Awards Watch – For The Love Of Cinema: Movies About Movies

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Awards analysis is provided by Sean from @MathTeacherMovies.

The two buzziest films coming out of the recent festivals this year are Empire of Light and The Fablemans. They have a lot in common. They are crowd pleasers, family dramas, highlight social injustice, and they are helmed by Sam Mendes and Steven Spielberg respectively, who are Oscar winning directors with no stranger to being nominated at the show especially recently.

The other common link these two films have is that they are about the love of movies with Empire of Light being about running a movie theater and The Fablemans about a young boy who wanted to grow up making movies, much like Spielberg’s actual life. In addition to these two, Damien Chazelle’s Babylon is also being released later in this year. The fact that these three movies are leading the Oscar race is not surprising as it has been theorized that movies about the love of movies has been a popular sub genre for the Academy.

The theory is fairly simple. Those voting in the Academy are responsible for making movies so they are able to either relate to these films or they will be flattered by them. However, looking back at nominees and wins, this theory is not all that sound. 

Recently, there has been a movie every year that is nominated for Best Picture which falls under this category. Last year was Belfast where a family appreciates the beauty and escapism of cinema from their troubles. The year before was Mank about the creation of the script for Citizen Kane. Finally, the year before that was Once Upon a Time in Hollywood which chronicled a washed up actor in the sixties. These were all popular films to the academy, but when it came time for them to win awards, their trophy count was minimal even if they grabbed some top awards. 

There are a few different movies with this theme that have won Best Picture but they all approach the topic differently. Birdman was more of a cynical look at Hollywood and the direction of which it was heading while also looking upon critics from a villainous perspective which anyone involved in making movies will definitely love. 

The Artist also won Best Picture and was a movie that romanticized old Hollywood to the level that the Academy grabbed hold of easily. Looking much further back, the next film of this nature to win was All About Eve back in the fifties, and while that film dominated that is quite a gap. Meanwhile, Cinema Paradiso is the perfect definition of this type of film and while it didn’t win the top prize it did win Best Foreign Language Film which is technically the top prize for a movie of that nature.  

There are many other modern films that have been nominated but not won the top prize. La La Land was the Best Picture winner for about five minutes and it makes sense as it’s a movie that paints a beautiful portrait of Hollywood in a mix of both a modern setting and a classic lens. Hugo and The Aviator were two Martin Scorsese movies which were nominated that captured the magic of movies from different perspectives but never were able to capture the top prize which is ironic as Hugo was taken down by The Artist. LA Confidential was more of a murder mystery but it was set back in old Hollywood and while it was shadowed by the juggernaut of Titanic it’s still a favorite from the classic audience.

There were then not many movies of this nature that were even nominated for a few decades all the way back to the 70’s and earlier. The Last Picture Show, Funny Girl, and Sunset Boulevard were all nominated so this is not a very consistent pattern but it’s more of a consistent pattern in this day and age and several of these types of movies will be nominated this year and it’s somewhat likely that one of them will take the top prize. 

Follow Sean on Instagram at @MathTeacherMovies

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