What makes a movie good? Though evaluating films and other works of art is ultimately a subjective endeavor, it’s only natural for humans to compare and contrast whenever possible. Rankings, reviews, and lists dominate most cinema-centric discussions today, especially in an age when such debates can be so readily fostered in various online communities. There remains one event, however, which is always the undefeated heavyweight champion of silver screen award prestige: The Oscars. Evergreen and often controversial, this year’s show is approaching quickly — but should you even care?
Well, yes and no. The Oscars has a history of both handing out awards to recipients that probably shouldn’t have won them and excluding key nominees from certain categories. In 2011 Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech” swept the best picture, best director, and best actor categories when David Fincher’s “The Social Network” would go on to make a much stronger impression on the film world. In 2019, we saw the surprise win of Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book” for best picture when heavy hitters like Alfonso Cuarón’s “Roma,” Spike Lee’s, “BlacKkKlansman,” and Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favorite” were the clear favorites (pun fully intended). This year, Park Chan-Wook’s heart-wrenching romance “Decision to Leave” was omitted from the foreign language film category, shocking most ardent Oscar followers.
It’s clear that the Oscars often fall short when it comes to recognizing a consistently precise group of films and filmmakers, but the awards do present a solid mainstream swath of film industry charcuterie. My introduction to the world of critical acclaim in cinema were the 2019 awards, which joyfully opened my eyes to the aforementioned 2019 movies along with many others. Since then, I’ve loved keeping up with the “movie meta” each year. The Oscars exposed me to so much art that I never would’ve considered enjoying if I hadn’t encountered the program, since so much of the higher-up film world today lives in the shadow of the next record-breaking Marvel smash. It’s in this way that a casual audience ironically stands to gain so much more from the Oscars than the average movie buff. Those that follow the show probably already understand the year’s cinematic landscape, but others (like myself some years ago) could discover a whole new world to explore.
The Oscars are definitely a “give and take” situation, but 2022 was such a great year for film that I can’t help but be excited for the awards next weekend. Personal favorites like Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s “Everything Everywhere All At Once” and Ruben Ostlund’s “Triangle of Sadness” are receiving recognition in multiple categories, and Paul Mescal’s subtle genius in Charlotte Wells’ “Aftersun” got a best actor shout-out as well. Even others like Martin McDonagh’s “The Banshees of Inisherin” and Todd Field’s “Tár” made for phenomenal viewing experiences. The Oscars are far from a mandatory viewing, but this year’s slate of nominees is truly impressive, so anyone looking to ignite a new passion just might find the spark on the evening of Sunday, March 12.