Are you so pumped for tonight’s Beyoncé concert—er, Oscars ceremony? No? That’s okay, no one really is anymore. Maybe we can thank Gal Gadot’s brief foray into music video making for our shared lack of interest in celebrities congratulating themselves for being celebrities. Maybe we truly are experiencing the ‘death of the cinema,’ as you surely have read online or heard from your friend who reads internet headlines. Whether or not the general public watches tonight’s Oscars, though, one thing is certain: cinephiles will undoubtedly pay attention to the show, even those who, like myself, acknowledge the annual ceremony’s problems. I spent my brief break between terms catching up on all of 2021’s films (except Free Guy—I refuse) and am ready to rank this year’s Best Picture nominees, with a post-screening snippet for each.
10. Licorice Pizza
If a straight man responds to your displeasure with this film by telling you, “You just didn’t get it,” you’re legally obligated to bake licorice into a pizza and force him to eat it.
There’s nothing I like more than when Kenneth Branagh resists the urge to jump in front of the camera and Kenneth Branagh all over the frame, but this is definitely this year’s perfectly good, but overly hyped nominee.
8. Don’t Look Up
Netflix’s (alleged) ratings sensation is the definition of heavy-handedness, and yet there is real joy in watching Hollywood’s biggest names scream about things in bad wigs.
One of the rare blockbusters that you continue to like the more you think about, Dune is a technical marvel that really shows off the power of Timothée’s jawline, five minutes of Zendaya, and a giant anus worm.
6. West Side Story
The real stars here are the cinematography and the score, which work together to create truly breathtaking musical numbers. But you cannot get too lost in it, because every few minutes Ansel Elgort shows up and looks curiously bored as his throat undulates to oblivion.
5. Nightmare Alley
Does this film need more Toni Collette? Sure. But that’s a criticism I have of every film. Come for Collette, stay for the noir aesthetic and beguiling screenplay.
4. Drive My Car
Certainly the most deliberate and subtle of this year’s nominees, Drive My Car is a fascinating character study, and is surely a better use of three hours than actually watching the Oscars.
3. King Richard
When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I was furious that the Williams sisters’ biopic was about their father, but wow does this movie exceed that description. Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d say: Will Smith is so underrated. Also, Beyoncé.
This year’s crowd-pleaser nominee is both the most heartwarming film on this list, as well as the most wholesome episode of Deadliest Catch.
1. The Power of the Dog
I’m fully manifesting a Best Picture win for the western that reminds us all never to mess with a femme twink who makes origami.