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In Praise of Oscar Films
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It is that time of the year again. Every year, around this time, Hollywood, putting aside summer films, embarks on a more balanced path between blockbusters and adult-oriented dramas that are often films of quality and are usually bestowed many awards nominations. These dramas are usually the best films of the year, and often are some of the most telling and humane films out there. Sadly, not many of these films get a chance to succeed at the box office, and in Hollywood's money driven culture, are oftentimes brushed aside as flops. A few films are able to make a box-office dent, like Hidden Figures and La La Land in 2016, but not many have that chance. Instead, the box-office is often ruled by whiz-bang special effects extravaganzas, long on visual pizzazz, short on substance. For every blockbuster well liked by critics and audiences like Wonder Woman, Logan or Mad Max: Fury Road, there are usually more (like Suicide Squad or Batman Vs. Superman) that regard their audiences with contempt. Most of the true gems come from independent studios that are still devoted to the cinematic experience. They have not forgotten what quality is, and they continue to grace us with constant surprises.
What is irritating is that many award-winning films are often described as boring by audiences looking for the next adrenaline filled caper. Ironically, films that are part of the Oscar season are often the bravest films released in a given year. By brave, I do not necessarily mean the type determined to break taboos and rattle people like mother! in September, but rather in a much more subtle way. Hollywood loves big booming films, even in spite of a terrible summer at the box office, and tend to focus almost all their attentions on them. But the Oscar-quality films have the courage to be thoughtful and quiet, and try to connect to ordinary life and illuminate the importance of human relationships. They go against the current for every second of their running time, refusing to bow down to the box office dollar or to cutting narrative corners. We all need more of these films.  In fact, they can help us to be a better society.
Too often, violence and edge is used as a yardstick of quality, leading to rather dyspeptic films getting more praise than they deserve, like the mirthless endurance test known as The Revenant. But the humane films make a longer and more touching connection. 20th Century Women was a true joy of a film last year, funny, honest, smart, and touching with characters who were realistically flawed and entirely lovable. It is the type of film that Hollywood used to make a lot of, the crowdpleaser that was also good for your soul and for harvesting more empathy and hope.  On the opposite side of the emotion spectrum, Manchester by the Sea was a heartbreaking portrait of grief and regret, and due to the film's down-to-earth relatable qualities, made it hit home in full force. These are truly films that stay with you, rather than giving you a quick and expendable sugar rush.
The ultimate truth is that the best thing for a movie fan to do in these last few months of the year is to seek these glorious films and savor them, giving them the respect they deserve. Every ticket sold is a sign for Hollywood that there is still an audience for them. And boy, do we need these films now.