Some Better Best Pictures

The first Oscars ceremony I remember watching was in 1973, the year The Godfather and Marlon Brando won, and Brando sent a native woman to accept his award. I didn’t know anything about the marginalization of native people in Hollywood, had no idea what Wounded Knee was, but The Godfather had been the first R-rated film I’d ever seen, and I’d loved it. (My dad had taken me without my mother’s permission, which infuriated her and might have contributed to my favorable opinion. I was twelve and angry at my mother most of the time.) I loved The Godfather so much, I tried to teach myself to make lasagna, which if you know anything about my culinary skills, is an exceptional step. Then the next year Tatum O’Neill won an acting award, which was thrilling because she was a few years younger than me, and I’d spent several Saturday afternoons at the theater near our house, watching Paper Moon over and over again. (I hung out in the bathroom in between screenings because I only had enough money for the first one).

And on and on my memories go. I can’t think of a year in the past forty-six that I’ve missed the Academy Awards despite the fact that over the years, I’ve seen plenty of performances and films that I loved overlooked. This year, however, seems especially egregious, and I realized yesterday that I’ve wasted hours of my life these past few weeks ranting about Green Book. In an effort to be more positive, I decided to stop complaining about the “best pictures” list and make a list of movies to see INSTEAD of the best picture nominees (although, as you’ll see, there are a few nominees I’d still recommend).

So here goes. Here’s my list of movies to see instead, starting, of course, with Green Book:

Instead of Green Book, see If Beale Street Could Talk—The white-savior archetype has been overplayed for years. It’s time for some movies about the real saviors…mothers.

Instead of Bohemian Rhapsody, see Blaze. Another music biopic, but one with some focus and all-around great performances. In my opinion, the music is also better.

Instead of Roma, see Shoplifters. They have similar themes about class, but Shoplifters won’t put you to sleep (although you will still have to read the subtitles).

Instead of Vice, see Won’t You Be My Neighbor? Don’t we all need a break from ugly politics and a reminder of the power of kindness? (Although, if you’ve been longing for a return to the George W. Bush days, you definitely need to see Vice too.)

Instead of The Favourite, see Eighth Grade. An equally sassy female protagonist in the best movie of the year, hands down. (Disclaimer: I liked The Favourite, but I also liked The Lobster.)

Instead of A Star is Born, see Leave No Trace. Actually see them both and then have a discussion about what it means to stand up for yourself with a self-destructive family member threatens to take you down with him.

Instead of BlackKklansman, see First Reformed. I’m kidding, you have to see BlackKklansman, which is easily the best picture nominated, but see First Reformed too. It has an equally explosive ending (literally), and the best acting performance of the year (Ethan Hawke). Disclaimer: First Reformed left me in an existential crisis.

Instead of Black Panther, well, see BLACK PANTHER! It’s the first comic book movie I’ve liked since Michael Keeton donned the Batman costume three decades ago. Instead of recommending anything to see in place of Black Panther, I’ll recommend something to look forward to…Michael B. Jordon playing the role of Bryan Stevenson in Just Mercy. I’m not sure how that film won’t be great, so that means I’ll probably be back here in February of 2021 complaining about it being overlooked.

Good luck to everyone in your Oscar pools. I’m hoping to win a $500 Alamo gift card by choosing all the films and performances I thought were least worthy. I’ll let you know how that goes.

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