Over the years, you have probably noticed a cynicism from me about the film industry. It is the only media art form which I am defensive about. Even though the industry is not producing movies as well received as the eras of the late 60s/late 70s or mid 90s/mid 2000s, I was always hoping for a creative rebound. Well if 2022 is any indication, films are going to continue their decline for the foreseeable future. For this analysis, I will discuss three factors that have led to this decline. After that short summary, I will go over each movie one at a time. For me, many of these films are not necessarily bad. They are even solid and enjoyable. But when you talk about a Best Picture movie, these films except for one honest exception based on my personal standards of quality do not meet this description.
Not wanting to dive into the complexities of the problems surrounding the industry, there are three significant factors that have noticeably changed which have impacted the industry for the negative.
NUMBER 1: END THE POLITICAL INDOCTRINATION AND “WOKENESS’ IDEOLOGY
Remember when Hollywood made films that left you reeling with their powerful messages whether it involved identity, politics, or systemic discrimination? The dark message and themes of APOCALYPSE NOW. The incredible upbringing of Loretta Lynn in the COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER. Or the futuristic prediction and omnipotence of a movie like NETWORK which seems to have successfully predicted the current state of our news media 40 years early. Yeah, I do. Hollywood still tries to make political movies, but they never create the emotional attachment that many of these 20th Century films did. Inspirational movies all seem to be made with the same formula. Good luck looking for a film that challenges American foreign policy or shows government corruption. Those days are over. Now, any movie involving a controversial topic feels like it was made with a filter. A popular film can bring about political change. They can make you aware of the terror at your doorstep. Yet, Hollywood has lost the ability to bring about this inspiration. The reason it happened in the first place is because studios trusted creators and producers with their passions which helped lead to these unforgettable films. Oliver Stone is probably Example A for this type of filmmaking. Would PLATOON be a classic film without his own personal experience inside Vietnam? In addition, the Oscar quota system is also a factor in this decline. Instead of focusing on the quality of the work, too much effort is being put into creating a socially acceptable system. When the system is the priority over the creative work, the quality of the art is going to decline.
NUMBER 2: MOVIES ARE TOO LONG
According to Statista, films have increased in length pretty significantly. In 1990, the top 10 highest grossing films averaged 1 hour and 51 minutes. In 2021, this average increased to 2 hours and 10 minutes. Can you realistically admit this extra 19 minutes has been beneficial for the industry? Many of these movies feel bloated and over long with scenes included that should have been edited out. Despite this extra time, the movie’s plots seem even more scattered and less focused than the tightly edited era that preceded it. So films are almost 20 minutes longer with stories that feel more chaotic and lack direction. The 2022 Best Picture films definitely are Example A of this particular problem.
NUMBER 3: BREAK UP THE MONOPOLIES
Other than A24, how many independent film studios have made incredible films over the last decade? Most of these studios are usually wholly owned subsidiaries of the large studios. When the studios started snatching these independent studios up in the late 20th/early 21st Century, they were at the apex of their creative output. Now, these studios just feel like another arm of the mass media. This is why we have not had the revolution of a new generation of filmmaking voices (Millennial and Gen Z except for a handful of exceptions) because there is no system in place to bring this talent out of the darkness. Many of these unknown talents end up making solid short films on YouTube or release them online on a personal website. This is going to lead to stagnation as the same well-known individuals make the same type of movies. This stagnation is a primary reasons why 2022 is going to be one of the worst years for Hollywood from a financial perspective.
NOW FOR THE FILMS!
Here are the Best Picture nominees. Before beginning, I want to discuss two specific films. I have not seen Spielberg’s latest spectacle THE FABLEMANS or Sarah Polley’s WOMEN TALKING. Out of fairness for these films, I have excluded them from this analysis. There is a part of me that thinks THE FABLEMANS will be my favorite of these ten films. When I watch both these movies, this post will be updated.
TRIANGLE OF SADNESS
I am still in a state of shock about how this film got nominated. It is a mediocre film at best. The film analyzes power dynamics and how people often slip into their identities when put into a position of survival. In this film’s case, the power dynamics flip in the 3rd act. Whatever this film’s message was trying to convey, the film is sloppy. It feels like it was written in segments that the screenwriter returned to every other year. Of these ten films, this is the one I would recommend skipping.
AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER
Many film lovers have always felt rightfully upset that incredible big budget action films (Like the DARK KNIGHT) did not get Academy Awards nominations for Best Picture. Now that more films get
nominated, this problem has not recurred as much. But giving a nomination to the AVATAR sequel seems like a stretch. Is it a good and enjoyable movie? Yes, even if it is too long. Does it feel very similar to the first film? Absolutely. It is made with the incredible level of detail that James Cameron is known for. So why did it leave me feeling empty? Why did the story feel like a retread? It left me with more questions than answers. This is not a great film other than from a technological perspective.
I really did not like this film. I think Austin Butler nailed his performance as Elvis Presley. I also think Tom Hanks was awful as Colonel Tom Parker. The movie was 30 minutes too long and often skipped very significant moments of Elvis’s career despite its length. I wanted to like this movie. I have always like Baz Luhrmann. But this film had no soul. It felt empty and not the dedication to this once in a lifetime talent that it should have been.
I do like this movie. Cate Blanchett (Unless Michelle Yeoh pulls the upset) has given the best performance of the year. This film is a hardcore character study of passion, talent and intellect about a composer and her life that begins to unravel for unknown reasons. The movie makes some great points about our present-day culture. It has some wonderful Easter Eggs in scene which make the film better. Despite this, it mostly bored the hell out of me. I found myself wandering off on multiple occasions and forcing myself into a rewind to watch parts I missed. I even watched the film again to see if my mindset was not in the right place during my initial viewing. It happened again on my second watch. I can only recommend this to see the greatest actress of our era perform at the top of her game. But as a whole, the film is boring through large sections and somewhat disappointing.
THE BANSHEES OF INISHERIN
This movie is very Irish. I found it enjoyable. I watched it with a smile on my face from beginning to end. But the film left me wanting much more. Who is this film for? Why would the character resort to such desperate tactics to remove an individual from his life? The film was very cruel and “Irish”. Also, this film is absolutely not for everyone. In fact, I think only a small majority of people will ever enjoy it.
EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE
It is hard to root against this movie. It is such a good time. Michelle Yeoh has been one of my favorite actresses for decades. This film is the comeback for the actor that played Short Round in INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM. The movie is a story about the dynamics surrounding an Asian family. My problem with this movie was on the creative side. I enjoyed the idea behind the movie. Or what needed to be accomplished to jump through the multiverse. The movie failed for me during its late second half and conclusion. The jokes got repetitive, and the film jumped the shark. It just became too ridiculous despite the powerful message at its core. This falls into my most overrated film of the year.
TOP GUN: MAVERICK
This is my favorite film of the year without question. Is it flawed? Hell yes. What country could make “fifth generation” fighters that are better than the United States without our country likely providing them? Thinking about the story for two seconds will take you out of the experience. But unlike the above movies where the story was the key to the experience, this film does not suffer this burden. TOP GUN: MAVERICK is an experience. It is also a highly enjoyable one. The film knows what lane it picked and it settled inside perfectly. Never try to be more than what you are. This film takes that premise and runs with it.
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT
Finally a German adaptation to one of the best anti-war novels of all-time. An adaptation of this book has already won Best Picture all the way back in 1930. A highly regarded TV film was also made in the late 70s that was also very good. This film is my second favorite of the year. It is more dedicated to the book than any of the previous versions. My biggest issue is that like 99% of the people who have seen it, the movie is exclusive to Netflix. This movie would have been much better if it was able to be experienced on the big screen. Despite this, it is almost a perfect film.
So there you go. Ten films nominated, only two worthy of that nomination (With my notable exceptions included above). There have been years where I often dislike or am unimpressed with a chunk of the Best Picture nominees. But never at a percentage like this year. If 2022 is the image of what Hollywood has in store for us (And keep in mind that TOP GUN: MAVERICK was made last decade when our culture was a little different), than the future is indeed bleak.
EXPERT OF SOME