Academy of One: Best Picture 2016

These are my opinions and feelings. I do not represent the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and I have no power to revoke or award Academy Awards. Consider this an alternate universe, where everything is the same except which movies get recognition and which should fade out. Also, SPOILER ALERT! I may be spilling major details about several films.

Aaaaaaand I’m back. Hiatus must be bad for readers, but man does it feel good for me as a writer. I’m able to come back with renewed focus on the task, sort of, kind of…

I’ll just admit it folks, I’m not a good blogger. I was supposed to be back on September 7th, which wasn’t even a Friday, but I just couldn’t make the deadline.

As soon as I got some breathing room between myself and when the posts go up, I was off in my own little world, and September, with my promise of coming back hanging in the air, snuck up on me. Though, I’m here now, several weeks late and ready for some movie discussions. Here we go.

It’s strange to me how awards show audiences personify one movie team as the “good guys” and one movie team as the “bad guys.” The reaction on the Internet the night of the Oscars ceremony was unrelenting vitriol for the cast and crew of La La Land and cheers for anything the cast and crew of Moonlight was able to win.

These opinions, of course, formed in the wake of the Oscars So White controversy of the previous two years. Moonlight is a film with an all black cast and La La Land is a film with a primarily white cast, so it was easy to pit these two front runners against each other. All of this had been fomenting for the twelve months in between ceremonies and with the previous election season.

I don’t think, and the filmmakers don’t think, that these two films should have been pitted together in such away. I highly praise both of films because for one, they’re both original films made directly for the screen (yes, I know about Moonlight’s status as an unproduced play, but I think the operative word is unproduced and choose to ignore everything else.). They’re both labors of love.

That being said, I get it. We’re a society that believes in rooting for the underdog and we all saw La La Land as an establishment picture. It’s a film that harkens back to a more exclusive landscape of films and studio systems. A film that exists in a bubble of privilege whether or not it cost $100 million or $50 million to make. It’s just that this doe-eyed musical happened to come along and the timing felt wrong. If it had come out against Avatar or another juggernaut, it would have been the one we rooted for, but it came out when it did and I hope we can look back on it, not as the villain, but an example of what filmmakers can do when they explore untold or newly imagined stories.

Our cinematic landscape has been barreled over by franchise, spectacle and the all important idea of reviving/keeping alive treasured intellectual properties. It was incredibly heartening to see that 2016’s front runners for all the awards, La La Land, Manchester by the Sea, and Moonlight are all creator driven, original films. Many of the films in this category, even the adapted works felt original and fresh.

That being said, here is our list of contender as they stand.

  • Arrival

  • Fences

  • Hacksaw Ridge

  • Hell or High Water

  • Hidden Figures

  • La La Land

  • Lion

  • Manchester by the Sea

  • Moonlight

I’d say there are four movies on this list of nine I’m rather tepid about. The numbers game always gets my mind whirring about if I can replace anything. There’s a potential four spots and one freebie to play with, so here’s a list of alternatives I’m pitching into this race.

  • The Handmaiden

  • Loving

  • Queen of Katwe

  • Silence

  • 20th Century Women

With the intricacies of lies and deceptions upon lies and deceptions upon lies and deceptions, The Handmaiden is the type of psycho-sexual thriller that makes you squirm in your seat while you stare at it in awe of what it pulls off flawlessly.

Loving is a quiet, intimate drama that’s not interested in making bold, aggrandizing speeches. This film eschews the bluster and focuses on what matters, which is the very human impact of unjust laws and in that it becomes more powerful a statement than most message films like it.

A feel good movie is not usually the fair I think of when I think of great filmmaking, but Queen of Katwe elevates itself beyond schmaltz by its great actors and superior director.

Silence wrestles with faith in a very profound way and it’s anchored by the exotic local, one where we expect that Catholicism could never thrive and even though we’re confirmed by this through story, and history, we’re compelled by the faith of this priest that believes the people just need one more push toward the light.

The characters, scenery, and story of 20th Century Women are so vibrant and unique. It’s a film that makes its audience think about family and about growing up. It’s about learning to understand the influences of the people around us and how that makes us who we are.

O.K., so I gave five possibilities for usurpers, but I’m only going to use four spots. So, of the original list I have three I will remove. Here’s that complete list again.

  • Arrival

  • Fences

  • Hacksaw Ridge

  • Hell or High Water

  • Hidden Figures

  • La La Land

  • Lion

  • Manchester by the Sea

  • Moonlight

First on the discard pile is Hacksaw Ridge. I enjoyed some of this film, I really liked the protagonist, but as with most of the films Mel Gibson has directed, the ridiculous amount of unnecessary violence and gore is in direct conflict with the message of the film and the protagonist’s philosophy. It destroys all of its credibility as it has one of our lead characters picks up the severed torso of a former comrade and using it as a shield to drive his attack forward.

The next film I will remove is Hidden Figures. This is a tough call because the three leads are so superlative (more on their individual achievements later), but I think I started to sense my dislike of the film when I read about historical inaccuracies.

I’m a person who believes that artistic license can be a healthy thing for many movies about real events and people, but I have heard this film put into words I hadn’t formed in my head. Once I heard them, I could see it plastered all over the screen. I suddenly realized what the artistic license was allowing and what artistic license like it has allowed for decades. This is a film designed to make white people feel better about racism.

Hidden Figures treats its racism like there is a switch to be flipped. Suddenly, at the end of the movie, Jim Parsons and Kirsten Dunst have realized, after only a few months, how wrong they were and they become heroes for treating people of another race as human beings. “Good for them.”

Except that’s bullshit and we all know it’s bullshit. The fact that literal Nazis walk our streets prove it’s bullshit. These people likely took years to come around, if at all, and let’s not even get started on how they likely never realized or worked on their misogyny.

Am I dissecting your love of a feel good movie? Maybe, but what I’m also trying to say is that if African Americans were allowed to have told this story it would have been very different and a may have been a much better movie to boot.

The last film I’ll remove is Lion. There aren’t any big ideological or philosophical reasons I’m removing this one. In fact I really think there is some greatness in it, but the pieces of this puzzle that aren’t so great are what weigh on my mind. That’s mainly the parts of the film that take place in the “present” day. They’re slow and lagging, which really drains the life out of the film.

O.K., I have my four spots and I know exactly which films to plug into the list. Here are my four.

  • The Handmaiden

  • Loving

  • Silence

  • 20th Century Women

Here’s what the field looks like now.

  • Arrival

  • Fences

  • The Handmaiden

  • Hell or High Water

  • La La Land

  • Loving

  • Manchester by the Sea

  • Moonlight

  • Silence

  • 20th Century Women

Don’t worry. There won’t be any switcheroos pulled here. I know what the best film of 2016 is. So, I know you’re thinking it, is it anything other than Moonlight? Short answer, no.

Moonlight is a film of indescribable beauty. There are very few movies that can perfectly capture the intimacy shared between two people.

I love the scene between Chiron and Kevin on the beach when they’re teenagers. Two young men who intertwine and intersect, finding each other in the dark like they do then.

This scene exposes a truth about societal pressure to repress emotions in young men and is heartbreaking when they talk about crying and how much Chiron cries, culminating in a sweet act of physical intimacy. An act that is an exclamation point on their relationship.

An act that returns to a question mark the next day as Kevin succumbs to peer pressure and that toxic masculinity that pervades our society. He beats Chiron into a bloody mess. The look on Chiron’s face, the betrayal we see as the blood pours from his wounds, it’s the turning point, the point at which Chiron is gone, when he becomes Black in order to survive because Chiron was never strong enough. It’s an intense couple of scenes that make the eventual catharsis so much more satisfying.

All right, it looks like they’ve started the music. That wraps us up for this week. So, between now and next week you can find me on Twitter @zyoungs108, you can like my Facebook page @zachyoungswrites, and visit my website, www.zachyoungs.com for links to where you can buy my self-published works.

Thanks for reading. I can’t wait to dive in with you next Friday with the nominees for Best Actor in a Leading Role for 2016.

Recent Posts
Archive

© 2016 by Morgan Youngs Proudly created with Wix.com