I'm a little late on the uptake here, but I just now noticed that the Oscar nominees for this last year have been selected by the Academy. Although I haven't seen all of these films by any stretch, I have seen most of those nominated for Best Picture at least, as well as some of the others here. Some of the choices here I find baffling, like...

-Why does the Joker movie lead the pack with nominations in 11 categories, i.e. nearly half of the 24, while the higher-rated and far more popular Avengers: Endgame movie in the same genre is nominated in only one (Visual Effects)? *sighs* Could this be to with the fact that the one picture is rated R (and is thus serious, you know?) while the other is rated PG-13 (and thus juvenile nonsense unworthy of recognition)? These seem to be the sorts of pretentious prejudices of the Academy.

-Why is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood nominated in categories like Best Direction and Best Picture even though it was widely regarded as simply an average-quality movie (to say nothing of rather disconnected from the public's broad contempt for Hollywood as an institution, as shown clearly in the rapturous reception that Ricky Gervais's takedown thereof at the Golden Globes has met with)? I felt that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which has been often, and aptly, described as "a love letter to Hollywood", indeed if anything represents something of a betrayal of what Quentin Tarantino has in the past stood for. His breakout film, Pulp Fiction, has been rightly credited with bringing independent filmmaking much more into the cultural mainstream than it had ever been before in the same sort of way that Braid did so for independently-developed video games. It was a culturally significant movie in that regard, and one which specifically represented a revolt against the Hollywood establishment. What a journey from their to authoring the institution a proverbial "love letter", especially at this moment wherein it is so widely disliked!

-As Trevor Noah of the Daily Show has pointed out of the five movies nominated for Best Direction (Joker, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, The Irishman, 1917, and Parasite), "Those aren’t just all male directors, those are all very male movies. If you take out Parasite, women probably have 10 minutes of dialogue in all the other films combined." To judge by the five best-selling movies in the U.S. over the last year, ordinary moviegoers seem less biased that way than the Academy, as do most professional critics if the average review scores on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic are to be considered. Seriously, why wasn't Greta Gerwig nominated in this category for Little Women even though the movie was nominated for Best Picture, for example? Both critics and audiences alike loved Gerwig's framing and content choices, i.e. her direction! Tod Phillips gets nominated in this category for Joker and Quentin Tarantino for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, but Gerwig gets snubbed on her objectively better-made picture? It's truly remarkable indeed that only one female-directed film has ever won the Academy's coveted Best Picture award to date, and that that one was a war-themed movie featuring almost no girls or women (The Hurt Locker). It's for reasons like these that I'm in favor of the Academy establishing separate categories male and female directors (as in with hypothetical titles like Best Direction by a Man and Best Direction by a Woman), similar to how there are separate categories for male and female actors at these ceremonies. It's clear that such separations are necessary for the work that women do at high levels in movie-making to be recognized, given the obvious prejudices of the institution in favor of heavily male-centric material created by men.

So those are some of my early beefs.

Anyway, personally my favorite movies this last year were Parasite and Portrait of a Lady on Fire. Neither of these are American-made films though and for that reason it's hard to imagine either winning too many awards (especially since the latter, astonishingly, hasn't even been nominated for any!), as unfortunately the national biases of the Academy tend to prevail even when they really shouldn't. Anyway, these two were among the most critically acclaimed pictures of the year and deservedly so!

Parasite is a hilarious and insightful portrayal of the impact that social class on people's psyches and of the kind of kind of tension that arises when they are forced to coexist in the same space (and thus why the classes are usually separated from each other geographically). It does so in a way that reflects both the humanity and the imperfections of working class people in a highly entertaining way that abolishes the line between art films and, as they are called, "popcorn movies". There's not a dull moment in it. South Korea is indeed fast becoming a hub of excellent filmmaking more largely as well! I really hope that Parasite gets the recognition it deserves at the Oscars. I doubt it will, but its victory at the SAG Awards recently does give me at least some hope.

The worldview of Parasite's director, Bong Joon Ho, may also be a factor that limits the ability of his movie to achieve deserved recognition. "We are living in an era when capitalism is the reigning order, and we have no other alternative," he has commented, going on to say that "It's not just in Korea, but the entire world faces a situation where the tenets of capitalism cannot be ignored. In the real world, the paths of families like our four unemployed protagonists and the Park family are unlikely ever to cross. The only instance is in matters of employment between classes, as when someone is hired as a tutor or a domestic worker. In such cases there are moments when the two classes come into close enough proximity to feel each other’s breath" and are "pulled into a situation where the slightest slip can lead to fissures and eruptions." These unusual views of the capitalist system itself may not be what a prestigious institution such as this wants to be associated with, even if (or perhaps even because) they ring true.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire is quite possibly the best romance I've yet seen. I think much of that has to do with the fact that the director, Celine Sciamma, and her lead actress, Adele Hanael, were once involved with each other romantically, and you can feel that in the bittersweet tone of the movie and the way it's constructed as an exercise in two key subjects studying each other continuously in a longing way that's forbidden by the context in which they find themselves. The film's conclusion is a highly passionate expression of their findings the likes of which I've not seen before in movies! (I recommend A.A. Dowd's review for A.V. Club.) Unfortunately, and frankly amazingly, Portrait of a Lady on Fire hasn't been nominated in a single category (not even the obvious International Feature Film category, remarkably!) despite its staggering average review score of 90.5% on Rotten Tomatoes and 95% on Metacritic, both of which are better scores than those that most of the Best Picture nominees have earned. *sighs* No nominations for this picture, but The Rise of Skywalker gets one?

Little Women was my next favorite after those two.

SO ANYHOW, that's my take. Are there any films you're rooting for?

Last edited by Jaicee - on 26 January 2020