We’ll be honest… the upcoming 93rd Academy Awards on April 25th caught us by surprise. While a good portion of the films in this year’s ceremony have found homes on streaming services as society stays safely isolated, a number remain offline and out of the public’s reach. It can be difficult to be excited for films that have not been seen outside of Oscar voters, critics, and journalists.
As we begrudgingly continue to experience the big screen on the small screen, eagerly awaiting a time when we can safely return to the theatres, we asked the K&P team to nominate their favourite Oscar winners and, for a fleeting moment, revisit the excitement of Oscars season, pre-pandemic. The ask ended up becoming a litmus test of sorts, revealing telling insights into who we are and demonstrating the power of film.
We hope you enjoy these selections as much as we do.
Lauren’s Pick: Interstellar, 2014
- Winner of Best Visual Effects at the 87th Academy Awards
- Also nominated for Best Original Score, Best Production Design, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing
I’ve always had a fascination with space, inspired by the likes of Canadian heroes such as Chris Hadfield and Roberta Bondar, and have spent more time than I would care to admit regretting not pursuing an education in quantum physics. I’m also a big fan of The Lion King, which produced a soundtrack that is objectively the greatest of all the Disney classics.
In 2014, these seemingly unrelated interests culminated in what will surely come to be recognized as one of the greatest space epics of the 21st century — Interstellar. Masterfully directed by Christopher Nolan and scored by the phenomenal Hans Zimmer, Hollywood’s favourite creative duo were well-positioned to clinch the Academy Award for Best Picture, and at the very least, Best Original Score. Alas, in one of the biggest upsets in Academy history, the film was notably absent from the Best Picture nominee’s list and lost out to The Grand Budapest Hotel for Best Original Score, though received deserved recognition the technical categories. No matter, however. While the Academy may have failed to appreciate the film’s allegorical tribute to our collective penitence for humanity’s part in the planet’s slow destruction, Interstellar’s sharp imagery, brilliant storytelling and visceral score were poignantly felt by those who really paid attention (for the whole three hours).
While often described as a “haunting” or “dark” science-fiction film, Interstellar, to me, is a complex and inspiring metaphor. It is a movingly accurate representation of reality which brings great comfort, easing anxieties about trivial matters. Not only does it speak to the importance of letting go, Interstellar encapsulates the materiality of our physical existence — we are, to borrow from the wise words of Carl Sagan, “a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark,” nothing but a pale blue dot. – Lauren
Maggie’s Pick: Moonlight, 2016
- Winner of Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay at the 89th Academy Awards
- Also nominated for Best Director, Best Supporting Actress, Best Original Score, Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing
I’ll never forget the first time I saw Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight in theatres. I went with a few friends of mine, and we’d heard great things, but I really don’t think any of us took a single breath throughout the course of the whole movie. I’m normally pretty keen to get out of my seat and discuss, but we all stayed firmly rooted in our chairs until the credits finished.
Between the acting, the story, the cinematography and score, this film is something really special and will always take your breath away. Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes’ talent in capturing how the different layers of identity develop and define us (or not) through the passage of time is a rarity. – Maggie
Shane’s Pick: No Country for Old Men (2007)
- Winner of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay at the 80th Academy Awards
- Also nominated for Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing
It is rare for two of arguably the best films of the 21st century to come out in the same year. The direct competition between No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, both modern classics, at the Oscars provided parallel perspectives. These films both embrace pessimism, nihilism and the willingness for an unkind world to continue and thrive no matter what the characters do by combining the Wild West with modern themes and philosophy. Great filmmaking succeeded by portraying similar themes from different angles.
The dread and the inevitability of death, fate and consequences layered in every scene in No Country for Old Men elevated the best parts of Cormac McCarthy’s novel and its apprehension of the post-9/11 era. It is not McCarthy’s best novel, Blood Meridian may never be adapted successfully, but it is the best movie portraying his themes of focus. Combined with a stellar cast anchored by Javier Bardem’s performance, the best cinematographer in Hollywood in Roger Deakins and everything the Coen Brothers have to offer, No Country for Old Men will continue to age well — separated from its competition and initial criticisms of its existential ending. – Shane
Diana’s Pick: Out of Africa (1985) and The Godfather Parts I and II (1973 and 1975)
- Out of Africa
- Winner of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score and Best Sound at the 58th Academy Awards
- Also nominated for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Costume Design and Best Film Editing
- The Godfather
- Winner of Best Picture, Best Actor (declined) and Best Adapted Screenplay
- Also nominated for Best Director, Best Supporting Actor (x3), Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Original Dramatic Score (revoked) at the 45th Academy Awards
- The Godfather Part II
- Winner of Best Picture, Best Director and Best Supporting Actor (Robert De Niro), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Design and Best Original Dramatic Score at the 47th Academy Awards
- Also nominated for Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor (x2), Best Supporting Actress and Best Costume Design
For those of us who remember when entertainment consisted of three television channels, not including the local PBS station, a handful of radio stations and Pong was the only video game, the movies were escapism at its very best.
And EVERYONE paid attention to the Oscars! We dressed up for Oscars night viewing parties and the winning themes even sometimes found their way into Homecoming and Prom décor.
My choices for the best of the Oscar winners are movies that struck a chord in these simpler times when, as an impressionable teenager or young 20-something, I looked for meaning in everything.
My first picks are the Godfather movies – both 1 and 2 from 1973 and 1975. They dominated like nothing had before. Gritty and violent but beautifully shot and complex in demonstrating that good and bad had vast nuance. I recently re-watched both this year and I have to say they hold up. Coppola knew what he was doing and you can never go wrong with DeNiro and Pacino.
And finally one of my all-time favourites for numerous reasons, not the least of which was my crush on Robert Redford (note: The Sting won the award in between the two Godfathers!) – is 1986’s Out of Africa. Sweeping and stunning African landscapes, epic love story, Meryl Streep as a strong, independent woman in a time when that was unheard of for women, and a soundtrack that produces a lump in my throat to this day. – Diana
Mohammad’s Pick: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, 2003
- Winner of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Original Song, Best Sound Mixing, Best Art Direction, Best Makeup, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing and Best Visual Effects at the 76th Academy Awards
A king ascends to his throne, the smallest hobbit changed the world, a simple gardener saved the destiny of middle earth through undying loyalty, and the finale of one of the greatest stories ever told was realized in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Winning every single one of the eleven awards it was nominated for, The Return of the King, even 20 years later, stands as one of the greatest adaptations of a written work to date with little to no challengers in sight still.
A culmination of stories which followed characters as mystical as Gandalf the white wizard, as awe-inspiring as Aragorn the true king of Gondor, and as relatable as Sam Gamgee the loyal gardener and companion, the film is a testament to the awe one can feel when emphasis is placed on faithfully recreating the works of one of the greatest authors of his generation. The Return of the King shows how taking the ideals we value, such as hope, truth, justice and determination, and putting them against the armies of Mordor and Mount Doom can create a visual masterpiece that compels you to watch every moment of its unapologetic glory with rapt attention.
To many who grew up with this film, it is something beyond valuable. It is precious. – Mohammad
Jen’s Pick: The Titanic, 1997
- Winner of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Original Dramatic Score, Best Original Song, Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing and Best Visual Effects at the 70th Academy Awards
- Also nominated for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Makeup
Okay, okay… hear me out. Sappy love story and overplayed theme song aside, Titanic is cinematic gold and I’ll tell you why. The special effects were way ahead of their time and are still impressive today, the full motion picture soundtrack is a true work of art, the costumes and set design are *chef kiss*, the writing and acting are phenomenal – I could go on. I know this is an unpopular opinion but it’s one I’m willing to defend because the sheer scale of this 1997 film is astounding, even by 2021 standards.
I can also appreciate when a serious film knows when to not take itself too seriously, and there are definitely elements of this in Titanic (such as the infamous steamy car, cliché hand-to-window moment that they had to know was super cheesy). People love to hate it, and I completely agree that there was enough room for Jack to fit on that floating door, but I think it’s important to give credit where credit is due. I’m willing to go down with the ship on this one. – Jen
The power of film is no doubt extraordinary – aside from providing tremendous entertainment value, meaningful films leave lasting impressions on those whom they touch.
As we head into the 2021 Oscars ceremony, the second of which to be marked by COVID-19, it appears we do so with a little less enthusiasm than in years past. Movie buff or not, there is something undeniably special about experiencing a feature film in the theatre, or hosting an Oscar party with friends and family, taking bets on the winners and losers.
For those of you who, like us, are feeling nostalgic for a time before COVID-19, reminisce on better times by watching some of our selections above. Who knows, you might just find yourself a new favourite.