What a night!
Leave it to a telecast celebrating the films of 2016 to have a shocking surprise in store at the end. Last year, the modest Spotlight bested the bombastic The Revenant in the Best Picture race, even after Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu won Best Director. This wasn’t a total shocker, because The Revenant was a more divisive film than Spotlight, which everyone pretty much agreed was at least good. But I predicted The Revenant in my Oscar pool because I was being a realist — and also because I convinced myself that predicting the movie I wanted to win would mean it wasn’t going to.
This year, like most prognosticators, I predicted La La Land, taking the same strategy. Again, the film I actually wanted and hoped would win did.
Apparently, there is something to my theory after all.
You’re welcome, Moonlight.
At times like these, the Academy Awards feel somewhat frivolous. It’s possible that some likely winners — The Salesman, Mahershala Ali, The White Helmets, OJ: Made In America, and even Zootopia — will have a political charge. We can certainly expect at least a few winners at the podium to speak out against the GOP’s onslaught of intolerance. Still, the main narrative of this Sunday’s Oscars telecast is shaping up to be about escaping these horrors rather than confronting them. I’m finding it difficult to celebrate that.
But this was no ordinary year.
Where to begin, when we speak of 2016? Most years, I just pick my favorite films, and that’s it. But this year, it felt important to really think about these choices, and what they expressed about my feelings this year. That’s not to say I picked a bunch of films I didn’t like as much just because they were “important.” Not at all. But I also know that when I look back at what cinema offered in 2016 many years from now — provided we’re still all in one piece by then — I do want it to reflect the turmoil, the despair, and the utter, unspeakable horrors inflicted upon so many of us over the course of the last year.
So, uhh, no. La La Land will not be my pick for Movie of the Year.
“The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation. The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.”
We’re getting further and further into the 21st century, but a number of the year’s best dramas have been rooted firmly in the century before. One of them is even named after last century.