Although the awards season may be over, it doesn’t mean that we’re ready to move on from films that took part in the best picture race. After months of campaigning, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences presented audiences with an assortment of films considered to be the best of the year. This year’s crop of nominees at the Oscars 2023 recognises a wide range of genres as well as a balance between box office juggernauts and indies.
We’ve decided to take an analytical look at the nominees for one last time – not as winners or competitors in the awards season race, but as films that enthralled audiences and critics alike.
The Bigger the Better
At this year’s Oscars, two of the highest-grossing films of 2022 were also nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars 2023. Joining the small list of sequels that were nominated for the prized award, both Avatar: The Way of Water and Top Gun: Maverick up the ante of visual storytelling and spare us the cliché bombardment of recent effects-laden films. A stark contrast to the increasingly inconsistent VFX output of Marvel Studios, the two box office mega-hits remind us that great visual effects have the ability to evoke emotions, establish visual language, and provide an immersive experience for the audience.
Cameron’s long-awaited Avatar sequel is the culmination of over a decade of hard work towards the creation of an original fantasy world that looks photorealistic. On the other hand, Joseph Kosinski’s Top Gun legacy sequel succeeds in taking its audiences into the danger zone by delivering some of the greatest aerial action sequences to ever be put on film. Shattering multiple box office records, the addition of Avatar: The Way of Water and Top Gun: Maverick to the Best Picture nominees mix represents a meeting of minds between audiences and the Academy.
The Wounds that Bind Us
Trauma affects everyone differently, and its impact can be subtle, debilitating, or outright devastating. All Quiet on The Western Front, a German-language film about the consequences of war, illustrates the psychological problems experienced by men in battle. A psychological examination of the soldier’s experience, Edward Berger’s epic anti-war film is a powerful adaptation that explores the brutality and trauma of war.
If you leave trauma untreated, the legacy of trauma becomes multigenerational through repeated psychological dysfunctions. The new science of epigenetics has identified the mechanisms that even affect gene function. For instance, the children of Holocaust survivors have altered genetic mechanisms that lead to unusual stress hormone levels. Studies on animals have shown that even the third generation can experience the physiological effects of trauma being passed down.
The big winner of the Oscars 2023, Everything Everywhere All at Once, explores intergenerational generational trauma within the context of a surrealistic story. The absurdist comedy-drama film makes a strong case for healing and loving in a family burdened with generations of trauma and division. Both films illustrate the importance of being trauma-informed if we are to effectively address issues in which trauma and intergenerational trauma are factors.
The Gift and Curse of Creativity
“Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis shows us how being an exceptionally gifted and creative person can be a torturous and painful experience – even for Elvis Presley. Butler’s explosive interpretation of Presley’s rise and fall and how it dims the dazzling lights to show us how The King became a prisoner of his own fame.
The titular character in Tár, Lydia Tár, ruins herself due to her predatory sexual behaviour, despite being a renowned, egomaniacal, and wildly charismatic conductor. A powerful study in power, passion, and control, the psychological drama film sees Blanchet’s character abuse her artistic brilliance to groom young students for transactional sexual relationships. Is it possible to separate art from the artist? Can the horrifying implications of sexual abuse reduce the glory of a celebrated musician? Tár focuses on these questions at its heart.
Conversely, The Fablemans takes a memoiristic approach to highlight why dreams and aspirations are worth chasing. Steven Spielberg’s semi-autobiographical story illustrates that the creative journey can be an infinitely fulfilling one. Elvis, Tar, and The Fablesmans portray creativity as an unmistakable force with the potential to be good or bad.