I am writing this just before seeing the 83rd annual Academy Awards. The large field of best picture nominations this year really brings home something odd about the entire endeavor — the idea that there can be a “best” movie in a highly diverse field of high quality movies.
Clearly this is something people want. After all, the Academy has parlayed this desire for one film to triumph into arguably the most potent commercial brand on the planet. People seem to hunger for this sort of competition. Perhaps this particular kind of struggle and outcome puts order into our lives, satisfying some deep primal urge to bring things to some kind of resolution.
Even if it is, in a case like this, a fairly arbitrary resolution. What does it mean to compare a film like “The Social Network” with a film like “The King’s Speech”? In what sense can either of these excellent examples of collective commercial craftsmanship be said to be better than the other?
And yet we rank them, and we will continue to do so. Although I suspect that this entire exhilarating yet more than slightly silly enterprise doesn’t reveal nearly as much about the nature of these movies as it does about the nature of ourselves.