Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall host the 94th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, on March 27, 2022. Last year’s telecast drew 16.6 million viewers, with a spike in ratings coming after Will Smith slapped Chris Rock onstage.

March 9, 2023

Oscars 2023: The Best of (most of) the Rest

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In my quest to review all of the Best Picture nominees at a rate of one film per week starting with the beginning of the semester and leading to the Academy Awards, I neglected one fact: The date of the Oscars. Unfortunately, as I recently realized, I am now out of time to write and publish the remaining few reviews in such a time span. As such, this article will cover three of the remaining nominees, excluding one which is the presumptive winner and another which is an optimistic hedge (you may guess which is which). Those articles should be coming next week, and if neither film ends up as the actual best picture winner, I apologize. 

Triangle of Sadness

There was a period of time (somewhere between the 1950s and 1970s or so) when European anti-capitalist satires were some of the best in film. I refer mostly to the brilliant exploits of Luis Buñuel, but also to a more general satirical inventiveness, even including such terrifying classics as Salò. Triangle of Sadness certainly thinks it’s following in that mold: It attempts an audacious three-act structure, with each act serving individually as a capitalistic parable. I’ve seen it argued that the film achieves heights of absurdity hardly seen these days, with the oft-repeated line on the movie surrounding a notorious scene featuring a lot of bodily fluids on a boat. 

The unfortunate fact of all of this, however, is that the film simply isn’t funny. Its observations hardly ever veer into cleverness, and I can’t say that I was won over by its potentially deliberate attempts at on-the-nose observation. One sequence depicts Woody Harrelson (a self-described American communist) “debating” a so-called Russian capitalist through the hurling of various quotes from their respective ideological idols. Not only is the ironic twist at the intellectual level of a third grader, but the actual ideology included is trite, oversimplified and says nothing other than that it’s saying nothing. 

The third act, perhaps the most lauded segment of this whole achingly long opus, remains dull to me. The story finally lands onto a repetition of Lord of the Flies, but instead of children it’s the hyper-wealthy and service workers who are stranded. Shockingly (eyeroll), the development of a new society takes a slightly different form than it did on the mainland. Not only does the film have no backbone beyond vague gestures at ideology, it ends up so wholly generic that it’s not even particularly funny. To all those curious to watch Triangle of Sadness, allow me to urge you to direct your watch minutes in a different direction: Perhaps the far better The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. 

Banshees of Inisherin

Half a decade after the Crash and burn failure of Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, MIssouri, with its strange attempt to remind us that racist cops aren’t so bad after all, Martin McDonough is back in Ireland with his wartime fable Banshees of Inisherin. The film stars Colin Farrel in a brilliant performance, with similarly excellent supporting work from Barry Keoghan, Brendan Gleeson and Kerry Condon. The script is fairly adept (occasionally funny but never wholly knee-slapping) and the emotional beats tend to land. The film is shot on a beautiful island with some gorgeous scenery that gives you something to look at even when nothing is happening. It’s all fairly adept, and the film is just fine. 

Perhaps my attributed lack of sticking power for Banshees of Inisherin is my fault. I watched the film on my iPad on a bus ride from New York City to Ithaca, with my seat neighbor looking over my shoulder somewhat conspicuously for the entire runtime. After the film he tapped my shoulder and called the film “the strangest movie [he’d] ever seen,” then proceeded to ask me a number of questions about the plot. It was a relatively non-ideal viewing experience, and I’m willing to concede that watching it theatrically might have improved its memorability. 

Still, I think there’s something a bit hollow at the ideological center of the film, and something relatively bland about its storytelling. It attempts to tackle friendship, art and loneliness all at once, but never really says much about any of them (save a few somewhat compelling observations about the first). More concerningly, the film simply isn’t that strange, unless it’s being watched over the shoulder on the bus without any audio. It never really gets any more shocking than its minimally surprising premise, and it doesn’t make too much of an effort to delve into the inventive filmmaking of loneliness that I’d associate with some of our best contemporary filmmakers. None of this is to say that Banshees of Inisherin isn’t good, I suppose. I think it is rather good, it just isn’t all that much. 


The best part about Todd Field’s Tár is the brilliant one-shot scene at Julliard which sums up one of the film’s pet interests as well as any scene in any film this year. Functioning essentially as a dramatized “Change my Mind” parody, the film eloquently depicts the protagonist simultaneously winning a debate, pettily arguing with someone who is entirely imbalanced in terms of ideological ammunition, and sowing the seeds to her own destruction through a few misplaced quotes (later chopped up and redisplayed for an eager public). The second best part about Tár is its simultaneous specificity and deliberate vagaries. Lydia might as well be a real person as so much of her routine and character is so meticulously designed to give the film the false trappings of a biopic. At the same time, the film never actually shows any of the actual meat. We’re told that Lydia has done a lot of terrible things, though we never see them. More importantly, we’re told that Lydia is a brilliant artist, though there isn’t one in one hundred audience members who would be able to corroborate that with confidence. We are asked to simultaneously laud and indict Lydia Tár on a set of facts that we are entirely unequipped to assess. 

Compared to the relatively uninteresting satire of Triangle of Sadness, Tár really bites. It’s a film that, on first observation, plays out like a straightforward drama up until an incredible final shot, mocking its protagonist, its audience and itself for its alleged genre trappings. The film feels no need to tell you that it’s all a bit of a joke, and only the utterly out-of-pocket ending is likely to provoke uncontrollable laughter on the first viewing. But the film is very funny, very ambiguous and a fair bit stranger than it gets credit for as a cancel culture movie. The Juilliard scene is the best thing about it, but it also might be the simplest. Tár isn’t all perfect, and those second and early third acts can really drag with tired dream sequences and a bit of a dull, psychotic break which has inspired its most uninteresting point of discourse (that the ending is all a dream). Still, it’s pretty good, fairly compelling and perhaps the only good satire that’s been released so far in this satire-heavy decade. 

This is the sixth article in a series covering each of the Best Picture Oscar Nominees.

Max Fattal is a sophomore in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. They can be reached at [email protected].