As the Academy Awards approach, I have committed, alongside my friend Sam, to watching every film, documentary and short nominated for an Academy Award.
Here are the highlights from the nominated films and shorts I have watched so far. This is an open invitation for you to watch them and disagree with me.
Don’t Skip Out On (Full Length Films):
“Lady Bird”: As Saoirse Ronan, the actress who plays Lady Bird, said in an interview, “I didn’t realize…how starved we are for female coming-of-age stories that don’t revolve around a girl being validated by romance.”
“Lady Bird” raises the standard for movies depicting complex, nuanced and sometimes unlikable female characters in a narrative that celebrates growing and changing. Lady Bird is a simple and rambling movie, but it is about a girl growing into herself, and it asks the audience to consider that girl with a judicious and loving eye. That is enough to make it important.
“The Florida Project”: A small indie project that follows a young girl, about six years old, living in a motel with her mother. With gorgeous cinematography and heartwarming depth, “The Florida Project” tells the story of a small family unit struggling to get by and to stay together.
As truthful and careful as it is stunning and sweeping, this movie will make sure you are invested in a young girl maintaining her innocence and wonder in a world that could so thoughtlessly rob her of them.
“Mudbound”: A film about the generations of Americans after slavery was outlawed and how the system of owning and farming land was still unfair and dangerous for African American tenant farmers and sharecroppers.
This film follows two families, one African American family and the white family they work for, showing the intricate web tying these two families together, much of which was predicated on prejudice, unjust laws and imbalances of social power. But the film makes these overarching social issues of the time relevant and very human in the characters it presents to audience.
“Marshall”: A contained look at the career of Thurgood Marshall, an influential NAACP defense lawyer and, later, Justice of the Supreme Court.
This film focuses on one case that Marshall took on when he was a young man working for the NAACP, defending African Americans wrongly convicted based on their skin color and other prejudices.
The acting in this film is superb, starring Chadwick Boseman, Sterling K. Brown and Josh Gad; their embodiment of these historical characters gives life to the story they are telling.
Don’t Skip Out On (Shorts):
“Garden Party”: A detailed animation style depicting some frogs wandering around a garden, while slowly, through background detail, a second story of intrigue and mystery unfolds.
“Negative Space”: A poem by Ron Koertge narrated over a charming animation depicting the relationship between a father and son as they bond over packing for travel.
I encourage you to check out some of the films and shorts listed above, and to join the conversation surrounding the Academy Awards, which are often conversations one might feel one has no right to.
You, fellow people, are the arbiters of culture, and to consume media is to make decisions regarding what media gets made next. Let’s aim for conscious consumption and careful criticism together (let’s remember that Boss Baby is an Oscar nominated film).
Abby is a senior English major from Greenwood, Indiana.