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Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
By Delaney Rauscher Adams, Staff Columnist • July 12, 2024
Opinion | Women pop stars and the pressure to evolve
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • July 10, 2024

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Get Pitt and Oakland news in your inbox, three times a week.

Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
Opinion | Believe victims even if you don’t like them
By Delaney Rauscher Adams, Staff Columnist • July 12, 2024
Opinion | Women pop stars and the pressure to evolve
By Livia LaMarca, Assistant Opinions Editor • July 10, 2024

Micro-reviews of the 2024 Best Picture nominees

Lily+Gladstone%2C+Robert+De+Niro+and+Leonardo+DiCaprio+in+%E2%80%9CKillers+of+the+Flower+Moon.%E2%80%9D
Image via Apple Studios
Lily Gladstone, Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio in “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

Awards season has been in full swing since the beginning of the year, but we all await the winner of the biggest race of the year — the Academy Award for Best Picture. Among this year’s 10 nominees are box office record-breakers and foreign films that may never have made it to a theater in your city. Time is money — and most of us are broke anyway — so viewing all 10 films may not be in the cards for you. I’m nothing if not a woman of the people, so here are 10 micro-reviews to help you decide what is worth the watch.

“American Fiction”

Cord Jefferson’s directorial debut, “American Fiction,” combines biting social commentary with truly laugh-out-loud moments for a hard-hitting story of family, the publishing industry and race in America. Following a joke that turned far too serious, Thelonious “Monk” Ellison, must confront who he is as an author, Black man and brother. The film relies on its whip-smart screenplay and stellar performances from Jeffrey Wright and Sterling K. Brown to create a gripping drama that audiences will think about long after leaving the theater. 

“Anatomy of a Fall” 

Following the mysterious death of her husband, a woman and her visually impaired son deal with the trial that follows. Director Justine Triet perfects a simple premise that hundreds of filmmakers have attempted before. It is full of standout performances, especially from Sandra Huller and Milo Machado-Graner. However, this film will be revered for years to come because of its flawless script. The film uses language in an imaginative way to investigate the characters and how they interact with one another. The courtroom scenes catapult the audience right into the case and leave them questioning exactly what they believe. The film is a thrilling ride for its plot and how it delves into the psyche of flawed people. 

“Barbie” 

A film that truly needs zero introduction. Based on the $1.4 billion it made at the box office, chances are you’ve already seen it. However, if you haven’t been convinced, “Barbie” is the epitome of fun. Yes, its ideas of feminism are elementary at best, the acting is nothing special, and there is a Chevrolet ad in the middle for no particular reason, but these do not negate how joyful the film makes you feel. Greta Gerwig aptly condenses the most universal parts of being a girl, good and bad, and makes you elated to be a part of that experience. 

“The Holdovers” 

I already discussed “The Holdovers” earlier this year, but as time goes on, the film burrows deeper into your heart. Set in the early 1970s, it follows three unlikely residents of a small boarding school over the winter break. The film sounds — and frankly is — plotless, but the characters and the actors who play them capture your attention and spirit from the moment they appear together on screen. The film is also teeming with nostalgia, only possible through Alexander Payne’s direction and Eigil Bryld’s cinematography. It’s marvelous in its visual style, but more importantly, it is a film that makes you happy to be human.

“Killers of the Flower Moon” 

It’s hard for a film to excel in every aspect the way that this film does, but “Killers of the Flower Moon” reassures audiences that Martin Scorsese is still at the top of his game. The film follows the Osage Nation community and the greed-guided murders that plague Mollie Kyle’s family. The three-and-a-half-hour run time is a big deterrent for a lot of people, but the film not only warrants, but nimbly utilizes, every minute. Despite the shift to focus on the white characters that left viewers yearning for the rich Osage culture that the film began with, this movie is a masterclass in acting, cinematography, editing and pacing.

“Maestro” 

Bradley Cooper is up for his twelfth Oscar nomination with his new film “Maestro,” and he is also up for his twelfth straight Oscar loss. The film chronicles the career and marriage of Leonard Bernstein, a composer known for his musicals that are full of life. This film, however, is chock-full of Oscar bait. It feels like a hollow checklist of elements and directorial decisions that ChatGPT decrees will win you Best Picture. Carey Mulligan and Bradley Cooper both offer stellar performances, but the rest of the film is as manufactured and artificial as they come.

“Oppenheimer” 

Now this — this is cinema. While most of the films on this list are amazing in their respective ways, “Oppenheimer” edges them out in every possible way. Following the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer’s creation of the atomic bomb, it is a three-hour epic of ego, politics and innovation. This cinematic masterpiece delves deep into the complexities of war and humanity, leaving an indelible mark on the viewer’s conscience. Filmed on stunning black and white film stock, grand practical effects and smart editing, “Oppenheimer” is just as magnificent visually as it is narratively. 

“Past Lives”

It is the most understated film on this list, but it packs an emotional punch that the others can’t quite match. Greta Lee and Teo Yoo play two childhood lovers split apart by immigration, who reconnect 20 years later. It’s intimate and invites the audience into the characters’ souls. In a heartbreaking story of love, change and identity — writer and director Celine Song depicts the struggles of leaving the past and its ideals behind. 

“Poor Things” 

Very few films carry the facade of intelligence as well as this film. I’ve already wailed about this film, but as time goes on, it gets worse. Bella Baxter, our main character, goes on a journey of self and sexual discovery, but the caveat is that Bella is mentally a child for most of the film. It’s incredibly interesting visually — with beautiful set and costume designs, influences from German expressionism and superb special effects — but it is all surrealism used to mask a flawed script. While the plot of the film had the chance to make substantive commentary on girlhood, the audience is offered an elementary and abysmal foray into the systems that subjugate, control and exploit women’s sexuality. 

“The Zone of Interest”

Jonathan Glazer’s film “The Zone of Interest” might be one of the most daring films to gain accolades during this awards season. It depicts the horrors of Auschwitz without ever showing the camp or its victims on screen. Instead, through impeccable sound design and the casually cruel conversations of the family who lives next to the camp, we understand the tragedy that takes place. This approach is novel and deviates from the norm of depicting all violence, no matter the atrocity, to “truly represent” what transpired. It’s so visually and auditorily captivating that it is much more than just the story that occupies your mind for days after viewing.