With the Oscars approaching, I’ve committed myself to watch every Best Picture nominee. I’ve already watched six. I’ll happily make it through the next two on my list — The Shape of Water and Phantom Thread — and force myself through The Post. No knock on Steven Spielberg and his cast. I just tend to have a hard time getting into historical films.
Many viewers seem to regard awards shows with something between amusement and derision, and with good reason.
A few weeks ago, I gave a speech at the State Theatre in downtown Ithaca as part of Martin Luther King’s Commemoration. Afterwards, I received a standing ovation from the crowd, which I found to be decidedly insufferable. I suspect that my aversion to the applause was in part because I am not nearly as humble as advertised, so I feel uncomfortable with any adulation from the outside world — my ego is large enough already. More importantly, though, experience has taught me to regard hollow gestures like the clapping of hands with a well-warranted cynicism. After all, no one in that room should have been able to listen to what I had to say that evening, go home and still sleep well.
Film enthusiasts and critics usually have mixed feelings about the Oscars. It’s one of the most exciting times of the year, when there are the most opportunities to talk about films you love and love to hate. It’s also the perfect time to complain about awards and how they pick the right films. Here’s who we want to win, and who we think the Academy will choose tonight. Animated Feature
Should Win: Zootopia
The movie that the Huffington Post has called “The Most Politically Influential” film at the Oscars took many people by surprise. Everything about the movie is masterfully done.
The Oscars: an award show that expanded the number of Best Picture nominees after it snubbed a well-made, entertaining action movie, and yet still refuses to nominate well-made, entertaining action movies. I understand The Academy’s struggle, though. There are a lot of great films each year that simply need to get nominated, such as… The Flashily-Directed Movie About Actors Pursuing Their Dreams (La La Land)
The Uplifting Movie About Black People (Hidden Figures)
The Nuanced Movie About Black People (Moonlight)
The Movie That’s Not Nearly Pretentious Enough To Even Have A Chance (Hell or High Water)
The Movie About Everyday White People Wallowing In Their Own Despair (Manchester By The Sea)
The Movie Nobody Has Heard Of And Even Fewer People Have Actually Seen (Lion)
The Acting Showcase (Fences)
The War Movie (Hacksaw Ridge)
The Beautiful, Thought-Provoking Movie About Giant Squids Spraying Ink At The Actress From Enchanted Inside a 1000-Foot-Tall Hovering Black Potato (Arrival)
The Oscars could use a shake-up. At this time last year, I wrote an article introducing a hypothetical Oscar for Best Scene, which would allow The Academy to nominate movies that don’t exactly fit the Best Picture mold, but still have entertaining, technically impressive or inspired sequences.
From documentaries to animated flicks to art films to crime thrillers, the Arts & Entertainment writers’ picks for the year’s top films reflect the diversity of excellent movies this year. 10. Weiner
Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg easily could have made a documentary that simply condemned former Representative Anthony Weiner. Yet, Weiner begins on a high note: the Anthony Weiner who appears at the beginning of the documentary is rejuvenated, remorseful about his sexting scandals and ready to fight in New York City’s mayoral race. The positive image doesn’t last long as Weiner, once again, descends into lying and defensiveness as more sexting allegations surface. Kriegman and Steinberg expertly elevate Weiner from an entertaining to a thoroughly thought-provoking movie by catching the moments when Weiner and the people around him reflect on his self-destruction.