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Hindsight is 2020: In Defense of the Best Picture Nominations…

It’s a strange position to be in, to mount a radical argument that the Best Picture race is actually fairly solid this year.

To be fair, there are legitimate grievances to be had. The Academy went with old favourites in several of the acting categories, overlooking amazing work. The Best Actress category would be stronger if the voters opted for Lupita Nyong’o for Us over than Charlize Theron for Bombshell. The Best Supporting Actress race would have been more interesting had Kathy Bates for Richard Jewell been replaced by Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers. The all-male Best Director category is also frustrating, considering the fine work done by directors like Olivia Wilde, Lulu Wang, Céline Sciamma, Lorene Scafaria, and more over the past year.

However, there is also something inevitable about the tone of the debate over the Best Picture race. The Academy Awards is never going to actually please everybody. There are several hundred films released every year that meet the criteria for eligibility. Taste is inherently subjective. Everybody likes different things. More than that, the Academy is a large body comprised of a variety of different voices, especially after recent diversity pushes to modernise the membership. Even if there was a list of (up to) ten films that would satisfy everybody, the Academy would never be the body to produce it. And that is okay.

Instead, the Best Picture nominees this year offer a snapshot of cinema as it was in 2019. They offer a glimpse of the breadth and the depth of mainstream movie-watching, a list of nine very distinct films that offer nine very distinct perspectives on where the medium is and where it might be going. The beauty of the Best Picture nominees this year is that there’s something for everyone, but nobody gets everything. This seems fair, even if the impulse is to want an entire slate that reflects personal taste.

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157. Ford v. Ferrari (Le Mans ’66) – This Just In (#156)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, The 250 is a (mostly) weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released every Saturday at 6pm GMT.

This time, James Mangold’s Ford v. Ferrari.

In response to the worst sales slump in American history, the Ford Motor Company embraces a radical idea: it will build a car to beat Ferrari at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. However, in order to do that, it needs to recruit and work with two radicals who have their own unique approach to engineering and racing, Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles. These two mavericks soon discover that their allies in Ford might be as dangerous as their enemies at Ferrari.

At time of recording, it was ranked 156th on the Internet Movie Database’s list of the best movies of all-time.

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Non-Review Review: Ford v. Ferrari (Le Mans ’66)

Ford v. Ferrari very much the Ford model of mid-budget adult-skewing awards fare.

It’s sturdy and reliable. It handles well. It also doesn’t have too many surprises under the hood. Ford v. Ferrari knows exactly what the audience wants from a film like this, and it often delivers right down to the shot. The camera is exactly where it needs to be, when it needs to be there – whether capturing the concerned expressions on a family nervously leaning in close to a radio or flying by the team manager as he watches his car cross the finish line on one of the last laps.

Food for thought.

It is easy to be cynical about all of this. Were somebody to approach Ford v. Ferrari cynically, they could argue that it is the product of a factory floor that is just as much a conveyor belt as those operated by Ford. However, there is a reason that this model of awards fare became an industry standard. Ford v. Ferrari constantly reminds its audience of the appeal underpinning this factory-built American craftsmanship. This sort of film was a staple of awards seasons for decades, and Ford v. Ferrari demonstrates just why that was.

Ford v. Ferrari is good, old-fashioned, crowd-pleasing awards fare.

Miles to go.

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