Academic Magnet High School - North Charleston, South Carolina.


Academic Magnet High School - North Charleston, South Carolina.


Academic Magnet High School - North Charleston, South Carolina.


Which Picture Was Best?

Ranking the 2024 Nominees for Best Picture.

         One of my favorite times of the year is award season, and the most elite of the awards is undoubtedly the Academy Awards, commonly known as the Oscars. Each year the Academy nominates 10 movies from the past year to be considered for the award. They usually contain a range of dramas, comedies, art films, biopics, and period pieces, and this year is no different. Over the recent years the Academy is moving with the trends of the industry and nominating more “indie” films from studios like A24, and nominating more foreign films for the night’s biggest honor. Below, I’ve ranked my nominations for Best Picture on personal preference. Sadly, I was unable to watch Anatomy of a Fall but I did rank every other nominee that I’ve seen. 


  1. Maestro
Maestro (2023)
  • Directed by Bradley Cooper, starring Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan

I absolutely despised this movie. It was actually bad. Bradley Cooper’s performance as Leonard Bernstein was heinously bad. It seemed like he was doing a bad impression of a gay person the whole time. The worst thing that a movie can be is boring and Maestro was two hours of absolutely nothing happening. This really isn’t even worth watching. After you watch this, you’ll be left with a few questions. First: what do I know about Bernstein that I didn’t know before? Is there anything else? He was secretly bisexual and he was a composer. Every scene is some variation on that. Secondly: what was this movie about? Leonard Bernstein? His relationship with his wife? It’s not cohesive. It’s just a random series of scenes about this guy. I really hate biopics as it is, and this does not help their case. 


  1. American Fiction
American Fiction (2023)
  • Directed by Cord Jefferson, starring Jeffrey Right and Sterling K. Brown

American Fiction is a strange movie. It has a really interesting premise: a black man writes a parody of a “hood memoir” after seeing the success of books he finds patronizing, that then becomes an instant bestseller. It works really well as a satire. Jeffrey Wright is so funny and his performance is incredibly well done. The humor of the movie comes from the relentless satire. For instance, the title of the parody book changes from “My Pafology” to “F***” in an attempt by Monk, the author, to prevent his book from being published. He only submits F*** to spite the publishers that would not buy his more literary mythological work. However, this entire plotline is only half of the movie. The rest of the film follows family melodrama as Monk’s mother is put in a care facility for her Alzheimer’s. The second plot really distracts from the themes and the story, which is why this ranks so low on my list. 


  1. The Zone of Interest
The Zone of Interest (2023)
  • Directed by Jonathan Glazer, starring Christian Friedel and Sandra Huller 

The Zone of Interest is a holocaust drama that likes to pretend it isn’t a holocaust drama. French director Jean-Luc Godard claimed that Schindler’s List was the “death of cinema”, as Spielburg used the mass murder of the holocaust to create dramatic tension. Many praise the Zone of Interest for seemingly doing the opposite of this. The movie doesn’t show any violence or even show any Jewish people on screen. This is part of the thematic argument of the movie — that the family living in the house directly adjacent to Auschwitz is completely ignorant to the horror that they are creating next door. However, I think that this gimmick is not effective. It seems like a cheap way to make an art film. The framing and composition is really beautiful, but it feels a little empty. 

My biggest problem with The Zone of Interest is that it’s very full of itself. It’s very clear that this movie thinks it’s high art. The long shots of nothing happening don’t really do much or say anything about the themes beyond the fact that this “isn’t a traditional movie / Holocaust movie.” The defense that this isn’t using the Holocaust as dramatic beats is also kind of dumb. The whole movie uses the Holocaust to make a point. You see the smokestacks of Auschwitz and hear the noise of screaming. What else could that mean? Don’t get me wrong – this is absolutely horrifying. I had a visceral reaction to parts of this that I wasn’t expecting. I don’t believe, though, that this is any different than Schindler’s List in the respect that it’s using mass genocide to create dramatic tension. Also the argument that it’s bucking conventional structure is stupid. The movie has a norm that’s established, there’s a call to adventure (Höss gets promoted) and a series of trials (his actions moving up the ranks) and a new normal (Höss’s life in the third reich). The Zone of Interest follows the Hero’s Journey. It’s obnoxious to say that because there were long shots of conversations it’s not a traditional narrative. 

After watching this, though, I just kept wondering what the point was. This is a movie in the same vein as Don’t Look Up in that it points out a problem and accuses its audience of being complacent in that problem. It’s a movie for people that agree with the message to point at and say “wow this is important!” It’s not a call to action, it’s a rallying cry for pretentious movie buffs to call the “most important movie of the year.” 


  1. Barbie
Barbie (2023)
  • Directed by Greta Gerwig, starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling

Barbie was the biggest cultural moment of the year by far. It was also really really good and really really funny. I don’t have a lot of criticism other than that America Ferrera’s monologue was a little overacted. I liked it a lot. I don’t really have a lot to say! Greta Gerwig’s Best Director snub was literally crazy. 




  1. The Holdovers
The Holdovers (2023)
  • Directed by Alexander Payne, starring Paul Giamatti and Dominic Sessa

I LOVED The Holdovers. I loved every single second of it. I have nothing critical to say about this movie at all. I liked other movies this year a little bit more, but everyone should watch this. I think it’ll become a Christmas classic soon enough. 




  1. Oppenheimer
Oppenheimer (2023)
  • Directed by Christopher Nolan, starring Cillian Murphy and Robert Downey Jr.

Oppenheimer is very good, but it has a lot of problems. Firstly, it’s boring. I’m sorry to say that you definitely feel the 3 hour runtime of this movie. I saw it in theaters twice and fell asleep the second time. The parts that are good are REALLY good, but those parts are too few and too far between.  Cillian Murphy is really good and Robert Downey Jr. is really good but every other actor is just kind of there. There’s a lot of people in this movie and not all of them had a purpose. The women characters are poorly written and only serve to be the wife of the man. It’s really easy to get lost in the poorly paced plot as well. 

The biggest problem, though, is that Oppenheimer tries to be like 10 different movies. There is the plotline about the atomic bomb, but there’s also subplots about the spread of communism, Oppeheimer’s home life, his security status removal, RDJ’s relationship with Einstein, RDJ’s congressional confirmation, Oppenheimer’s affair, and the budding physics program at UC Berkeley, just to name a few. It’s trying to do too much. There’s too much to follow and a lot of it feels pointless. I think the entire character of Lewis Strauss was a little unnecessary and was only there to make the movie longer and more complicated.

The score is really good and it’s visually super impressive, but it doesn’t have a lot of focus. Oppenheimer is the current favorite to win Best Picture, and I don’t really think it deserves it. 

Oppenheimer will win Best Picture.”

— Wilson Finn Ireland Swenson



  1. Past Lives
Past Lives (2023)
  • Directed by Celine Song, starring Greta Lee and Teo Yoo

It will be a long time before a movie like Past Lives wins Best Picture. It follows two people, a Korean-American playwright and a Korean businessman. When Nora, the playwright, moves to the United States as a young girl, she loses her childhood sweetheart Hae Sung, the businessman. 12 years later, they reconnect over Skype and start a kind of long distance relationship, until Nora cuts it off. After another 12 years, Hae Sung comes to visit Nora and her husband in New York. This was an incredibly good movie. Best Director was an extremely competitive category this year, but I strongly believe that Celine Song should’ve been nominated over Jonathan Glazer. Past Lives is slow moving, but it’s deliberate. 

One of the strongest parts of it is the visual language. The frames are all carefully constructed and the symbolism and patterns across their movements are integral to understanding their relationship. A lot of this movie is about what’s left unsaid, and the characters do a lot of communicating to each other and to the audience by using body language. 

However, the strongest part of Past Lives is the screenplay. Thankfully, the Academy recognized this with a nomination. This is a long series of conversations without a lot of action. There’s a lot of long, contemplative talks by the characters. Without a strong screenplay this movie would be Boring with a capital B. Thankfully, Celine Song pulls it off. There’s not one weak scene, performance, or moment in the whole movie. 


  1. Poor Things
Poor Things (2023)
  • Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos, starring Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo

Poor Things is a little weird. It follows Emma Stone, who plays a woman, Bella Baxter, who has the mind of a baby implanted in her skull. She adventures around the world and learns about human behavior and philosophy, accompanied by Mark Ruffalo’s Duncan Wedderburn. Like a lot of Yorgos Lanthimos’s work, most of the characters are strange. There is also a long portion of the movie where Bella is a prostitute in Paris. The “R” rating for sexual content is very deserved. There are many graphic scenes. 

The movie is very philosophical. Although it might not be as poignant as it thinks it is sometimes, it’s an interesting way to observe the norms of the way we behave. I don’t want to say too much because I think it’ll be more interesting to watch this without any context.

The production design is also exceptionally good. They built every set on a soundstage which is a little crazy and definitely unusual in today’s Hollywood landscape. The performances are pretty incredible. I think it’s Emma Stone and Mark Ruffalo’s best performance so far. The script is weird and engaging and really well paced. This movie will keep your eyes on the screen, even if it’s just because you can’t look away. The themes of sex and marriage are explored the best out of all the ideas. It is a long movie where all the men want to have sex with Bella, who is a little girl in the body of an adult woman. Lanthimos’s commentary is unforgiving. 


  1. Killers of the Flower Moon
Killers of the Flower Moon (2023)
  • Directed by Martin Scorcese, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone

I was really skeptical about this movie. I knew it was over three hours long and I never think that movies that are that long justify being that long. However, Killers… is an exception. I really liked the pacing of the movie. I don’t think any part was too long or drawn out. I think the length was meant to reflect the Osage people. Early on in the film, Robert DeNiro says that the Osage often stay quiet in conversations so that the white people they’re talking to jabber like blackbirds. 

The movie follows the Osage people as they find oil on their lands, then are killed off by white people. I won’t spoil anything else, but the plot is consistently engaging. It’s probably not for everyone, though. If the story and characters don’t intrigue you immediately this is going to be an extremely rough watch. 

The real power of Killers is the actors. The direction is not very showy, with most of the scenes being simple back and forth shots of the conversations. However, the performances of everyone in the cast are so outstanding that the movie kept me hooked the entire time. Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert DeNiro are both excellent in every scene that they’re in. DeNiro especially is kind of scary at the end. He states horrifying things like they’re commonplace. However, the breakout star is Lily Gladstone. Every scene that she is in is absolutely fantastic. It’s worth watching this entire thing just for her performance. 

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