Oscar-nominations morning is like the holidays. You sit down and open a bunch of gifts and either get really upset or really happy over what’s in front of you. Nevertheless, it is what it is, and this year’s impressive slate of films in contention for Best Picture at the 2024 Academy Awards — American Fiction, Anatomy of a Fall, Barbie, The Holdovers, Killers of the Flower Moon, Maestro, Oppenheimer, Past Lives, Poor Things, The Zone of Interest — comprise one of the strongest slates in recent memory. As you sit down and watch (or rewatch!) these films, you may want something to pair alongside them — which is where we come in.
We’ve put together a double-feature tasting menu for you, with one fun caveat: the paired film also had to have been released in 2023. The way these films speak to each other— thematically, stylistically, performance-wise, or otherwise — will hopefully make you appreciate them both on a deeper level. Oh, and you’ll get the chance to catch up on some lesser-appreciated gems from last year, too.
The Zone of Interest and Sisu
Jonathan Glazer’s hauntingly effective look at the banality of evil is best paired with something that helps slightly to soften the blow. In Zone, Glazer orients the films’s narrative around Rudolf Höss, a Nazi commandant responsible for managing Auschwitz, and his family. The movie, critically, never shows a moment of the atrocities happening at the camp, but rather has them play out in the background through sound. It’s an intentionally enraging film, which means that you’ll likely want to see someone go all Rambo on the Nazis. That’s essentially the plot of Sisu, a what-you-see-is-what-you-get revenge thriller whose bloody violence will likely feel like a balm after the crushing conclusion of Zone.
Barbie and Poor Things
The overlapping thematic elements between Barbie and Poor Things aren’t so much a Venn diagram as they are a circle. Each plays on The Wizard of Oz to the point where portions of the films are rendered in either black and white or a decidedly drab color palette, and each features stalwart male performers who are keen to make fools of themselves in service of commanding performances from two of Hollywood’s best leading ladies, whose characters each find their place in society through experiences in the real world. And while it’s not as much of a magical fantasia as “I’m Just Ken,” Poor Things also features a memorable dance sequence.
Maestro and Ferrari
One of the more obvious double bills: Maestro and Ferrari are two biopics devoted to skilled artisans as they navigate their personal and professional lives — and the intersections of the two. Additionally, they’re both films that provide insight into the obsessive, skilled, and meticulous directors behind their metaphorical wheels, Bradley Cooper and Michael Mann. And as good as Cooper and Adam Driver are as Leonard Bernstein and Enzo Ferrari, they’re equally matched by their respective onscreen partners, Carey Mulligan and Penélope Cruz, who turn in career-best performances.
Past Lives and Rye Lane
Past Lives and Hulu’s Rye Lane both did wonders for the romance genre in 2023. The former has more in common with the dreamy and epic love stories of Wong Kar-wai, while the latter pulls from a more traditional rom-com template, but these two films are swimming in the same pool, even if they’re on opposite ends of the water. Plus, since Past Lives is a bit of an emotional sledgehammer, the lighter tone of Rye Lane will help to soften the blow.
Anatomy of a Fall and The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial
The idea of the truth is at the core of Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall and the late, great William Friedkin’s adaptation of The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, two legal dramas obsessed with getting to the truth, the films are relentless with the deep questions they ask about their characters and what they show or don’t show about the events that transpired. Bolstered by incredible performances across both films, they’re a perfect pair — especially because there’s an extremely strong likelihood you’ve missed out on Caine Mutiny. The film hit Paramount+ and Showtime in early October and flew under the radar after Friedkin’s passing.
Killers of the Flower Moon and The Unknown Country
The connective tissue between Killers of the Flower Moon and The Unkown Country isn’t just their shared approach to telling indigenous peoples' stories, but a matched set of powerhouse performances from Lily Gladstone. Throughout the journeys endured by her characters in both films, Gladstone’s status as one of our most magnetic performers is readily apparent. As with her work in Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women, Gladstone’s power comes across in what she doesn’t say. Instead, it’s all on her face, where you can feel the depths of her emotions — good, bad, or in between — in just a glance. While directors Martin Scorsese and Morrisa Maltz have decidedly different approaches to leveraging Gladstone’s talents, they both know the same thing: she’s a special effect all unto herself.
Oppenheimer and Godzilla Minus One
Two massive blockbusters about the fear of the atomic age and what it’s done to our culture. Oppenheimer took some flak for not including the perspective of the Japanese people in its storytelling. Still, those looking for an idea of what a native filmmaker thought of the fallout will find a lot to chew on in writer/director Takashi Yamazaki’s Minus One; the film explicitly deals with the trauma Japan is suffering in the wake of the war, and what it means when an even deadlier nuclear power rears its spiked, fire-breathing head on the shores of Tokyo.
The Holdovers and Asteroid City
A couple of loners coming together to work through familial trauma after extenuating circumstances leave them stuck together in one place for an extended time in a period piece helmed by a beloved, long-working director? Boy, does that sure sound like both The Holdovers and Asteroid City! Wes Anderson’s latest is another of his nesting-doll narratives, but at the center of the layered story is a familiar tale of connection among the lonely, as performed by some of his most beloved collaborators, including Jason Schwartzman. The same is true for Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers, which reunites him with Paul Giamatti and places him alongside the dynamite Da’Vine Joy Randolph and Dominic Sessa for a melancholy holiday tale about loss. Hell, Asteroid City could even work as a third film to pair alongside Oppenheimer and Godzilla Minus One if you really want to make a day of it.
American Fiction and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
Both adaptations of novels, American Fiction and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret feature splashy and note-perfect casts helmed by superb writers/directors in the early stages of their careers. Cord Jefferson’s Fiction turns Percival Everett’s novel Erasure into a funny, insightful showcase for the commanding presence of Jeffrey Wright; while the subject matter in Margaret is a far cry from that of Fiction, Kelly Fremon Craig offers a similarly intuitive and comedic take on Judy Blume’s beloved classic, bolstered by a Rachel McAdams performance that deserved some Oscar attention.
Originally Appeared on GQ