This is How I Win, 1917 Best Picture Bid

1917 Best Picture
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 15: Sam Mendes attends a special screening of '1917', hosted by Sarah Jessica Parker and presented by Universal Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures on December 15, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Universal Pictures)

Howard Ratner utters this memorable phrase in the late stages of Uncut Gems in a scene where he is explaining his game to costar Kevin Garnett.

“This is how I win KG”

Adam Sandler delivers this line in the middle of a dialogue about his world of gems and betting. His path to winning is different than a pro basketball player like KG. Ridiculous parlays, using credit to pay debts and selling items that aren’t necessarily his all contribute to his game.

Each year, a handful of films and actors are celebrated for their contributions and performances to and in the “best” films of the year. The crowning award of the year is the Academy Awards which hand out Oscars to actors, filmmakers, and various crew members of those productions. Now, these awards aren’t merit-based or necessarily the most accurate representation of what the best films were in a year, but generally, the best are in attendance and rewarded. This year is the 92nd Academy Awards and is full of debate and discourse encircling the Best Picture race. Nine films are nominated, 1917, Little Women, Joker, Jojo Rabbit, Ford v Ferrari, Once Upon A Time in Hollywood, Marriage Story, The Irishman, and Parasite. The race has a few frontrunners but truly is up for grabs.

1917 at the Academy Awards

This year’s award show may end up rewarding 1917 as Best Picture. The war-drama from director Sam Mendes has wowed audiences with its impressive cinematography and technical craft. Touted as “one continuous shot”, 1917 follows the journey of two soldiers during one of the last battles in World War I where a message needs to be delivered to halt an attack and warn of a potential ambush. The story takes twists and turns that let lead actors George MacKay and Dean Charles Chapman explore the horrors of war even when the large scale fighting isn’t happening.

Frequently, prior award shows will give clues as to how the Oscars will play out and what films will be rewarded. Anything can happen and most of these voting bodies have small overlaps with the Academy. However, 1917 has picked up quite a few top awards for Best Picture and a few wins for Mendes as Best Director. This makes a solid case that voters enjoy the movie by itself and also respect Mendes and Cinematographer Roger Deakins’s work capturing the scenes. The buzz around this film is positive and creating momentum heading into the voting period on January 30th.

History On Its Side

Historically speaking, this film has a major shot to take some major awards home at the Oscars. Collectively, the top awards are commonly reflected among the Golden Globes, Director’s Guild of America (DGA), and the Producer’s Guild of America (PGA) which 1917 has taken home the top award at each of these award shows. The PGA has chosen seven of the past nine Oscar winners as its Best Picture and the DGA has selected eight of the last nine winners as their Best Director. Mendes and 1917 won at both award shows and also both won at the Golden Globes. The Globes is less reflective of the voting body but it’s still an international event that could sway some voters. Both Mendes and his film are up against stiff competition but none of those films have made a large impact at these recent award shows.

Is 1917 the Best Picture?

The short answer here is no. This isn’t to demean or diminish the film’s technical achievements by any means, but subjectively, it just doesn’t grip audiences the same way the other nominees are. Nothing is wrong or bad about 1917, but outside of those technical aspects, nothing is outstanding either. It’s a great selection for Best Picture because it won’t anger anyone in this year of heated discourse, and it also is good enough to be reasonable. Unlike last year’s winner Green Book1917 is a more responsible film that deals with human emotion more effectively. Additionally, war movies receive award consideration since they are usually done by competent directors and utilize a deeper ensemble of actors. 1917‘s strongest performances may be from it’s smaller character roles done by the likes of Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Richard Madden.

An opinion shared by critics doesn’t make the Academy reflect their decision either, so the discussion isn’t always about the “Best” film, but what the voters think that means. 1917 is a safe and somewhat predictable selection for the award since the backlash against popular films this year has been an issue. Apart from all the previous awards it has already won, it would be the most plausible solution to the ongoing problems the Academy faces. Notably its lack of representation in the Directing and acting categories for women and people of color. Not that this is a new issue, but anything to not shine a spotlight on the shortcomings is what the board would like. Voting in a war drama centered around World War I is the choice that would bring that result.

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