Each week this column will highlight one winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture, progressing chronologically until all winners have been discussed. There will be a brief discussion of the film itself followed by a mention of what we wish won from the nominees in the given year (though in many cases there were films that were superior in terms of quality and/or impact that were not nominated). This week’s entry is Nomadland (2020).
At long last, we’ve reached the end of this two year long journey (until another film wins and I write the next entry) and what a disappointing end it is. In a film year like no other, uprooted entirely by the pandemic and causing many contenders to be pushed off to another year or to find their homes on streaming services that never gave them the chance a festival then theatrical release would’ve, it’s really no wonder some of the weakest rose to the top. As if the year wasn’t miserable enough, we got to experience this look at the misery that already existed in America, combining narrative and documentary to show the lives of American workers who chose to uproot their lives and live out of their vans in constant search of temporary work. Though the lives shown are interesting and so is the premise of blending fact and fiction, as McDormand would sit and cry alongside people who actually suffered, it felt like a slap in the face of the real people. What Borat used for comedic effect was put to use here in an attempt at sincerity that at best felt manipulative and at worst, downright offensive.
The Real Best Picture:
Despite Nomadland being one of my least favorite winners, there’s maybe no year since the 1930s where I cared less about the whole lineup with everything falling on that line of sorta bad to maybe fairly good. The Father and Sound of Metal occupy the better part of that for me and I would’ve been glad to see either win but seeing Sound of Metal when it was at TIFF and then watching everyone start to latch onto it more than a year later felt special and I would’ve liked to see it rewarded more.