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Hilltop Views

The Student News Site of St. Edward's University

Hilltop Views

OPINION: The Academy will have a hard time choosing Best Picture winner

Scarlett Houser / Hilltop Views
The 96th Oscars features several astounding films in the Best Picture category. Tune in on March 10 to see who takes home gold.

The 96th Oscars are just around the corner premiering on March 10. This year, I was happy to see some diversity among the nominees for Best Picture. Finally, not all of the nominees were 3-hour long trauma porn! I loved watching all of these films, but obviously some were better than others. This is my official rating of all of the Best Picture Nominees for the 2024 Academy Awards.

“AMERICAN FICTION” 4.8/5 goats

Watch this movie if you want to laugh out loud. Centered around disgruntled failing novelist Thelonious “Monk” Ellison, played by Jefferey Wright, “American Fiction” is a laugh riot. Monk writes a stereotypical “black” book under a pseudonym as a joke for his publisher after being fed up with the representation of black stories in fiction. When the joke book actually gets picked up, Monk must face the hypocrisy of what he has made and how it will affect his life and his relationships. Wright is accompanied by a brilliant cast featuring Tracee Ellis Ross, Sterling K. Brown and Myra Lucretia Taylor. When watching, you feel like a part of the Ellison family. Every character is so well written to the point you almost forget they aren’t real. “American Fiction” is a must see for everyone, not just pretentious Oscar lovers.

“ANATOMY OF A FALL” 4.5/5 goats

Watch this movie if you want to be left guessing. “Anatomy of a Fall” meticulously picks apart a family after an unfortunate death. When Samuel (Samuel Theis) is found dead after a supposed fall, fingers point towards his wife Sandra (Sandra Hüller), leaving their blind son Daniel (Milo Machado Graner) as the only witness. This is one of two Best Picture nominations that feature Hüller. The way the narrative is formed continually shocks the audience. Graner’s performance was stunning from start to finish: it forces you to step into Daniel’s shoes and toy with the ideas he is brought towards regarding his father’s death. By the end of the movie, viewers are still left guessing as to what happened, which I personally love.

“BARBIE” 4.5/5 goats

Watch this movie if you want a good laugh and some amazing fashion. Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” features Margot Robbie as Barbie who, upon traveling to the real-world, experiences misogyny and the patriarchy for the first time. The movie has amazing dance numbers, original songs, a hilarious script and, of course, a ton of “Kenergy.” “Barbie” was a gorgeous feat of  behind-the-scenes cinema. The costuming, hair, set design and practical effects are what made the movie so visually appealing. The only shortcoming of “Barbie” was that its take on feminism felt very surface level in that it mainly focuses on white women’s struggles with little to no intersectionality. This movie would have been a champion of feminism a few decades ago, but in 2024 it misses on key points and important conversations to be had in third-wave feminism. 

“THE HOLDOVERS” 4.7/5 goats

Watch this movie if you’re looking for some silly, heartwarming goodness. Mr. Hunham, played by Paul Giamatti, is a hard-ass teacher at Barton Boarding School assigned to look after students who won’t be returning home for winter break. These students are known as the holdovers. “The Holdovers” has a ton of humanity. Every character feels so familiar, like you’ve met them before but can’t remember where. Da’Vine Joy Randolph is quick witted and caring as the Barton cafeteria manager Mary Lamb. After losing her son, Lamb struggles with her loss, but “holding over” with Mr. Hunham and the lone student Angus Tully, played by Dominic Sessa, make it slightly easier. Hunham and Tully mirror each other in many ways, and that’s why they are constantly butting heads. As winter break passes, the group heads to Boston on a trip that would leave a mark on their lives. Besides the amazing cast, “The Holdovers” is also gorgeously soundtracked: every song perfectly captures the mood of each beautifully colored scene. “The Holdovers” will easily become a holiday classic.


Watch this movie if you like puzzles and violence. “Killers of the Flower Moon” is a slow burn thriller based on the unfortunate true story of the murders of Osage Native Americans. Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a war veteran new to the oil rich Osage land where his uncle, William Hale (Robert DeNiro), owns a cattle ranch. Soon after arriving, Burkhart meets Mollie Kyle (Lily Gladstone), an Osage woman, and falls in love with both her and her money. Osage men and women begin to be murdered left and right, causing a federal investigation into the rich town. Gladstone is perfection. The slightest facial expression from her draws you deeper into the puzzle that is “Killers of the Flower Moon.” With a three and a half hour run time, it’s easy to get lost in this story, but it is so well-paced that you can’t feel the time passing. The star-studded cast delivers excellent performances, and obviously Martin Scorsese knows how to direct a movie. My main qualm with this film was that even with indigenous actors in central roles, the narrative focus was on the white characters, not the Osage people. 

“MAESTRO” 3.5/5 goats

Watch this movie if you’re a music nerd who loves great performances. Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro” recounts the semi-tumultuous relationship between famous composer Leonard Bernstein (West Side Story, Candide) and his wife, actress Felicia Montealegre. Cooper directed, starred in and co-wrote “Maestro,” but the standout performance wasn’t Cooper’s. It was Carey Mulligan’s portrayal of Montealegre. Mulligan moved the audience with her emotionally packed scenes depicting Montealegre’s various hardships and struggles. The other spotlight was the music; I mean, how could it not in a film like this. “Maestro’s” black-and-white scenes come to life over Bernstein’s original operas, musicals and compositions. Though the story was a bit muddy with choppy pacing and narrative confusion, “Maestro” is a lovely watch if you’re stuck scrolling through Netflix.

“OPPENHEIMER” 5/5 goats

Watch this movie if you want to see stellar performances and big effects. Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” focuses on the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, detailing the Manhattan Project and the eventual creation of the atomic bomb. Playing Oppenheimer, Cillian Murphy is the Best Actor winner for me. Murphy manages to convey the most complex, intense emotions just with the furrowing of his brow. Murphy’s performance is backed by a beautiful soundscape created by Ludwig Göransson. The way the music is contrasted with visuals makes scenes that would normally have that loud Nolan flair with high effects silent, creating tension at peak moments. Emily Blunt shines as Oppenheimer’s wife Kitty and could easily win for Best Supporting Actress. I am normally not very intrigued by war or military biopics and was deterred from watching Oppenheimer because of the long run time, but I am so happy I did. You don’t even notice the three and a half hours go by. You become so enthralled in the story everything else just fades away. 

“PAST LIVES” 5/5 goats

Watch this movie if you love to break your own heart. “Past Lives” follows two childhood best friends, Nora and Hae Sung, who could have been more if Nora had not moved from Korea to the US, separating the young love birds. Years go by and Hae Sung (Teo Yoo)  and Nora (Greta Lee) are able to reconnect, both leading drastically different lives. They rekindle their friendship and are able to talk through themes of love, marriage, their careers and dreams. Aided by the dialogue, Lee’s portrayal of Nora is raw and real. It feels like these could have been real conversations recorded and transcribed over years of friendship. Lee and Yoo have so much on-screen chemistry you would really think that they had been friends for 24 years. Other critics have claimed the film runs slow but I think it was the perfect pace to convey the whirlwind of emotions the characters feel. “Past Lives” will break your heart but leave you questioning why it made you so sad. 

“POOR THINGS” 4.5/5 goats

Watch this movie if you want to be transported to another world. Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Poor Things” is a story about Bella (Emma Stone), who is brought back to life by her mad scientist father (Willem Dafoe). As Bella grows, she gets curiouser and curiouser about the world around her and her role in it, which causes her to go on a grand adventure with a lawyer (Mark Ruffalo). While on this trip, Bella gets bored and tired of the prejudices and inequalities she faces in her new world. Bella chooses to break from the lawyer and go on a journey of liberation. This film is so gorgeous, the costumes and set design alone could win it the Oscar. The cast’s dramatic over-done performances perfectly match the witty and outlandish script. Though Bella’s character finds liberation in a few different avenues, one left a bad taste in my mouth. The main way Bella is liberated is through sex, which causes an uncomfortable pornographic plot line that detracts from the film’s overarching metaphor. 


Watch this movie if you want to be emotionally drained. “The Zone of Interest” is about a Nazi family who live just behind the wall of the Auschwitz concentration camp. The film depicts the family living lavishly with a vast garden, a pool, maids, everything someone could want for their life. This sunny depiction of life is contrasted with screams, gunshots, fires and a horrifying ambient sound that plays through key scenes in the film. At points I was so angry my fist clenched against the theater seat. In other moments I felt like I was going to vomit, and then came the release of tears. Seeing the everyday life of the Nazi family just makes you feel sick to your stomach. There was no artificial lighting used in the film, so scenes shot inside of the picturesque home were drab and dull. This effect makes the film even more eerie. The visceral reaction I had to the film just makes me want to watch it again and again. 

This year’s Oscar’s is jam-packed with amazing films, the Academy is going to have a difficult time choosing their top pick. If I were given the hard job of choosing the winner of the Best Picture category, it would have to be “Oppenheimer” and I think the lovely Academy voters might agree with me. I came into “Oppenheimer” not expecting anything out of the ordinary for a Christopher Nolan film but this one truly made an impression. Make sure to tune into the award ceremony on Sunday, March 10 to see what film will go home with the golden statue.

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About the Contributor
Emma Sutton
Emma Sutton, Staff Writer
Emma Sutton is a junior a majoring in writing and rhetoric with a concentration in journalism and digital media. It is her second semester writing for Hilltop Views and first semester as a staff writer. She loves writing about all things pop culture but also has a soft spot for baseball.

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  • D

    DianeFeb 19, 2024 at 8:09 am

    Thanks for an excellent recap of these films. Have not seen all of them, but plan to based on your reviews.