An Average Review of the Oscars


So CODA won Best Picture. Upon hearing my opinion on this film, my little brother—not having seen it—asked me, “Can you use the word ‘mid’ in your article?” I think “mid” is a good descriptor of CODA.


During the awards ceremony, the academy paid tribute to the 50th anniversary of The Godfather. It’s been fifty years since The Godfather was released, and for fifty years, we’ve been talking about it. When I look at CODA, I don’t see myself still thinking about it for the next fifty years. In fact, I don’t see myself thinking about any of the nominees for the next fifty years.


CODA is a forgettable film whose presentation and emotional depth are equivalent to a Disney Channel movie. The very ideas, characters, and presentation is so unimpressive and generic that I’ve forgotten every bit of it. There’s nothing in this film that is identifiably CODA. If I described this movie to you, you might confuse it with similar films. 


Take Coco. Coco is about a kid with a passion for music in a family that treats it as evil, and only through a touching performance of his sheer talent is his family willing to drop their bias and let him pursue a musical dream. That is basically CODA. Sure, the journey from point A to B is different, but the basic ideas are the same. Coco isn’t perfect, but at least it tries new things. Its vibrant depiction of the Land of the Dead is interesting enough to make you want to know more, so you keep watching. That’s the underlying problem with CODA. It doesn’t do anything new, yet somehow, it won Best-Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.


To me, the fact that CODA won shows that the new status quo is centered around inoffensive schlock. There’s a place in this world for predictable and wholesome films, but it shouldn’t be at the Oscars—a place where we supposedly celebrate the artistic achievements of cinema, and I’m not convinced I would consider CODA an achievement.


I’m sure you’ve heard the breaking news, but if you haven’t, Will Smith vengefully slapped Chris Rock in the face before accepting his Leading-Actor Award and proclaiming that he “…want(s) to be a vessel for love.”


Will’s award-winning portrayal of King Richard was rather unimpressive. Will is a personality actor, and that’s fine. Some of the greatest of all time were personality actors. What made Al Pacino so successful was that he picked roles fit for him. King Richard is not the kind of character that Will Smith is appropriate for. Will works better when his personality is allowed to take over a character. He can’t do that to King Richard because Richard, at least the Richard in the script, is just as eccentric as Will, so there’s no way for that character to just disappear for Will Smith to replace.


My pick for Best Actor in a Leading Role is split between Bradley Cooper in Nightmare Alley and Andrew Garfield in tick, tick… BOOM! I’m leaning towards Cooper because Nightmare Alley is better than tick, tick… BOOM! in terms of the craftsmanship behind the camera.


Jane Campion took Best Directing for Power of the Dog, but I was wrong about her film sweeping the awards. Her style is nonexistent, and many of the creative choices she made were questionable. Compared to the other nominees, she is the worst. Any fool can point a camera at a landscape, and any fool can cut that in and pretend it’s artsy. I would’ve awarded Paul Thomas Anderson Best Director for Licorice Pizza. His direction is full of personality, and the way he builds the world makes it feel so alive. However, I’m not part of the Hollywood elite, so Power of the Dog wins.


Dune took six awards, far more than any other film. It took Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, Best Production Design, Best Original Score, Best Film Editing, and Best Cinematography. The film has a severe lack of a story, dynamic characters, and intrigue—for a book so dense, I question why they decided to waste the first hour and a half on nothing at all. However, it did look nice, so I’d say that a few of those awards were well deserved.


The award for the Best Original Song went to Billie Eilish and FINNEAS for the theme of No Time to Die. While I admit that Billie is a good singer, I’d like to draw attention to the real voice behind Billie Eilish. If one were to look at the credits of “No Time to Die”—or any other Billie Eilish song, for that matter—you’d question her contribution to any of her music. She is credited as a writer and lead vocalist. FINNEAS, on the other hand, is credited as a writer, producer, bassist, synthesizer, pianist, percussionist, and vocal arranger. 


I suspect that some marketer recognized that Billie Eilish would sell better than FINNEAS, so that’s why her name gets plastered over his albums. That marketer was right. A then fifteen-year-old girl releasing ear-worm pop is a great story to sell.


Not to be entirely pessimistic about 2021, there were in fact some enjoyable films. The aforementioned tick, tick… BOOM! surprised me by somehow being a decent musical. Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch is a beautiful demonstration of aggressive stylization done right. Nobody and The Suicide Squad are a good kind of dumb fun—I prefer Nobody, but the other is decent. Pig proves that Nicholas Cage can genuinely act. He just chooses not to sometimes. Of the films I saw over the last year, these were my favorites.


In conclusion, the 94th Annual Oscars was mid.