Essentially, what I’ll be doing with this blog is watching every film that has ever been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.
Perhaps you’d like to know why, and if so, you are the perfect audience for this blog.
For some time now, I’ve been amassing Academy Awards trivia in my head, for no other reason than the pleasure it gives me (and, of course, for the ladies). I know by heart every film that has ever won Best Picture, Director, Foreign Language Film, and Animated Feature, as well as all four acting categories. From that, part of my brain endlessly forms various combinations of inconsequential but enjoyable (again, to me) trivia, such as how many films have won both Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress (twelve), the only film to win Best Director and two acting Oscars but not Best Picture (Cabaret), how many people have won separate acting awards for two different Best Pictures (four), as well as various bits of random trivial flotsam scattered throughout the past 86 years. While it’s fun, and helps me out at parties when charades loses steam, it recently occurred to me that I haven’t actually seen a great many of these films, and this project is, at least partially, meant to fix that.
Aside from that, I think it will be fun and fascinating to look at American cinema through the lens of the highest award it can give to itself. The Academy Awards were founded just as synchronized sound became a thing, so to look at the history of the Oscars is to look at the history of American talkies. I think that examining the trends, and what films were nominated and winning during what period and against what historical framework, can tell us a lot about the evolution of American cinema as a whole.
I’d also like to find out whether the Oscars, as many suspect, have devolved into something irrelevant, a parody of their former glory. While I sometimes do believe that, I suspect it is not the case. I know we live in a jaded age where silly “epic” films featuring superbeings beating up other superbeings can win an Oscar if they look pretty or if they get a famous musician to sing a catchy tune over the credits. But I think that as I move along with this little endeavor, I’ll find that the Academy has always been inconsistent in its promise of awarding the best in film; like observations on the disconnectedness of today’s youth or predictions of the fulfillment of Ayn Rand’s prophecies, the good Academy Awards come and go quite often.
So this blog shall endeavor to be both an objective, rational narrative of the Academy Awards, and a highly subjective story of my experience watching each and every film.
At first, I decided that I would watch every film that has ever won Best Picture and comment on them, perhaps review them, and write about each year in Oscar history on that basis. Then I realized that I wouldn’t be in much of a position to do so if I didn’t also know which films the winner had bested, so I then decided to watch every film that has ever been even nominated for Best Picture (as of this posting, that’s 512 films, according to Wikipedia). This, I thought, would certainly give me the context necessary to examine the Academy Awards as a whole. And, I reasoned, as the awards progress, the other “top” categories (directing, acting, and writing) begin to merge more and more with the nominees for Best Picture—for example, for the 86th Academy Awards, only four of the 20 acting nominations and two of the 10 writing nominations came from films not nominated for Best Picture—so a coherent narrative of the Oscars would appear naturally.
Then I realized, even that isn’t enough. To truly understand how the Academy works, how they award their highest honor to films both deserving and exceptionally, mindnumbingly undeserving (this parenthetical will eventually be a link to my entry on the 78th Awards), I would have to watch every single film that came out in a particular year, and only then could I speak with any kind of authority on how they were narrowed down to five (in most years), and then of those five, how they chose the winner. Only then could I do what I set out to do with this project: understand and tell the story of the Oscars and their place in American film history.
Then I realized, that would be really, really difficult, not to mention borderline psychopathic, requiring descent into the kind of antisocial behavior that would destroy and make a mockery of any sense of purpose in life, so I’m going to stick with the second stage: watching every nominated film and counting on the knowledge of the year’s other films that I’ve accumulated randomly these past 30 years (with three years of film school thrown in) to help me contextualize them. And what the hell, when I get to the 20th Academy Awards, I’ll also throw in the winners for Best Foreign Language Film, just to see what the American industry likes to recognize in the rest of the world’s cinema (or, for the first thirty years of the category, France and Italy’s cinema).
So, that’s the introduction. I’ll be posting the first “real” entry in a few days, talking about the 1st Academy Awards.