And the Oscar should go to...

And the Oscar should go to...

Just days ahead of the Oscar ceremony, Showtime selects its own winner from the race

The Oscars don’t command the respect they used to. The Internet and the paraphernalia that came with it is partly responsible.

God bless Bram Cohen for inventing the BitTorrent, which has made cinema the most democratic an art form has ever been, making films from any part of the world reach viewers from any part of the world. This has paved the way for marginalised filmmakers to create new film grammars.

Which makes the Academy, which is set in its mould, seem very provincial. And film critics need to tell them as much.

In that spirit of rebellion, two of Showtime’s critics sat down to find out which film from the nominated list of nine genuinely deserves to win the award, knowing fully well that the Oscars may go another way and that the best film of the year may not have got any nomination at all.

One of the few things that the two of us agreed on was that Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once upon a time... in Hollywood’, although it has good performance, fight scenes and characterisation, is far too convoluted and meandering to be in this race. So the film, which showed an alternate history to the brutal Charles Manson cult murders of the 1960s, was out.

One of us thought ‘Joker’, which gave an origin story to the eponymous Batman villain, pushed the comic book narrative further than it had ever gone before, and for that, the film is Oscar-worthy. The other thought the film seemed like a lesser version of Martin Scorsese’s ‘King of Comedy’ (1982).

One of us thought James Mangold’s ‘Ford v Ferrari’, based on the life of two men who helped the car manufacturer Ford break Ferrari’s winning streak at the Le Mans ’66 at France, had great performances and great characterisation.

The other, although impressed by the cinematography during the racing sequence, thought this ‘white boys and their toys’ film brought little to the table, and wondered how the film got lucky enough to be in this race. 

‘Marriage Story’ is a very good film. It is a sympathetic, funny and well-acted portrait of a divorce, and how Kafkaesque the red tape associated with the process can get. However, just like ‘Joker’ suffers from a case of Scorsese, ‘Marriage Story’ suffers from a case of Woody Allen.

Director Noah Baumbach’s films have been likened to Allen’s earlier as well, but well into his career, he hasn’t outgrown the influence. The film felt like a 21st-century update for 'Annie Hall', but without the 1977 film’s brilliance.

One of us thought ‘Jojo Rabbit’, a comedy about a young Nazi boy with an Anne Frank-like girl living in his attic and a tame Hitler for an imaginary friend, was an excellent contender for the Oscars. The other enjoyed the movie’s great sense of humour but thought it was definitely not in the range of the best films in the list.

‘Little Women’, directed by Greta Gerwig, is a revisionist adaptation of Louis May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’, and it is excellently done. The film, without falling into the trap of anachronism, diagonses the socio-economic situation of women during and after the American Civil War. However, it doesn’t stand on par with the best movies in the list.

Martin Scorsese is a poet of gangster films, and his ‘The Irishman’ is a piognant look at what happens to an ageing gangster. The film is a worthy contender for Best Picture, but has to be sidelined only because there are two greater films.

‘1917’ and ‘Parasite’. Both of us felt that these are the strongest contenders, each making history in its own way.

‘1917’ shows the journey of two soldiers travelling through a wasteland of World War I. As far as the plot is concerned, that is pretty much it, but director Sam Mendes creates a nightmare worthy of Andrei Tarkovsky’s ‘Ivan’s Childhood’. The scene with a plane coming crashing right next to the camera is the sort of technical perfection money can’t buy.

The excellently paced ‘Parasite’, is a surreal take on the class system. Very rarely does film with as great an intellectual scope as Boon Joon-ho’s South Korean masterpiece appeal as well as it did to the masses. ‘Parasite’ winning the Best Picture award would also break the spell of provincialism that the Academy is trapped in. We feel splitting the award between the two films is the ideal choice for the ‘Best Picture’ prize.

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