Friday, February 16, 2024

Oscar Got It Wrong!: Best Picture 2022

The Contenders:

All Quiet on the Western Front
Avatar: The Way of Water
The Banshees of Inisherin
Everything Everywhere All at Once (winner)
The Fabelmans
Top Gun: Maverick
Triangle of Sadness
Women Talking

What’s Missing

You have to know by this point that when we’re talking about Best Picture snubs, the first thing I’m going to bring up is The Menu, a film that absolutely should have gotten much more play come Oscar time than the effective zero it did. Seriously, two Golden Globe nominations is criminal. Animated films like Marcel the Shell with Shoes On and Apollo 10 ½ don’t get a lot of Oscar play, so no shock that they aren’t here. The same is generally true of superhero movies, which leaves out The Batman. The Woman King, The Northman, Three Thousand Years of Longing, and The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent do belong in this conversation, especially over some of the actual nominees.

Weeding through the Nominees

10. The nomination for Avatar: The Way of Water feels like an award handed out for the people who spent the most money on making a film—it got nominated because it bought its way in. No doubt that if we’re looking at things like effects, there’s a lot here to love, but in terms of everything else, this is an absolute waste of a nomination. With the movies that could have been honored in this way, I’m frustrated that I have to talk about it here, and that I’ll probably have to do the same with the upcoming sequels.

9. It would be natural to think that my objection to Top Gun: Maverick is the obvious and ridiculous military nationalism that the film absolutely embodies. The truth is that while that certainly bothers me, the real problem here is how little the film actually offers about most of the characters involved. I challenge anyone to watch this film and then have more than a sentence or two to say about any of the pilots other than the main couple of characters. Most of them are ciphers because they don’t matter to the film. That’s just bad writing and bad story telling.

8. Deciding the next two spots took a moment or two for me, but Elvis fits in 8th place for a couple of reasons. The first is that it’s far too long for the story it wants to tell. There’s at least an extra half hour of this specifically because it’s the story of Elvis Presley whether or not the story actually needs the time. Second is the absolutely ridiculous, embarrassing performance of Tom Hanks. I don’t hate the nomination for Austin Butler, but that’s the only nomination this should have gotten.

7. TÁR is a film that I wanted to like more than I did. It’s also far too long for the story it wants to tell, and it has a great deal in common with Elvis in that it tells the story of someone who free falls from grace. Cate Blanchett is great in this role, but when isn’t she great in anything she does? But, much like Elvis, the acting nomination is the one that was deserved and the other nominations far less so. Given so much that wasn’t nominated, there is no need for this to be in the conversation for Best Picture.

6. I have complained about The Fabelmans in the past few weeks a couple of times, and in truth, it’s probably a better movie—as a movie—than I want to give it credit for being. But, as with the last couple of entries on this countdown, this is far too long for the story it wants to tell, and trimming this down by a good 30 minutes would make this a much better film. While I don’t love this nomination, I don’t hate it, either, and it’s right on the edge of what I would nominate in my own list of ten…but if it makes the cut, it’s at the very bottom.

5. I like the nomination for Women Talking, and I like that it won for screenplay, even if my choice might have been different. It’s a very good film, and I think an important one, both for the story it tells and for the reality of the dangers of religiosity that it confronts. But in terms of being a movie, it’s a title that fully sums up what it’s about. This is about women talking, and not a great deal more. The story is an ambitious one in a lot of respects, but the film itself really isn’t, which puts it at the bottom of the nominations I genuinely like.

4. Fourth place seems a little low for Triangle of Sadness, but this is more about the competition than it is about the other films. The issue here is more about things being a little disjointed in terms of the story. This is much more a series of three interconnected shorts than it is a single film. I like what this film does, and I very much like the story (or stories) that it is telling. This is merely a case where I genuinely like the remaining three nominations more. In a different year, this probably moves up a space or two.

3. The Banshees of Inisherin has some of the same issues as Women Talking in that it’s a film that is very small in terms of the story that it tells. This isn’t a sweeping tale, but a very personal one. So, since it suffers from the same problems, why is it here? Bluntly, because I like it more. I like the story it tells, and I love the central performances. Additionally, I like the storytelling more here. Of the two, this is one I’m much more likely to watch a second time. It’s a dandy little film, with “little” being an operative word.

2. The rule of this blog has always been that the tie goes to the Academy (mostly because the Academy is right only about 1 time in 4). All Quiet on the Western Front is a film that I would have been very pleased to see walk away with the top honor from this year. This is precisely how a war movie should be done, and while it clearly owes a debt to 1917 and Dunkirk it manages to be as strong of an anti-war statement as the film made nearly a century ago. In a lesser year, it’s an easy pick.

My Choice

1. It’s probably true that I like The Menu and Marcel the Shell more than I like Everything Everywhere All at Once, but I’m still putting EEAaO on the top. The reason for this is that Best Picture is not merely the movie I liked the best from its year, but the movie that is, more or less, the most important. The idea of a multiverse is currently the hottest idea in movies, and over and over, we’ve had big, splashy attempts to make it work, not always successfully. This is how to make that concept work—it’s complex without being complicated, effective and understandable. For that reason, and because the movie is great, this is the choice for me, and the Academy got a rare one correct.

Final Analysis


  1. I truly think The Banshees of Inishierin was the best film of last year, but I can't really argue with EEAAO as a win because it is so different.

    1. I really liked Banshees. I probably would not put it first if it had won, but it's absolutely a nomination I love being here. It's one that would easily make the cut for me in an open field.

  2. I ain't arguing with the Oscars' choice it is a weird-ass film for all of the right reasons though it's not my favorite film of that year. That belongs to Decision to Leave by Chan-wook Park.

    1. I think it was the only choice that would have been right from the listed films. I wouldn't have been terribly angry with one or two others, but they still wouldn't have been right.