKay’s Lance Corporal Schofield. Each sells his respective role to the viewer and truly makes the film thrive.

1917 is a marvel of filmmaking. It’s a heartbreaking story of heroism and survival that keeps you on edge from start to finish.

My Rating: 5/5

Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood

It wouldn’t be the Oscars without a film puffing up the ego of Hollywood. I mean, seriously. Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino’s ninth film, follows television actor Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) as they navigate the waning years of Hollywood’s Golden Age in the late 1960s.

Hollywood features several, intertwining storylines that quite honestly muddy it up. The film just meanders around for its nearly three hour runtime with no real purpose. Considering an all-star cast lead by Pitt and DiCaprio, the acting performances were just okay overall for me.

Again, I can only see Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood being selected for its ode to Tinseltown. It was the first Best Picture nominee I viewed and it was forgettable.

My Rating: 2.5/5

Parasite*

I’m just going to say it: Bong Joon Ho‘s Parasite is my favorite of this first set of Best Picture nominees. I’ll get to why in a second but I think you should know that right off the bat.

The film follows a family consisting of Kim Ki-taek (Kang-ho Song), his wife (Sun-kyun Lee), cynical daughter (Yeo-jeong Jo), and college-age son (Woo-sik Choi). The family is penniless and trying to make ends meet, living in a half-basement dwelling. Woo-sik catches a break by getting a job as a tutor for the daughter of the wealthy Park family.

The other members of the Kim family join in on the act, each taking a job with the Park household and claiming to have never met each other. Things seem all grand, at first. However, when the Kims find out a monumental secret from the Parks’ ousted housemaid, a class warfare breaks out and Ho’s seemingly lighthearted film is turned on its head.

Parasite is a terrific examination of the various levels of class in society. As pointed out in several reviews of the film, Ho uses stairs as a metaphor to address this class warfare. From the half-basement of the Kims, to the (way) above ground home of the Parks, right back down to an underground bunker at the home. The reasons for the bunker I won’t divulge for the sake of spoiling the film.

Performances from the cast are impeccable, each actor clearly defining the various emotional turns the film takes with his or her role. The symbolism and imagery is top-notch as well. Parasite is my pick for Best Picture.

My Rating: 5/5 (Would give it 6 if I could)

*Denotes Best Picture winner

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