All 10 movies nominated for the 2023 best picture Oscar, from Everything Everywhere All at Once to Elvis and Tár, reviewed

Which film will emerge victorious on Sunday? (Picture: AP)

With Oscars weekend almost upon us, those who have been anointed Hollywood’s best and brightest over the past 12 months will gather together to hand out Academy Awards.

Once again, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has opted to nominate the maximum number of films allowed – 10 – in the best picture category for 2023.

We have a range of movies represented, from biopic to historical epic to technological spectacle and surrealist comedy, and there’s even two sequels up for the award in the form of Avatar: The Way of Water and Top Gun: Maverick.

Everything Everywhere All at Once leads the pack with 11 nominations and a recent sweep at the Independent Spirit Awards, but All Quiet on the Western Front and The Banshees of Inisherin are close behind with nine apiece and the former being crowned the favourite at the Baftas.

With everything to play for, and a few upsets never off the table (Steven Spielberg is a popular man), here’s a round-up of the reviews from our critics of every film in contention for the best picture gong.

Elvis review

Austin Butler’s ‘star-making’ turn as Elvis has already picked him up a Bafta, a Golden Globe and his own Oscar nomination (Picture: Warner Bros/Moviestore/Shutterstock)


By Anna Smith

What happens when the director of Moulin Rouge! makes a film about Elvis? A lot of shake, rattle and razzmatazz.

Baz Luhrmann certainly hasn’t toned his signature style down for this busy biopic that’s both long and fast, zooming in and out of key moments in the singer’s life at speed, with a focus on his relationship with his manager Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks).

The King himself is played by Austin Butler, and boy does he deliver: from the swagger to the voice, he embodies Elvis and swiftly makes you forget you’re watching the kid from The Carrie Diaries.

It’s a star-making turn.

Unfortunately, Hanks fares less well as his manager.

Wearing prosthetics and putting on a distracting foreign accent (Parker was actually Dutch), Hanks feels too much like a caricature, waddling into the picture like an uninvited guest at a snazzy party.

He’s meant to be an unpleasant, manipulative figure, but he certainly looks out of place in a ritzy Luhrmann film.

Elvis fans might wish more time was spent with the singer, whose character is drawn with broad brushstrokes – ditto his wife Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge).

All that said, it’s an entertaining insight into Elvis’ career and working relationships, and a few performance scenes are electrifying: the first Vegas show is recreated in dazzling detail.

It’s poignant when Elvis begins to derail, obliged to perform in a casino for five years.

You’re left with a picture of a talented man who spent his final years caught in a trap – and yes, it is heartbreaking in that hotel.


All Quiet on the Western Front review

The German-language World War II epic brings a fresh perspective on the novel and 1930 film adaptation (Picture: Netflix/Moviestore/Shutterstock)

All Quiet on the Western Front

By Tori Brazier

It’s brave taking on a film that has already been made to Oscar-winning acclaim before – but there’s over 90 years separating this All Quiet from the Western Front from the 1930 Lewis Milestone version, and a whole lot more besides.

This is the first German language adaptation of German WWI veteran Erich Maria Remarque’s novel, with director and co-writer Edward Berger having previously said he used the movie as a ‘funnel’ for all the shame and guilt the country feels over its role in the conflict.

The historic epic holds those emotions at its core as it follows the brutal induction of idealistic young recruit Paul Bäumer (fantastic newcomer Felix Kammerer) and his friends into the gruesome, terrifying truth of trench warfare.

One of the most striking achievements of All Quiet on the Western Front (or Im Westen Nichts Neues, to give it its proper name) is its expert handling of the highwire between boredom and panic as the army learns to scramble at any moment and deaths often become a question of who can reach a makeshift weapon first or avoid an accident.      

Staggering cinematography from James Friend and a hauntingly jarring three-note theme from composer Volker Bertelmann really immerse you in the atmosphere and story of the film, in all its horrors. You may well want to look away at certain points, but it’s so compelling that you’ll struggle.

The devil is also in the detail, with the recruits’ teeth yellowed after months on the front line, and the mud and slop on the floor emphasised as the hazard it could be – it’s not just about the desperate bloodshed, which never feels anything less than sympathetic given the circumstances of the soldiers.

At one point, Paul’s face is so caked in cracked mud that it takes on a repulsive, fungus-like appearance in an image that will sear itself on your brain.

For the 2022 adaptation, first written by Lesley Paterson and Ian Stokell 16 years before it was made, a new storyline is added showing the political negotiations of the armistice in the final few days of the war in November 1918.

It provides a frustrating let-up to the battle-based scenes, almost showing in real-time what each minute costs in terms of deaths. It’s not subtle, and certainly provides a more comfortable lens for a modern anti-war viewer, but it’s effective.

All Quiet on the Western Front has an exceptional cast of talent new to the international stage as its young recruits alongside Kammerer, including Aaron Hilmer, Moritz Klaus and Edin Hasanovic.

However, there are also recognisable faces in the form of Daniel Brühl as politician Matthias Erzberger, Devid Streisow as a fictional warmongering general and Call My Agent’s Thibault de Montalembert as General Ferdinand Foch.

The film belongs to Bafta nominee Albrecht Schuch though, and the achingly sincere relationship he shares with Paul as his soldier friend and mentor, Stanislaus ‘Kat’ Katczinsky.

Many will likely already know the film ends, but Berger puts his own stamp on the final few moments with a painful tribute to all of those who never came home from the war.

This new All Quiet on the Western Front may deviate quite significantly in places from its source material, but it remains as powerfully heartbreaking as ever.


Avatar: The Way of Water review

James Cameron’s Avatar sequel is already the third highest-grossing film of all time (Picture: 20th Century Studios via AP)

Avatar: The Way of Water

By Larushka Ivan-Zadeh

Needing to gross more than $2billion to turn a profit, the stakes could not be higher for Avatar 2. As director James Cameron acknowledges, his ambitious, 13-years-in-the-making sequel has to be ‘the third or fourth highest-grossing film in history. That’s your break-even.’

But don’t bet against him.

He wrote and directed two of the most successful movie sequels of all time: Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day. And, from the moment you stick those 3D glasses back on, you’ll be wowed by a cinematic experience unlike any other. Visually, at least.

Because the story’s a seen-it, been-there snore.

This is the saga (there are at least three more sequels to come) of ex-marine, turned blue eco-leader Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and his wife Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), who are now parents to their three kids plus an adopted teenage daughter (a motion-captured Sigourney Weaver, interestingly playing a 14-year-old).

When their home on Pandora is again threatened by humans, led by a DNA-cloned Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang), the Sully clan seek refuge with an ocean-loving tribe (including Kate Winslet) where they must learn watery ways to survive.

‘The way of water has no beginning and no end’, they are told – voicing the despair I felt around the two hour mark.

Forget going to the loo beforehand, you’ll be desperate to nip out and give your eyeballs a rest after an hour of pristine 3D.

And it’s not just visual overload. Whilst there’s always tonnes of action going on, it’s remarkably hard to engage with it, or care much about these bland characters.

Until, that is, the sensational, Aliens-worthy 45-minute-long finale, complete with a Titanic homage and sparkling, phosphorescent wonders.

As a spectacle it’s astonishing. But is this even a film? It’s more like a three-hour theme park ride. Or a superior version of those show-reel display loops they use in shops like Currys to show off how good the tellies are.

Yes, Cameron is once again pushing the technological frontiers forward. But to what effect?

Performance-wise, there’s nothing here to rival Andy Serkis’s extraordinary, Oscar-worthy work in War for the Planet of the Apes. And no other movie can hope to rival its budget.

A cinematic milestone or a cinematic cul-de-sac? Only time will tell. 


The Banshees of Inisherin review

It’s certainly the luck of the Irish at this year’s Oscars with a whole host up for gongs, led by Banshees (Picture: Searchlight Pictures via AP)

The Banshees of Inisherin

By Larushka Ivan-Zadeh

Almost 15 years on from In Bruges, co-stars Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson and director/writer Martin McDonagh reunite to create another instant dark tragi-comedy classic in The Banshees Of Inisherin.

As the title suggests, the setting is Inisherin, a timeless island off the west coast of Ireland. It’s a remote, rolling rural idyll that runs on unremarkable routines.

One of these is that, every day at 3pm, Pádraic (a career-best Farrell) calls for his best pal Colm (Gleeson) and they go to the pub.

Until one fateful day, when Colm refuses to come out to play. ‘I just don’t like you no more,’ is his only explanation. ‘What is he, 12?!’ boggles the local young simpleton (Barry Keoghan).

An all-round nice guy, Pádraic is admittedly a stupendous bore, who can literally talk for hours about his donkey’s droppings, as his long-suffering sister (Kerry Condon) can attest.

But is that any excuse for Colm’s behaviour?

From this small story, McDonagh (who also directed Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – he clearly enjoys a verbose title) spins a masterwork.

The two men’s conflict is a microcosm of the Civil War literally rumbling away over on the mainland, but this isn’t a movie that’ll club you over the head with metaphors.

It’s far more subtle and supple work.

And outrageously funny too. In a way, Colm is like a deranged Father Ted to Pádraic’s Father Dougal.

You’ll ponder the boundaries of kindness and gaze into the existential void, all whilst having a laugh.

A movie that approaches big themes with deceptive simplicity. A work of absurdist genius.


Women Talking review

Sarah Polley’s thought-provoking drama is the one film directed by a women up for best picture (Picture: Michael Gibson/Orion – United Artists Releasing via AP)

Women Talking

By Anna Smith

Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley and Claire Foy head up this best picture Oscar-nominated drama that slowly moves towards a nail-biting conclusion. Set in a remote, patriarchal religious community, it sees a group of women and girls having an urgent, secret summit in a barn. They have all been repeatedly drugged and abused and must decide whether to stay or leave.

While pregnant Agata (Mara) takes a calm, thoughtful approach, Mariche (Jessie Buckley) is conflicted, afraid of her abusive husband. Meanwhile Salome (Claire Foy) is plain angry. You’ll be angry on their behalf, too: this is an emotive exploration of the abuse of power and the effects of brainwashing.

Director Sarah Polley is careful not to show the details of the abuse, focusing on the women’s resilience and their dilemma. While it’s a dark and difficult subject, bursts of hope and even humour creep into the film.

The ensemble cast is uniformly excellent, from producer Frances McDormand to Ben Whishaw, who plays the sympathetic man taking notes on the meeting. Why a man? Because he’s benefited from something denied to these women: an education.

Thought-provoking stuff.


Top Gun: Maverick review

Tom Cruise felt the need for speed again, and it went down very well indeed (Picture: Paramount Pictures via AP)

Top Gun: Maverick

By Alicia Adejobi

Buckle yourselves in and strap up those loins because Top Gun: Maverick is one heck of a ball-busting thrill-seeking experience. 

Cinema has been a little lacklustre on the action blockbuster front over the past two years, with mostly superhero flicks relied on to save theatres. Cue Tom Cruisewhizzing in at superspeed to make his grand return to screens after four years and more than three decades after he charmed Hollywood in his first major caper in the original Top Gun. 

For those who still have a special place in their hearts for the OG film, you’ll be pleased to know that Maverick is still just as infuriatingly rebellious as ever. 

Top Gun: Maverick sees Cruise reprise his iconic role as the Navy’s hard-headed rule-breaking aviator Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell, who is drawn back to the fighter tactic school to train up a new set of graduates for a special assignment. However, the ghosts haunting him after all these years threaten to unravel both Maverick and the mission. 

The sequel hits the accelerator immediately and barely releases during its two-hour runtime, giving us pulsating action that appropriately sets the tone for the rest of the film. Directed by Joseph Kosinksi, Maverick unapologetically leans into what the audience expects from a high-budget Cruise movie and delivers with a punch, as the audience feels every drop, swoop and loop-the-loop stunt which Maverick pulls at nauseating speed through the skies. 

In any other movie the overly dramatic air fighting sequences could feel excessive but Maverick finds the perfect balance of hitting us with enough cliched moments before delivering an extra slice of teeth-gritting tension. As expected, Maverick excels when it comes to the cinematography which is consistently sharp, but where it truly shines is the sentimentality of the narrative. 

Rather than erase the cheese of its predecessor, Top Gun: Maverick unashamedly honours it with the opening scenes soundtracked to Top Gun’s classic Danger Zone that feels warm and familiar. We stay in this 80s-inspired vibe for a while before gradually transitioning to a slightly more modern score (courtesy of Lady Gaga), which is more fitting with the new recruits. 

That’s the beauty of Maverick, so much of it is well-considered which is something to be appreciated in a Hollywood overrun with sloppy remakes, reboots and reimaginings. 

The nostalgia is increasingly ramped up throughout the film with several references to Goose and the repeated glimpses of the iconic photo from the original, of Maverick and Iceman (Val Kilmer) warmly embracing each other which, by the way, is subtly recreated by frenemy graduates Rooster (Miles Teller) and Hangman (Glen Powell). 

As much as Maverick nods to the past, it leaves a good amount of space to welcome the new school at Top Gun. 

Miles Teller as Goose’s son does a fine job of channelling Rooster’s resentment towards Maverick and he and Cruise strike up a strong rapport with each other, while Monica Barbaro is convincing as badass Phoenix, holding her own with the Navy banter, and Jon Hamm executes a solid performance with his disdain for Maverick palpable. 

The new school bounces off Cruise’s Maverick effortlessly but perhaps a little more focus is needed on building some of the individual characters with a few reaching the finish line still as surface level as they started. Powell’s performance as Hangman is brilliantly engaging with his witty one-liners – a character clearly intended to fill the shoes of Val Kilmer as Iceman in the original – but the lack of meaty screen time feels like an injustice to his efforts. 

Speaking of Kilmer, even with a strong line-up of new faces and the undeniable fact that this is Cruise’s tour de force, he completely steals the show in his brief cameo. The actor was remarkably able to take part in the sequel after undergoing surgery for throat cancer several years before, resulting in speech difficulties. His shared scene with Cruise is the most powerful, with Kilmer delivering nuanced expressions and reactions that say more in the moment than a script probably could. 

But just when the sequel draws you into an emotionally-charged moment, it has the ability to snap you back out with a funny one-liner. 

A lot of humour – and heart – can be found in many of Cruise’s scenes with Penny, who is played by Jennifer Connelly and pulled off seamlessly. This love story does well in fleshing out Maverick’s character, which was easily in danger of becoming one-dimensional. 

Maverick, the film, is a little bloated at 131 minutes but the pacing is timed pretty well with almost every scene serving its purpose – save for the random cheesy one-liners from B-list characters; it never really feels like it has overstayed its welcome. 

Granted, a great deal of suspension of disbelief is needed to get through some of the action-packed scenes, for example, it genuinely seems as though Maverick is about to fly out and board the ISS at one point. Our mistake, that’s Cruise’s next movie. 

But if you can get past those few instances, Maverick is a thrilling journey with the perfect dose of nostalgia and vibrant new additions to make this adrenaline rush worth the heart palpitations. 

It’s only May but we can confidently say that Top Gun: Maverick will be included in many ‘best films of the year’ round-ups by the time 2022 is done.


Triangle of Sadness review

Triangle of Sadness is one of the smaller, outside contenders for best picture (Picture: Neon via AP)

Triangle of Sadness

By Anna Smith

A male model and an influencer go on a luxury cruise with a load of obnoxious rich people in this brilliantly bonkers satire that won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.

Apparently ‘triangle of sadness’ is the nickname for the mini-frown area between your eyebrows, harnessed by models and taken very seriously in the hilarious opening set up.

It only gets funnier as model Carl (Harris Dickinson) and his girlfriend Yaya (late actress Charlbi Dean) board a $250million dollar yacht and meet Russian oligarchs, arms dealers and a very patient group of staff who are there to cater for their every whim.

The only rebel appears to be the Captain (Woody Harrelson), who’s boozing in his cabin instead of working, but emerges for one of this film’s biggest laugh-out-loud scenes. Events take a darker turn, so prepare yourself for a long, thought-provoking and sometimes uncomfortable second half.

But if you’ve seen other movies from director Ruben Östlund, such as The Square and Force Majeure, you’ll know to expect the kind of observational humour that can make you squirm in your seat, as well as fall off it laughing.


Tár review

Tár lives and dies by Cate Blanchett’s performance (Picture: Florian Hoffmeister/Focus Features)


By Tori Brazier

It is undeniable that Cate Blanchett is phenomenal in Todd Field’s sprawling character study, Tár.

As brilliant but deeply flawed conductor Lydia Tár, the audience meets a woman on the precipice of a major crisis, tension slowly building throughout the film as parts of her personal and professional life start to unravel while she prepares for a career-changing symphony recording.

This exploration of sexual misconduct in the music industry from Field is timely, and he keeps the truth of the story purposefully ambiguous as he presents both the #MeToo movement and cancel culture up for further examination.

Tár is an unlikeable woman, brittle, arrogant and cold, but in the hands of a performer of Blanchett’s exceptional capability, you still feel for her when everything begins to implode, and her aloofness is somehow strangely mesmerising rather than alienating.

Sadly, however, the same cannot be said for Field’s film, which meanders along at a plodding pace for a too-long two hours and 38 minutes.

Sagging in the middle, the plot sinks a few too many times into self-indulgent monologues for Tár as we’re slowly introduced to the slew of women in her life who could bring her down, from her overlooked personal assistant (Noémie Merlant) to the new cellist in her orchestra (Sophie Kauer), the deeply unhappy former protégé (Sylvia Flote) – and even her wife (Nina Hoss).

With Blanchett, you can tune most of the naff pretension that sometimes sneaks through in Tár’s musings, but coming out of the lips of anyone less assured and it would fall painfully flat.

However, the music is exceptional, reassuringly so, and the cast – which also features Mark Strong and Julian Glover in smaller roles – all deliver able performances, even if well-rounded characters sadly elude them.

But Field does have another trick up his sleeve with the ending of the film, which wraps things up in an unexpected way that’s worth sticking out the previous two hours plus for.

In fact, it proves the perfect, pointed ending for a creature as problematic as Lydia Tár.


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Everything Everywhere All at Once review

This mutiverse indy comedy is a frontrunner at the 2023 Oscars (Picture: Allyson Riggs/A24 via AP)

Everything Everywhere All at Once

By Larushka Ivan-Zadeh

Heed that title, people. Everything Everywhere All at Once is a super-hectic martial arts sci-fi comedy that assaults your brain with a multiverse of madness beyond Doctor Strange’s craziest imaginings.

I’m still getting flashbacks: did I really see a love scene where Jamie Lee Curtis had floppy hot dogs for fingers and then started knitting using her toes? Deep breath.

Our heroine, Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh, who deserves a shelf-full of awards for this), is living her worst life. She’s the stressed Chinese-American owner of a run-down laundromat. Her husband (Ke Huy Quan) is about to leave her, her gay teenage daughter (Stephanie Hsu) can barely speak to her and her elderly father (James Hong) is vociferously disappointed in her.

But Evelyn is about to discover there’s more to life than laundry and taxes when a trip to the IRS office reveals that she’s The One destined to save the multiverse from the forces of nihilistic chaos unleashed by an omniversal baddie called Jobu Tupaki (also played by Hsu). It’s time for Evelyn to step up and realise her full potential.

The multiverse-hopping result is unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. Think a surreal blend of Being John Malkovich, Kung Fu Hustle and Vic Reeves’ Big Night Out and you’re some way there. It’s a film you’ll love or hate but even if do you love it, you’ll wish it was 40 minutes shorter.

Delirious and dizzying, the story struggles to find meaning in its own chaos. What keeps you anchored in this frenzied sensory tsunami is an astonishing turn by Yeoh, who makes Evelyn a believable person you care about across her incarnations, including a wuxia fighter, a dominatrix and a rock with googly eyes.

Curtis is remarkable too, while the likeable Quan is nigglingly familiar until you work out he’s the former child star who was Data in The Goonies.


The Fabelmans review

Steven Spielberg has delivered his most personal film yet with The Fabelmans (Picture: Merie Weismiller Wallace/Universal)

The Fabelmans

By Larushka Ivan-Zadeh

Across six decades, Steven Spielberg has given us era-defining movies about sharks, aliens and dinosaurs with a few spies, soldiers and Nazis in between.

Yet the multi-Oscar-winning legend has resisted the lure of autobiography – until now. The most commercially successful director of all time earned this indulgence.

Spielberg, now aged 76, waited until his parents had died before reimagining their story as the loving, middle-class Jewish family in The Fabelmans.

Mum Mitzi (Michelle Williams) and boffin-y dad Burt (Paul Dano) take son Sammy (Mateo Zoryan Francis-Deford and later Gabriel LaBelle) to the cinema to watch The Greatest Show On Earth. The 11-year-old is left traumatised by the climactic train crash. He obsessively recreates it with his train set and home videos the smash-ups as a way of controlling his fear.

This is a coming-of-age portrait of the artist as a young man and a love letter to the power of movies to entertain and move us. But it’s a more gracious act of memoir than that.

Spielberg reassesses his mother’s thwarted artistic ambition and her relationship with his jovial ‘Uncle’ Benny (Seth Rogen).

He also gets revenge on the high-school jocks who literally kicked sand in his face.

What demands does talent place on you? What does happiness look like? Spielberg’s gift is to find the universal soul in any story.

This is a movie so masterfully made, you can glide along its surface without quite realising all it’s asking of you.

The Fabelmans has, unsurprisingly, received nominations for this year’s Oscars, including a best actress nod for Williams and a best director nod for Spielberg himself.


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