As I was scrubbing the deep reaches of the internet for Oscar predictions this week, it dawned on me that I am a colossal snob. Here’s how it went down: I was angrily dismissing the predictions of several critics who tipped Damien Chazelle’s upcoming musical spectacle “La La Land” (2016) as the top contender to win this year’s Oscar for Best Picture. Generally, I’m not big on whimsy (I only like SOME of Wes Anderson’s movies), and movie musicals tend to crank the whimsical factor. After the third article that picked “La La Land” as the Oscar favorite, I sighed and thought, “Why can’t they give it to a movie that’s more JADED?”
It was then that I realized that I had just spoken the second-snobbiest sentence of my life. The first? “I would only like that pattern if it were on wall tiles in the courtyard of a Moroccan villa,” a phrase uttered by my actual mouth two years ago during “House Hunters International” (2006-present). Paradoxically, my snobbishness toward movies is mostly manifested in an antipathy toward films that, in my own assessment, are “trying too hard” to be good. For example, I still become enraged every time I remember that “The Artist” (2011) won five Oscars. I mean, a SILENT FILM?! In the 21st century? If you would like to hear a 45-minute rant about why “The Artist” didn’t deserve the Oscar, please call, email or accost me on the street.
I think the reason I hate cutesy, avant-garde movies is because I firmly believe that cinema, and life, in the end, is about stories. I don’t go to the movies to “ooh” and “ahh” over the fact that “Boyhood” (2014) was filmed with the same cast over 11 years (ugh). I go to the movies to experience what it’s like to connect with the loneliness we all feel (“Moonlight” (2016)), to trek deep into the jungles of Vietnam and come face-to-face with the human personification of the madness of war (“Apocalypse Now” (1979)) and to watch a pathologically lying Manhattan socialite’s world crumble around her (“Blue Jasmine” (2013)).
I can’t separate my love of stories and my love of being human. The films that light a fire under my ass are the ones that make me feel unabashedly human and make me love it. In “Gravity” (2013), astronaut Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) stands on the pinnacle of scientific achievement, but when things go awry, scientific babble can’t help her. To survive, she must look inward and battle her fear, regrets, grief and loneliness. She sweeps up her cluttered assets: knowledge, instincts, determination, Bullockian spunk (of course) and most importantly, her hope. Alone, she looks death square in the eyes, goes to bat and wins. It’s that senseless belief that, despite all that has happened and all that we’ve striven for and failed, we’re going to keep trying, and one day we’ll come out triumphant. At least until the ghost of George Clooney tells us what to do.