Did they deserve it? A brief history of the best picture winners

By Humza Haroon

On Monday morning, the Academy Award ceremony took place in Hollywood. Unsurprisingly, there seemed to be something different this year, other than the fact that there was no host for the ceremony.

Historically, the Oscars have been subject to a few controversies, societal issues and political pressures. If one looks at the past decade of Oscar winners, one does get the feeling that some who deserved to win were left out, while those won, shouldn’t have. Some movies are chosen by the Academy on the pretense of being historically significant and not in the light of the movie itself. One of the biggest examples came in 2013 when instead of previous Oscar winning director or actor/actress coming on the stage to present the award, the presentation was done by, then, First Lady Michelle Obama. If anything at all, many in the room gauged the situation and came to the conclusion that Argo would probably end up winning the best picture Oscar, which it did!

The reason behind this, could be that, the movie (Argo) highlighted the role of the US in the rescue of six American citizens during the hostage crisis of 1979 in Tehran, Iran. The movie itself was embroiled in a lot of controversy as many criticized the omission of the British and Australian involvement in the matter. One could say that it was historically flawed.

At the 2014 Academy Awards, the best picture was given to 12 years a slave, which highlighted the struggle of one man under slavery. The movie did indeed point out some outstanding issues and was seen as an amazing leap forward in pushing the narrative of the atrocities on African Americans. The film was very important and served as a tool for empowering African Americans across the country. However, in terms of a ‘‘movie’’, American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street, in my opinion, were better in many ways. But, 12 years a slave, won the best movie category because of its relevance and historical significance.

But let’s get back to the point at hand. This year’s Oscars ceremony felt different. Why? Well, under most categories it seemed as though the movies that won, deserved it. The Oscars that each movie got seem to be justifiable. Many speculated that BlacKkKlansman, would probably win the Oscar for both director and best movie as it played on racial empathies and racial struggles, which as mentioned before were the reasons for specific movies winning Oscars. At the same time one could also say that the subject behind pushing movies like these is so that they appeal to the emotions of the audience, not in a dramatic-movie perspective but in an emotional and historical perspective.

Ironically, something that felt the same was something, also, completely unexpected. No one was expecting Green Book to win the best picture award, with people looking at Vice and Roma as the biggest contenders of the night. Green Book is a story based on an Italian-American bouncer who has to transport an African-American musician across the south to places where African-Americans are welcome to perform. Once again, a movie consisting of tensions between the whites and blacks has overlapped the rational judgement of giving, perhaps, movies like Roma, which truly were absolutely amazing,the privilege to win the Oscar.

Could this be the result of the Academy always choosing to give Oscars to movies that highlight racial tensions or push a minority agenda, or is it because the Academy see’s something, which the rest of us fail to? We may never know this for sure.

This judgement could be a little juvenile but it seems as though the movies that really deserve the award, don’t get it, and there is a sense of prejudice or “context” around the winners. Usually the movies that win best director, end up winning the best picture category as well, and while, Alfonso Cuaron won for best director, he failed to receive the best movie award.

The Oscars are far from perfect, in the past it seemed as though merit and impact of the film itself, not its emotional or historical backstory, were reason enough for being recognized as the better amongst the list of nominated movies, but now, there are a lot of other things that change the perspective or influence the rhetoric of the “best movie”. 

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