2023 Oscars Best Picture Nominees Ranked

5. Elvis

Elvis Review

Fabulously fluid and presented with an evocative velocity that captures the essence of its subject’s star persona (and lifestyle), Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley biopic Elvis managed to evolve the simplistic formula of the Hollywood biopic, marrying stylistic verve with cultural deconstructions in one of the great movies about a musician put to screen this century.

In Luhrmann’s recollection of the Presley story, the King of Rock and Roll is all sex appeal, with revolution in every sinew of his being, right down to the tip of his pinkie finger. It’s a riveting experience, one that furthers the mythos of one of the United States’ most recognisable cultural exports, one that borrows the stage-side camera angles of Bradley Cooper’s A Star is Born and marries it with the firm (almost brutal) swings, zooms and cuts of famous boxing movies Rocky and Raging Bull.

There are genre constraints that remain irritating, Luhrmann’s inability to dissolve entirely into the aura of his subject at times frustratingly evident, more cliché character beats seeping in as the film unfolds. It’s 80-minutes of the best movie you’ve ever seen – like watching destiny reach star Austin Butler, then Elvis Presley himself – and then it whimpers, retreats back into something more typical and less eye-popping. Cinema this good shouldn’t be this low down on a list, but 2022 was a very good year.

4. Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick Review

Cinema reborn, the theatrical experience reinvigorated. Top Gun: Maverick was the film Tenet had promised to be, then No Time To Die had almost delivered. Even Steven Spielberg thought so.

Original Top Gun director Tony Scott was a hit-making blockbuster filmmaker born in the wrong time and lost way too soon. His aura engulfs this sequel thirty-six years in the making, each wave of atmospheric heat bouncing into the camera, each bead of sweat, each locking of eyes, and as such it is a beautifully nostalgic and equally ultra-modern piece of cinema.

Maverick is fast, hearty, homoerotic, and you can feel the passion and drive of the filmmakers every step of the way. The way the actors’ heads rattle around as they’re catapulted through the sky at close to the speed of sound by professional fighter pilots is as close to a CG-scape antithesis as cinema gets in the 2020s, its evolution to its traditionally risk-averse genre being its reverting of type to something more real, fool-proof, rapid, intense, and (because of all this) spectacular. It leaves you to wonder: why can’t all big budget films be like this?

Tom Cruise and director Joseph Kosinski proved to an entire industry of big budget tentpole filmmakers, producers and studio executives that there is an alternative to the CG-fuelled cinematic universes, green screen investments, visual effects company contracts, and that it can be fast, exciting, badass, fun, and capture the imaginations of the people. In a world that needed some reassurance post-pandemic that things might be okay in the end, Top Gun: Maverick returned to what people knew and trusted… reality. For it, it earned $1billion, reinvigorated an entire demographic of filmgoers, and offered a glimpse at a future that may one day feel as comfortable as the past. It was the blockbuster of our era.

Recommended for you: Top Gun: Maverick Is in Love with Companionship, Familiarity

3. Tár

Tár Review

A film for our times: a woman-fronted tale of abuse and poisoned power dynamics fronted by a maestro (both the character whom is referred to directly as such, and 7-time Oscars nominee (2-time winner) Cate Blanchett). Tár is exceptionally well constructed, an art piece as relevant as any from the past five years, an unmissable cinema experience.

Some films in this list dip, unable to maintain their own momentum, and sag under the weight of grander plans, but Tár doesn’t. Every element, from the complex and rich screenwriting to the slow-moving but deeply impactful cinematography, the effortless transitions between languages to the rhythmic editing, mark a film of poise, of class, of exceptional construction.

Cate Blanchett somehow surpasses her usually stellar self here, and the performance is one that warrants such a tight narrative focus, her character’s impossibly pretentious and openly demeaning personality forming someone you can’t miss a second of, almost in spite of her cancellable wrongdoings. We have seen performances this good run away with so many other films, engulfing all around them, but Tár uses Blanchett’s energy to form an invaluable analysis of our current moment’s cultural callings and presents it all so beautifully cinematically. This patient, thoughtful examination is among the most unique and intricately constructed character pieces in English language cinema for a decade.

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