I had finally rented Boyhood, Richard Linklater’s Oscar-nominated film about a boy growing up, to watch during my overnight flight back to school last month. It was in that darkened cabin, five miles above the middle of nowhere, USA, that I realized with a start: I was watching my brother. That surly, mopey adolescent on screen midway through the film was exactly whom I had said goodbye to just hours before. As I watched Mason, Boyhood’s protagonist, go through the tribulations and transformations of high school, I thought, is this who my brother will become?
This, to me, is what movies should be about. Sure, it’s true that this feverish awards season is exciting. There is an undeniable frisson of accomplishment from being the first to post some red carpet trivia or awards ceremony witticism in the eternal hunt for retweets. But the Oscars represent just one perspective on how film should be judged—it’s no secret that the judging body has long been dominated by an insular community of old, white men. It’s fun to verbosely agree and disagree with their assessments, but the ultimate gatekeepers to our media consumption—the ultimate evaluators of cinema’s substance—should be ourselves. (Our Oscar picks below came from a staff vote on the nominated movies we thought should win, not necessarily those we thought would win.)
What matters in storytelling this year is what has mattered for the past millenium. It’s measured not by the word count of positive reviews or the total weight of accumulated statuettes, but by the number of tissues grabbed and the volume of gasps inhaled. The stories that move us, that reflect our own lives, that help us see the world a little differently, will always be the real winners.
— Ryan Catalani