Reviews of “Best Picture”

2003- “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”

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Director: Peter Jackson

Release Date: December 17th, 2003

Starring: Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellan

I’ve seen this film at least 10, if not 15, times by now. Even just writing this makes me want to watch it. However, if I’m being honest I didn’t always have such strong feelings about this film or its franchise. Way back when it first came out, I was 12 years old and had no interest in spending time in Middle Earth for nearly 3 hours. I also had no interest in being emotionally scarred by the creature that is Gollum. That being said, not only did plenty of time have to pass in order to for me to finally watch it, but so did the irrational fear of uncertainty. I didn’t know what the stories were about and I was one of those people who didn’t really understand what all the fuss was about. My brother, who was 14 at the time, thoroughly enjoyed these films and constantly wanted me to watch them. But, alas, I was simply afraid. LoTR-Return of the King

Back then I wouldn’t go near anything that was even remotely frightening, for the simple fear that I would be afraid. But I’ve come to understand the fearing fear itself would get me nowhere in life. Sometimes you just have to face your fears head on and that’s just what I did. However, this wasn’t until 4 or 5 years later that I finally watched the trilogy. And the first thought I had was that I was missing out on something spectacular.

There is no world quite like Middle Earth and once I discovered this, I became obsessed. I’ve since done marathons of this trilogy multiple times. I always make sure to watch it whenever it’s airing on television and I’ve also become obsessed with the prequel trilogy The Hobbit, as well the novel. I’ve bought jewelry paying homage to these films. I’ve bought all the books and I also made sure to buy all the 2- disc special edition dvds. I love Middle Earth, I love Frodo Baggins, I love Aragorn, son of Arathorn.

This film in particular, is in fact my favorite of all 3 films. Although I’m always brought back to the spectacular battle of Helms Deep in Two Towers and start to question my loyalties. This film is a fantastical adventure and I am no longer the same person I was before these films came into my life.

As for this film being named “Best Picture”, I say bravo. All 3 are beautifully shot in the spectacular Kiwi landscape of New Zealand. It immerses you into a world that you never can quite fully shake afterwards. And there is no real need or desire to even do so. It leaves you with the feeling that there is a light at the end of even the most perilous journey. If Frodo Baggins, a mere hobbit of the Shire can accomplish such a feat, then anything can be achieved. But hopefully with a lot less death and destruction and you return with all of your limbs.

Verdict: 12/12



2013- “12 Years a Slave”

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Director: Steve McQueen

Release Date: November 8th, 2013

Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Lupita Nyong’o

I didn’t see the film when it first came out. I told myself that I would see, eventually. I told myself that it would always be there for me to watch when I finally worked up the courage to watch it. And watch it I did. I spent 134 minutes with a churned stomach, a tight throat, and tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t put into words what I was feeling. What I always feel when I think about slavery. About the fact that the ancestors on my fathers side were enslaved, while there is the unknown possibility that the ancestors on my mothers side did the enslaving. I still have no real words that would give reverence to this film or the reality of America’s greatest sin.

But Afroculinaria does. He said all the words that I couldn’t say and everything I hadn’t even had the ability to process. And on top of that, he brought back all of the emotions that I experienced when I watched this film.


12 Years A Slave: Why I’m Glad it Won Best Picture


   “Joyce is right about history being a nightmare –but it may be the nightmare from which no one can awaken.  People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.”  –James Baldwin, “Stranger in the Village.”

If you follow me through social media you know I’m used to visiting plantation landscapes and dressing in the type of clothing enslaved people would wear.  I’ve cooked the enslaved way in many states across the former Confederacy and Border states.  I’ve picked cotton and worked in tobacco fields. I’ve been in rice and sugarcane fields in the Lowcountry and Lower Mississippi Valley dodging teenaged gators and poisonous snakes.  Plantations blind with darkness don’t scare me and I almost take comfort from the spirits that have surrounded me.  I have been in their presence—for real—and the ancestors have been both welcoming…

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2005- “Crash”

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Director: Paul Haggis

Release Date: May 6th, 2005

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon

From IMDB: Los Angeles citizens with vastly separate lives collide in interweaving stories of race, loss and redemption.

When I first saw this film, it made me so incredibly uncomfortable that I never wanted to watch it again. However, at the time, I thought I simply had the wrong impression of the film. After all, it won Best Picture and so of course it was supposed to be this amazingly powerful production. But I still didn’t like it and I found myself not wanting to like. And it wasn’t until years later that I realized something Crash movie posterincredible.

I took a step back and really thought about why it made me uncomfortable and why I wasn’t able to appreciate the “genius” behind the film. This film shows blatant racism, a crooked justice system, gun violence and prejudice in almost every form. There were vivid scenes of sexism and sexual assault interlaced with racism and the horrible feeling of not having the power to stop it. It was scenes like those that haunted me and caused me to want to push it down and as far away in my subconscious as possible. However, the more I thought about it, the more my reaction to the film seem justified but my wanting to push it to the side did not.

Racism, violence, sexual abuse and prejudice should always make people feel uncomfortable. We should never be okay with those types of things happening to ourselves or to others. We should never find ourselves in a situation where we think that those things just happen and that they’re a part of life. We should never be in this mindset that “life just isn’t fair. So why should we do anything about it?” That being said, I realized that I can’t just ignore this film because of how much it twisted my insides. This film is important for that exact reason. It shows an ugly and heartbreaking depiction of the world and yet it is showing reality. A reality that we cannot choose to forget or pretend does not exist. The only way to overcome these harsh realities is to admit that they happen and then find a way to make a change. For you cannot change what you do not see.

Crash is powerful and heartbreaking and shows us that we should never be comfortable with racism, prejudice and violence.

Verdict: 12/12

1997- “Titanic”

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Director: James Cameron

Release Date: December 19th, 1997

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet

The first thought that comes to my mind during Award Season is “will this finally be Leo’s year?” and since this award season has a very strong likelihood that our Leo will finally get that golden trophy of a naked man to put on his mantle piece, a second thought always follows the first and that is “why was Leo snubbed for a best actor nomination for Titanic?”

17 years after the fact and I finally understand why. And although Leo probably drowned all over again in those icy pacific waters when he found out he wasn’t even nominated, may not actually be such an outrageous oversight (from one of the many award shows that values actors more than the actual stories being told) as I originally thought. However, all eleven of the Oscar’s that this film won, none of them were actually won by people in the film. I find this to be, in the grand scheme of things, absolutely fantastic. titanic

Titanic is, in fact, a film based off history. The story between Jack and Rose is just there to make us forget for a moment the tragedy that took place where hundreds upon hundreds of people lost their lives. Yes, Kate Winslet was young and beautiful and portrayed Rose, the rich girl who doesn’t want to live the life that has been shoved down her throat, in a way that makes us want to believe that not all rich people are snobs. And yes, Leo portrayed the poor boy who ran into bit of luck and found himself on a grand ship with the grandest people in the world, and he still kept his wits about him and didn’t pretend to be anyone but himself. Yes, those characters were a delight to watch and they make you root for them until that very last bone chilling scene with Rose lying on that door as Jack slowly dies in front of her. That was all beautiful and perfect but that’s not what got this film 11 Oscars, including Best Picture.

This film won all of those awards for the way this tragic piece of history was portrayed. That being said, we are reminded even more that this event took place and that we should never forget it. The film is about the people who were lost that day. It shows that even those who live the life of luxury cannot escape fate and they cannot escape the world. Bad things happen everyday and we must be reminded of that in order to appreciate the good things. We remember the intense love shared between Jack and Rose and at the exact same time we remember the fate of Titanic’s maiden voyage.

James Cameron made it so both of these major plot points intersect with each other but masterfully never overshadowed each other. With that being said, it doesn’t really matter that Leo wasn’t nominated for an Oscar for that role or that Kate didn’t win. They added to the beauty of the film, but they weren’t the only things that made it beautiful.

However, I’m a person who gives into these awards shows despite their many flaws and I will always root for Mr. DiCaprio. Like Jack Dawson, I know Leo is just bidding his time until that lucky draw comes along and that statue is his, and like Rose, I will never let go of the hope that Leo finally gets to get up on that stage and make a speech before the music so rudely interrupts him. Maybe they’ll even play “My Heart Will Go On” as a send off.

A girl can dream, can’t she?

Verdict: 12/12

1995- “Braveheart”

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Director: Mel Gibson

Release Date: May 24, 1995

Starring: Mel Gibson

They may take our lives, but they may never take our freedom!

In short, this film isn’t just about a free Scotland. It’s not about being free from oppressive English rule. It’s a story, to put it simply, about the one thing we all want, each and every day. It’s about having the ability to live and die as we choose and on our own terms. Mel Gibson’s William Wallace chooses to die on his feet instead of living on his knees.

I know you can [fight]. But it is our wits that make us men.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered less aversion to war films. I always used to think they were only about spilling bloBraveheartod and taking lives. But through the years I’ve come to realize that all war films about about something more than blood shed. They are not about brute strength and the ability to kill. They are about fighting for something bigger than ourselves. They about believing in something so strongly that you are willing to die defending that belief.

This films shows the audience the one thing that I had always known about this world and the one thing that I will always choose to believe in. It shows me how the world works. How the world has always worked. There will always be those who strive for power through the means of oppression and force. Those who believe that standing on top of others is the only way to show the world who is in charge. But there will always be those who strike back with the sheer force of will. Those who refuse to be ruled or controlled by anything other than their own heart and soul.

If we win, we will have something that no one has ever had before. A country of our own.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It’s one of the few Mel Gibson movies that I have seen in its entirety. But even with my lack of experience with his films, Gibson always makes an impression on me. I am impressed by his courage as a director and by his valor as an actor. This film is, in short, magnificent.

Verdict: 11/12

2011- “The Artist”

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Director: Michel Hazanavicius

Release Date: January 20, 2012

Starring: Jean Dujardin, Bérénice Bejo

As a child born of the 90’s, I’m not usually prone to watching a black and white film without a little push. However, The Artist, needs no pushing. I watched this film about a year after it came out and I immediately felt as though I had wasted all those months by not experiencing this beauty sooner.

For those of you who do not know what The Artist is about, it follows the story of a silent film star who meets a yThe-Artist-posteroung dancer, but soon “talking” pictures take their careers in opposite directions.

First off, this film took me by surprise. I didn’t know what I was expecting going in. All I knew was that I was going to be watching a silent film featuring the actor who won “Best Picture” for this role. That being said, there were a lot of expectations that I wanted this film to live up to. I figured it would be good but I didn’t think I would enjoy it as much as I did. The story was done beautifully and the plot twists were unexpected. Again, being a child of the 90’s I didn’t know much about the transition from silent film to talking pictures. I had honestly never really thought about the process or just how big of an impact this new take on film had. Seeing this on screen is what really struck me as interesting. It’s not just a silent film about the silent film era. It’s about change. It’s about what happens what the world continues to transform and move forward. There will always be those who are afraid of change, those who try and stop it. But change is inevitable and sometimes you just have to let it happen.

Another highlight of the film is, of course, the adorable dog that plays Dujardin’s best friend. I am always impressed by animals in movies. They have so much skill and are just too precious to pass up.

Verdict: 12/12

2006- “The Departed”

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Director: Martin Scorsese

Release Date: October 6, 2006

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson

Every time I watch a movie with Leo in it, I think “is this his time? Is this the role? Will he finally win that Oscar?” and then, of course, I’m sorely disappointed when he doesn’t. The Departed is another film in which I had these exact thoughts and was again disappointed.

But besides the Best Actor oversight, this movie is one of my favorites. I watched it for the first time a few years ago and immediately bought it afterwards (and have watched it multiple times since). Now, I’m in no way a fan of violence but there is a good amount of violence that I can manage to tolerate. (I mean I watch The Walking Dead for crying out loud). But yes, this movie is pretty violent and Jack Nicholson is once again the creepiest person on earth. The Departed

Gist of The Departed: “An undercover state cop who has infiltrated an Irish gang and a mole in the police force working for the same mob race to track down and identify each other before being exposed to the enemy, after both sides realize their outfit has a rat”

So as you can probably guess, any mob movie and any movie with Jack Nicholson is bound to go sideways. And go sideways it does. This movie is flooded with blood, betrayal and lies. The characters are constantly in flux and struggle to come to terms with who they can really trust. It’s so much more than a blood bath. It’s a masterpiece of well-crafted acting and is bursting with energy from beginning to end. I simply love this movie and the brilliant actors and plot twists will have you cringing by the end credits.

Verdict: 11/12