25 Years of Oscar History, Summarized

The canary in the mine shaft of the Gingrich revolution

The other day, our very own Sayf went on a Twitter jag about the last 25 years of Best Picture Academy Award winners. What do the perennially frustrating and almost-always-banal choices of the Academy say about American culture each year? We hoped you’d never ask.

Forrest Gump (1994): The stupidest American is the greatest American.

Braveheart (1995): The bravest stupidest American is the greatest American.

The English Patient (1996): Sad stuff is smart.

Titanic (1997): We have given up on life, and also it’s totally cool to let your white trash boyfriend freeze to death and drown.

Shakespeare in Love (1998): Gwyneth Paltrow is a classy broad, and Shakespeare is good people.

American Beauty (1999): A privileged suburban white male’s ego death/temper tantrum is a searing look at American culture at its literally least self-aware point.


Gladiator (2000): I don’t know what to say about this one, I was too busy not fucking.

A Beautiful Mind (2001): Americans are stupid and Australians with inexplicable West Virginia accents are apparently smart.

Chicago (2002): Hollywood people have been yearning for musicals to come back into fashion for a long-ass time; also presaged India’s cultural and economic rise.

Lord of the Rings (2003): Sometimes pandering to the hogs and the nerds intersects.

Million Dollar Baby (2004): Sad stuff is still smart, and also we were too fucking lame to give Boys Don’t Cry the Best Picture.

Crash (2005): Race is a problem in American society.

“But won’t they notice?” “No, they’re stupid as shit.”

The Departed (2006): It has plot holes too big for Senator Al D’Amato to fill and large enough to drive a stretch Escalade through, but we had to give Marty Scorsese an award.

No Country for Old Men (2007): actually good, and a metaphor for neoliberalism’s belle époque in its waning years.

Slumdog Millionaire (2008): somehow intuiting that casino capitalism and globalization are in freefall, Hollywood makes a movie about class or something. All I know is that the kid’s eyes get scooped out with a red hot melon baller.

The Hurt Locker (2009): We feel bad about the Iraq War, oops.

The King’s Speech (2010): Hollywood loves British crap.

The Artist (2011): they’re really phoning it in with this one. Hollywood loves Hollywood crap.

Argo (2012): Obama might save the Middle East…. nah, lol, PSYCHE! Another horrible movie about the magic of movies.

12 Years a Slave (2013): a black man gets kidnapped and tortured by white people (a metaphor for Obama’s presidency).

The way you feel when this movie is finally, mercifully over

Birdman (2014): things that happen to actors are inherently more important than things that happen to other people.

Spotlight (2015): American society is rotten to the core, but… journalists or something. Never mind.

Moonlight (2016): this movie fucking ruled, and it led us to doubt Warren Beatty’s mental acuity for definitely the first time ever.

The Shape of Water (2017): we want to freak out Middle America by doing sex stuff with animals. Also, it seems like there is a trans metaphor in here somewhere but it makes no fucking sense.

And finally… Green Book (2018): racist outer-borough morons are the real black people (a movie for the Trump era).