What the 2023 best picture nominees say about the art of cinema


Every year the Academy Awards bring to the public eye a set of best picture films that say something about the art of cinema for the previous years. This year is no exception. The diversity of stories and themes represented in this year's nominees is a testament to the power and impact of cinema on society. We’ve got everything from a throwback to the ‘feel-goods’ of 80s naval action in “Top Gun Maverick”, to a mind-bending exploration of what is real in ‘Everything Everywhere All At Once” and everything in between.

So what do this years nominees say about the state of the culture and the art of cinema for 2022? Well, first we need to look at all the nominees.

The Nominees

  • All Quiet on the Western Front

Screenshot 2023-03-06 at 12.14.45 PMA book to screen adaptation (the third in fact) that looks to show that war is not an adventure. Beautifully shot and expertly acted, you get all the feels for this one. We see and feel what war is like to those who live it instead of the promotional propagandistic feel-good content we also enjoy. That feel-good content is needed too which is why we have another military movie below.

With the Russian aggression in Ukraine for the last year, there is no way this movie could have predicted that conflict. But, it is a necessary reminder that reality is different than what we see on TV.

Where to watch: Netflix


  • Avatar: The Way of Water

Screenshot 2023-03-06 at 12.15.51 PMLet's be honest. When James Cameron makes a movie, we watch it and it get's various nominations. This film is nominated for all the things: Best Picture, Best Sound, Best Production Design, and Best Visual Effects. Avatar 2 is a spectacle that is best enjoyed in IMAX 3D and not on a phone. I've seen this movie three times, taking various family members to see various formats, and I've enjoyed every viewing. It is definitely long, but doesn't necessarily feel that way. It has two story arcs that keep moving and the visuals are definitely everything they're talked up to be.

I don't know that this says much about the state of art and cinema for 2022 though. Big blockbusters like this (LOTR etc.) always come up in the nominations as a way to say that they can be art too.

Does a second 'Ferngully' type story need to be made? Maybe not. Was it made? Yes, and there's two more yet to come out. Will it make all the money? Absolutely.

So when you look at it from that perspective it's fairly obvious why it's on this list. Is there a James Cameron subscription service yet? Take my money :/

Where to watch: Only in theatres (as of March 2023)

  • Elvis

Screenshot 2023-03-06 at 12.16.31 PMMy wife and I watched half of this and I want to go back to it. The cinematography and storytelling was such that it felt like we were coming along in the rise of the cultural sensation that is 'Elvis'. It was engaging and enlightening. All good films should be engaging in one degree or another, but when you learn and grow from watching a film I think that is something special.

We only watched half because it was late on a Friday and we were falling asleep. We'll definitely come back to it though. 

Biopics are always popular and this one feels more safe for some reason. Everyone knows the troubles Elvis faced and so it's not surprising to see it in his story. Maybe we just needed something familiar after a crazy anxiety-inducing two years of COVID.

Where to watch: HBO Max

  • Everything Everywhere All at Once

Screenshot 2023-03-06 at 12.16.53 PMThis film is by far a standout in this list. While the other films strengths are in the emotions that they elicit, this film stands out because of how it's told. The storytelling is expertly executed in how it's woven a touching mother-daughter estrangement story with a cosmic universe-ending sci-fi rollick. 

This film by 'Daniels' shows us how important the form of storytelling is to a film. It takes us on a mind-bending journey with just the right amount of feels. It's the surprising feel-good movie that we needed. If you're ready for an adventurous art piece, this is it and you won't be disappointed.

Where to watch: Showtime, AppleTV


  • Banshees of Inisherin

Screenshot 2023-03-06 at 12.17.09 PMI have to be honest. When I see a title and poster like this, I keep scrolling. I don't understand the name, it is not intriguing and the poster shows two dudes standing in a drab scene overlooking the ocean. Nothing about that intrigues me.

What intrigues me, however, is that Colin Ferrill and Brendan Gleeson are in the cast. That and I can watch it with my HBO Max subscription. I'm a huge fan of The Lobster, a film where Colin Ferrill has a month to find a spouse or he will be turned into an animal and specifically a lobster. It's a weird dark comedy that I found enjoyment in, similar to arriving early to an event and sitting on a bench for 20 minutes with nothing to do. It sounds odd, but the enjoyment of just being present is something that is hard to find.

With that feeling, I'm open to giving this film a try. Since I have no sense of this movie, let's look to the pros:

This being a McDonagh work, it’s a comedy of mortification as well as exasperation. It begins with a beautiful overhead shot of the title Irish island, all green below a clear blue sky (in this picture it only rains at night, which, considering actual weather patterns in Ireland, places the film in yet another genre, that of fantasy). The Carter Burwell score evokes idyllic times, and we see life is rather easy for Pádraic (Farrell) a milk farmer who lives with his sister in a modest cottage and, apparently, calls on his old friend Colm (Gleeson) just about every day at two. Before he sets out, he makes a remark about Colm to his sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon), who sarcastically replies, “Maybe he just don’t like you no more.”

- Glen Kenny (https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/the-banshees-of-inisherin-film-review-2022)

'Comedy of mortification as well as exasperation' sounds like something we can all empathize with.

Where to watch: HBO Max

  • The Fablemans

Screenshot 2023-03-06 at 12.17.27 PMThis is the film that I'm most interested in. It's a semi-autobiographical story by Stephen Spielberg. It's Spielberg at his best, with long takes that don't feel showy because his blocking and camera moves are at the service of the story.

Imagine all the enjoyment you get for any Spielberg creation: E.T., Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, BFG, Jaws, Saving Private Ryan. This is a comfy story told by the auteur himself. It's good to see that simple classic stories still play.


Where to watch: Available to rent

  • Top Gun Maverick

Screenshot 2023-03-06 at 12.17.43 PMThis Tom Cruise follow-up likely needs little discussion. You've seen it at least once, probably twice, you enjoyed it and you've talked about it with your friends. This is what makes Maverick a stellar pick for best picture. It's what the world of cinema needed after we all thought theatres might die out: a simple, enjoyable, feel-good blockbuster.

This is a feel-good war movie with all the right notes. This is Tom Cruise and the team at their best

Where to watch: Paramount+


  • Triangle of Sadness

Screenshot 2023-03-06 at 12.18.01 PMDark comedies that function as a 'takedown of the shallow elite' are super popular these days. White Lotus on HBO is a wildly popular dark comedy about the despicable rich at the White Lotus resorts. The Menu is a film where a chef of the nicest restaurant on the planet, played by Ralph Fiennes, makes one final meal for his staff and his affluent guests to play out his disgust with the state of his craft and their opulence.

The culture loves dark comedies which crap on the rich and add in film festival accolades and we have a movie that shows that the elite in Hollywood seem to still have a sense of humor.

Where to watch: HULU

  • TÁR

Screenshot 2023-03-06 at 12.19.55 PMLydia Tár has achieved monumental heights in the world of classical music. She’s the first woman to ever conduct the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, she is an esteemed teacher at Juilliard, she has a book on the way, and she’s in the middle of preparing the biggest concerto of her life. Lydia should be the happiest she’s ever been but everything is on the brink of collapse. Tár is a film that examines the consequences of the #MeToo movement and what abuses of power look like for women.

- https://www.justwatch.com/us/movie/tar-2022

Another film festival favorite, you have to watch this trailer now to have an idea about the style of the movie. It's a psychological exploration of Lydia as she prepares for the biggest concerto of her life. It feels like a psychological thriller, like if you took Mr. Hollands Opus and mashed it together with Christopher Nolan's Memento. Sound wild? You'll have to watch to find out.

This film is a chance for Academy Award Winner Cate Blanchett to flex her chops in a surreal biopic.

Where to watch: Peacock Premium

  • Women Talking

Screenshot 2023-03-06 at 12.20.24 PM"Why does the need for love, result in so much violence"

This film is not for the faint of heart. Get ready to have your heart ripped out of your chest, chewed up and then placed right back. The story is based on a book by author Miriam Toews, who grew up in a religious community. It is a story about a real-life incident that occurred in a Mennonite community in Manitoba, Canada in which seven men were accused of raping over 100 women.

It's odd that a culture that promotes misogyny in certain kinds of rap, and permissive attitudes towards prostitution would raise up something so contrary to that sentiment. 'Women Talking', and stories like this, are so important to our culture and how we treat each other. They are subversive to that despicable attitude and are well needed to help protect our sisters, mothers, and daughters. We do a lot of human trafficking public awareness work and we understand how critical it is that stories like this are raised up and seen by all.

Wow, this took a serious twist. This is a film that is needed to help us all be better people and citizens.

Where to watch: Prime Video


Well, here we are. We've explored the nominees and hopefully have offered some insight into what they say about the art of cinema in 2022. In the end, they are what the academy has voted on and while it's not the most diverse group, they've definitely nominated a wide range of pictures.

What have you seen and what do you think this all says about the art of cinema and culture?

This entry was posted in Movies, filmmaking, oscars, academy awards, cinema