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Ten 2023 Oscar-Winning Films You Should Watch Immediately

Another year, another batch of Academy Award winners — from 'Everything Everywhere All At Once' to 'RRR', here's what you need to watch.
By Sarah Ward
March 13, 2023
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By Sarah Ward
March 13, 2023
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What had Jamie Lee Curtis yelling about how she's now an Oscar-winner? An adorable donkey? Too many jokes about Will Smith? What also saw two Encino Man stars nab acting trophies, a massive seven wins for Everything Everywhere All At Once, and plenty of history being made? Hollywood's 2023 night of nights, that's what — which has just rolled out its red carpets, held its star-studded ceremony and anointed its winners.

If you're keen on all the details, we've put together the full list of newly minted Oscar recipients. We also have the full nominees list, our predictions for who we thought would and should win, and a rundown of where you can catch the bulk of this year's nominees in Australia. Also, if you haven't seen the ceremony yet but still plan to, we've created a drinking game to go with it (spoiler alert: prepare to knock back more than a few tipples, all while drinking responsibly).

Just wondering what to watch ASAP — or rewatch if you're already up on all of this year's 95th Academy Awards contenders? Here are ten newly minted Oscar-winners that you can and should check out right now.

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EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE

Imagine living in a universe where Michelle Yeoh isn't the wuxia superstar she is. No, no one should want to dwell in that reality. Now, envisage a world where everyone has hot dogs for fingers, including the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon icon. Next, picture another where Ratatouille is real, but with raccoons. Then, conjure up a sparse realm where life only exists in sentient rocks. An alternative to this onslaught of pondering: watching Everything Everywhere All At Once, which throws all of the above at the screen and a helluva lot more. Yes, its title is marvellously appropriate. Written and directed by the Daniels, aka Swiss Army Man's Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, this multiverse-hopping wonder is a funhouse of a film that just keeps spinning through wild and wacky ideas. Instead of asking "what if Daniel Radcliffe was a farting corpse that could be used as a jet ski?" as their also-surreal debut flick did, the pair now muses on Yeoh, her place in the universe, and everyone else's along with her.

Although Yeoh doesn't play herself in Everything Everywhere All At Once, she is seen as herself; keep an eye out for red-carpet footage from her Crazy Rich Asians days. Such glitz and glamour isn't the norm for middle-aged Chinese American woman Evelyn Wang, her laundromat-owning character in the movie's main timeline, but it might've been if life had turned out differently. That's such a familiar train of thought — a resigned sigh we've all emitted, even if only when alone — and the Daniels use it as their foundation. Their film starts with Evelyn, her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom's Short Round and The Goonies' Data) and a hectic time. Evelyn's dad (James Hong, Turning Red) is visiting from China, the Wangs' daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) brings her girlfriend Becky (Tallie Medel, The Carnivores) home, and IRS inspector Deirdre Beaubeirdra (Jamie Lee Curtis, Halloween Ends) is conducting a punishing audit. Then Evelyn learns she's the only one who can save, well, everything, everywhere and everyone.

OSCARS:

Won: Best Picture, Best Actress (Michelle Yeoh), Best Supporting Actor (Ke Huy Quan), Best Supporting Actress (Jamie Lee Curtis), Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Director (Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert)

Nominations: Best Supporting Actress (Stephanie Hsu), Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Costume Design

Where to watch: Streaming via Binge, Prime Video, Google PlayYouTube Movies and iTunes.

Read our full review.

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GUIILLERMO DEL TORO'S PINOCCHIO

Guillermo del Toro hasn't yet directed a version of Frankenstein, except that he now has in a way. Officially, he's chosen another much-adapted, widely beloved story — one usually considered less dark — but there's no missing the similarities between the Nightmare Alley and The Shape of Water filmmaker's stop-motion Pinocchio and Mary Shelley's ever-influential horror masterpiece. Both carve out tales about creations made by grief-stricken men consumed by loss. Both see those tinkerers help give life to things that don't usually have it, gifting existence to the inanimate because they can't cope with mortality's reality. Both notch up the fallout when those central humans struggles with the results of their handiwork, even though all that the beings that spring from their efforts want is pure and simple love and acceptance. Del Toro's take on Pinocchio still has a talking cricket, a blue-hued source of magic and songs, too, but it clearly and definitely isn't a Disney movie.

Instead, Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio is an enchanting iteration of a story that everyone knows, and that's graced screens so many times that his was the third flick in 2022 alone. Yes, the director's name is officially in the film's title. Yes, it's likely there to stop the movie getting confused with that array of other page-to-screen adaptations, all springing from Carlo Collodi's 19th-century Italian children's novel The Adventures of Pinocchio. That said, even if the list of features about the timber puppet wasn't longer than said critter's nose when he's lying, del Toro would earn the possessory credit anyway. No matter which narrative he's unfurling — including this one about a boy fashioned out of pine (voiced by Gregory Mann, Victoria) by master woodcarver Geppetto (David Bradley, Catherine Called Birdy) after the death of his son — the Mexican Oscar-winner's distinctive fingerprints are always as welcomely apparent as his gothic-loving sensibilities.

OSCARS:

Won: Best Animated Feature

Where to watch: Streaming via Netflix.

Read our full review.

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NAVALNY

Man on Wire did it with The Walk, The Times of Harvey Milk sparked Milk and Dogtown and Z-Boys brought about Lords of Dogtown. Werner Herzog went from Little Dieter Needs to Fly to Rescue Dawn, too, and the Paradise Lost films were followed by Devil's Knot. One day, Navalny will join this growing list. Documentaries inspiring dramas isn't new, and Alexei Navalny's life story would scream for a biopic even if director Daniel Roher (Once Were Brothers) hadn't gotten there first — and so compellingly, or in such an acclaimed way, winning the 2022 Sundance Film Festival's Audience Award for its US doco competition in the process. When you're a Russian opposition leader crusading against corruption and Vladimir Putin, there's going to be a tale to tell. Usually only Hollywood screenwriters can conjure up a narrative like the one that Navalny has been living, though, typically in a Bourne-style spy thriller.

Actually, John le Carré, Ian Fleming or Tom Clancy might've come up with something similar; still, even the former, the author responsible for such espionage efforts such as Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Night Manager, could've struggled to imagine minutiae this staggering. Creating a fictional character as complicated, captivating and candid as Navalny's namesake would've also been a stretch. Indeed, there are two key aspects to this engrossing doco: everything that it explores about its subject's life, especially given that he was poisoned in August 2020 while flying from Tomsk to Moscow with a Novichok nerve agent, with the Kremlin the suspected culprits; and the engaging pro-democracy advocate himself. The full details are astonishing and infuriating, with Navalny a candid and determined interviewee. No matter whether you know the details from copious news headlines or you're stepping through his tale for the first time, this doco couldn't be more gripping.

OSCARS:

Won: Best Documentary Feature

Where to watch: Streaming via Docplay, SBS On Demand, Google Play, YouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime Video.

Read our full review.

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ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT

War makes meat, disposable labour and easy sacrifices of us all. In battles for power, as they always are, bodies are used to take territory, threaten enemies and shed blood to legitimise a cause. On the ground, whether in muddy trenches or streaming across mine-strewn fields, war sees the masses rather than the individuals, too — but All Quiet on the Western Front has always been a heartbreaking retort to and clear-eyed reality check for that horrific truth. Penned in 1928 by German World War I veteran Erich Maria Remarque, initially adapted for the screen by Hollywood in 1930 and then turned into a US TV movie in 1979, the staunchly anti-war story now gets its first adaptation in its native tongue. Combat's agonies echo no matter the language giving them voice, but Edward Berger's new film is a stunning, gripping and moving piece of cinema.

Helming and scripting — the latter with feature first-timers Lesley Paterson and Ian Stokell — All My Loving director Berger starts All Quiet on the Western Front with a remarkable sequence. The film will come to settle on 17-year-old Paul Bäumer (astonishing debutant Felix Kammerer) and his ordeal after naively enlisting in 1917, thinking with his mates that they'd be marching on Paris within weeks, but it begins with a different young soldier, Heinrich Gerber (Jakob Schmidt, Babylon Berlin), in the eponymous region. He's thrust into the action in no man's land and the inevitable happens. Then, stained with blood and pierced by bullets, his uniform is stripped from his body, sent to a military laundry, mended and passed on. The recipient: the eager Paul, who notices the past wearer's name on the label and buys the excuse that it just didn't fit him. No one dares waste a scrap of clothing — only the flesh that dons it, and the existences its owners don't want to lose.

OSCARS:

Won: Best International Feature Film, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Original Score

Nominations: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Sound

Where to watch: Streaming via Netflix.

Read our full review.

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THE WHALE

The actors have it: in The Whale, Brendan Fraser (No Sudden Move), Hong Chau (The Menu) and Sadie Sink (Stranger Things) are each masterful, and each in their own way. For viewers unaware that this drama about a reclusive 600-pound English professor stems from the stage going in, it won't take long to realise — for multiple reasons, the film's performances chief among them. As penned by Samuel D Hunter (also a writer on TV's Baskets) from his award-winning semi-autobiographical play, The Whale's script is talky and blunt. The movie is confined to its protagonist Charlie's home, and is as claustrophobic as it's meant to be as a result. But it's that key acting trio, with the portrayals they splash through a flick that's a complicated sea of feelings and ideas, that helps The Whale swim when it swims. Yes, the Brenaissance is upon us, showering Fraser in accolades including his first-ever Oscar nod; however, fellow Academy Award-nominee Chau and rising star Sink are equally as powerful.

Is it really the Brenaissance if Fraser hasn't ever been too far from our screens for too long? When he was recently stellar in 2021's No Sudden Move, albeit in a supporting part? Given that it's been decades since he's had the space and the feature to serve up this kind of lead effort, the answer remains yes. Slip his The Whale performance in beside standout 2002 thriller The Quiet American — although the latter didn't place The Mummy action star and Encino Man comedic force beneath considerable prosthetics. Fraser doesn't let his appearance here do all the work, though. Filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, who hones in on the stressed and tested as he has so frequently before (see: Requiem for a Dream, Black Swan, The Wrestler and mother!), doesn't allow it to, either. At the core of the pair's collaboration is a portrayal that overflows with vulnerability and grief alongside optimism for humanity, and acutely fuses Charlie's emotional and physical states. The character self-mockingly jokes that his internal organs are buried deep, but nothing conceals Fraser's sensitivity.

OSCARS:

Won: Best Actor (Brendan Fraser), Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Nominations: Best Supporting Actress (Hong Chau)

Where to watch: In Australian cinemas.

Read our full review.

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BLACK PANTHER: WAKANDA FOREVER

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever isn't the movie it was initially going to be, the sequel to 2018's electrifying and dynamic Black Panther that anyone behind it originally wanted it to be, or the chapter in the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe that it first aimed to be — this, the world already knows. The reason why is equally familiar, after Chadwick Boseman died from colon cancer in 2020 aged 43. At its best, this direct followup to the MCU's debut trip to its powerful African nation doesn't just know this, too, but scorches that awareness deep into its frames. King T'Challa's death starts the feature, a loss that filmmaking trickery doesn't reverse, no matter how meaningless mortality frequently proves when on-screen resurrections are usually a matter of mere plot twists. Wakanda Forever begins with heartbreak and pain, in fact, and with facing the hard truth that life ends and, in ways both big and small, that nothing is ever the same.

Your typical franchise entry about quick-quipping costumed crusaders courageously protecting the planet, this clearly isn't. Directed and co-written by Ryan Coogler (Creed) like its predecessor — co-scripting again with Joe Robert Cole (All Day and a Night) — Wakanda Forever is about grief, expected futures that can no longer be and having to move forward anyway. That applies in front of and behind the lens; as ruminating so heavily on loss underscores, the movie has a built-in justification for not matching the initial flick. The Boseman-sized hole at Wakanda Forever's centre is gaping, unsurprisingly, even in a feature that's a loving homage to him, and his charm and gravitas-filled take on the titular character. Also, that vast void isn't one this film can fill. Amid overtly reckoning with absence, Coogler still has a top-notch cast — returnees Letitia Wright (Death on the Nile), Angela Bassett (Gunpowder Milkshake), Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead), Lupita Nyong'o (The 355) and Winston Duke (Nine Days), plus new addition Tenoch Huerta (Narcos: Mexico), most notably — drawing eyeballs towards his vibrant imagery, but his picture is also burdened with MCU bloat and mechanics, and infuriating bet-hedging.

OSCARS:

Won: Best Costume Design

Nominations: Best Supporting Actress (Angela Bassett), Best Original Song, Best Visual Effects, Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Where to watch: Streaming via Disney+, Google Play, YouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime Video.

Read our full review.

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AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER

To make earth's natural world look beautiful takes no effort at all, but doing the same with Pandora requires immense computing power. Given the latter is an imagined realm in James Cameron's Avatar movies, it can only exist via those ones and zeroes, and the imagery they generate — and yet in 13-years-later sequel Avatar: The Way of Water, the extrasolar moon can be as breathtakingly immersive as anything IRL. Indeed, when this second dip in what's now officially a franchise is at its best, and has audiences eagerly awaiting its third, fourth and fifth instalments in 2024, 2026 and 2028, it's an absolute visual marvel. When that's the case, it's also underwater, or in it. Yes, The Way of Water takes its subtitle seriously, splashing that part of its name about heartily in as much magnificently detailed 3D-shot and -projected glory as its director, cinematographer Russell Carpenter (a True Lies and Titanic alum) and hard-working special-effects team can excitedly muster.

For Cameron, darling it really is better down where it's wetter. It's also surprising that he hasn't made a version of The Little Mermaid, a Free Willy entry or a SpongeBob SquarePants movie, such is his flowing love for H20. Plenty on his resume makes this fondness plain, including 2014 documentary Deepsea Challenge that he didn't helm, but chronicles his own journey to the deepest part of the Mariana Trench — aka the deepest part of earth's seabed. To the detriment of The Way of Water, however, there's more to Cameron's latest than soaking in underwater joys. When this flick gets wet, it's a wonder to peer at. It stresses the franchise's love of nature implicitly, and its eco-friendly message about valuing and not exploiting it. It makes viewers wish that what they're seeing truly was genuine. When it surfaces to spin its by-the-numbers story, though, it's often lucky to be an average paddle.

OSCARS:

Won: Best Visual Effects

Nominations: Best Picture, Best Production Design, Best Sound

Where to watch: In Australian cinemas.

Read our full review.

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WOMEN TALKING

Get Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Frances McDormand and more exceptional women in a room, point a camera their way, let the talk flow: Sarah Polley's Women Talking does just that, and the Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar-nominee is phenomenal. The actor-turned-filmmaker's fourth effort behind the lens after 2006's Away From Her, 2011's Take This Waltz and 2012's Stories We Tell does plenty more, but its basic setup is as straightforward as its title states. Adapted from Miriam Toews' 2018 novel of the same name, this isn't a simple or easy film, however. That book and this feature draw on events in a Bolivian Mennonite colony from 2005–9, where a spate of mass druggings and rapes of women and girls were reported at the hands of some of the group's men. In a patriarchal faith and society, women talking about their experiences is a rebellious, revolutionary act anyway — and talking about what comes next is just as charged.

"The elders told us that it was the work of ghosts, or Satan, or that we were lying to get attention, or that it was an act of wild female imagination." That's teenage narrator Autje's (debutant Kate Hallett) explanation for how such assaults could occur and continue, as offered in Women Talking's sombre opening voiceover. Writing and helming, Polley declares her feature "an act of female imagination" as well, as Toews did on the page, but the truth in the movie's words is both lingering and haunting. While the film anchors its dramas in a specific year, 2010, it's purposefully vague on any details that could ground it in one place. Set within a community where modern technology is banned and horse-drawn buggies are the only form of transport, it's a work of fiction inspired by reality, rather than a recreation. Whether you're aware of the true tale behind the book going in or not, this deeply powerful and affecting picture speaks to how women have long been treated in a male-dominated world at large — and what's so often left unsaid, too.

OSCARS:

Won: Best Adapted Screenplay

Nominations: Best Picture

Where to watch: In Australian cinemas.

Read our full review.

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TOP GUN: MAVERICK

Gliding into cinemas almost four decades after its predecessor, Top Gun: Maverick is at its best when its jets are soaring. The initial Top Gun had the perfect song to describe exactly what these phenomenally well-executed and -choreographed action scenes feel like to view; yes, they'll take your breath away. Peppered throughout the movie, actually shot in real US Navy aircraft without a trace of digital effects, and as tense and spectacular as filmmaking can be in the feature's climactic sequences, they truly do make it seem as if you're watchin' in slow motion. Thankfully, this time that adrenaline kick is accompanied by a smarter and far more self-aware film, as directed by TRON: Legacy and Oblivion's Joseph Kosinski. Top Gun in the 80s was exactly what Top Gun in the 80s was always going to be — but Top Gun in the 2020s doesn't dare believe that nothing has changed, that Tom Cruise's still-smug Maverick can't evolve, and that the world the movie releases into hasn't either.

Still hardly the navy's favourite despite his swagger, megawatt smile, gleaming aviators and unfailing self-confidence — well, really despite his need for speed and exceptional dogfighting skills in the air — Captain Pete 'Maverick' Mitchell (Cruise, Mission: Impossible — Fallout) is given one last assignment. His destination: Fightertown USA, the California-based Top Gun program he strutted his way through all those years ago. There's an enemy nation with a secret weapons base that needs destroying, and his talents are crucial. But, to his dismay, Maverick is only asked to teach. Given a squad lorded over by the brash Hangman (Glen Powell, Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood), and also including Coyote (Greg Tarzan Davis, Grey's Anatomy), Payback (Jay Ellis, Insecure), Fanboy (Danny Ramirez, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier), Phoenix (Monica Barbaro, Stumptown), Bob (Lewis Pullman, Outer Range) and the frosty Bradley 'Rooster' Bradshaw (Miles Teller, The Offer), he's tasked with training them to fly like he does, navigate a Star Wars-style impossible path that zips speedily at perilously low altitudes and, ideally, still survive the supremely dangerous mission.

OSCARS:

Won: Best Sound

Nominations: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects

Where to watch: Streaming via Paramount+, Binge, Google Play, YouTube Movies, iTunes and Prime Video.

Read our full review.

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RRR

The letters in RRR's title are short for Rise Roar Revolt. They could also stand for riveting, rollicking and relentless. They link in with the Indian action movie's three main forces, too — writer/director SS Rajamouli (Baahubali: The Beginning), plus stars NT Rama Rao Jr (Aravinda Sametha Veera Raghava) and Ram Charan (Vinaya Vidheya Rama) — and could describe the sound of some of its standout moments. What noise echoes when a motorcycle is used in a bridge-jumping rescue plot, as aided by a horse and the Indian flag, amid a crashing train? Or when a truck full of wild animals is driven into a decadent British colonialist shindig and its caged menagerie unleashed? What racket resounds when a motorbike figures again, this time tossed around by hand (yes, really) to knock out those imperialists, and then an arrow is kicked through a tree into someone's head? Or, when the movie's two leads fight, shoot, leap over walls and get acrobatic, all while one is sat on the other's shoulders?

RRR isn't subtle. Instead, it's big, bright, boisterous, boldly energetic, and brazenly unapologetic about how OTT and hyperactive it is. The 187-minute Tollywood action epic — complete with huge musical numbers, of course — is also a vastly captivating pleasure to watch. Narrative-wise, it follows the impact of the British Raj (aka England's rule over the subcontinent between 1858–1947), especially upon two men. In the 1920s, Bheem (Jr NTR, as Rao is known) is determined to rescue young fellow villager Malli (first-timer Twinkle Sharma), after she's forcibly taken by Governor Scott Buxton (Ray Stevenson, Vikings) and his wife Catherine (Alison Doody, Beaver Falls) for no reason but they're powerful and they can. Officer Raju (Charan) is tasked by the crown with making sure Bheem doesn't succeed in rescuing the girl, and also keeping India's population in their place because their oppressors couldn't be more prejudiced.

OSCARS:

Won: Best Original Song

Where to watch: Streaming via Netflix.

Read our full review.

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Looking for more Oscar-nominees to watch? You can also check out our full rundown of where almost all of this year's contenders are screening or streaming in Australia.

Published on March 13, 2023 by Sarah Ward
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