San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Review: The Oscars’ 10 Best Picture nominees

‘American Fiction’ to ‘Barbie,’ a look into the 10 nominees ahead of the March ceremony
Photo Courtesy of ABC
Photo Courtesy of ABC

As a fan of movies, I recently accomplished something that I have never done before: I watched all 10 films nominated for “Best Picture” at this year’s Academy Awards. 

I really loved all these films (except for one of them-which we’ll get to), and I want to express some of my thoughts on them – hopefully, you’ll want to check them out.

American Fiction

I found out prior to seeing this movie that writer/director, Cord Jefferson had never made a feature film before. What an insane debut! American Fiction is so hilarious, but what you might not expect is the emotion this movie provides. 

We follow a down-on-his-luck novelist named Monk, who is frustrated with the establishment and how it profits off of Black entertainment. He proceeds to use a pen name and write a new book that takes him to places he never imagined it would.

The dramatic elements of this film work so well because you care so much about Monk (maybe my favorite Jeffrey Wright performance?) and all the other characters. There’s one scene in particular centering around Sterling K. Brown – who I am thrilled got the “Best Supporting Actor” nomination – where I fully teared up. 

This movie is a human story. The great drama here caught me by surprise, but make no mistake – this movie is extremely funny. It’s satirical, it’s thoughtful and it’s so great.

Anatomy of a Fall

A good chunk into my viewing of Anatomy of a Fall, I realized that there hadn’t really been any score. The atmosphere this film creates is incredible.

Photo Courtesy of Le Pacte

When this movie ended, I walked out over the moon. I loved this film. 

Anatomy of a Fall follows a woman named Sandra, who is on trial because she is suspected of murdering her husband. The main witness of the trial? Her young son, Daniel.

I think in the hands of a lesser filmmaker, maybe I would have found this movie boring, but Justine Triet’s direction is so amazing here. She always chooses to put the camera in the most dynamic location and move the camera in such specific ways. There are times where the decision is made to film scenes in a mockumentary style and it works so well. Also, there are so many times in this film where we cut to close-ups of people’s faces, and we get more from just that little glimpse of them than we could get from ten pages of dialogue. 

Subtlety, intrigue and ambiguity are all masterfully utilized here. The direction and amazing performances make it well worth your time.


Barbie and Ken, who live in Barbie Land, get the chance to go into the real world, and quickly realize it is not what they thought it would be.

I know you have all seen this one. Barbie was the biggest movie of 2023 (made over 1.4 BILLION DOLLARS) and was this past year’s summer-defining moment (along with another film we will talk about soon). 

 Watching this in theaters was a beautiful moment to be a part of, and it helps that the movie is great. It’s clever, it’s bright, it’s fun; I feel like this is the best version of a Barbie movie we could’ve gotten. The ensemble cast is fantastic – I don’t think there is a weak performance in this movie. The production design, the costumes, the hair, the music; there’s nothing I can say about this movie that you haven’t heard from a million other people. 

The Holdovers

I think The Holdovers is a movie that will just continue to grow with time. I believe that each year from now on, more and more people are going to make it an annual tradition to watch this film during the holiday season.

Photo Courtesy of Focus Features

This film tells the story of a teacher at a prep school who has to remain on campus during the holiday break, with the handful of students who did not go home to their families. He ends up spending a lot of time with one student in particular, as well as the head cook of the school.

The Holdovers is a movie anyone of any age would love. It’s got the laughs, it’s got the heart and it’s got big New England energy –  all the ingredients for it to be a classic. I loved it. 

The three lead performances are great. Paul Giamatti and Da’Vine Joy Randolph have gotten a massive amount of well-deserved praise, but not enough credit is going to Dominic Sessa. For this to be your first film performance –  he was discovered because he was in the drama program at a school this movie was shot at – and for you to be this good is out of this world. He is not only elevated by the exceptional work from the other two leads, but also helps elevate them. 

Killers of the Flower Moon

This movie is fantastic. Just wanted to say that up front. 

Killers of the Flower Moon takes place in 1920s Oklahoma where oil was found under Osage Nation land, and this leads to a lot of Osage people being murdered one by one. 

I feel like Martin Scorsese, decades into his career, is still at the top of his game. He told this story in a way no one else could. He isn’t afraid to portray the events going on as evil. The disgusting nature of what’s going on is also so effective because of the performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert De Niro. 

I am a little surprised that so many people aren’t fans of what DiCaprio does here, or that they didn’t buy his performance. I thought he played his role perfectly. I didn’t find him miscast at all; I actually felt the exact opposite. However, if we’re going to talk about performances, obviously I have to bring up Lily Gladstone. She’s so incredible that two of the most praised actors of all time are her co-stars, yet she is all anyone can rave about. She is phenomenal and absolutely deserving of all the accolades she has received. 

The last scene of this movie cements this as a film that will be discussed fifty years from now. I wasn’t on board with it when I first saw it (can’t really explain without spoiling, but I found it a little jarring), and after months of sitting with it, I can say it has grown on me tremendously. Not only has it grown on me, but I understand the genius of it. It’s a condemnation, it’s an acknowledgement and it is the perfect ending to this exceptional piece of cinema.


Alright, I’ll be honest. I wanted to write this article because I really wanted to gush about movies I loved. But I didn’t love this one, which is a shame because this is the one I was most excited to see out of all the 10 nominees. 

Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Maestro is a biopic centering on famous composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein and his wife Felicia Montealegre.

Bradley Cooper clearly has a passion for filmmaking, and it’s not just empty passion – I think he has talent as a director. I think the direction is good here, and the performances as well. Cooper’s acting is also very good, and Carey Mulligan was the best part of this for me – their relationship was the most interesting part of this story. 

I still think this is worth your time; there are people who love this film, and there are people who hate this film. I’m definitely not on the Bradley Cooper hate train, and I’m not on the “Maestro is a masterpiece” train – I just thought it was, you know, good. It’s my least favorite of the nominees, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without its merit.


This film is also a biopic – this one revolves around theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, his work on the Manhattan Project and the ethical dilemma of nuclear weapons. 

I’ve seen most of Christopher Nolan’s films, but I believe Oppenheimer is his career-defining accomplishment. Not only is it my favorite film of his, I think it is the most likely film to win Best Picture this year. 

It has top tier directing, producing and acting are all on display here. Cillian Murphy gives the performance of a lifetime and Robert Downey Jr. gives his best performance in years, but the entire cast is locked in and perfect (special shoutouts to Emily Blunt, Jason Clarke, Alden Ehrenreich and the GOAT himself, Devon Bostick). 

Past Lives

This film follows two childhood friends, who go on to grow apart and live much different lives, but reconnect with each other over two decades later.

I found “Past Lives” to be a very moving portrayal of feelings; it made me think about love, it made me think about not being with someone because of how life worked out, it made me think of cross-culture love and it made me think about love in the digital age.

This movie easily could have been blandly told, but writer/director Celine Song (who is also a first time feature film director, which is mind blowing!) brings so much nuance to this story. There are so many lines and small moments in this film that will absolutely rip your heart out.

Poor Things

“Poor Things” is about Bella Baxter, a young woman who has been brought back to life by a scientist and goes into the world and embarks on a variety of adventures.

Photo Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

This movie is great. Between this and The Curse, I think 2023 was the best year of Emma Stone’s career as an actor. You can’t take your eyes off her. Every big and small choice she makes in her performance is so well done and elevates the performances of everyone around her (Mark Ruffalo is also a highlight here). 

Poor Things is hysterical and it is stylistically so drastically different from all its fellow nominees. The visuals of this movie are on another level; it looks fantastical and whimsical in a way I can’t even describe. You just have to see it for yourself. 

The Zone of Interest

This film focuses on the Nazi commandant of Auschwitz, who lives with his family in a new home directly next to the concentration camp.

To be perfectly blunt, this is one of the most horrific films I’ve seen in recent memory. All of the other nominees are ones I would love to rewatch at any given time, but The Zone of Interest is one I’m not sure I’d ever want to see again – and I mean that as a compliment. 

When I first saw this film, I didn’t know what to think; I felt disgusted and confused. Over the days and weeks since seeing it, what this movie evokes kept haunting me. “Humanization” is too nice of a word to give to these Nazis, but watching these evil people just live their lives as if they’re chilling in the suburbs while a genocide is happening right next to them and we hear every sound of it, is vile. 

Writer/director Jonathan Glazer made this film horrifying in a way I’ve never seen in this medium before. Everything about this is terrifying to watch. This film is sickening. 

As a fan, I think this lineup of films is truly incredible. I hope after reading this, you decide to go watch the ones here you haven’t seen.