OPINION: Why 1917, Jojo Rabbit, and Joker are Strong Contenders for Best Picture


Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP

Actor Joaquin Phoenix poses with his award for Best Actor for the film Joker, backstage at the Bafta Film Awards, in central London, Sunday, Feb. 2, 2020. (Photo by Joel C Ryan/Invision/AP)

MINOR SPOILER WARNING for those who haven’t seen 1917, Jojo Rabbit, or Joker

Throughout the past 12 months, the world of cinema has certainly been thriving, to say the least.  There’s been so many great films this year, as well as moments like Avengers: Endgame passing Avatar to become the top-grossing film of all time.  Now, with the 92nd Academy Awards upon us, it’s finally time to find out who will be taking home some shiny new hardware.  The most prestigious award, Best Picture, has some truly amazing films nominated. The films nominated are:

1917 (Directed by Sam Mendes)

Ford v Ferrari (Directed by James Mangold)

Joker (Directed by Todd Phillips)

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Directed by Quentin Tarantino)

Parasite (Directed by Bong Joon-ho)

The Irishman (Directed by Martin Scorsese)

Little Women (Directed by Greta Gerwig)

Jojo Rabbit (Directed by Taika Waititi)

Marriage Story (Directed by Noah Baumbach)

All nine of these films absolutely deserve to be nominated, without a doubt.  However, there were three movies in particular that stood out to me the most, and, in my opinion, deserve to win Best Picture more than any of the other six films.

1917 (Directed by Sam Mendes)

I’ve always been a huge fan of war movies, specifically those set in either of the World Wars.  Something about them just entertains me in a way most other movies can’t. 1917 is no different, but at the same time, it is very, very different.

By far, the most unique aspect of 1917 is how it was filmed.  The entire movie is made to seem like it was done in one continuous shot, possibly in an attempt to draw the viewer into the story even further.  Cuts and scene switches can make it seem more like you’re watching a movie, and less like you’re actually a part of it. When I watched the first scene of 1917, I thought it was very impressive how the first shot through the trenches was all done in one shot.  As the movie went on, I was in awe of how the movie was formatted in that manner for its entirety.

Filming a movie in such few shots has other benefits as well.  This style of filming was perfect for its single storyline: following Thomas Blake and William Schofield on their journey to the Second Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment.  With only one story to follow, as opposed to one main story and a couple of side-stories, the film flowed much better and did a great job of adding depth.

1917 also does a great job of keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat.  There’s always tension and suspense, as the main characters could be attacked by an enemy in hiding at any given moment.  Roughly an hour or so into the movie, there is an extremely emotional scene that does a great job of letting the viewer know that anything could happen at any time.

Overall, 1917 was executed masterfully and did a phenomenal job of making its story seem realistic.  The filming techniques used, along with its singular story, superb suspense, and excellent use of emotional scenes make this film feel so raw.

Jojo Rabbit (Directed by Taika Waititi)

“Why is a satire about the Hitler Youth nominated for Best Picture?”

Having not seen Jojo Rabbit prior to its nomination, that was a question I asked myself upon seeing it listed alongside movies like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Marriage Story, and Joker.  This confusion intrigued me, and I knew that I had to watch this movie as soon as possible.  I had a strange feeling that there was something else to this movie– something that the trailers didn’t want us to see.  I didn’t think that there was any other way this movie could have been nominated.

Boy, was I right.

You thought 1917 was suspenseful?  You thought 1917 was emotional?  Jojo Rabbit takes all of that and magnifies it by a thousand.  Even with my prior suspicions, this movie was by far the biggest surprise out of the bunch nominated for Best Picture in my opinion.  

Taika Waititi, who also directed Thor: Ragnarok, has created a wonderful movie that shows how the title character, Jojo, learns about the power of love and the horrors of hate.  Speaking of Jojo, Roman Griffin Davis is a seriously good actor, considering that he’s only 12 years old. The way he conveys each and every emotion, from fear, sadness, joy, suspicion, and absolute heartbreak is astounding.  Davis not even getting nominated for Best Actor is one of the two massive snubs from this movie.

The other snub? Taika Waititi’s role as… Adolf Hitler, Jojo’s imaginary friend.  Yes, the director of this movie also had a significant acting role, and it’s the ruthless dictator himself, kind of.  While the real person Waititi plays is a horrible person, the Hitler in Jojo’s head is a much different person. At the beginning of the movie, he starts out as cheerful, and supportive of Jojo.  However, as Jojo starts to sympathize with the Jewish people that Hitler is trying to eradicate, the imaginary dictator’s hate and rage start to seep through the cracks.

By the way, if there was an award for “Most Emotional Scene,” I am absolutely positive that Jojo Rabbit would win it.  I won’t spoil what happens, but what happens in this particular scene is so unexpected and so gut-wrenching that it should bring anybody to tears.

I could go on and on about all of the factors that make Jojo Rabbit the astounding movie that it is. Scarlett Johansson’s phenomenal role as Jojo’s mother and Thomasin McKenzie’s portrayal of Elsa Korr, the Jewish girl hiding away in Jojo’s house, elevate this film to an even higher level.  However, there’s one more movie I need to talk about, the one that I believe should undoubtedly win the award for Best Picture.

Joker (Directed by Todd Phillips)

There are multiple reasons Joker is nominated for 11 Oscars, more than any other movie in the field this year.  Simply put, this movie is an experience unlike any other I’ve seen in a movie. Just about every facet of this movie was executed with near perfection.  

Joaquin Phoenix, pun intended, absolutely kills it as Arthur Fleck, who eventually becomes the Joker.  I’m not sure any other actor could pull off this iteration of the Joker as well as Phoenix did.  His commitment to the role was astounding, and it’s plain to see given just how much weight Phoenix had to lose for it.  The amount of times I could see Phoenix’s ribcage throughout the movie is much higher than I’d like to admit.

Watching Arthur Fleck’s slow descent into madness and insanity is disturbing but in the most entertaining way imaginable.  The circumstances that lead to Fleck becoming the Joker almost make the viewer sympathize with him. Just about every bad thing you could imagine happens to Fleck.  To top it all off, Fleck is living with his mother in near squalor. That would be enough to drive anybody insane.

What separates Fleck from the rest of the crowd, however, is how he handles his insanity.  After a particular scene on a subway, he flees to a public restroom. Given what Fleck did in that scene, most people would panic, call someone, or maybe even pass out, but not Arthur Fleck.  Instead, Fleck starts to dance. He completely embraces what he has become, as if his physical self is dancing with his own twisted mental state.

The movie’s score adds to the twisted scenes and themes in the film.  The slow, eerie music that plays throughout the film matches perfectly with Fleck’s descent into madness, and it’s enough to send a chill down anyone’s spine. The most interesting thing about Joker, in my opinion, is its ending.  There are several points in the movie that can leave the viewer wondering just how much of this film is real.  Depending on how you view the ending to Joker, the movie could be almost entirely made up in Fleck’s imagination.  The fact that such a great movie leaves it up to the viewer to decide what actually happened is what puts Joker above all of the other nominated movies, in my opinion.