Oscar Best Films

Many of us have read posts and articles pertaining to predictions and rankings. Because of BAFTA and SAG results, most claim to know how Oscar night will pan out tonight for the winner of Best Film.

Why do the classic winners seem so much better than winners in recent years? How far back do you go before it’s considered a classic? Twenty years? 1990s? 80s? 70s? before 1960?

The answer is I’ve grown up with the classic winners. I’ve seen On the Waterfront, West Side Story, Casablanca, All About Eve, Cabaret, and Ben Hur more times than I can count for most of my life. Are they better than today’s films or are they better because there is an emotional imprint that makes them meaningful? Have people under the age of 40 even seen the classic greats I’ve mentioned? If not, their favorites are relative to their age bracket. When they are 60, what film will they say is the best?

Articles like to speculate about the Best Film nominees that did not win but should have. For me, that would be films such as Rear Window, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, The Professional, The Shining, Psycho, Shawshank Redemption, and The Big Lebowski to name a few.

What about Best Film winners from the last twenty years? Can you think of many? It was hard to recall but a few. I had to look them up.

2022 – CODA

2021 – Nomadland

2020 – Parasite

2019 – Green Book

2018 – The Shape of Water

2017 – Moonlight

2016 – Spotlight

2015 – Birdman

2014 – 12 Years A Slave

2013 – Argo

2012 – The Artist

2011 – The King’s Speech

2010 – The Hurt Locker

2009 – Slumdog Millionaire

2008 – No Country for Old Men

2007 – The Departed

2006 – Crash

2005 – Million Dollar Baby

2004 – The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

2003 – Chicago

Best films are an emotional response. They tap into the hearts of different groups, genders, and ethnicities. I’m a fan of universality. That is, the more universal the story, the longer it stands the test of time. A well-made film transcends boxes. Also, I squirm at the thought the Best Film of the year is supposed to “say something.” Several of the best films do not try to persuade you of anything. They are compact, simple stories. A story of survival. Characters moving from point A to B. Love in its various forms. Themes of friendship, loyalty, revenge, and hope. I hate politics. Yet, I sure enjoyed All the President’s Men.

Whether the non-nominated should have been or the nominated were robbed, one aspect is certain: you may scoff at my favorite Best Film Oscar choice, and I shrug with indifference at your choice. You might even think the Oscars are ridiculously rigged and not worth thinking about. I get that.

I’d still like to know.

What are some of your top favorites who won Best Film?

What are some nominated films that should have won Best Film but did not?

Why are the classics better than films from the last 20 years? Disagree?

How is it possible that Cool Hand Luke wasn’t nominated for Best Film?

Does “The Lighthouse” deserve Best Cinematography?

Best Cinematography is probably my favorite category. When director Robert Eggers‘ film The Lighthouse was nominated for Best Cinematography, I had to see it. If you read a recent post of mine, you might remember my enthusiasm for 1917. If Roger Deakins doesn’t pick up the statue for the award, I hope Jarin Blaschke wins the Oscar for The Lighthouse. 

Here are some reasons why The Lighthouse was superior in cinematography.

  1. The film is set on a remote island somewhere in New England in the 1890s. A lighthouse rules the environment with its domineering size and elegant white neck. The foghorn blares and the light revolves. Raging waves, pounding rain, and creepy seagulls hop about and give the place a forlorn, ancient aura. The theme of dark and light is central to the characters as they fall victim to their physical surroundings while confronting supernatural elements the longer they stay on the island. Choosing to film it in black and white and using 1.19:1(19:16) — I needed to look up (Wikipedia) what this was and figure out the advantage to the choice.

1.19:1 (19:16): Sometimes referred to as the Movietone ratio, this ratio was used briefly during the transitional period when the film industry was converting to sound, from 1926 to 1932 approx. It is produced by superimposing an optical soundtrack over a full-gate 1.3 aperture in printing, resulting in an almost square image. Films shot in this ratio are often projected or transferred to video incorrectly using a 1.37 mask or squashed to 1.37. Examples of films shot in the Movietone ratio include SunriseMHallelujah! and The Lighthouse.

The cinematic choice adds to the historical climate giving the picture a classic feel. It boxes the story adding to the claustrophobia. As the story progresses, the audience feels the confinement caused by the weather and the lighthouse.

2. It’s a psychological horror story. The story is about two lighthouse keepers who struggle with their sanity. Pattinson did a fine job. However, it was one of Willem Defoe’s best performances. The claustrophobic rooms, the spiral staircase, the beautiful glass prisms of the lens of the lighthouse gave the film a somber, spirited, beautifully dark environment that justified the psychological horror story. The varying camera angles and close-ups capture this and add to the tension. One major criticism was the score. The overloud-Hans-Zimmer-sledgehammer thuds were unnecessary. Especially when the actual horror happens in the final act. The constant sound of the foghorn would audibly drive anyone insane.

3. I don’t like horror films, but I love psychologically intense films. This felt like Hitchcock. Watching Pattinson’s character devolve and lose his sanity was wonderful. That is, the cinematography includes snippet glimpses of Ephraim Winslow (Pattinson) with mermaids and disturbing dream sequences. The shots looked up at the face of the crusty sea-dog played by Willem Defoe, elongating the bags under his eyes, and at times, when he stood to give godly sermons, he rose in stature and became frightening. I loved that he sang old sailor songs, told nonsensical stories (that come true), and spoke in the vernacular of a sailor in the 1890s. His mood-swinging personality kept me on edge. Two men are alone on an island for a month. How do you suppose they spend the time? I ended up liking them both even though they were morally gray.

4. A basic theme of the story is the corruption of the soul and the punishment that ensues. Who gives the punishment?  The lighthouse was Godlike. Seeking the light, Ephraim Winslow steals up to the lantern and faces the light — light that a mortal shouldn’t see. The shots that show Ephraim facing the supernatural force is awesome.

5. The ending shot is peculiar and perplexing. It sure screams of the Greek myth “Prometheus” who was punished by Zeus for helping mankind. What are your thoughts about the ending scene? During the first act, Ephraim acts out on a sea bird. A bad omen. Ephraim dreams of mating with a mermaid. A bad omen. All of the bad omens and superstitions of the nautical world are included in the story to give it an interesting aspect. The motif of blindness runs through the film such as the bird and the head of a dead man. Being blinded by the light is a punishment no one is likely to survive. It’s not a film for everyone. But I liked it. 4/5

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