The 93rd Academy Awards (2021)
I wanted to close out our fortnight with something from this year’s batch of Best Picture nominees, and since Colin already reviewed Nomadland, it really had to be Minari. This has been a long time coming, as Minari has been on my radar since is debuted at Sundance way back in January 2020. Typically I’m able to see the “big deal” indie movies at least sometime in the December-January awards catch-up season, but given the on-going situation this movie wasn’t something I could see until it hit virtual cinemas in February. That was such a long time to spend listening to critics hype it up that I almost resented it and dragged my feet to finally watch the movie. But boy am I glad I finally did.
The 78th Academy Awards (2006)
Hollywood loves revenge. It’s one of the easiest ways to simultaneously motivate a character and get the audience on their side. It doesn’t matter if you’re Batman or Beatrix Kiddo, as long as you’re trying to right as perceived wrong, that’s a compelling story we’ll all want to see. As an added bonus, revenge stories come pre-packaged with ethical dilemmas for filmmakers to sink their teeth into: what does justice look like? Who decides when enough is enough? Do the ends justify the means? Ultimately: is revenge ever the best course of action? Increasingly, I find my answer to that question is no. And based on 2005’s Munich, I think Steven Spielberg agrees with me.
The 73rd Academy Awards (2001)
An interesting thing happened with the Oscars in the 1990s: they started giving the big awards to popular movies. Forrest Gump won Best Picture. Titanic won Best Picture. For as snooty and out-of-touch the Academy has a reputation for being, there was a stretch there were being the biggest movie of the year also meant you had a legit shot at Best Picture. That trends goes at least as far as the 73rd Academy Awards, which gave the top prize to Gladiator, the third highest grossing film of 2000 (behind How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Mission: Impossible II). Now, I love me some Gladiator, but is it truly superior to Steven Soderbergh’s one-two punch of Erin Brockovich and Traffic? And beyond that, did the Academy pick exactly the wrong time to go mainstream?
The 51st Academy Awards (1979)
I’ve wanted to watch The Deer Hunter for a long time for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, it’s the last of John Cazale’s film roles that I hadn’t seen, and the fact that all five movies he was in went on to get a Best Picture nomination meant this was the perfect opportunity to close that blind spot. It’s also coincidentally the second time he played a character named Stan. But Cazale might not even be the most interesting person involved in this production. That honor might go to his legendary costars: Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, and Meryl Streep. Or it could be its director, Michael Cimino, who did so well with this that he went on to spearhead one of the biggest disasters in cinema history: Heaven’s Gate. Yes, the pedigree of the creatives behind The Deer Hunter sure make it an interesting movie. But also, on a less intellectual level, I was really curious about seeing those Russian roulette scenes.
The 13th Academy Awards (1941)
Welcome to what could be the beginning of a beautiful tradition here at Mildly Pleased: two whole weeks of posts about Academy Award-nominated movies leading up to Hollywood’s biggest night, which is somehow in late April this year. The first feature I’d like to tell you about is 1940’s Rebecca, the second of producer David O. Selznick’s back-to-back Outstanding Production (Best Picture) wins. A year prior, Selznick had found enormous success with Gone with the Wind, setting the record for most Academy Award nominations (13) and wins (eight) at the time. This time, Rebecca won only one other award, Best Cinematography – Black and White, setting it’s own (still standing) record as the only film to win Best Picture while receiving no Academy Award for acting, directing or writing. Because how could we forget that Green Book won Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor along with the top prize?
As the others have said, 2020 was a tough year for the movies. I guess I’m more like Colin than John, as I didn’t have the discipline to build a ritual around trying to keep up with new releases. That’s partly because I do already have a movie watching tradition – I try to watch something with my dad every Tuesday – and the types of movies we’d watch are the ones that got delayed to 2021 and beyond. Actually, the last time I went to a theater was a dad Tuesday; we saw The Gentlemen at one of those weird dine-in cinemas. That movie wasn’t particularly memorable, but I do remember stocking up on canned goods at the supermarket on the way home per his advice. Last year sucked.
That said, coming up with a theme for this year’s list wasn’t that hard at all. Please enjoy my favorite 2020 movies about overcoming grief!
I started out 2020 hopeful that I could make some big changes to better my life… I was so stupid back then. One of the things I tried and actually have stuck with was “cutting the cord,” meaning I cancelled my cable and went down to just Internet and broadcast TV. That was enough for the Super Bowl and the Oscars, then COVID happen and every production in the world shut down, including live sports, and it couldn’t have been easier to keep saving $50 a month. That said, it’s frustrating that you still can’t easily stream everything and we are definitely well passed the streaming service saturation point. Like, Quibi lived and died all within a few months in 2020. Remember poor Quibi? A bad idea launched at exactly the wrong time. No one can compete with YouTube!