Expanding on last year’s video essay series on the Academy Awards, this collection of video essays closely examines the films and performances in eight major categories in order to make as solid an argument possible for who really deserves to win.
Here you will not find predictions on who will win. You will not find any attempts to read the minds of the Academy voters based on historical results or the latest industry gossip. There are already plenty of websites and news sources devoted to that kind of chatter. Instead, this series brings the focus back to an essential but too often overlooked question: how do we decide what is truly the best?
It seems that most Oscar coverage bypasses this question. It’s safer and more acceptable to offer guidance on who the likely winners will be, based on statistics (e.g., such-and-such preliminary award predicts the Academy Award winner 51% of the time) and “facts” (e.g., such-and-such actress charmed the pants off David Letterman the other night, so she now has the momentum). Given that a large percentage of people click on Oscar coverage to figure out what they should put on their Oscar party or office pool ballot, it’s no surprise that many websites occupy themselves with offering opinions on who will win. But by doing so we risk losing focus on the very thing that should be given the most attention: what’s actually on screen, and how we judge it on its own merits. Our subjective experience of movies and art isn’t something to shy away from, but something we should try to understand more deeply.
These videos will try to give as honest and specific account of one person’s subjective judgement of each film and performance, in order to raise larger issues of how each of us watches movies, and how we define “quality.” This is especially important when judging those we deem the “best” performances. As these videos will show, a number of factors influence our response to a performance, from an actor’s natural likability or screen presence to the extraordinary requirements of a role. Sometimes we may actually be responding more to what is happening to the character (e.g. dying, being tortured) than to what the actor is creatively bringing to the part. This, I argue, is more like “modeling” than acting.
Instead, I look for things that an actor is doing that add more layers of depth to our understanding of a character, so that acting becomes a more creative act of interpretation. That is my own criteria for assessment; but we each have a different set of factors for admiring what we watch. Having a conversation about how each of us decides in our own minds what is “best” is something I find more fulfilling than guessing what a group of Hollywood insiders will decide. With that, here are several video attempts to determine what really is the “best” and why. Here’s hoping that they spark a rich conversation. Let the debate begin.
Who Deserves to Win Best Picture? (read more)
Best Director Showdown (read more)
Who Deserves to Win Best Lead Actor? (read more)
Who Deserves to Win Best Lead Actress? (read more)
Who Deserves to Win Best Supporting Actor? (read more)
Who Deserves to Win Best Cinematography? (read more)
Who Deserves to Win Best Supporting Actress? (read more)
Who Deserves to Win Best Foreign Language Film? (read more)
Kevin B. Lee is a filmmaker, critic, video essayist and founding editor of Keyframe. He tweets as @alsolikelife.