Oscar Reflection | Best Picture & Best Director from the 86th Academy Awards

Written by Alexander Reams

Gravity: 76/100

12 Years a Slave: 72/100

There are some serious holes in my Best Picture and Best Director filmographies and I was given the idea to go through and watch them. I have seen most of the post 2010 Best Picture winners but I even have holes there. The first Best Picture winner in order from newest to oldest that I had not seen was Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, the Best Director winner was a film I had seen many times before, Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. 

The 2014 Oscar race (for films released in 2013) is the first awards season I remember. I had seen Gravity in IMAX and continually heard about a film called 12 Years a Slave. Cut to awards night and I still had not seen 12 Years a Slave, but I knew Gravity had continually stayed in the conversation. I was electric that night, having seen the film I loved win so many awards. After Cuarón’s win for Best Director I was expecting to hear Gravity’s name called out when they announced Best Picture. Alas, that was not the case, 12 Years a Slave took home the award. 

Almost 8 years after these 2 films have been released I finally saw 12 Years a Slave and revisited Gravity. Suffice to say as the years have passed, other films nominated that year have gotten more love and attention within the film community. Her and The Wolf of Wall Street have stayed relevant more than any other Best Picture nominee from that year. Whereas these 2 films have been mostly forgotten. They both struck the zeitgeist when they were released, but have fizzled out over the years. For myself I remember Gravity’s win for Best Director more than the film itself, even after revisiting it. 

12 Years a Slave packs a lot of punch, and has really powerful moments, however it is not nearly as nuanced as the film wishes it was, which is really disappointing after all the hype I’d heard about this film. Hindsight is 20/20 and with 12 Years a Slave and Gravity both having been mostly forgotten proves that the Oscars got it wrong that year. My personal wins would be Best Director for Martin Scorsese for The Wolf of Wall Street, and Best Picture for Her.

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The Blob

Written by Nick McCann

72/100

Just as people flock to movies to escape the fearful thoughts of our current virus lockdown, moviegoers of the 1950s were flocking to movies to escape fearful thoughts of Cold War anxieties. Monster and alien films were especially popular, with the decade providing a slew of wondrous and crazy cinematic creatures attacking familiar, real world sights. One such creature was very simple but went a long way, just like the movie it stars in.

For those familiar with the notion of the 1950’s sci-fi monster movie plot, “The Blob” easily identifies with that. Suspense builds as a meteor falls to Earth and releases the creature into a small-town community. It’s as classic as it gets, while also doing some things different compared to what came before. The story is very fun, both in its execution and how it lives up to what we consider the standard blueprint of the genre. It’s an innocent and non-taxing plot to be enjoyed.

There are also some lively characters. Steve McQueen leads the pack in his breakthrough role, demonstrating even in this simple role how charming and talented he is. He’s a likable and well-meaning guy to track a monster with. Everyone else does a great job too, having well-defined personalities and organically developed skills. Aneta Corsaut deserves special mention for breaking the mold of stereotypical horror damsels and for being an active help to the plot.

What’s probably most remembered is the special effects. They are crude even for the time, but there is still craft and creativity on display. The actual Blob looks good in motion, with its dark red appearance and all the variety of ways the director portrays it. There are also creative uses of drawn animation, which aren’t too shabby either. Visually it remains unique and the charm of it rubs off in an appealing way. Fake for sure, but never without heart or intent.

Rounding it out is the overall mood itself. Most of that stems from its low budget production design, which wears its 1950’s setting with a badge of honor in hindsight. From the costumes to the cars, it does give a peek into how the world of small-town America went about life. Not to mention some funny dialog among the characters. A classic monster score over it all seals the deal, most especially the theme song that’s strangely swings for such a serious movie. Thanks, Burt Bacharach!

“The Blob” is the poster child for the 50′ alien monster movie. Whenever someone compares modern creature cinema or recalls a film of the era, they most likely are going to think of this one. It doesn’t have the budget or name recognition of its peers, but that doesn’t matter when all in all, it’s so darn fun. It’s entertaining all the way through. If you want something more modern, Chuck Russell’s 1988 remake is also excellent.

The Blob Trailer

Currently available to stream on Criterion Channel and Kanopy