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The Student News Site of McCallum High School

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An honest review of 2024’s Best Picture nominees

‘Oppenheimer’ tops Oscar crop followed by ‘American Fiction,’ ‘Barbie,’ ‘The Holdovers’ and ‘Poor Things’
The 96th Academy Awards will premiere on March 10 at 6 p.m. CDT on ABC. Graphic by Eliza Jensen.

It’s that time of the year again. Everyone from movies to music to games is sitting down and celebrating the previous year’s artistic achievements, and while there are a ton of ceremonies that never seem to stop all the audience’s attention goes to the big ones; the Oscars, Grammys, and Golden Globes. For the 96th Academy Awards, 10 films were chosen for this year’s best picture nominees and while some blew me away, others left me with a sour taste in my mouth once the credits rolled. 

MGM YouTube Channel


In one of the best comedic satires that I’ve seen this year, American Fiction, hilariously confronts our culture’s obsession with reducing people to unrealistic stereotypes through the eyes of Monk (Jeffrey Wright), a frustrated novelist who’s fed up with the overuse of tiresome and distasteful tropes in an industry that can’t seem to get enough. To prove his point, he makes it his mission to anonymously write his own over-the-top Black novel, which sends him straight into the heart of hypocrisy and the insanity he claims to hate. 

American Fiction is a cleverly told satirical piece that strives to challenge our culture and the publishing industry and hits every mark wonderfully transforming the film into so much more than it originally lets on. While the film starts a bit slow, once it gets going it is a wild and touching ride, as you get to know Monk and the struggles he faces and the family drama that surrounds him as he comes to terms with growing old and figuring out who you are. American Fiction has so much to say and it delivers everything in a heartwarming and humorous way that anyone would enjoy.

NEON YouTube Channel


I’ve always loved a good murder mystery, and when I found out about Anatomy of a Fall’s plot I was intrigued. The film revolves around Sandra Voyter (Sandra Hüller) who is suspected of murdering her husband, Samuel Maleski (Samuel Thesis), after he is found in the show outside of their house by their partially blind son, Daniel (Milo Machado-Garner). As inconsistencies in the evidence begin to present themselves, Sandra’s life and failing marriage are put on trial as she struggles to prove her innocence. 

Anatomy of a Fall is one of those movies where the plot is better off unsolved, and it does just that. You don’t know if Sandra murdered her husband or whether it truly was an accident. I love films with an ambiguous ending, and while some are unnecessary, Anatomy of a Fall needed it. I  felt like I was placed in the jury’s shoes and that it is up to the audience to come up with their conclusions solely based on the evidence provided, so I like that they leave everything up to interpretation right from the start. I loved the angle that this film decided to take. Its plot felt refreshing and distinctive, with the main suspect not being fluent in French and the son being visually impaired. However, this film isn’t your everyday detective drama. The majority of the story occurs in the courtroom with all the evidence present, which might not appeal to people who don’t like courtroom dramas.

Warner Bros. Pictures YouTube Channel


There’s always one movie that defines the summer and Barbie took the world by storm this past  July. It was the talk of the town even several months after its initial release and became the first female-directed film to reach $1 billion at the box office. It was a cultural phenomenon, and well deserved. 

Barbie follows the journey of Barbie (Margot Robbie) and Ken (Ryan Gosling) as they leave their perfect life in Barbie Land and discover what it’s like to live in the real world, for better or worse. Barbie showed that it wasn’t just a movie about a doll, it tackled the real issues women face and in America Ferrera’s words how “it’s impossible to be a woman.” 

I enjoyed the Barbie movie and how it showed what it means to be a woman, particularly through the eyes of a doll that a lot of women grew up with and adored. While I think that it is unlikely to win Best Picture, I wouldn’t be upset if it did. Barbie showed so many people that womanhood comes in all shapes and sizes and you should be proud to be a woman in a world seemingly meant for men, and it deserves everything it receives at the Oscars.

Focus Features YouTube Channel


When I first saw the trailer for The Holdovers I didn’t think much of it.  So, when I heard that it was up for Best Picture I was surprised and a bit confused. It didn’t look like the kind of film that would win Best Picture, or even up as a nominee. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised when I finally sat down and gave it a chance.

The Holdovers is a beautifully emotional coming-of-age film about the bond formed between a cranky instructor (Paul Giamatti), a damaged troublemaker (Dominic Sessa), and a heartbroken school cook (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) as they remain on the campus of a New England Prep School during Christmas break. While the movie’s pacing started slow, it built up and really allowed the audience to connect to these characters and understand the different hardships that each character is going through. The powerful performances and the amazing chemistry between Giamatti and Sessa make this movie great and the 70s-style cinematography only adds to its charm.

Apple TV YouTube Channel


Everyone knows who Martin Scorsese is. He’s made cult classics such as his 1976 film Taxi Driver and 1990 film Goodfellas and is known as one of the best directors of all time. Martin Scorsese’s western crime drama Killers of the Flower Moon marks his 26th feature-length film and reunites him with two of his muses, actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Robert Deniro.  Set in the 1920s, Killers of the Flower Moon follows the true story of the murders of the Osage nation after oil was discovered on tribal land. The film centers around a wealthy Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart (Lily Gladstone), as she faces an unthinkable betrayal from those closest to her and tries to save her community from a spree of killings fueled by oil and greed.

I’ve only watched a few Scorsese films and all of them have been rather slow, but there was always something that grabbed my attention and made me interested in what was happening in the film. Killers of the Flower Moon was the exact opposite of that. It was unbelievably slow and it did not need to be three hours long. It felt unnecessary and really dragged out the story to the point where parts of the film felt like nothing of value was happening. While I didn’t enjoy this movie, I will say that the cinematography and the performances of Gladstone and DiCaprio were excellent and extremely powerful, however, the visuals and their talent weren’t enough to salvage this film.

Netflix YouTube Channel


Every award season, there is one film that is dubbed the Oscar bait of the year, and for the 2024 Academy Awards, that title goes to Bradley Cooper’s Maestro. Many things define Oscar bait, with some seemingly doing everything they can to earn an Oscar, through cinematography, acting, subject matter, time period, message, etc. Maestro hits several of these: Biopic? Check. Period piece? Check. Queer subject matter? Check. Oscar-bait movies aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but in Maestro’s case, it’s clear that it tries way too hard. 

Maestro tells the story of the American conductor and composer Leonard Bernstein (Bradley Cooper) in a biographic romance drama centered around Bernstein’s art, his chaotic relationship with actress Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan), and his many male lovers. While the film does put a lot of emphasis on Bernstein’s musical career, the movie fails to fully communicate what made Bernstein so special as a conductor and composer. Maestro doesn’t just miss in its message, the pacing is all over the place. The film, somehow, felt way too fast but seemed to never end. 

Several times throughout this film, I found myself lost and confused, and once the credits began to roll I couldn’t stop thinking about what the point of this film was. Nothing happened. While the cinematography showed off some impressive camera work and beautiful shots, the core of the story was missing. After watching this film, I couldn’t tell you what made Bernstein so special and what made his marriage to his wife so different. I’m sure that Bernstein is an incredible artist and deserves the title Maestro but this movie failed to show it in every way.

Universal Pictures YouTube Channel


Oppenheimer premiered alongside Barbie in a double-feature event dubbed Barbenheimer. While both movies are completely opposite from each other, that didn’t seem to matter to enthusiastic audiences. I’ve always been a fan of Christopher Nolan’s movies, Interstellar being one of my all-time favorites, so I was pretty sure it would be a blast. Going into the movie, I knew very little about Oppenheimer’s story and only the bare bones of the history behind the Manhattan Project. 

Nolan takes Oppenheimer’s life story and turns it into a visually stunning and intense three-hour biopic. Oppenheimer doesn’t just focus on what it was like to work on the atomic bomb, and I think that some of the most interesting parts of the film occur when they test the bomb and the moral dilemmas the scientists, mainly Oppenheimer, face once they know their project was a success and the devastating effects it will have on the world. 

I went to see Oppenheimer, on opening weekend and I was absolutely blown away by it. The cast was star-studded and their performances were incredible, especially Cillian Murphy, who played Oppenheimer perfectly. Ludwig Göransson has quickly become one of my favorite composers and he gave his all for this score coupled with the amazing sound design it made every moment intense and impactful. I’ve never been a big fan of biopics, but everything about this one left me speechless. While the three-hour feature might not be for everyone, I would recommend it to anyone interested in WWII and the Manhattan Project.

A24 YouTube Channel


I’ve known for a while that romance films are not my thing. So, when I heard about Past Lives I thought it was your everyday romance, but I was wrong. I wouldn’t necessarily say that Past Lives is a romance, rather I think it is more drama than romance. While the relationships between characters are important, I think what makes the film different is how it beautifully illustrates how unpredictable life can be and the unexpected journeys it can take us on. 

Past Lives follows Nora (Greta Lee) and Hae Sung (Teo Yoo), two childhood friends who grew apart after Nora moved to Toronto from South Korea. Decades later, the pair reunite bringing back all the feelings they thought were gone. 

Everything about this film felt very real. The intense emotions of loneliness and longing and the profound feelings of getting lost in what could have been felt authentic, especially through the eyes of the two main characters who have to confront their ever-so-complicated relationship and past choices. Past Lives isn’t like your everyday romance. It tackles everything wonderfully and feels very genuine in its portrayals of relationships and how complicated human feelings truly are.

Searchlight Pictures YouTube Channel


Taking inspiration from Frankenstein, Poor Things takes a different approach and centers around a young woman, who is brought back to life by a scientist (Willem Dafoe) and runs away with a lawyer (Mark Ruffalo) on a life-changing whirlwind adventure across several continents. Free from her sheltered life, Bella Baxter (Emma Stone) discovers herself and what she stands for as she figures out how the world works. 

When I went to see Poor Things, I wasn’t expecting much, but as the movie progressed I was awestruck at the world and the unique environments it was able to create. This movie is so stylized in the costumes, environment, and cinematography that every aspect of the film is visually stunning and unique. There were some parts of the story that I felt did get repetitive and uncomfortable, with some of the plotlines and character decisions, but overall I thought the movie was uniquely weird. While Poor Things might not be for everyone, it’s definitely a film that used its inspiration piece to craft its own exceptionally strange story.

A24 YouTube Channel


First and foremost, I will say that this film is not for all audiences. If you are not prepared to feel completely devastated and horrified by humanity then don’t watch this film. The Zone of Interest is a cruel and haunting story about Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel), the commandant of Auschwitz, and his family as they try to maintain their dream life and garden right next to the concentration camp. 

The Zone of Interest has one of the best sound designs I’ve seen. The film has almost no music for the entirety of its 1 hour and 46-minute runtime, which allows an overwhelming silence to fill the screen forcing you to listen as it meticulously dangles the atrocities of Auschwitz within earshot through gunshots, screams, and dogs barking. While the film doesn’t show anything horrific, it uses its sound and the knowledge of where we are and juxtaposes it with a family going about their daily lives and talking about how they’ve managed to achieve their dreams, which only adds to the haunting and dreadful atmosphere that looms over the film and never relents. The Zone of Interest was crushing in every way and without showing anything graphic left me feeling an overwhelming sense of disgust and horror.

The 96th Oscars will premiere on Mar. 10 at 6 p.m. CDT on ABC.

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