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.
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).
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).