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Best Picture roundup

 

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Winner: “Parasite”

“Parasite” has had a landmark awards season as the first Korean film to win the Cannes Palme d’Or, the highest grossing film to come out of South Korea and, now, the first international film to ever win Best Picture. Masterfully directed by Bong Joon Ho, “Parasite” subverts its initial dark comedy genre, spiraling into dramatic and suspenseful thriller fueled by a wonderful cast performance. “Parasite” is not only endlessly entertaining and well-paced, but also a damning social commentary on the vices of capitalism and social inequality, solidifying its place as one of the best of the year — and one of the masterpieces of the decade.

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“1917”

“1917” utilizes captivating cinematography to portray the struggles of two World War I British soldiers as they venture through trenches and abandoned German towns to deliver an important message. The partnership and emotional connection between the two soldiers, in addition to Thomas Newman’s swelling score, is essential to the film. Legendary cinematographer Roger Deakins employs a one-take technique, ingeniously utilizing framing and pace to inject suspense into what could have been a traditional war drama.

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“Jojo Rabbit”

“Jojo Rabbit” tells a tale of tolerance and character development. Jojo (Roman
Griffin Davis), a young German boy in Nazi Germany, is a devoted follower of Hitler, leading to internal conflicts when he finds his mother Rosie (Scarlett Johansson) hiding a Jewish girl in their house. Stuck in a moral limbo, Jojo relies on an imaginary Hitler (Taika Waititi) to guide him. Waititi, also the film’s director, portrays a humorous Hitler, a bold choice for a historical figure so vile. The final line ultimately delivers a crucial message: “No feeling is final.”

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“The Irishman”

Director Martin Scorsese reunites with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci in “The Irishman.” This three-hour epic tells the complicated tale of Irish mobster Frank Sheeran across five decades. While the majority of the scenes were masterfully shot, the CGI de-aging of the characters did little to mask their stiff movements. Scorsese pays homage to the novel the script was adapted from
(“I Heard You Paint Houses”) by using painting houses as a metaphor for killing someone. Although at times drawn out, the climax offers a shocking revelation.

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“Joker”

Leading the Academy Awards with 11 nominations and grossing over $1 billion at the box office, “Joker” is arguably the film of the year. Despite its success, the film fails to say anything of real substance. The film’s redeeming qualities — in particular, Joaquin Phoenix’s performance and Hildur Guðnadóttir’s score — are worthy of praise. However, director Todd Phillips lacks the courage to craft the nuanced and dark character study he promises, resorting to a contrived screenplay that can be distilled into one sentence: We live in a society.

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“Marriage Story”

Writer and director Noah Baumbach, known for his idiosyncratic characters and
realistic dialogue, crafts a poignant portrait of a marriage and its eventual dissolution. The rigid and suffocating atmosphere of Los Angeles adds to the emotional tension and fluidity of Baumbach’s screenplay. With powerhouse performances by Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson, “Marriage Story” explores the fracturing of a relationship under conflicting pressures. Despite the screenplay’s emotional intensity, a poignant ending reveals the film’s true identity — that of a love story.

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“Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood”

Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt star in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood,” which tells the story of a faded actor and his stunt double as they navigate the film industry in 1969. The film weaves together multiple storylines in a “Pulp Fiction”-esque manner, which are driven by the poignancy of cultural nostalgia. With the Manson Family murders as a central plot point, Tarantino incorporates real events with fictional ones, crafting a fairytale rendition of his vision of the 1960s zeitgeist.

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“Ford v Ferrari”

The historic rivalry between two titans of the car industry is artfully depicted in “Ford v Ferrari,” directed by James Mangold. The dynamic between Matt Damon and Christian Bale, two veteran actors, energizes the screen as the film explores their progressing partnership. The editing and aesthetic of vintage racecars transports the audience, and the superbly filmed scenes during the arduous 24 Hours of Le Mans race instills adrenaline into the audience. Nevertheless, the film never escapes from its generic structure and plot.

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“Little Women”

Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women,” based on Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, combines a stellar cast performance with an adaptation that shines a spotlight on the March family while thoroughly examining a layered plot. Gerwig’s implementation of flashbacks, shot in rosy hues, contrasts with the cool undertones of a present timeline; the delicately intertwined transitions feed the energy of a consistently entertaining plot. Themes of womanhood and self-discovery empowers this heartwarming story.

Compiled by Sarah Aie, Ashley Liang, Philbert Loekman, Jacob Khuu, Bhalpriya Sandhu and Milo Santiago

Photos courtesy of IMDb

 



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