Culture Crash 21-13

Welcome to Culture Crash, where we examine American culture. What’s new and old in books, film, and entertainment.

This year, award shows have felt more unnecessary than usual, with the Golden Globes drawing 13-year low ratings and the Grammys hitting the lowest viewership number on record. Still, as they say in Hollywood, the show must go on, and the Academy Awards recently released its list of nominees.

In what has been a tumultuous year both for all of us and for the movie industry, the list of nominees is, fittingly, quite a bit quieter than usual. There is no Black Panther or Inception-level blockbuster, in part because nothing was released into a situation conducive to blockbuster crowds. Christopher Nolan’s Tenet may have been a blockbuster in any other year, but this past year has made such things impossible.

Instead, we got a list of smaller, more personal films that many people may not have seen… but all of which are actually worth your time. That’s right, unlike past years, I don’t think there’s really any bad movie in the bunch. This year’s Best Picture race is instead a stream of solid Bs and A minus-es. The favorites seem to be Nomadland, a drama about modern American nomads who live out of their vans and take to the highways to experience all of America, and Minari, a film about a Korean family immigrating to America and putting down roots on their quest to live the American dream. I thought both films were really wonderful and unique, offering a new perspective on the world.

But those aren’t the only two nominees that deserve people’s attention. The Sound of Metal offers a look inside the hearing impaired community. Promising Young Woman grapples with the complications and horror of rape culture. Judas and the Black Messiah tells the tragic true story of Fred Hampton, the chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther party in the late 1960s. All the way down the list, this year’s Best Picture race is full of good movies about interesting and important topics.

While award show viewerships are understandably dipping, this year’s Oscar nominees are generally very good and are more diverse than usual. And if you’re interested in watching them, all 8 Best Picture nominees are available to watch at home through various streaming and rental platforms.

The Oscars air on ABC on April 25.

I’m Evan Rook