Memoirs From the Oscars

It is now the middle of April; in other words, it has been a little over a year since countries worldwide started to bar themselves in with safety measures and strict travel bans, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, 2020 passed by quickly, yet memorably, due to pretty much the worst reasons - only to make way for a 2021 still spent in self-quarantine and nationwide lockdowns. However, it is still a new year, and despite the fact that most of us were probably expecting the pandemic to end much earlier than it actually will (whenever that is), there really is nothing stopping us from getting excited for some of the most anticipated annual events in entertainment history, namely the 93rd Academy Awards (which many of us will watch through a TV screen in the comfort of our homes with, or without the pandemic anyway). That is why, in order to commemorate the ongoing 2021 awards season, which thankfully is still being held to celebrate the most critically acclaimed films, TV shows, and the people behind the formers’ production throughout the past year, this article will concisely review just a selected handful of those films, both old and new, that had made a splash at the Academy Awards. Here are our nominees:

 

1. Parasite (2019)

Director: Bong Joon-ho

Award(s): Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best International Feature Film

The lives of a poor family living in a semi-basement home, become entangled with those belonging to a rich household, leading to the emergence of disturbing secrets when an unexpected third party comes into the picture. An intelligent fictional film, with touches of thriller, comedy, and family drama, disguising what is actually a realistic portrayal of Korean society. The dark implications of the story will leave audiences in cold sweat after going back and forth between laughing at the witty and creative actions of the main characters, and gasping in realization as all of the pieces of the unprecedented mystery finally fall into place. Parasite features a subtly mind-boggling story that even managed to become the first foreign-language film to win the most prestigious award of Best Picture, and even snatched several major others in its run. In the words of director Bong Joon-ho himself, albeit through his translator: “Once you’ve overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” (Okay, this quote is from the Golden Globes, but the message should definitely carry over to all Hollywood awards shows, don’t you think?)

 

2. Pulp Fiction (1994)

Director: Quentin Tarantino

Award(s): Best Original Screenplay

This indie movie classic, shows how a relatively small production budget can still translate to the screen as an unprecedented masterpiece when used correctly. Chock-full of Tarantino’s distinctively witty dialogue, and the non-linear timeline that’s been carried over from his debut feature film Reservoir Dogs, and continuing on to his succeeding works of Kill Bill Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, Pulp Fiction tells the stories of several different characters which become inexplicably entangled, due to a series of unexpected events that occur over a mere couple of days. The wacky timeline may leave audiences wondering about the sequence of events, as well as the connection between the characters at first, but it is exactly this irregular time progression that’ll leave audiences in awe, shock, and surprise, as all of the pieces slowly and finally come together. This is the one movie that cannot be remade, even after decades, for everything from the writing to the cast members to the director and production crew will forever remain iconic.

 

3. Little Women (2019)

Director: Greta Gerwig

Award(s): Best Costume Design

Based on the novel of the same name by Louisa May Alcott, Little Women focuses on the four March siblings, each with their own aspirations that often clash with their status and situations, and each with their own distinct personality traits that continue to develop as the story goes on. A coming-of-age film about love and family that shows how both sorrow and happiness are intertwined, Little Women pushes audiences to appreciate the little things, to never give up on their dreams, and to continue the fight for equality - namely in having equal rights for all genders and in allowing them to pursue their goals, whether it is to get married and have a family, or to focus on their dreams by packing up and going on a study trip to a faraway country. All in all, Greta Gerwig has done a wonderful job of bringing this “simple,” relatable, and beautiful story of a family to the silver screen, paving the way for more female directors, producers, and screenwriters to finally be recognized in a male-dominated and “adrenaline flicks”-obsessed industry.

 

4. The Shape of Water (2017)

Director: Guillermo del Toro

Award(s): Best Picture, Best Director, Best Production Design, Best Original Score

A fantasy-romance film that depicts the unusual love story of a human woman and an anthropomorphic aquatic creature, The Shape of Water is something only the most creative and avant-garde individual, namely the director Guillermo del Toro, could pull off. A masterful concoction with little drops of thriller, musical, and drama included in the mix, this film was what gained del Toro the critical acclaim he deserved after an extensive filmography, each one more experimental and grotesquely, yet beautifully unconventional than the work preceding it. A master in blending the genres of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, and basically inventing his own genre in the process, del Toro created a story that managed to overcome the tall barrier set up by the Academy when it comes to movies of the aforementioned genres, leading up to a win for a film that’s vastly different in terms of writing and visuals from its fellow nominees.

 

5. Memoirs of a Geisha (2005)

Director: Rob Marshall

Award(s): Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design

This film tells the tragic yet beautiful life journey of one particular geisha, a courtesan and an artist in her own right, as she deals with loss, betrayal, and heartbreak in the years preceding, during, and following WWII. Starting from her childhood to her training as a maiko, an apprentice geisha, to her eventual career as one of the remaining “true” courtesans in Japan after the war, Memoirs of a Geisha lets audiences take a glimpse into the highly aesthetic world of the profession, all the while making sure to focus on the “human behind the artwork”. This specifically refers to the emotions, the personality, and the relationships of the main character, as she endured countless hardships to gain her title and acceptance of her position in society.

While the movie did garner mixed reviews and was criticized for the fact that most of the major cast members were Chinese, despite having a Japanese setting, the story itself will always be undeniably beautiful from the artful visuals, the little suspenseful twists, and the fact that audiences can still sympathize with the main character. A heart-wrenching movie that makes the few and scattered heart-warming moments all the more valuable, Memoirs of a Geisha effectively pulls in audiences into 1900s Japan, and into the life of a seemingly fragile woman as she pushes on with an iron heart, pursuing love and happiness in a harsh, limiting society.