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Oscars: 2024 Best Picture

9th March 2024

Words: Shane Ramdhany

The Inner Screen’s Lead Writer, Shane Ramdhany, provides a brief assessment on each of this year’s Best Picture Nominees.

Anatomy of a Fall

This film takes a unique approach to  simultaneously developing an investigation alongside the understanding of the couple’s complex relationship.   It becomes clear early on that the goal of the film is to utilize the trial as a platform for evaluating all the variables of the relationship that may or may not be attributed to the death of the husband.  This idea that the film posits in organically acquiring knowledge of the family through the trial process achieves a fresh narrative approach in a genre that can otherwise be perceived as somewhat saturated.

Beyond the scope of this court room drama, it can be observed that there is little to process as the film narrowly focuses on the sequence of events.  As a result, this narrative depth remains somewhat stifled by its use of the trial lens as the exclusive method of storytelling, only providing snapshots of conflictual moments within the marriage. While the film remains engaging through use of this method, you can’t help but feel a sense of missed opportunity with regard to the exploration of the full scope of this marriage and the potentially complex drivers that led to his death.

Poor Things

This film explores the dynamic of a woman’s acclimation into a society that maintains established perception on what her role should be within the cultural context.  It is clear that Bella serves as a plot device to subvert the expectations of this perceived role throughout the film. This idea is laid bare through the dialogue of her husband, who essentially reminds her of her of her role as his wife.  His character serves as.a microcosm of this oppressive lens used to reinforce this established perception.  However, Bella’s success with prevailing over him sends an inevitable message of empowerment within a system that is not conducive to notions of feminism.

The unique cinematography of the film, which shifts its color palette and portrays ambiguously fantastical setting at times emphasizes the idea of subverting an established expectation.  It does not consistently adhere to specific style, a concept which parallels that of a woman challenging her predetermined societal role.  The film’s strengths are using these co-occurring processes together to enhance the film’s message regarding bucking the establishment’s expectation.

Past Lives

A film that explores familiar notions of “What if?” In the context of friends that evolved into significant others but ultimately drifted apart due to individual life choices.  As we observe the couple reconnect, there is an inevitable curiosity and perhaps even lust for a reconciliation that involves a rekindling of their intimacy.  However, this idea never comes to fruition as the two are forced into acceptance of their current circumstances.

At a slender runtime of 1 hr and 45 min, the film asserts a sharp focus on the core narrative at play, spending virtually no time on unnecessary world building or development of extraneous characters. This results in storytelling that parallels the intimacy of its two leads.  It successfully delivers the message that when faced with this “What if?” Scenario, the greatest value that can serve as a resolution is embracing “what is,” and how having had this experience, regardless of its outcome, has shaped and enhanced one’s own worldview.


An exploration of the simultaneous fascination and horror that co-occurs when dealing into the concepts of nuclear science and its inevitable weaponization.  This juxtaposition is depicted in surreal, haunting visual flair through the title character’s own visions.  It becomes clear through this thematic visual device that Christopher Nolan’s conceptualization of the wonder/terror of science ratio is undoubtedly unmatched.  As a result, he delivers a narrative that drives its audience’s yearn for scientific knowledge around the development of the atom bomb while keeping the obvious ethical dilemma front and center.

This idea is most vividly represented in Oppenheimer himself as he demonstrates clear internal conflict through his process of designing a world-ending weapon. His passion for the science is as unyielding as the torture of his soul exhibited throughout the film.  We also see the plot pivot to the unavoidable political fallout that he must endure, a natural consequence of creating such a controversial device that draws global attention.  All of these narrative threads weave a complex tale that succeeds in portraying both the monster and its Dr. Frakenstein with unparalleled depth that leaves its audience in awe.

American Fiction

A film that serves as satire on White perception of Black Art and Literature. It is evident early on that the narrative emphasizes the notion of confining black expression solely within its cultural context, or at least White’s perception of it.  Jeffrey Wright’s author represents the cynicism of the Black community regarding Whites’ definition of what constitutes moving Black literature.  He consistently iterates on the idea that this White definition is myopic at best, reducing its interpretation of Black expression to but a handful of common stereotypes.  As a result, he attempts to indulge this perception by writing a novel that leans into these polarizing tropes.

This narrative device lends the film its greatest strength as it effectively satirizes this concept of Whites’ yearn for hackneyed stories of the Black community’s plight.  However, when viewing the film outside of the context of its central theme, what is left is an unremarkable tale of a complicated relationship that Thelonious develops as the story progresses.  Despite this flawed telling, the film largely succeeds in its mission to elevate the conversation regarding challenging what constitutes meaningful stories from Black artists.

The Zone of Interest

A haunting, unique depiction of one of history’s most significant periods of genocide.  The film excels on utilizing visual narrative to drive it forward.  While dialogue exists, it can be observed to be little more than nuance to storytelling that hones in on the concept of juxtaposition within the context of this historical event. This concept is realized in the life of the commandant and his wife and children against a backdrop of the horror next door. It simultaneously indulges the family’s life of the finer things while its grim setting remains omnipresent from the chilling sounds of the gas chamber to the Jewish servants in the family’s home.

The film succeeds in an otherwise saturated genre of this period in history by taking a fresh approach to its portrayal of these atrocities that we have become all too familiar with.  Its ability to stand out in this manner elevates it to an experience that will likely remain with you long after the credits have rolled.


This tale begins with a black and white aesthetic that immediately harkens back to Leonard Bernstein’s early days of theatrical success. Within this classic ecology, we see him thrive as he channels his passionate closeted intimacy into rhythmic crescendos on stage.  At this point, it is clear that the film uses his projects as a narrative device to emphasize the myriad of emotions that he is forced to suppress due to societal expectation.  While this formula of rhythmic dialogue and eccentricity that mirrors his personality becomes a bit too overindulgent in the first act of the film, the second half sees a dramatic shift to the inevitable consequences of his efforts to hide his sexuality.

It can be said that the latter half of the film is diametrically opposed to its initial counterpart as it forces the audience to absorb its most uncomfortable moments, such as that of he and his wife laying together in her final hours of life or his daughter’s expression of relief when he denies his homosexuality.  This stark contrast in storytelling is likely an accurate depiction of his life’s evolution from an energetic theatrical escape to an unavoidable grim reality.  The tragedy of Bernstein’s obligation to suppress a part of his identity is felt with increasing depth as the film reaches its climax.  This is in large part due to Bradley Cooper’s unparalleled, transformative approach to this icon of cinema.


One of America’s most iconic household names finally makes its live action debut on the big screen and the result is an unexpected meditation on the measure of beauty.  It challenges traditional perception of this attribute and emphasizes the merit of individuality.  One could argue that exploring themes of the subjectivity of beauty is somewhat cliche, which remains somewhat true in the context of this film.  Despite this familiar theme, the film succeeds in using a fresh lens to evaluate it which results in a poignant exploration of female diversity and the fallacy of attempting to identify a singular specimen of beauty.

Perhaps the most significant notion posited by this film is that it uses a pop culture icon that is perhaps the quintessential example of beauty at its most superficial and least competent.  It is littered with rich magenta visual flair and engaging musical numbers that provide the necessary entertainment to supplement these otherwise deep themes.  Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling lead the film with great panache,  effectively capturing both its flamboyancy as well as its poignancy.

The Holdovers

A film whose two leads Paul and Angus (Paul Giamatti and Dominic Sessa respectively) are engaged in a parallel process as they share the holiday break at a prep school.  This process is evident throughout the film as we can observe the plateau of Paul’s career in conjunction with the emptiness felt by Angus as he is rejected by his family and has to remain at the prep school.  Paul and Angus inevitably draw a connection with each other as they become increasingly privy to the other’s somewhat tragic personal plights (Angus’s rejecting family and Paul’s rejection from Harvard).

The narrative’s strength relies heavily on their connection, which results in a climax involving Paul’s sacrifice to preserve Angus’s enrollment in the school.  However, this strength yields vulnerability to the overall scope of the narrative, which is otherwise unremarkable.  While It inevitably has little to offer beyond Paul and Angus’s unique relationship, this concept is explored with ample poignancy and depth so as to mitigate the feeling of a complete absence of a compelling dramedy. The performances of Paul Giamatti and Dominic Sessa further enhance the storytelling through earnest and at times, raw, displays on screen.

Killers of the Flower Moon

This film serves as an exploration of a series of murders within a community that is marginalized at its best and severely oppressed at its worst.  The murders, and the subsequent investigation that follows, persistently emphasize this marginalization through the murders’ genocidal nature and the investigation’s tepid response.  It is clear that this serves as a plot device to evaluate themes of white colonialism and its impact on the Native American community.  Scorsese’s meditation on this concept offers a fresh lens to review its historical significance as well as highlight its ongoing relevance amongst these communities today.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s and Lily Gladstone’s lead characters represent a microcosm of the idea of oppression of the natives as DiCaprio’s Ernest at times displays a racist, polarizing attitude towards Gladstone’s Mollie.  Robert De Niro further drives this idea home  as he alludes to the Osage Nation as being undeserving of their wealth.  This is a perception that can be traced through the aforementioned history of white colonialism, which Scorsese aims to capture through the film’s unique storytelling.  While these themes have been explored in the past, their familiarity is quelled by the unique lens used by Scorsese.  He succeeds in setting the film apart by using a self-contained narrative regarding these series of murders and letting the audience interpret its broader meaning and historical context.

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