3. The Irishman
Martin Scorsese’s latest film The Irishman could arguably be seen as the director’s best and certainly most personal piece of work, though the general conversation surrounding its extraordinary rumenations on age, regret and apathy seem to have been lost to discussion surrounding how to consume the 3 hours and 30 minutes Netflix film, or whether the de-ageing technology Scorsese used “worked” or not. It’s a real shame.
Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci offer career high portrayals – quite the achievement for actors with a history for pushing buttons and gaining immense critical acclaim – while Al Pacino is the best he’s been in decades.
Scorsese, whose 2010s also featured The Wolf of Wall Street and Silence, was also clearly at his very best as he entombed the extremely detailed and information-heavy script written by Steven Zaillian inside an accessible and still remarkably entertaining structure, adapting Charles Brandt’s non-fiction gangster book into a cinematic piece that commented on gangster culture at large, the American political system, the West’s relationship to capitalism, our relationships to death and time, and even the films of his own filmography, while never straying away from making an immersive, fundamentally impressive cinematic story worthy of repeated analysis.
The Irishman felt like the signature to a letter Scorsese had himself written in film, a truly special moment upon which to end the decade and an undeniable Best Picture winner in almost any other year.
Quite simply one of the very best war movies ever, Sam Mendes’ pulsating World War I epic 1917 is both a masterpiece of technicality and of emotionality; one of the most significant releases of our time.
Instantly considered amongst the best of the genre – Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Platoon, Paths of Glory – 1917 offered one of those rare moments in cinema where it becomes recognisable during the process of watching the film that you are indeed watching something very special.
Starring relative unknowns in the central roles – just one small part of Mendes’ purposeful construction of the “any man in the midst of hell” idea – 1917 merged superb technical mastery, especially in terms of cinematography, production design, sound design, costume design and so on, with recognisably laudable organisational efforts to lift the piece even further than the sum of its substantial parts and into something almost poetic; its beauty standing side-by-side its gruesome brutality to offer more than a simple war thriller.
Perhaps even more special is that even through the gimmick of the well-masked edits that give the appearance of the film being shot in entirely one go, the film looks and feels as timeless as any put to screen in recent years; it’s the kind of cinema people will go back to for decades or centuries to come.
Recommended for you: 1917 Is Not Nationalistic
It’s like watching a brand new Hitchcock film for the very first time.
Bong Joon Ho’s South Korean thriller is only the 6th Foreign Language (now International Feature) film to ever break into the Oscars’ Best Picture race, its outstanding quality transcending language barriers and minute differences in cultures to become one of the most acclaimed movies of our time.
With a lot to say regarding class and capitalism in particular, this at times hilarious and at other times bone-chilling thriller seems to comfortably reconfigure the entire genre as it goes, leaving classic films in its wake as it writes a new chapter to filmmaking in the 21st century. There are no bigger compliments to be paid, nor any more important achievements to achieve, than that.
Every aspect of this film is constructed with surgical precision, the performances, the pacing of the pans, edits, etc., and the score, each working marvellously to illustrate the artistry behind its construction, yet Bong never loses the audience to his own awe-inspiring technical machinations and instead keeps Parasite locked firmly within the realm of emotional investment; our thoughts and feelings seemingly at the forefront of his intentions even within a film so spectacular in every other aspect.
In a year with so many remarkable films, the quality of Parasite is still recognisably more significant than its competition, illustrating its brilliance perhaps more than any analysis ever could.
This is a film that not only deserves to be the first ever Foreign Language film to win Best Picture, but it also deserves to be recognised as an important moment for cinema, an instant all-time classic.
While the Oscars do have many a detractor, especially in this age of social media and instant news where certain Academy prejudices are so easy to access and the organisation’s entire process is put under the microscope, the awards themselves still hold a large degree of power both inside the industry and with regard to us as consumers. Were it not for the Oscars, and the potential to grab the financial and reputational boost that comes with being nominated for their awards, any number of releases in 2019 would not have been made, and the inclusion of films such as Parasite on this year’s Best Picture list is bound to do wonders for the box office takings of the film, as such helping to transform the culture around subtitled films moving forward – the idea being that the growth in popularity a Best Picture nomination is going to give to the film will help to bring an understanding for the process of reading subtitles even when so many people remain vehemently against that. For better or worse, the Oscars are an important part of the calendar for film, and their selections in categories such as this have a huge impact on the direction of cinema as a whole. One of these nine movies will make history on Sunday, entering a small list of instantly recognisable films amongst the best of all time according to Hollywood peers. Maybe that film will be our top ranked Parasite, maybe it will be your favourite. Only time will tell. Until then, please make sure to let us know in the comments which film you think is the best of this year’s Best Picture nominees.