Redoing the Best Picture Winners

The Shape of Water took home best picture last weekend, a pick that I’m not sure anyone was satisfied with. The movie is good, but easily inspires hate, featuring all sorts of quirks and a woman who falls in love with a fish creature as its main story.

There’s obviously a lot of debate when it comes to what should win Best Picture and Academy voters tend to pick movies that have trendy marketing for the year over something that will age well over time.

There’s a type of movie that should win Best Picture year by year and I don’t think it’s necessarily your personal favorite, but what’s considered the movie of the year, like an MVP of sorts. It shouldn’t be something that’s slight, but something that truly does feel important. And not important like it fits a certain theme of the year—though I think that can be good in capturing our moment—it should be something that’s cinematic, cinematically excellent on the widest scale. It doesn’t need to be avant-garde like the picks from the British Film Institute’s Sight and Sound (though perhaps more along those lines), but something that people will agree upon for years as being good. In this way it should be a little populist, the kind of movie that regular movie goers will say oh that’s a good movie without causing critics to roll their eyes (think Saving Private Ryan or Pulp Fiction).

This being said I thought it would be fun to go back and look through the last eleven years of best picture winners, replacing them with a movie that fits this description. Older years will be easier because there is an ability to see what has aged well and what hasn’t, but we’ll do recent years as well.

Years will be listed as the movie year and not the ceremony year.

2007

Winner: No Country For Old Men

 

What should have won from nominees: No Country For Old Men (There Will Be Blood is the more critically acclaimed and might be my favorite movie of all time, but we’ll give No Country the title here because it fits into that perfect mold of something critics and the people will both agree as good.)

What should have won from non-nominated movies: I’d still go with No Country, but Zodiac maintains a really high reputation all these years later and would be satisfying.

2008

Winner: Slumdog Millionaire 

What should have won from nominees: I haven’t watched Slumdog  in a while, but I do think it’s a pretty fun movie though it definitely does not work as the “important” work of art the Academy bestowed upon it this year. It’s a kind of silly love story about fate, not a serious reflection on poverty. 2008 was one of the worst years for best picture nominees and none of the nominees really fit the criteria. That being said, I pick Milk, Gus Van Sant deserves an Oscar, so he gets it.

walle-ground-laserdot

What should have won from non-nominated movies: The Dark Knight and Wall-E are both cited as the reason the Oscars increased their nominations. Wall-E is one of my favorite movies and is not only an amazing cinematic experience, but it increasingly looks like the future we are making for ourselves.

2009

Winner: The Hurt Locker

What should have won from nominees: The Hurt Locker also nicely fits the mold here, thank God it beat out Avatar which only holds up as a kind of laughing stock, if I could pick a number two it’d probably be Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds which is arguably his best movie.

HungerWhat should have won from non-nominated movies: Hurt Locker deserves and to come up with a non-nominated movie we’ve got to go toward the avant grade here. There’s Assayas’ Summer Hours, Denis’ 35 Shots of Rum, You the Living, and the one we’ll go with, Hunger—future Oscar winner Steve McQueen’s film about the Irish hunger strike, featuring a tour-de-force rise to acting fame by none other than Michael Fassbender.

2010

Winner: The King’s Speech

What should have won from nominees: Almost any of the other nominees would have been good, but The Social Network will be talked about for years and years to come.

What should have won from non-nominated movies: The Social Network is the definitive pick here, but if we had to pick another it would be Dogtooth, Yorgos Lanthimos’ creepy and wacky tale of a familial cult.

2011

Winner: The Artist

What should have won from nominees: Roger Ebert had The Tree of Life in his top 10 films of all time shortly after it was released, what else needs to be said. tree-of-life1

What should have won from non-nominated movies: The Tree of Life will always be in the discussion of best movies ever, but 2011 also had a lot of films that will be considered for time to come: Drive was a great experimental genre flick, Melancholia has an avid fan base, Take Shelter will continue to rise in estimation, and there are other beloved more genre-centric picks like Fast Five, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Attack the Block, Martha Marcy May Marlene, The Interrupters, and The Skin I Live In. A Separation is really the only one that competes with Malick though, so it gets the pick here.

2012

Winner: Argo

What should have won from nominees: It’s crazy that the Oscar’s got it so wrong three years in a row, picking movies that literally nobody talks about other than in Oscar mistake discussions. Lincoln could easily fit, but Zero Dark Thirty is excellent and captured America with a tight precision.

What should have won from non-nominated movies: The Avengers and Skyfall compete as populist picks, Looper and Moonrise Kingdom are two of my favorites, Holy Motors was beloved by critics, but it’s Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master that maintains all the buzz.

2013

Winner: 12 Years a Slave

What should have won from nominees: I haven’t rewatched 12 Years, but I thought it was an amazing movie the first time I saw it and I imagine it will continue to hold up. Her is the definitive number two here.

What should have won from non-nominated movies: Nothing stands out like 12 Years or Her, but you can’t go wrong with picking Linklater’s (final?) Before movie Before Midnight.

2014

Winner: Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

What should have won from nominees: Boyhood was such a fun experiment and it was executed so well. It details that time period perfectly, but should also hold up for years for the way it literally shows what growing up is like.

What should have won from non-nominated movies: It’s kind of strange looking back now that Interstellar was not nominated. Any time you have that thought it likely means that it should have been when looking back years later. People were mixed on it years back, but it does seem like it has only grown in estimation as the years have went on.

2015

Winner: Spotlight 

What should have won from nominees: Spotlight is actually a pretty good pick, but I have to go with the most exciting action movie in years, Mad Max: Fury Road, which will likely be considered amongst the best action films ever. mad max

What should have won from non-nominated movies: Inside Out was absolutely spectacular, Creed was way better than it had any right to be, Tangerine introduced us to characters rarely seen on screen, but it’s Carol’s lush winter romance that was most beloved and will likely grow with audiences.

2016

Winner: Moonlight

a24-A24_Moonlight-Full-Image_GalleryBackground-en-US-1501867156317._RI_SX940_What should have won from nominees: Moonlight definitely deserved it (even if I actually did like La La Land better on first watch, at least), but if we have to pick another I think Manchester By the Sea’s sad ruminations on loss will grow in affection more than La La Land will, though I do think Arrival will also be remembered fondly.

What should have won from non-nominated movies: There’s not an obvious pick here, of Zootopia, Paterson, The Handmaiden, Silence, Everybody Wants Some!!, and American Honey, I think I’m going to go with Silence, because the people who like it, really like it.

2017

Winner: The Shape of Water

What should have won from nominees: Get Out slightly over Lady Bird.

What should have won from non-nominated movies: The Florida Project will also be watched for years and years to come, there’s just so much life in that movie.

And now, the definitive list of movies that deserve to be named as the Best Picture of the year:

2007: No Country For Old Men

2008: Wall-E

2009: The Hurt Locker

2010: The Social Network

2011: The Tree of Life

2012: Zero Dark Thirty

2013: 12 Years a Slave

2014: Boyhood

2015: Mad Max: Fury Road

2016: Moonlight

2017: Get Out

What are your thoughts? Any movies you think deserve the title of Best Picture of the year?

Dad blogging, culture, and tacos: Baja California Fish Tacos

There are not many guides out there about trying to keep up with movies when you have a young child.

I know this, because I’ve looked.

I figure professional critics use their normal work hours to go and see movies, while those of us who are in it as hobbyists must decide a few things. Is this a serious hobby? Something that can be sacrificed or pushed back? Obviously parenting is all about sacrifices–it’s sort of the driving force of raising a child, yet I do think I want to make a commitment to keeping up with my interests, down the road my children should appreciate that.

Yesterday, my son had a terrible night sleeping and only ended up getting a half hour between 5:30 AM and 10:30 AM, much less than typical. Now usually when he is sleeping I use the time to get the necessities done: showering, eating, getting dressed, etc… I knew that he would still battle rest if I laid him down even as he was getting tired, so I rocked him to sleep in my arms, kept him there, and opened up Netflix on my laptop. I was able to watch all of Nocturama, a French thriller I had been hoping to see (read my thoughts here). I hadn’t planned on being able to watch the whole thing, but in a rare Rumpelstilskin move, my son slept for 2.5 hours.

For those of us who are big time movie geeks, watching a movie in separate showings is pretty antithetical. It interrupts the flow, the story, and disrupts the magic of it all. But I suppose the cinephile parent must accommodate for this, expecting consistent interruptions when trying to get through 2+ hours of the artistic format we fell in love with. Having a son is more beautiful than I can describe and interrupted movies are a small burden to bear.

For you cinephile parents out there, were you able to keep up? Do you have strategies? Feel free to comment below.


Today’s tacos: Baja California Fish Tacos

Today’s taco run was also interrupted. Not by my son’s schedule, but by accidentally leaving the car lights on overnight and not having a vehicle to get anywhere.

It ended up being all right because there’s a nice taco place over by our apartment that’s within walking distance. We went there at noon to try their fish tacos.

What we listened to on the way: Nothing, because we walked.

What we ate: Shrimp, fish tacos

IMG_1724

Baja California Fish Tacos replaced a sushi spot right next to the gas station that we use, a super convenient way to get fish tacos, giant burritos, and ceviche at all times. This is their third location, with two other spots in Los Angeles. Confusingly there’s another local chain of Baja themed Mexican food serving across Orange County called Baja California Tacos, there’s no relation, though there may be a rivalry, as that chain is also highly acclaimed (I might get out there one day for a comparison).

I had wondered how it would do, as the sushi place had went out of business. It certainly wasn’t having any problems when I went there, with a line going out the door as it served customers on a Monday afternoon.

This is where there was some slight difficulty. I had a giant stroller and it made it very difficult to navigate an already claustrophobic restaurant that was packed tight with people.

IMG_1722

I went for a shrimp and a fish taco getting both with a fried batter upon the cashier’s recommendation. Each was good, stuffed to the brim with toppings: a slaw-like cabbage, creamy sauce, and pico de gallo. The problem with getting a fry batter is it can easily get soggy, particularly when topped with an amalgam of fresh garnishes.

IMG_1723

The shrimp did not really suffer this problem, though the batter easily separated from the shrimp throughout each bite, the shrimp easily maintained its chewy consistency beneath. The fish was not able to withstand the moisture, sogging up like a paper towel, too fragile to everything going on. The combination of all the toppings still made for a delicious bite, but wasn’t able to deliver on what you’re looking for–that crispy and fatty bite that comes with fried batter. The shrimp was the better of the two and is definitely recommended; going grilled might be the way to go when ordering tacos de pescado.

My son’s thoughts: He stared at me, perhaps a bit concerned by the crowd noises around him. When we went to leave I got a little nervous as to how we would be able to make our way through the crowd with the stroller. Luckily there was a side exit with no fire alarm where we snuck out without drawing attention.

A Pretentious Takedown of Middlebrow Cinema

toe

This is going to be pretentious.

The end of the year usually produces a swarm of movies as studios throw out everything that could possibly win an award. The summer is known for its blockbusters–large and loud movies, with big time actors attached to them–the end of the fall to the winter emphasizes darker stories with artsier and riskier looks and content. This is an exciting time for me, usually overwhelming (I literally make long lists of notes of which movies I should see, where I will–and can–see them, and how I can afford to see so many movies without breaking the budget) and filled with a lot of great movies. But the studios aren’t dumb, there are strategies in place–why and when a movie should get released. The awards ceremonies are usually more generous to give out awards to those that come out later in the year–they have a strange sense of film amnesia where the first seven months barely count and so studios release films accordingly. Studios don’t really want awards though, I’m sure there is some sense of pride for a studio releasing an award winner, but the sense of pride does not outweigh their number one motivator: money.

The studio system’s whole purpose is to make money, thus they try to find films that will win the awards, because movies that win awards, particularly the big ones, attract a bigger audience even if they tend to be edgier. The ads show this all the time, big golden text lines the top of the film saying “nominated for seven Academy Awards, four Golden Globes, three Independent Spirit Awards, nine BAFTAS, and the MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss”. Awards are the reasons why studios push for artsy movies, not for artistry’s sake, but to gain a large crowd on a smaller budget.

This is fine, it’s going to happen, but when this is the case it creates the need to mimic what has come in the past. There is a certain style of Oscar movie usually involving some sort of liberal, edgy topic, an actor losing a lot of weight for the role or an actress not wearing any makeup. These are sort of emulated year after year in hopes that people will jump on board.

That’s the thing, these movies are created to fit into a certain sort of mold, when they are actually quite safe and seem methodologically produced to trick people into thinking they are seeing something important. These films come off as being really out of the box, creative, and dramatic, but really they’re not. This year’s version of these movies are two British biopics about important historical figures–The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game–both are period pieces, have lower budgets, and a good cast, but also seem to fall into every trope you can imagine for these films. In year’s past The King’s Speech, The Artist, The Help, The Blind Side, and Dallas Buyers Club all gave this vibe–important movies about history, race, or some other marginalized group. Most of these films are actually fine, they are pleasant tales and I would be fine with this if people didn’t feel like they had done some sort of cinematic duty by seeing it.

People know that I like movies, so I often get asked about which movies are good and whether I’ve seen [blank]. But the movies that often rise to the top as being depictions of cinema or indie films or whatever are these middlebrow, faux-artsy films that seem to somehow suck in people whose last movie in theaters had been the fourth Transformers movie. There is no challenge to them at all, but they are advertised as life-changing cinematic experiences.

Alright, enough of the complaining–people are gonna watch what they are gonna watch and I’m not very likely to recommend Under the Skin (my favorite movie of this year) to very many people, because I truly believe they will not like it. Let’s just not let the studios do this to us, we’re manipulated enough already. If you want to see something to impress people who like movies or those at your Oscar party make sure you see Boyhood (likely the best picture winner and a fantastic portrayal of a boy’s life), Selma (one of the best biopics ever probably), or Whiplash (an intense movie about a drummer that I think has the potential to be a real crowd please and features future best supporting actor winner JK Simmons).