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Ranking all the Oscar best picture noms from the past 5 years
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Ranking all the Oscar best picture noms from the past 5 years

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I have little patience for people protesting that this year’s Oscars are somehow tainted because theaters were mostly shut down and studios shuffled movies out of the season or, I don’t know, they tried watching “Mank” three times but could never get through it.

I understand that the Oscars are different this year. But just because the experience of watching the movies in our living rooms wasn’t as enjoyable doesn’t mean the movies themselves were somehow inferior. To road-test that theory, I decided to rank the last five years of best picture nominees to see how 2020 measured up:

43. “Bohemian Rhapsody” (2018): I know smart people who love this movie. In fact, had it not been directed by Bryan Singer, who has been accused of sexual abuse and all manner of misconduct, it might have won best picture instead of “Green Book.” Words I never thought I’d write: Thank ... God ... for ... “Green Book.”

42. “Joker” (2019): Self-conscious Scorsese imitation.

41. “Jojo Rabbit” (2019): If it’s an “anti-hate satire,” why do I hate it?

40. “Darkest Hour” (2017): Worth a watch for Gary Oldman. But enough Churchill already.

39. “Lion” (2016): It brought Nicole Kidman back to the Oscars, so I can’t complain.

38. “Hacksaw Ridge”: (2016) One thing’s for certain: Mel Gibson knows madness.

37. “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (2020): “Mangrove” > “Chicago 7.” But there’s no shame in being the second-best courtroom drama of the year.

36. “Green Book” (2018): Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen carry it. I’d watch it 10 times before subjecting myself to “Crash” again.

35. “Fences” (2016): Vital August Wilson adaptation, planting the flag to hopefully bring all 10 of his plays to the screen.

34. “Promising Young Woman” (2020): Audacious, darkly funny and sometimes uncertain in its messaging.

33. “The Post” (2017): Not the worst Spielberg film to be nominated.

32. “Ford v Ferrari” (2019): Decent Dad Cinema.

31. “Hidden Figures” (2016): Heartfelt and inspirational in all the right ways.

30. “Vice” (2018): Pungent political satire, though not quite as shrewd as “Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby.”

29. “Sound of Metal” (2020): Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I cue this movie up and listen to Paul Raci for five minutes.

28. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” (2017): Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell, grief and forgiveness, profane and poignant.

27. “The Shape of Water” (2017): The sixth-best movie of the nominated films from 2017 ended up winning best picture.

26. “The Father” (2020) and 25. “Marriage Story” (2019): Exemplary tales of grueling, lacerating heartbreak that I’ll probably never revisit.

24. “1917” (2019): All hail Roger Deakins!

23. “A Star Is Born” (2018): “Haaaaaa-ahhhh-ahhh-ohhhh-ahhaaaaaa-ahhhh-ahhh-ohhhh-ah!!!”

22. “Hell or High Water” (2016): Peak Dad Cinema.

21. “BlacKkKlansman” (2018): Earns Spike Lee an overdue Oscar.

20. “Arrival” (2016): I’m still wondering how Amy Adams wasn’t nominated.

19. “Judas and the Black Messiah” (2020): Can Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield both win the Oscar?

18. “Minari” (2020): Best acting ensemble of 2020.

17. “Manchester by the Sea” (2016): Does anyone mine shattering trauma better than Kenneth Lonergan?

16. “Mank” (2020): I’ve watched it twice ... straight through both times!

15. “Dunkirk” (2017): Christopher Nolan’s best.

14. “The Favourite” (2018): Costume drama for people bored with costume dramas.

13. “Little Women” (2019): Greta Gerwig was wronged.

12. “La La Land” (2016): The film that won best picture ... for about two minutes.

11. “Roma” (2018): Sublime Alfonso Cuaron love poem.

10. “The Irishman” (2019): Scorsese’s “September Song.”

9. “Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood” (2019): Quentin Tarantino gets wistful about Old Hollywood.

8. “Black Panther” (2018): Wakanda forever!

7. “Lady Bird” (2017): Gerwig’s the only director on here twice.

6. “Get Out” (2017): We remain deep in the Sunken Place. But maybe we’re talking about it more?

5. “Call Me by Your Name” (2017): Timothéeeeeeee and Italy.

4. “Phantom Thread” (2017): Still holding out hope that this isn’t Daniel Day-Lewis’ last movie.

3. “Nomadland” (2020): A spiritual journey centered on community and compassion — pretty much the film we needed in this challenging year.

2. “Parasite” (2019): First non-English-language movie to win best picture, a (too) rare example of the academy getting it right.

1. “Moonlight” (2016): The Oscar win for Barry Jenkins’ melancholy masterpiece redefined the parameters of what kind of film could earn best picture.

[Whew] So what did we learn? Well, again, 2017 was a great year for movies. 2016? Not so much. And 2020 ranks right there with 2019 and 2018, offering plenty of good films. If you still haven’t seen the eight pictures nominated this year, please find them and savor their pleasures.

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