If you’re like the rest of the Internet, you raised your fists in protest when the Golden Globe Nominations were announced a couple weeks ago. While award’s season backlash is nothing new, what makes this round of indignation so special is its direction at an entire category of the awards, notably Best Motion Picture, Musical or Comedy. As they stand, the nominees include such hilarious, feel-good flicks as Her, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska, The Wolf of Wall Street, and American_Hustle American Hustle. See any particularly funny movies on that list? Neither did the rest of the blogosphere.
Now I’m not going to add to the cacophony of people who actually think the Globes have a responsibility to anyone except themselves, but as of yet there are no outlets for fans of movies like This Is the End, The Spectacular Now, or The Worlds End who want to see their darlings honored. Sure, there’s the People’s Choice Awards, but unless you want to see hoards of teenagers heaping gold at the latest Twilight craze, it’s not exactly a great alternative.
So what’s the solution? Simple, appoint someone like me to make the decision that the Globes and the Academy refuse to, someone who appreciates more than the typical pandering Oscar-bait. Every year, I’ll choose the nominees and everyone who registered to vote in the last presidential election will be allowed to pick the winners, provided they’ve never read People Magazine or called in to American Idol. I propose that we implement these changes immediately beginning with the 2014 Oscar race commencing later this month.
So without further ado, here are my picks for Best Picture. You’re welcome.
While the rest of the world continues to praise Matthew McConaughey for his role in Dallas Buyer’s Club, this wondrous gem is sadly getting swept under the rug. And it really is a tragedy considering what writer-director Jeff Nichols of Take Shelter fame has on display here. Mud is a touching, probing study of human relationships and the sometimes grave consequences of falling in love. Apart from the whirlwind performance McConaughey gives us in the title role, we’re also introduced to glowing newcomer Tye Sheridan, a spitting image of idealism who gets his first dose of dose of reality.
Judging from box office receipts, none of you have seen this movie yet and that’s one of this year’s greatest tragedies. So instead of dishing out another $13 to pad Peter Jackson’s bottom line, throw this into your DVD queue. Just be sure to bring a hankie.
When was the last time you saw a documentary get a Best Picture nomination? That’s right, never. And considering the quality of films like Exit through the Gift Shop and The Cove, that really is a tragedy. In 2013, we have the opportunity to reverse this terrible embargo against nonfiction beginning with the inciting dissection of SeaWorld and its crimes against nature, Blackfish. Following the journey of one orca’s capture and subsequent killing of three individuals over the course of thirty years, this film has raised a veritable media storm against SeaWorld’s ethics. Celebrities have boycotted the park across the board and the Internet has been abuzz with public denouncement, prompting this open letter from SeaWorld itself. Who’s telling the truth is a different matter, but Blackfish has done what every good documentary aspires to do: it’s opened a dialogue. Why not award the films that actually make a difference for once?
3. God Bless America
Okay, so technically this film was completed in 2011, but it only found its way onto my Netflix queue earlier this year. In my book, that’s a gilded package marked with a “For Your Consideration” stamp. It is also the furthest thing from a traditional Oscar contender on this list. In other words, I loved it.
God Bless America is one of the most cathartic movies I’ve ever seen. Like the main characters, I’m also fed up with our shallow, inconsiderate, celebrity-obsessed culture and wish someone would put a gun to the worst aspects of America. Luckily for us, Bobcat Goldthwait isn’t above putting a pistol in the hand of a teenage girl and tasking her with doing exactly that. Reality stars, rightwing pundits, Teapartiers, people who talk in the movies, it seems no one is off limits in the killing spree that follows. It’s B-movie mayhem at its most gleefully unrestrained and consequently the feel-good movie of the year. Quentin Tarantino might be a little jealous that he was beaten to the punch.
4. This is the End
If they passed out Oscars for dick jokes, this film would have Return of the King type buzz going into January. Unfortunately, the vulgarity of Seth Rogen, and the Apatow gang will go unrewarded yet another year. Setting the slew of self-referential toilet humor that this movie threw us back in August, it’s actually really funny. Gut-busting in fact. That really should count for more nowadays, but sadly not since The Hangover took home the gold back in 2007 has modern comedy been given its fair due. So if you were to ask me, I’d give The Wolf of Wall Street’s obligatory Oscar nod to a film that actually deserves it. Here you go, Seth and Evan. You can thank me by making a sequel.
5. Pacific Rim
Despite the fact that it epically flopped at the domestic box office, the amount of nerd talk surrounding Pacific Rim continues to be staggering. And for what? Giant robots tackle giant monsters in a straw man plot that exists only to fuel more and more battles. Had it been directed by Michael Bay, it would have been promptly dismissed as another of his cash-grabbing preteen wet dreams. Except the presence of Guillermo del Toro somehow classifies it as a sort of anime renaissance. I hate to burst everyone’s collective bubble, but Pacific Rim is a loud, bloated, horribly scripted retelling of Evangelion that can’t hold a candle to the material it apes. Even a thoroughly cracked-out Charlie Day can’t save this Saturday morning special from its masturbatory fight sequences and trite dialogue.
So no, this movie doesn’t deserve a Best Picture nod, but I’d happily give it all the technical awards instead.
6. Fruitvale Station
One major problem with releasing your movie in July is that come awards season, it’s promptly passed over for the shiny new American Hustles and 12 Years a Slaves. I’m not going to badmouth those films a la Pacific Rim (shudder), but the fact that this movie has been overlooked is nothing short of a travesty. Handling race issues with scalpel precision, this debut from USC alum Ryan Coogler is subtle and inciting all at once. For those who’ve already forgotten (I don’t blame you), Fruitvale Station retells the true story of Oscar Grant on the final day of his life before his fatal shooting at a BART station in Oakland, California. Newcomer Michael B. Jordan plays the title role with a poise and dignity not unlike a young Denzel Washington and helps propel this moving drama along to its tragic, yet inevitable conclusion. It’s a winning effort from a group of young filmmakers who really deserve their due. Too bad the film-going public has the memories of goldfish.
7. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
When will Katniss get the recognition she deserves? While most of the serial teen novels that get adapted are rightfully brushed from the awards race (with the exception of the Razzies of course), some are sadly overlooked. Toward the end of his run, Harry Potter really should have been given more nods than the obligatory technical ones, but the Academy was too busy tipping their hats to Moneyball and War Horse to notice. Let’s not make the same mistake twice.
The second chapter in the Hunger Games series deserves credit for not only besting the previous chapter, but the source material as well. Suzanne Collins’ writing is often too dry and unfocused to properly bring the world of Panem to life and seems more intent on making Katniss a whiney teenager instead of the conflicted heroine she really is. The movie fixes both of these issues admirably thanks to smooth direction and another winning performance from Jennifer Lawrence.
Forget its teen lit origins and see this movie immediately. Who am I kidding, you probably already have.
Writing this list without including the best film of the year would be borderline criminal on my part. And that’s exactly what Alfonso Cuarón’s visionary masterpiece is: the best film of this year or possibly the last few years. A handwringing thriller structured around the most impressive visual effects since Avatar conned its way into our hearts, Gravity is the epitome of what film should be, glorious, encapsulating escapism. If you didn’t wheel with vertigo after Sandra Bullock’s first separation from the shuttle, or grip your seat when she hung on by the skin of her teeth for the millionth time, or wonder in agony who George Clooney saw in New Orleans, then you should probably give up watching movies for good. Maybe invest in another pastime like rock collecting or shoe shining. That might be more up your alley.
With Gravity, Cuarón pushed the limits of what is possible in the visual medium without forgetting to bolster the effects with a moving story that kept you rooting for Sandra despite unspeakable odds. It is a glorious, humbling, beautiful film that deserves more gold than the Academy can heap at it. In fact, forget the rest of this list and see it again. And again. And again.