What makes a movie great?
Yesterday, I was scrolling through my Facebook feed (yeah, Facebook still exists) while watching The Oscars and one of my friends posted the following:
I don't doubt the movie about the gays is good, in fact I want to watch it. The thing is that if it wins Best Picture it's going to be because it's a gay movie, and not because is good.
Now of course, although people who refer to gay people as 'the gays' instantly make their argument lose a lot of weight, once I got over the condescendance of the comment, the whole thing made me ruminate for a while about what makes a movie great, worthy of being called The Best Picture of the year.
First of all, an Oscar does not guarantee that a movie is great, it just means that among the members of The Academy picked as voters that year it was the most popular one, and we all know how 'objective' popularity is...I mean after all we are on Steemit, right?
A great example of this is how classics like Citizen Kane (1941), Taxi Driver (1976), The Shawshank Redemption (1994), 12 Angry Man (1957), among others did not win Best Picture, Breathless (1960) for example, was not even nominated!
Of course, I did not pick my examples lightly. Those 5 movies I just mentioned are not just good movies, they all have what's called: Cinematic Influence, this is the capacity to have an effect on the industry itself. On how movies are made.
And now don't get me wrong, cinematic influence is VERY important and can even be considered as criteria to define if a movie is great or not...a technical criteria. Common people who call a movie 'great' do not know the technicallities that make it have this kind of influence. People don't normally know about the worth of depth, blocking, visual power dynamics or camera movements...they just say its great because they liked it.
Another aspect worth considering is the social psyche: how much controversy it brings, what does the popularity (or lack thereof) of certain film says about us as a society. A movie can be called great just because of how much change it caused. With that in mind, then Call me by your name indeed would have won Best Picture because it was a movies about "the gays".
Get Out would have won because is a movie about black people.
Lady Bird would have won because it was directed by a woman.
The Phantom Thread because it was Daniel Day Lewis last movie.
Dunkirk because americans love movies about war.
And so on so forth until the list ends. Movies that win or that become popular do say a lot about our concerns and needs as a society. I mean it was about freaking time a movie where two guys fall in love wasn't about aids or how they're banned from their social circles and scorned forever because they want to be together. But just a movie that was just about their love.
Social psyche is not enough to make us say we love a movie though. What's needed -in my opinion- is empathy. At the end of the day movies are just stories, so their success depends on how seamlessly it made you fall into their world, and put you in their shoes. Did the story made YOU learn something about YOUR life or reminded you of something? That's it for me. That's why I feel that the more we love a movie, the harder is to explain why or what it is that makes it so amazing to us.
Funnily enough, The Shape of Water won Best Picture. No idea how my Facebook friend would have justified that, probably a communist interracial conspiracy, honestly WTFK, but I loved that movie...that's probably because I'm a latina, right?