“The film that should have won Best Picture..?”
directed by Sam Mendes
(Potential spoilers ahead)
Another one-shot film, but this time set in World War I, 1917 is a 2019 war movie, directed by Skyfall director Sam Mendes (always confusing him with Shawn Mendes), and starring Dean-Charles Chapman and George McKay as Lance Corporal Blake and Schofield. It follows the story of two soldiers fighting against time as they desperately endeavor to deliver a message that’ll potentially save the lives of sixteen hundred men. Losing to “Parasite” in three categories, including Best Picture, this film had undoubtedly experienced defeat. But should it have won? My answer is…
Recently, I’ve been studying World War I during my World History classes at school, and surprisingly, it’s pretty damn fun. That, paired with all the praise this film has been receiving, got me extremely hyped to watch it. However, with the outbreak of COVID-19 preventing me from stepping out of my own home, I couldn’t watch this movie until 26 days after its release in South Korea. And until then, my excitement for this film continued to gnaw away at me, until that one day where I was given an opportunity to go see a film in theaters. So I took the risk of coughing myself to death and went to see this film.
Despite this film’s abundance of remarkable characteristics, such as its cinematography, score, and production design, I’d like to discuss its most preeminent quality: Its one-shot.
This is my second one-shot film of all time, the first being Birdman or (the unexpected virtues of ignorance). In my belief, they both utilize this attribute in such a way as to maintain incessant tension throughout the entire film. The moment the two soldiers step out onto No Man’s Land, it is perpetual tension, with the viewers not given the opportunity to let out a breath of relief until the very end of the film. The soldiers are always a step away from peril, and the viewers can’t help but feel the same way. But 1917’s one-shot does so much more than tension. It’s not simply there to act as a metaphor for the unceasing terror of war. It exists to enhance the viewer’s experience. To elaborate, the one-shot makes audience members feel as if they are a part of the film. This is not a two-man quest. As the film refuses to cut away and as the camera utilizes interesting techniques and maneuvers to make it seem as if there is no camera present, the viewers are left feeling as if they are walking through the various exquisite yet petrifying set pieces with Blake and Schofield. It even almost feels like a video game, especially when the camera is set on the backside of the protagonists.
The feeling of being part of the film only adds to the overall realism. As mentioned before, the tension is increased to its apex and the fact that the film makes you feel as if you are in the scene with the two soldiers greatly contributes to helping the viewers in recognizing the dangers of war. In a particular scene when the duo are meandering around an underground German barrack (those who have viewed it will most likely remember), a rat drops from the ceiling, and sets of a tripwire rigged to an explosive. The explosive went off in a thunderous blast that startled the literal shit out of me, consequently leading to me leaping at least 75% out of my seat (luckily no one else was in the theater apart from my dad…). But the pure fact that the one-shot immerses the viewer in such a way as to pound their adrenaline and feel concerned about his/her danger from a threat that is separated by a visible screen is astounding.
Now, there have been certain cohorts that assert that the prime reason the one-shot has been integrated into this film was for ‘oscar bait.’ To me, that’s completely preposterous. Would this film have been nominated for Best Picture if it wasn’t one continuous shot? Absolutely not. But that’s the wrong question to ask. The real question people should ask is: “Did this film had to be presented in this format?” And my answer to that question is, absolutely not. This film could have been shot with the number of cuts present in a Marvel fight scene and it would have still been a war movie. But (and I apologize for the excessive number of questions) would this film had maintained its identity? In my opinion, 1917’s identity is defined by its one-shot. It is distinguished from all other war movies due to its one-shot. But the reason why the one-shot differentiates this film from others is simple. It’s been the argument I’ve been making the whole time. And I believe that a single Letterbox review perfectly sums it up: “1917 isn’t just a movie. It’s an experience.”
Finally, I’d like to elaborate on my answer to why this film should have won Best Picture instead of Parasite. But to make it clear, I have no grudge against Parasite winning. It was a remarkable satire that tackled class warfare in an innovative way. I wouldn’t surprise myself if I deemed it a masterpiece. And a foreign film winning Best Picture, let alone one from South Korea, my birthplace, is a huge win and something that potentially restored the audience’s faith in the Oscars.
However, from a technical standpoint, 1917 absolutely crushes Parasite. The one-take, although a form of art practiced multiple times before, still seems novel to me, even after viewing Birdman. 1917 doesn’t do anything special with its story and doesn’t attempt to tackle contemporary issues. After all, its a War Film. But to me, that’s completely ok. The simple narrative was easy to follow and it left me satisfied when the film ended, unlike Parasite (of course Parasite’s main intention was to keep the viewers unsatisfied which it completely nailed).
In the end, however, this is all my opinion. Parasite completely deserved to win Best Picture and I have nothing against that. But the pure fact that 1917 was a cinematic experience, sways me to believe that it should have been the prime candidate for receiving the Academy’s Best Picture Award.
Birdman or (the unexpected virtues of ignorance)
“An authentic paragon…that effectively ruined my day.”
directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu
(Potential spoilers ahead)
Birdman or The Unexpected Virtues of Ignorance (great title), is a 2014 drama/romance, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu, and starring Michael Keaton as Riggan Thomas, a failing theater-man whom after his work in the preeminent superhero-flick “Birdman,” decides to restore his fame through the medium of Broadway. Winning the Academy’s “Best Picture” award a mere 5 months after its release, this film has been praised by audiences and critics alike for both its brazen commentary on Hollywood and its attribute of being a meticulously crafted one-shot film.
And I hated it.
I started to watch this film at around 12:00 am, on a Saturday. I was already plenty fatigued from all the work I had managed to accomplish that day. My eyelids sank and the darkness of my room reverberated towards me, leaving me more drained than ever. But I was determined to view this film, simply based on hearing positive remarks on it. It was also my first one-shot film, a genre that is being somewhat reborn after the critical acclaim Sam Mendes’ one-shot World War I film, “1917” received.
Within the first 30 minutes of this film, I realized its one prominent characteristic – its valiant commentary and criticism of various controversial topics concerning Hollywood and more specifically, the comic-book movie industry.
Riggan is a character who is passionate about the work he does and produces. As a theater-man, he actually gives a shitabout what is being shown to the audience, how it is shown and the time and work that is being placed into exhibiting the product (the play). He is projecting a fragment of his mind and a fragment of his imagination onto Broadway. And the audience of this film is continuously reminded that the general comic-book movie producers have mindsets that are acute in dissimilarity from Riggan’s. Despite his attempts to gain some sort of fame and profit from Broadway, Riggan is competing with blockbuster studios (mainly Marvel) that earn billions of dollars, in spite of producing and releasing only 2–3 movies a year. What’s worse is that some blockbuster studios do not have the same type of blazing passion as Riggan. They do not have the drive to fabricate a work of art, something that stands out from preexisting superhero films. Instead, they set a default plot: “World needs saving. Hero saves world.” Such hackneyed concepts end up generating more profit than Riggan can ever fathom.
But the film shows that Riggan could potentially fathom such luxury. The voice that torments his head, a tantalizing entity that rests dormant at times, and rises to its full glory on certain occasions, the “Birdman,” is a mere reminder to Riggan of the past he held. He was too, a victim of an individual involved in the production of superhero movies that were never intended to be built on a foundation derived of passion. The voice constantly obligates Riggan to long for the time when he was rich. The time when he was renowned. It’s a yearning echo from the past, pulling him back and attempting to convince him to return to those days of glory. That voice is in incessant conflict with Riggan’s mindset of producing something that he made with passion, not another CGI heavy action flick. His fits of rage where he utilizes his imaginative telekinetic abilities purely symbolizes the Birdman side of him attempting to break free and steer Riggan in the path where he would gain fame and wealth.
Despite these brilliant and valiant chastising towards towering blockbuster studios, my personal experience with this movie has led me to despise it ever so greatly.
Like I have mentioned before, 12:00 am was the time I started watching this film. So without a doubt, I was heavily fatigued from the previous day’s workload. I also wasn’t in the best of moods, for some inexplicable reason… While watching the film, I noticed that the one-cut to me wasn’t spectacular or something groundbreaking. The uncut attribute of the film helped add incessant tension to the film, something that the film was designed to do and something that was not in favor of my condition that day. The constant percussive theme reminded me of Whiplash’s (a masterpiece) but I also came to realize that the unceasing hitting of the snare drum was only adding to my altercation. And the constant degrading of humanity, the way that the film views life from the standpoint of such a pessimist, only added to my frustration. There wasn’t a single moment of remarkable triumph in the first hour. And maybe there was a more positive side to the movie in the second hour. But I wouldn’t know for I didn’t stay around for that long. My patience had run out and after an hour and three minutes, I shut my laptop in disgust and proceeded to go to sleep.
Yes, I understand why Birdman is praised by so many. Like I’ve mentioned before, its commentary is shrewd, witty and bold. It’s not afraid to criticize monumental studios such as Marvel. And to most, the one-take would have been effective and something that seemed completely novel. I can even comprehend why it won Best Picture 5 years ago, and I’m sort of glad that it did.
But I simply disliked — no. I simply hated this film.
“TOO LATE…” – Short Film by Brian Cho (Made in NYFA)
New York is hours away from ending and there is no escape. Jake will use the remaining hours of his life by completing tasks he wanted to achieve before his untimely death.
“2ND LIFE” – Short Film by Brian Cho (Made at The New York Film Academy)
A disconsolate teenager utilizes the world famous sandbox game “Minecraft” to escape from her harsh reality where her parents are constantly bickering.