Oscar 2024: Bring on the Best Pictures!

Okay, sure, I’ve been gone from this for a while, two different film review podcasts take a certain amount of time, recent travel stories have just been “Had a chill time but got rained on a lot at Disneyworld,” and mountain life means not a lot of theatre stories. But I do recall liking writing as a thing, so I’m trying to reintroduce that into my existence, starting with the annual Best Picture Ranking!

Normally I’d say that I watched all the nominees so you don’t have to, but, like… maybe you should? Normally there’s a whole page of this process called “The Also-Rans” or “The Lesser Half” or “The Ones I’m Mad I Had To Watch” but this year… this year was a good year. Nine very solid movies, the internet cannot form a consensus over which is the objective best, even if voters seem to have made a choice at time of writing. The Zone Crew, Fall Stans, Life Lovers, and Oppenheads argue back and forth while some are willing to die mad that All Of Us Strangers was ignored or that voters assumed the exquisitely constructed world of Barbie just happened by accident without a central figure orchestrating it.

But anyway let’s get this going.

Next page: The “Sorry I Didn’t Like Your Favourite More” Section

Sorting the Screams

I wasn’t always a horror fan.

I have seen zero Child’s Plays, one Halloween in my projectionist days, and feel like I saw the porn parody of Texas Chainsaw Massacre before I’d seen the original. Which endeared me neither to chainsaw massacres nor porn movies.

Sure, sometimes on a childhood sleepover we’d rent a Nightmare on Elm Street and it wouldn’t necessarily give me nightmares, per se, but still unpleasant dreams and maybe some inexplicable vomiting. By university, I’d seen two Nightmares on Elm Street, two Fridays the 13th, and one Phantasm that didn’t start with Mask of the, and I did not care for that last one at all. Shouldn’t have skipped the first one, I was lost.

Then Scream happened.

And even though the first reaction I recall having, filled to the brim with terror for poor Drew Barrymore, was “Why did I choose to do this to myself,” suddenly I was a 90s horror fan. Even the bad ones! I Know What You Did Last Summer, Urban Legend, Final Destination, fucking Valentine, gimme ’em all, I said.

And then Scream 4 came out and I just… never got to it. For over 11 years.

But having been swept up in the 2022 Horror Renaissance (Barbarian, Smile, The Menu, X, no, Prey For the Devil, not you) and having recently binged the entire Conjuring franchise on… whatever you call a dare when nobody was pressuring you and didn’t really care if you actually did it… and with Scream VI right around the corner, I decided it was time to get back into the franchise.

And it turns out, I really like Scream movies.

From the original gang of Sidney, Dewey, and Gale to the Carpenter Sisters and their Core Four, Scream movies are, more often than not, a good time. It might not be Wes Craven’s most iconic horror franchise, but I think it’s the most consistently good. Probably because it’s the one he stuck with the longest.

So I decided to binge the whole franchise and report back my thoughts. And to help organize said thoughts, I’m-a rank order these movies on the following categories:

  1. The Cold Open Kill. A franchise staple. Someone gets a phone call, maybe gets asked their favourite scary movie, and gets horribly knife-murdered.
  2. Ghostface’s Motive. What makes a person or pair of people decide to do a Ghostface, something with a 100% fatality rate (we think)?
  3. The Setpiece Kills. Look if you’re judging horror flicks (that aren’t Conjuring or Babadook) and not rating the kills, what are you even doing?
  4. The Randy. Someone has to be a giant film nerd, in order to convey…
  5. The Rules. Self-awareness of the genre they’re in is a staple of this franchise.
  6. The Third-Act Reveal. We’ve learned why Ghostface is, sure, but how hard were we hit by who Ghostface is?
  7. The Improbability of the Surprise Survivor. Scream is not about “final girls,” even if it reliably has a leading contender. There are always a handful of survivors, and almost always one fakeout kill. Basically if you don’t see the life leave their eyes, don’t count them out. And I’m never mad about the Surprise Survivor, but how likely was it?

You’ll note there isn’t much on the characters, and I’ll quickly explain why. Most horror franchises live or die on their iconic killer: people want to see Jason, Michael Myers, or very specifically Robert Englund as Freddy do their brutal thing. New Final Girls spring up every one or two movies, but the rest of the cast is just grist for the mill. But since Ghostface is an idea (and the voice of Roger L. Jackson), Scream needs to thrive on its core characters, and with only two writing teams across six movies, they’re pretty consistent. Sidney is the survivor trying to escape a cycle of violence; Gale Weathers is the lynchpin of the franchise because she isn’t Final Girl material, she’s opportunistic and abrasive and her refusal to die throws more than one Ghostface’s plans into chaos, I love her; Dewey is a bit of a goober who just wants to help; Tara is a fighter who never asked to be one; and Samantha… oh, Sam you might yet be my favourite. They’re all good, often great, but hard to rank film by film.

Obviously several of these categories have spoilers. So I’d suggest you, too, hop onto the internet and binge these movies and then meet me on the next page. Or skip the ones that are gonna give big things away.

Actually even the posters spoil some stuff so if you really care about that, go ahead to the next page.

To begin, a summary of our contestants:

A killer in a ghost-faced mask begins targeting local teens, especially Sidney Prescott, whose mother was brutally killed a year ago, and who may have fingered the wrong man as her murderer. Sidney, her best friend Tatum, Tatum’s deputy sheriff brother Dewey, and tabloid reporter Gale Weathers have to find a killer before the killer finds them.

After giving meta-horror a spin in New Nightmare, Wes Craven leaves Freddy Krueger behind to take the idea to a new level, and man alive did it work.

Kill Count (not including Ghostfaces): 5

Years later, Sidney is now off to college, and Gale’s book on the Woodsboro Murders has become an apparently highly anticipated horror movie called “Stab,” this will be important for some time. Someone’s out to homage the original killings, with the ultimate goal of finishing what the original Ghostface killers started. Our survivors and Cotton Weary, the man Sidney falsely accused of killing her mother, have to figure out who the new killers are and what they’re after before the killer hunts them all down. Assuming none of them are the killer. Not a safe assumption.

Also I’m not surprised Sarah Michelle Gellar got offered horror movies early in the run of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but I am surprised she never got a Final Girl. It’s like the horror genre thought she owed a debt for killing all them vampires.

Kill Count: 8

A new Ghostface begins attacking the cast of the in-production Stab 3, and it’s not long before Sidney, Dewey, and Gale are drawn into the hunt for the latest killer. But whoever it is keeps dropping photos of Sidney’s late mother, suggesting this new killer has a connection to the murder that started it all. Because trilogies have to go full circle, they think. Or at least have a connection to the past.

Kill Count: 9

Eleven years after the Stab 3 massacre, right before the anniversary of the original Ghostface murders, Sidney returns to Woodsboro to promote her new autobiography/self-help book, but finds a new Ghostface is targeting the friend group of her young cousin Jill. Someone’s out to reboot the franchise, meaning more deaths, more twists, and more meta-commentary. Also somehow there have been four other Stab movies in the last 11 years, how did that happen. If Todd Phillips snapped and killed the entire principal cast of Joker: Folie a Deux, I would not expect further Joker sequels.

Kill Count: 9

First off I enjoy that even the script of this movie calls out that it absolutely should have been called Scream 5.

Eleven years after the last Woodsboro killings, a new Ghostface emerges, with a wave of attacks that appear to be targeting sisters Samantha and Tara Carpenter (and those around them, obviously), who have been estranged since Sam left town after learning a terrible secret: her real father was one of the original Ghostfaces, and now she’s hallucinating him guiding her into being a killer like he was. And, of course, if there’s a new Ghostface in town, Sidney Prescott and crew are going to take an interest, if reluctantly. Someone’s out to requel the Stab franchise and everyone close to the Carpenters is either at risk or hiding a big knife.

Kill Count: 6

Looking too closely at that poster is in itself a bunch of spoilers.

A year after surviving the Stab requel, the Carpenter sisters and their friends have moved all the way across the country to New York, but the internet has decided that Sam was the real killer, and she’s still trying to hold Hallucination Murder Daddy at bay, so things aren’t going great. Which only gets worse when a new Ghostface shows up, feeling Sam must be punished for her role in last year’s events. Who can the Core Four trust? Is Tara dealing with last year healthily? Is being a Ghostface Sam’s destiny?

Kill Count: 10 (counting some Ghostfaces, I’ll explain), but only four are actual characters of note. Four are barely more than featured extras, and two we never actually saw alive on screen. I’m not mad, knifing a few randoms along the path is a perfectly acceptable way to boost your kill count, I’m just saying.

Okay. Let’s begin. And along the way, since Scream movies love the rules of horror movies, let’s look at some rules of this specific franchise.

Next page: The star you shouldn’t get attached to

2022’s Best Pictures (Citation Needed)

Haven’t been around much as I have two projects that require a certain amount of my time, but Oscar Season is upon us, ten movies are vying for the trophy, and once again I, your pop culture sin eater, have watched them so you don’t have to.

And hey, to an untrained eye, it even looks like they’ve learned some lessons from previous years! It’s not wall-to-wall bummers like two years back! The pre-season buzz didn’t go all in on the wrong movies like last year! There’s been an improvement in both biopics and “Famous filmmaker makes movie about his youth” movies, yes that second one sounds weirdly specific, but at least there’s only one, there were two of them last year. There are actual crowd pleasers! Movies people actually saw! In fact the two highest grossing movies of the whole damn year are here! And almost certainly neither of them will win, but it’s just nice to see Academy and Audience playing nice for a minute.

So here, for your enjoyment and edification, I present the so-called best pictures of 2022, nominees for the 2023 Oscars, ranked in my order of preference, along with where I’d rank them overall if they won.

Not gonna name movies I think should have been nominated because honestly I don’t know that I saw ten movies I think deserved a nomination (I love The Batman but I also live in the real world), so let’s just say this:

Babylon is a dizzying, disorienting, fever dream of a movie on how Hollywood changed not just through the introduction of sound, but in conservatism creeping in to “clean up” the industry. Sure the main plot points seem to be about sound’s impact, but pay attention and you see how Hollywood had to become more puritan, less female-driven, less queer, and way more white. Our primary protagonist goes by “Manny” and claims to be Spanish because he knows Manuel from Mexico won’t last long as a studio producer; a starlet is pushed aside because you can’t be Asian and openly gay in William Randolph Hearst’s Hollywood; the parties get tamer and tamer, only for the reveal that the real party just moved underground, and when that happens, the mob gets involved and things get dark. And through it all, four people try to cheat mortality through the movies. It was never going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but Babylon was a wild ride I’ve enjoyed unpacking, I’m glad it exists, there are multiple movies that deserve to be on this list way less.

Glass Onion is an absurdly well-constructed mystery, the hints and reveals all placed perfectly, the cast astounding, the script inhumanly clever, and it’s the perfect skewering of the myth that being a billionaire means you’re a genius. Its only crime is not being quite as good as its predecessor, Knives Out, but come on, what is?

Let’s begin.

Next Page: Back of the pack

Pop Culture 2021: A Review

So with the prior year wrapped up, various critic groups are releasing their best-of lists, and it feels like they’re getting more attention than usual, because the Second Annual Plague-Time Oscar nominations are months away, and the Golden Globes got busted so hard for being too white they’re not even getting televised this year so honestly why do we care. The LA Critics Association gave out awards and the internet’s AV Club named their top 25, and both seemed to learn the lesson of Parasite, as the top film for the former comes from Japan, and far more of the latter’s list came from outside the US than in.

And god damn I don’t want to watch most of it.

Listen to this fucking description for Days, number 24 on the AV Club’s list: “What passes for a plot is mostly mundane activity, the dialogue reduced to an unscripted, un-subtitled minimum. Yet those who can adjust their attention span to Tsai’s demands on it will discover a film fluent in the loneliness so many have endured these past couple years.” Fuck you. I know it’s been lonely since that first lockdown, I have lived that, and with (for my region) a fifth lockdown on the horizon, I don’t need to watch a slow, intentionally dull film about how one erotic encounter breaks up the monotony of an empty existence to know that plague times are emotionally taxing. If one thing goes wrong at work, I go into an emotional spiral for hours, because life in 2021 does not provide enough joy to cushion a difficult work moment.

Let me turn the mic over to this TikTok about Spider-Man: No Way Home being a huge hit and Ridley Scott’s apparently excellent Last Duel not to explain the issue here.


#stitch with @indigodetry i told yallll #spiderman #marvel #comicbook #film @navthepoet @straw_hat_goofy

♬ original sound – Kiki From the PNW

I have seen, at time of writing, two films from the AV Club’s list (The Power of the Dog, and West Side Story, which I’m sure we’ll talk about it when I rank Oscar nominees), actively want to see one other (The French Dispatch of The Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun), and would be okay seeing four others (including, yes, the one that features sex with cars, Bumblebee crawled so that Titane could run), but…

I would trade the entire list and every remaining Golden Globe nominee for a second season of Hawkeye. And Hawkeye isn’t perfect, it has too many plot threads for six episodes to tie up in a satisfying way, but it surely was a fun ride. Whereas Oscar Season 2020 was nothing but tough hangs, so nobody can be blamed for not rushing to check out Oscar Season 2021.

So instead, let’s talk nerd stuff.

Several pop culture franchises made some big flexes in 2021, and not all of them necessarily worked, but a lot of them point to some issues facing the entertainment industry right now I want to talk about, so let’s talk about them. I, a sometimes regionally notable playwright who works in a hotel, will break down the biggest problems facing the world’s largest media conglomerates, why not.

And maybe touch on why I liked Hawkeye, we’ll see.

First off, how’s Marvel doing?

So Anyway, The Snyder Cut

Okay… I covered every best picture in Oscar history… ranked this year’s nominees to explain why I’m blasé about Nomadland beating Promising Young Woman… Comic TV Awards are at least two months out, longer if I stall to let the CW wrap the season… What’s left…

Well… guess I can talk about Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

Okay so for anyone who doesn’t know, here is the story as best as we understand it. You probably know the part where Zack Snyder left the movie during post-production, and Warner Bros. brought in the second unit director of Drew Goddard’s Cabin in the Woods to overhaul the movie into something quicker and more crowd-pleasing and accomplished only one of those things, but we have to go back a little.

You see, back in 2013, all of Hollywood was watching upstart Marvel Studios rake in money hand over fist after mega-hit The Avengers, and everyone wanted a piece of that Cinematic Universe pie, and nobody seemed in a better position to do it than Warner Bros., the owners of DC Comics. And man did WB need this, because after a decade and a bit of regularly-scheduled Harry Potters bringing in massive dollars, plus Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Warner no longer knew how to function as a studio without at least one massive franchise to lean on.

This leads us to the two Cardinal Sins of the DCEU.

Number one: Warner Bros. wanted to get to The Avengers as quickly as possible. I mean, compare the box office tallies of Captain America: The First Avenger and the much, much worse but post-Avengers Thor: The Dark World, I see where their heads were at, but it demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of why Avengers was a hit.

Number two: they also wanted a new Dark Knight saga, and Dark Knight was the singular vision of Christopher Nolan… once he scraped some stupid off some first drafts by David S. Goyer, who clings to the comic book movie industry like a parasitic vine. So despite how divided audience and critical response was to the Nolan-produced, Snyder-directed Man of Steel, they went all in on Snyder’s pitch for a Justice League series that would sprinkle solo spin-offs in between Synder’s core Justice League story.

Again, a savage misunderstanding of how Marvel pulled off their big trick. Avengers worked because it brought all of these previously established characters (and also Hawkeye) into one movie, not because it introduced us to a bunch of heroes and spent the middle third of the movie nudging us in the ribs about their spin-off potential.

I was also going to discuss how Marvel has never locked into one director to steer the whole franchise, but that just gets into a debate on the Marvel House Style and how few directors managed to break out of it so let’s just move on from that.

So our two Cardinal Sins are a) rushing to the finish line, and b) going all-in on a divisive filmmaker’s five-film arc. And these problems went critical in a very predictable fashion in spring of 2016. Batman V Superman was a critical bomb, and may have opened huge, but had a massive, massive second-week drop-off, and was largely reviled for being dark, murdery, and joyless, and stopping midway through to set up sequels and spinoffs in very hamfisted manners*. And also it was seen as a bit of a mess, narratively speaking. The Ultimate Edition fixes that, but I dunno, maybe stop assuming you get to make all of your superhero movies Godfather length, Zack. It became very clear that Snyder’s grimdark vision was not clicking with the general audience, who much preferred Captain America: Civil War, which had more fun with its obligatory “heroes punch each other for a while” sequence but also managed higher emotional stakes.

(*If you want to tease the rest of the League through Wonder Woman clicking an email attachment, put that shit in the end credits where it belongs, did anyone pushing for Marvel-esque success actually watch a single Marvel movie**, Jesus Christ)

(**Other than Iron Man 2. Did everyone trying to start a Cinematic Universe only watch Iron Man 2? And then base all your plans off it? That is… that is nobody’s favourite Marvel movie.)

However, Justice League rolled cameras just weeks after Batman V Superman opened, so by the time they knew that Snyder’s initial plans were not going to play in Poughkeepsie, it was too late to switch horses and maybe find a director who didn’t think that Superman is only interesting if dead or evil. But it was clear that a course-change was still necessary, so studio execs pushed Snyder and writer Chris Terrio (who has a much-deserved Oscar for Argo, the dude can write) to lighten up Justice League*, pulled the plug on filming a sequel back-to-back, and also demanded David Ayer shove some jokes into Suicide Squad, eventually turning the final edit over to the people who made the “fun” trailer, but that’s a whole other thing.

(*Terrio always meant to do that, as with Batman V Superman he was desperately re-writing and trying to add character arcs to an overly dark script from… David Goyer, Jesus, someone remove him from DC Films, by force if necessary)

And then a year later, Snyder finished a three and a half hour rough cut, and shortly thereafter the Snyder family was rocked by a horrible tragedy as Zack’s daughter Autumn took her own life. As such Snyder had to step away from the edit, and was unable to deliver the shorter cut the studio required. Because not even Lawrence of Arabia needed to be that long, Zack, Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings series delivered two massive, beloved hits but he still had to produce a shorter cut of Return of the King for theatrical release, Zack. And so Warner Bros. brought in Joss Whedon to overhaul the movie. Official accounts claimed Zack was fully on board, and even chose him to write/film a few additional scenes. Snyderbros view it very differently, and honestly everything we’ve learned since suggests Zack was just saying he was on board to avoid more bad publicity than this magnitude of re-shooting already attracts, just like how the cast, even Ray Fisher, claimed the reshoots were a fun and smooth experience and we know that wasn’t true.

So anyway the theatrical cut of Justice League was a weird hybrid, part super-serious Snyder action and part Avengers-style goofy banter, the villain plot was word salad, nobody had an arc, it was a major box-office disappointment. I was trying as hard as I could to like it, but the only review I was willing to write was as a subplot in a different post to highlight how much better the Arrowverse’s Crisis on Earth-X was.

And thus began the fan campaign to hashtag release the Snyder Cut, with fans believing that Zack Snyder had made a much superior version to what they called “Josstice League,” fed by Zack Snyder single-handedly keeping would-be-Twitter-replacement Vero in business by constantly sharing screenshots and behind-the-scenes photos, attempting to release his entire movie frame at a time.

Nearly three years later, in the midst of a global pandemic that had shut down the entire entertainment industry, Warner Bros was unable to release movies theatrically on the scale needed to turn profits, filming was being delayed everywhere, and they needed content for their fledgling streaming service HBO Max, so they said “Eh, screw it,” and gave Zack $70 million to finish his version of the movie to debut on streaming, something people had been expecting since HBO Max was announced. And now here it is, it’s out there, you can watch it, and I’m here to help you decide if you should.

A little over a month after that was a relevant question. Look I was busy with Art Vs Commerce at the time, Slumdog Millionaire and The Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy weren’t rewatching themselves.

Given that it’s four hours of movie, there’s a lot to cover, so I asked myself what one of my favourite video essayists, Jenny Nicholson, would do, and organized my thoughts into an internet-friendly numbered list.

(Patrick Willems would have made a framing sequence in the visual style of his subject but I’m not currently equipped for that.)

  1. Yes, it’s better, calm down
  2. The League: Better or worse?
  3. Style over substance
  4. The theatrical additions
  5. Worst arguments from Snyder fans
  6. Why I hate Knightmare
  7. The best version
  8. The ideal Justice League sequel plan

Next Page: Yes, it’s better, calm down

Ranking the Best Pictures, 2021 Style!

Okay. Wow. After six months… six months, what even is time… on a deep dive through Best Pictures Past, it’s time for a massive gear shift to look at Best Pictures Present, the nominees from 2020.

Which… okay.

Honestly I’m mad at the Oscars this year.

Seeing as the entertainment industry was shut down by COVID for most of the year, the Academy delayed the eligibility period, they were more open to streaming, they did whatever they could to ensure that the Oscars would not have to pick and choose from what few movies made it into theatres before the lockdown, or inadvisably during it, thanks for that Christopher Nolan, Tenet’s sound mixing was bad and you should feel bad.

Personally, I felt that after the trash fire of 2020, what we as a society (such as it is) deserved was the Trash Oscars. The Best Pictures selected only from what came out between January and early March, or snuck into theatres when America just… somehow got bored of fighting COVID. But no, what they felt we needed was a ceremony celebrating festival darlings, some streaming movies… eight mostly joyless films.

As someone on Twitter (don’t recall who) said, the only Awards Discourse worth having is when we decided suffering was more artistic than joy, because maybe this level of morosity isn’t what we needed right now. Maybe what we really needed was the unconditional love of Going My Way’s Father Chuck O’Malley.

Anyway I watched them all and now I’m gonna rank them and say which one I think least deserves to lose to Nomadland, unless that is my favourite, who knows, let’s find out!

And perhaps I’ll say what my Trash Oscar replacement movie would be. Won’t be easy, I only saw like two movies before theatres shut down… might need some legit good ones in there too. Also, since I just finished a rank order of every Best Picture in Oscar history (Art Vs Commerce, still available on finer internets everywhere), I’m sure you’re curious where these would be on the list if they won. Well, get curious, because you’re gonna find out where they fall between #1 and #94, they won’t be #94, I hit rock bottom in 1933 and there was nowhere to go but up for 87 years.

I’m sorry, Cavalcade, I know you didn’t ask to be dragged on the internet for six months, I mean how could you have known that was an option, but I seriously can’t remember a single moment when you didn’t bore me, unlike any of the following.

Next Page: The bottom half

Art Vs Commerce: Oscar Bait and Endgames (2010s)

[Clears throat, taps conductor’s podium]

One post more
Of my trek through Oscar history
Why I did this, still a mystery
We’re at the point of Oscar flicks
When studios all know the tricks
One post more

Bland films win to our dismay
Better nominees they’re ducking.
(One post more)
But then they’ll go the other way
Korean films, or monster fucking.

One more post of trying to find
(“Other Events” got really long)
Some logic to all of these Oscars
(Couldn’t stick to the deep cuts…)
Have I gone Beautiful Mind
(How I miss Yancey Cravat)
Or are the patterns truly there

One more post of duelling flicks
(And no more Joint Champions)
Only two more that I’m dreading
(Sometimes the hits got really bad)
Sadly lots of biopics
(And a little Michael Bay)
Come and finish this with meeeee

The past is done
Endgame is here

One post more

Decade’s full of superheroes,
A new Star War had begun,
But a bunch of rabid fanboys
Ruin both for everyone.

One post more

Disney runs amuck
Buys up all they can
Knows we’re all awestruck
For Marvel’s Iron Man
Princesses still sell
Pixar always scores
But why make a new thing when you can buy Star Wars

I once ranked all of these movies
(Even those that didn’t win)
So we’ll check in how they rate
(Hurt Locker was fiftieth)
Some of these are legit classics
(Can Casablanca be unthroned?)
Some are blatant Oscar bait
That’s right, King’s Speech
My fight’s with yoooooouuuuu

One post more

Four franchises hit their Endgame
We said goodbye to movie friends,
But nostalgia-based revivals
Prove that brand names never end.
(One post more)
Fans can be a gift,
Fanboys are a curse,
Now they won’t shut up
About the Snyderverse
(God curse all the toxic fanboys)
Next Oscars are not far away
Eight joyless films compete that day

So now we’ll all revisit
What 2010s films had in store

Ten more years
One more post


Next Page: The Baitiest Oscar Bait that ever Baited

Art Vs Commerce: Trilogies! Of Terror? (2000s)

Last time we talked about how Forrest Gump was a signal flare to the film industry that the Academy liked safe over challenging. Talk about racism, sure, but don’t make anyone uncomfortable, just have an old Jewish lady learn to be less racist because of her black driver, or have someone dismiss the KKK as “sometimes people do things that make no sense.” Don’t make Do The Right Thing, that’s too much. We are going to see more of that, and we’re going to see it quickly. In the 21st Century, Oscar Movie became a genre, Oscar Season its nesting ground, and the more studios tried to quantify what would get Oscars, the more bait-y Oscar movies got, the less they appealed to audience, the further Oscar ratings fell… and the Oscar Bump that boosted nominees’ gross began to vanish.

In other developments… People suddenly liked the ideas of Trilogies in the 2000s. Not just a franchise, but a Trilogy. If your movie made money, suddenly the creator “always meant for it to be a trilogy.” And several notable ones had the same pattern: make a relatively stand-alone movie with a neat premise (the stand-alone part is something studios forgot about in the past fiveish years); if it makes money, film a second that expands on the world you created, and a third that utterly disappoints wraps it all up, and for preference film those two back-to-back so we’re not wondering what happens to Han Solo for three years. Perhaps because the 80s and 90s brought us so many classic trilogies: Star Wars, Godfather, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones in a way. Jones was always more of series of standalones than a proper trilogy but we counted it. Meanwhile, franchises that tried to keep going indefinitely?

Well… to paraphrase a movie we’ll be talking about on page ten, you either die a trilogy, or live long enough to see yourself become Jaws: The Revenge.

And let’s be real… in two pages we’re going to be talking about another series that made the Trilogy look better. Gonna be spending about a third of this post on it, in fact. The One Trilogy to Rule Them All.

With that in mind… if the Best Pictures of the Aughts were the Fellowship of the Ring, which would each one be and why? Let’s find out!

Next page: Are you not entertained?

Art Vs Commerce: Rise of Oscar Season (90s)

So when last we left the dance between Oscar winners and the top earners, Commerce had blown up and left Art in the distance. The Oscars fell back into biopics, with four out of ten winners being biopics, also Amadeus which doesn’t count, and audiences started saying “Yeah, you do you, Oscars” and ignoring them.

Now this had two effects, from what I can tell. First off… art movies kind of… receded? For half the decade (off and on), the Oscars seem to be once again leaning towards crowd-pleasers over what was becoming their usual arthouse fare. Was this a conscious choice, or was it that the only people leaning into High Art were Merchant Ivory? (Merchant Ivory, purveyors of languid period romances, were in full swing this decade but never sealed the deal at the ceremony and were never big money films so we don’t discuss them much.) There definitely seem to be some years where, even at the time, I thought “Wow, not a big year for for art movies if these are the nominees.”

But then some studios had themselves an idea.

Sure their Oscar fare might not play well in the summer or against the big November/December tentpoles, nothing plays well in September, and if you release them too early in the year then people forget about them come nomination time… but here’s the thing. There’s a loophole. To be eligible for Oscar nominations, you only need to play a limited time in a limited amount of theatres by the year’s end. So you do a week in LA, maybe New York, open wide in January when nothing’s happening, get yourself a Best Picture nomination and scoop up an extra $10 million or so when the buzz hits.

And so begins Oscar Season. The time of year when studios who want some prestige, in addition to a multi-film action/comedy tentpole franchise starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson*, toss out some Great Man Biopics with flashy lead actor performances or classic literary adaptations or films that played well enough at festivals to warrant a “For Your Consideration” campaign.

(*I kid, I also some Dwayne Johnson.)

(Not that all studios are choosy about what movies got FYC campaigns, The Bone Collector got a FYC campaign, and you couldn’t tell me one detail about what that movie’s about if I paid you.)

(I will not pay you, I’m aware you’re on the internet right now.)

And where loopholes exist, monsters arise to take advantage. If prestige and money can go hand-in-hand again… well. The Golden Globes are easily swayed by shiny things and schmoozing with big casts (explain how The Tourist got a Best Musical/Comedy nomination otherwise, Hollywood Foreign Press, the few positive reviews were embarrassed about it), and enough money and pressure can get you on that Best Picture list at the Oscars.

A perfect situation for somebody trying to be an Old School Studio Head like Louis B. Mayer.

Exactly like Louis B. Mayer.

Right down to getting handsy or worse with your female talent.

Miramax Films was an incredibly influential studio through the 90s. Bought by Disney in 1993, they gave platforms to young, experimental, eventually heavily influential filmmakers: Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez, Stephen Chow, and one Quentin Tarantino. Miramax helped Peter Jackson get Lord of the Rings into production.

It was also run by an absolute monster named Harvey Weinstein, whose crimes were numerous and Hollywood’s worst kept secret, yet it took decades for him to be brought down, and now hopefully he’ll stay in prison and away from actresses until he’s too old to hurt anyone.

Sadly we will have to come back to Harvey sooner rather than later. But let’s see what we can get through before then.

Our new game? The 90s are where the Oscars fell back into some legendarily bad calls. So we’ll be asking what the real best picture was, or what should have taken the box office crown. (No decade owns bad choices by audiences, that is forever.)

(I’ll give the 90s this, at least the Domestic/International Box Office Champs sync up more than they don’t. I’m gonna miss that moving forward.)

Next Page: White saviours, alive and otherwise

Art Vs Commerce: Dawn of the Blockbuster (1970s)

Something about this decade makes me think maybe I’ll try something different for the intro this time. No reason. Just randomly felt I’d try something like…

Full screen this baby

Okay. Let’s get started.

(Yes there were typos, we all know there were typos now, I’m not fixing it.)

Next Page: Love and War