Saturday, June 12, 2010

What makes a "Best Picture"?

I know that it is well after the awards season and I know that the next award season is still a good ways away, but this is a subject that I’ve been debating in my head for years and I’ve talked to some people about it too. Recently, I had this discussion with a close friend and fellow cinephile and so I’ve finally decided to write about it and see if I can get some other opinions on it too.

I understand that the awards circuits work on a different level and that I will probably never completely agree with their picks, but I feel that they could try a little harder. The Oscars are the most prestigious of the awards but they have a problem with being a little overly pretentious with their nominees and their winners. They have a tendency to completely ignore that comedies are movies too, no matter how well written and executed. The Golden Globes solved this problem by creating two separate categories, one for best Drama and one for best Comedy/Musical. Maybe the academy should give this a try, it might get more people interested in watching their program. Last year many great comedies came out and none were nominated at the Oscars, they included movies like The Hangover, not for everybody but there is a certain amount of genius that went into making it nonetheless. Other great comedies that were very well made last year that got completely ignored by the award circuit include Away We Go, Zombieland, (500) Days of Summer and Whatever Works.

Sometimes I wonder what the people who vote for these awards are thinking. Many times the Oscars have been way off in what the Best Picture really is. One example would be the 81st Academy Awards when they gave the award to Slumdog Millionaire. For one thing, Slumdog Millionaire wasn’t even that great of a movie, the writing wasn’t that great and the acting was pretty bad. I might have been able to get over it if it wasn’t for the fact that it was up against The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, easily one of the greatest movies ever made. It had an amazing story line, extremely well written, some of the best acting I’ve ever seen by the entire cast, and the amount of effort that went into the movie to make it look so authentic is mind-blowing. Another reason the 81st Academy Awards upset me is that they didn’t nominate The Dark Knight, again, one of the best movies ever made, but the academy couldn’t get past that it was based on a comic book so they ignored it. The best example of the Academy Awards picking the wrong movie would have t0 be the 14th Academy Awards in 1941. This was the year that movies like Citizen Cane, widely regarded as one of the best movies ever made, and The Maltese Falcon were nominated. But did Citizen Cane win that year? No. instead they gave the award to How Green Was My Valley, a movie most people don’t even remember.

So, what does make a movie the “best picture” of the year? In my opinion it should have a number of things, a compelling story, outstanding writing, amazing acting, great directing and maybe even some wonderful cinematography. But another thing that I feel that a “Best Picture” should have is re-watchability. As I look at the winners of the Best Picture award for the last 15 or so years, not many of them have re-watchability. For instance, the movie Crash, while it is a well made movie, I will never watch that movie again. The same goes for The Departed, American Beauty, Million Dollar Baby and even the most current one, The Hurt Locker. And this year the academy made it interesting by nominating 10 movies, of those 10 I find 4 of them to have great re-watchability. Movies like Up, Up in the Air and District 9 are great movies that I could watch over and over (and have actually). I still get a kick out of the fact that Avatar was nominated and that so many people wanted it to win, because I love it for the same reasons I love the Transformers movies (which are widely hated), it is just big dumb fun with lots of special effects. Granted, those special effects were pretty groundbreaking.

So, there you have it, my opinion of what qualities a “Best Picture” should have. So what qualities do you believe a “Best Picture” should have?

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