I haven’t watched all the Oscar nominated movies from this year, but I’ve seen a few now, including the movie that won it for best picture. The movies I’ve missed are probably those I’m less interested in watching to start with, and while it’s hard to be categorical without seeing them all, it seems a pretty ordinary batch of movies.
Pretty ordinary is a relative term in these circumstances. You expect best picture nominees to be of a different class, though sometimes I wonder what makes a best picture winner. Comedies, for example, are rarely, if ever, nominated for the best picture, and to my knowledge none have ever won. Best movie winners generally have some technical excellence, and be of more sober temperament. Many fall into the category of worthy. In my view, some could also be called dull – even as they have the patina of an Oscar worthy film. To my memory few winners have been daring or progressive – the academy is too conservative for that, and winners could mostly be called safe, even if eminently deserving. There’s few winning movies I’ve felt the need to rush out and see, but there have been some ripping winners.
I commented on Bohemian Rhapsody when I watched it – fun to watch without reaching any great artistic heights.
A few weeks back I watched The Favourite, which for me falls into the category of clever but unengaging. I watched it over a couple of sittings, so uninspired was I. It looks very nice and has some good performances and the script is clever and often witty and sometimes outrageous, but the package as a whole fell flat for me. It felt episodic, and it was hard to feel any great sympathy for any of the characters. Partly that was because they weren’t particularly attractive, but otherwise it was because they weren’t really taken seriously. It felt like a dilettantes movie, an interesting after dinner story without much substance. I was very disappointed.
On the weekend I watched Green Book, which actually won the best picture Oscar in a bit of an upset. For a start I have to say this was the most enjoyable of these movies to watch. It was an engaging story about interesting characters you came to feel a genuine affection for. It’s very formulaic and predictable, but it’s a classic trope that people never seem to grow tired of – the odd couple thrown together who endure travails and misunderstandings and ultimately grow into friends. Of course, each learns from the other and it’s all happy families. In this case there was the race angle, definitely worthy, but simplistic verging on the cutesie.
I seem to be damning it with faint praise, but I enjoyed it, and the performances by the two leading characters was fantastic (Mahershala Ali is one of those actors I watch perform in anything). It’s just that I don’t see this as anything more than a good, ordinary film. The sort of film that leaves you feeling good for a while before fading from memory. Great that it was made – and based on a legitimate true story – but it was absent the gravity you expect from a best picture winner.
It could be that this was just an ordinary year – but then I haven’t seen Roma, the pre-ceremony favourite all the critics raved about (the word on the street being it’s boring).
The question is: how much do the so-called best movies actually align with the movies the average punter enjoyed most? And, should they align?