The 96th Academy Awards (2024)
What do Casablanca, Titanic, Brokeback Mountain, Atonement and Call Me By Your Name, all have in common? They all were nominated for Best Picture, of course! But beyond that, they’re all tragic romances about missed connections. The right people meeting at the wrong time. This year’s Past Lives participates in that proud tradition but very much in a cool, In the Mood for Love slow, unspoken way. Will that be enough to bring first time writer-director Celine Song Oscar gold in a few weeks? Probably not but it’s nice to dream.
The 77th Academy Awards (2005)
Why am I drawn to the worst films nominated for Best Picture? Finding Neverland is not terrible but it has no business being selected as one of the Best Films of 2004. The 77th Academy Awards did otherwise deliver a solid lineup; Million Dollar Baby (the winner), The Aviator, Sideways, Ray, but Finding Neverland? You could have given that spot to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Collateral, or The Incredibles (yeah, right they aren’t that cool). So why Finding Neverland? Answer: the Oscars LOVE middling biopics.
The 92nd Academy Awards (2020)
I was thinking about this the day I watched Joker (because I was also thinking about Vampire Weekend announcing their first album in five years), but 2019 really was a different time. Covid hadn’t happened, we’d started to (sort of) adjust to Trump being president, and superhero movies were at the peak of their popularity. The latter two of these things of course coalesced in the movie Joker, melding Batman’s greatest foe and incel culture. So like many cultural moments of the Trump era, there was a lot of Discourse around it.
Now, with a new Joker movie coming out later this year and the benefit of a few years of distance from the film’s release, I wanted to try and revisit this movie without all of its cultural baggage and take it in more on its merits as a film, which apparently there was enough of to earn Oscars. Though that’s going to be a little hard, since its messaging (or lack thereof) is still a little hard to separate from what this movie is doing within the confines of its own vision of Gotham City. Continue reading
Dangerous Liaisons (1988)
The 61st Academy Awards (1989)
I like Cruel Intentions more than Dangerous Liaisons (let’s count how many times I misspell “Liaisons”). CI is not a better movie than DL, I’m not even sure if it’s a good movie. Why do I prefer a piece of ‘90s trash to an ‘80s critical darling? Because CI has hot people in it. I mean no disrespect to John Malkovich or Glenn Close, but considering how sexy the source material is here, it would be nice to get more studs and studettes in this joint. DL does have Michelle Pfeiffer (smart move) and Uma Thurman in a smaller role (another smart move) and Keanu Reeves (I love you Keanu but you are terrible in period pieces) but Merteuil and Valmont are the heart of the story, and there’s just not enough blood pumping for my personal tastes.
The 96th Academy Awards (2024)
I’m really glad I saw American Fiction in theaters. Based on the 2001 novel Erasure by Percival Everett, this is a tricky movie because it openly challenges audiences (especially white audiences) to question their taste. It’s the story of an author choosing to forgo artistic integrity and self-respect in favor of people-pleasing drivel, and how that farce leads him to unbelievable success. So then when I watched it, I couldn’t help but wonder how in on the joke was I? Am I watching a satire or is the real satire that American Fiction is garnering critical praise and award nominations? Thankfully, I saw it with a crowd who were engaged and laughing at the jokes, so I was able to remember the important thing: if I’m having a good time, the rest doesn’t matter.
The 65th Academy Awards (1993)
For a brief period in the late ’80s and early ’90s, it seemed like the films produced by Ismael Merchant and directed by James Ivory were a bit of an Oscars juggernaut. Granted, none of these movies ever won Best Picture, and they only occasionally get talked about nowadays, usually as an obligatory example of a staid British period piece. But they seemed important at the time, even if they haven’t remained all that accessible. So I’ve had a vague interest in watching at least one of these movies, and the best place to start seemed to be Howards End, which is probably the most acclaimed of the Merchant-Ivory productions. Luckily it turned out to be pretty compelling and full of ideas that still ring true, even if it may appear a bit stuffy on the surface. Continue reading
43rd Academy Awards (1971)
I had no idea until two minutes ago that Love Story was the highest grossing film of 1970. You know what number 2 was? Airport, which Colin covered two days ago. It’s crazy to think that back in the day, if a film was a big enough hit it would factor big into the Oscars. It doesn’t even matter if it was good. I think this is why the Oscars seemed way more relevant back then. The Oscars, good or bad, were a better reflection of popular culture. Now you ask your average joe how many Oscar nominated films they’ve seen and chances are they haven’t even heard of half of them.