Well, once again, I find myself tagged with a Mystery Blogger Award – this time, courtesy of Ospreyshire. Outside of video games, you don’t see many creative types who actually acknowledge international efforts these days, so I’d say his is a blog worth following. He asked five questions from me, so let’s dive right in.
Shortly after the 2010s came to an end, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked over the many releases in 2019 and announced their nominees for the prestigious title of “Best Picture”. The previous ceremony famously proceeded without a host. Correlation doesn’t imply causation, but the 2019 ceremony had notably higher ratings than those of the year before. It was therefore fitting that the 92nd ceremony would follow suit. It’s just as well; hosted ceremonies would drag on for far too long, often featuring unfunny comedy sketches when, theoretically, the main focus should be on the art.
I say “theoretically” because the eight “Best Picture” nominees for the 91st ceremony were, to put it bluntly, underwhelming. In fact, they formed the single weakest lineup of films I had seen since I started seriously paying attention to the Oscars – decidedly lacking in muscle or staying power. In the end, Green Book walked away with the prize. Considering that the previous year had the artistically daring The Shape of Water shatter the barrier preventing the high-minded from appreciating fantasy as a genre, the victory of Green Book was a clear regression. Nonetheless, it was the single best film to represent 2018, showcasing the extreme lack of ambition or imagination plaguing creators at the time.
For the 92nd Academy Awards, a total of nine films were nominated for “Best Picture”: Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, 1917, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Parasite. On the surface, it would appear that the Academy fell into old habits. Much like Bohemian Rhapsody, Vice, and Green Book, two of the “Best Picture” nominees from this year, Jojo Rabbit and Joker, received a lukewarm critical reception. It would seem counterproductive to claim to celebrate the best of the best only to promote middling efforts.
In what many critics would consider even more damning, for the second year in a row, none of A24’s films received a nomination. Unlike in 2018, this actually is kind of a shame because, despite getting off to a slow start with Gloria Bell and High Life, A24 managed to get their act together and issue one of their greatest films since Moonlight in the form of The Farewell. Supplemented by other stellar efforts such as Waves and Uncut Gems, I would actually argue this was A24’s single best year since their 2012 inception.
Regardless, I myself do not have a problem with their lack of nominations. Your mileage may vary when it comes to the quality of their features, but I don’t think it can be contested that A24 is one of the single worst distributors out there.
Part of the problem with nominating their films is that barely anybody outside of the people it’s specifically screened for gets an opportunity to see them. This is because, for whatever reason, A24 is obsessed with limited releases. We can only speculate as to why this is, but if you want your work to get through to people, ensuring it can only be seen by those who have already subscribed to the brand doesn’t cut it. The most beautiful painting world may as well not exist if only one person may look upon it, after all.
Even in the cases in which these films do receive a wider release, A24’s marketing for them is abysmal at the best of times. The only reason I even knew Waves existed is because I happened to see it on a theater marque by pure chance. For that matter, I wouldn’t even have heard of First Reformed had its director, Paul Schrader, resisted the urge to whine about its commercial failure. And this is coming from someone who checks for new releases every single week, so if it slipped beneath my radar, what chance does a causal fan have?
In the interest in fairness, I will say it can be defeating to take chances and pitch ideas only for them to not resonate with a mass audience. However, at the risk of sounding insensitive, I must also point out that one needs thick skin to grow as an artist. If A24 cannot learn from their mistakes, their fans better get used to seeing them coming back emptyhanded in the foreseeable future. I think it’s very telling that Roger Eggers’s The Lighthouse was their only effort to receive any kind of recognition – for cinematography, which is arguably the most objective award the Academy hands out. This suggests that, subjectively speaking, whatever A24 pitched in 2019 simply didn’t grab the Academy’s interest. Perhaps a wide release or two could have remedied this problem?
With all of that said, don’t be fooled by the numbers or the continued lack of A24 representation. In fact, if the creative stagnation of 2018 caused filmmakers to dole out the single weakest “Best Picture” lineup I’ve ever seen, 2019 was responsible for one of the strongest batch of nominees in years. The only other years of the 2010s capable of giving it a run for its money would either 2014 or 2015, which saw the release of the decade’s highlights: The Grand Budapest Hotel and Mad Max: Fury Road respectively. Ironically, this increase in quality actually made ranking the nine films much trickier.
This is because last year’s eight nominations ended up being distributed across five different tiers – two of which faced disqualification to end up where they did. It’s easy to rank a list when several efforts exist alone on their tier. Conversely, I can say each and every single one of the films I’m about to discuss are worth seeing. So while 2018’s nominees struggled to get a 7/10, 2019 turned the grade into what it should have been all along: the standard. Because every nominee ended up getting a passing grade, I actually had to put some thought into how I would order them. In the end, I realized I had to think of this list in terms of how I would order my top ten for the year. The easiest ones to rank were the ones in the top two positions because we’re talking about works that are so unequivocally better than their contemporaries, it’s almost unfair they’re even in this competition.
Just like last time, this list is, in no way, intended to be a prediction as to which film will win. This article’s primary purpose is for me to express how I think of these films in relation to each other. Now that we have the introduction out of the way, let’s get started.
In what appears to be something of a running joke, I have been tagged once more by AK of Everything is Bad for You. Glad you’ve been enjoying my content that much! The rules are the same as they’ve ever been. First, the tagger asks a variety of questions. From there, I answer them, and then I provide questions of my own for other site owners. And away we go!
When I started this site, I wanted to make it clear that creators have to work to achieve every single point. While certain critics hand out 10/10s out like penny candy, you won’t see me use the grade very often. Indeed, my 150-review milestone was notable in that I hadn’t actually awarded any 10/10s. This milestone is strange because it’s the first time in which I actually awarded more 10/10s than 9/10s. Regardless, the reason I tend to be sparing with these grades is because I want to make it clear that when I award them, the recipients are true masterpieces. Here are the games that went the extra mile to achieve that distinction.
As you may have noticed since my 150th game review special, I ended up awarding passing grades far less often than middling or failing ones. It was to the point where I had gone at least two different months of this year without awarding a single one, causing me to promise to review at least one good game the following month. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure why things turned out that way, though reviewing long-running series that took a few installments to finally get good probably had something to do with it (the Bubsy series was responsible for three failing grades by itself). Either way, we’ve finally reached the games I can straight-up recommend, so if you haven’t played them, seek them out.
Because the associated grades are smack dab in the middle of my grading scale, yellow scores are probably the most diverse when it comes my stance on recommending them. While a 4/10 would be an unlikely recommendation at best, a 6/10 is effectively an honorable mention. Remember that, unlike what you may have experienced in school, 5/10 is average on my scale. Anyway, here are the games that, for all intents and purposes, neither passed nor failed.
Now I’ve done it. Less than a year after my piece on Super Mario 64, I managed to reach the 200-review mark in the form of my take on Persona 4 – exactly as I predicted. I am glad to have made it this far and I am truly appreciative of your support. As usual, now that I’ve reached this milestone, I now intend to talk about the games I’ve reviewed since then. Unlike last time, I didn’t revise any reviews, so there will only be fifty entries in this special. Like last time, this special will be divided into four parts. This part, which you’re reading right now, will detail all of the games that received failing grades. Part Two will showcase the ones that received middling grades. Part Three will have me talk about the games I recommend.
The finale will have me showcase the games I highly recommend. This time, I actually awarded a few 10/10s, so this will be the first time since my 100 review special that I’ll discuss every single tier on my grading scale. Once I’ve done that, I will reveal the master list so you can see where these games end up on them. Similar to my film review special, I have kept track of the scores I’ve awarded each game for a given decade. That way, you can see how frequently games from a given period pass, fail, or do neither. With the introduction out of the way, let’s dive right in.
As anyone who has been following me for a significant length of time knows, I tend to be pretty stingy with 9/10s. This is because I feel many critics hand them out to every other film they like. As long as they’re consistent, that’s fine, but with my scoring system, I wanted to make creators well and truly earn every single point. You want a seven-point passing grade or better? You gotta work for it. Because of this, you won’t see me award this grade often, so when it happens, you can safely bet that I’m discussing a masterpiece.
And here are the rest of the 8/10s. Definitely see these films if you haven’t already.
Now that I’ve gotten the lowlights out of the way, let’s move onto the films that, if you haven’t watched, you absolutely should.