In Which Theo Considers What Makes Something the Best

The amplified Cat had me out of bed at a little after six this morning. She was shouting up the stairs that she was going to be sick and could I please come and make a big fuss of her afterwards. I know you have all already got me pegged as one of those Demented Cat Ladies who think their animals are human and have proper conversations with them (which, to be fair, is a pretty accurate assessment of my character) but I don’t care because understanding the nuances of her miaows has allowed me to develop ninja-like reflexes with a sheet of newspaper. Think of that the next time you are cleaning cat vomit from your carpets and rugs.
Being sick was one of the liver related danger symptoms Richard the Rugby Physiqued Vet warned me about, so the Cat was duly returned to the surgery to have a deeply painful fluid injection, an antibiotic injection and a steroid enlivening injection. The last one definitely worked because I had to spend most of the rest of the morning unsticking her from the furniture.
Richard is pleased with the way her eye is healing. I didn’t tell him that the little tyke managed to jam her head against the edge of the sofa cushion, wriggle out of her lampshade and spend half an hour washing her face. If she does it again I will crochet her a leg warmer. Then she’ll be sorry.
Still. She is managing better with her lampshade. She’s still not terribly proficient with it and spent an entertaining ten minutes revolving slowly in the flower bed and getting stuck on the lavender plants, but she should only need to wear it until the end of the week. Providing she lasts that long of course.

Anyway. Amongst the many and varied things going on over the weekend that I have been failing to pay any attention to at all, were the Academy Awards.
I don’t like award shows. They remind me to be bitter that, despite no effort at all on my part, my desk remains resolutely award free. You’d think that somebody as good looking and clever as myself would get a prize for something. I used to get prizes. When I was 9 I won a netball trophy and when I was 14, I got a Cup for English Literature. That one was rather mysterious as I had no interest in the subject, did not read, indeed did not own a copy of, two thirds of the set texts and don’t recall ever completing anything approximating an essay.

The Oscars are something of an oddity to me. I usually see, at some point, the winner of Best Picture and usually, at some point, think to myself “Why on earth did they choose this one?” In later years I have come to realise that the answer is usually “Because they are best mates with/owe a lot of money to/sleeping with/were sent a complementary weekend in Venice by the PR company of the Director/Producer/Studio” and that is such a shame.
Take Gladiator, for instance. It is one of only two films I would have been happy to walk out of the cinema rather than watch the rest of because I was so bored. The other was the Da Vinci Code.
I never made it past the first half an hour of Crash because I was too busy rolling my eyes and shouting about things. Maybe it got better and turned out not to be laboured, clich├ęd dross. It’s something I’m never going to know.
A Beautiful Mind was only slightly dull, but the Best Picture released all year? I don’t think so.

All of this consideration makes me wonder, if I had the power to ban promotionary fruit baskets, what criteria would make a film worthy of being the “Best”?

Should a film be considered the best because it is original? Should it be the best because it has a lot of people looking earnest? Should it offer a new perspective on an old subject? Should it have big ideas and be rewarded for attempting them, even if they don’t work out? Should it be an example of how to get things right? Should it teach us? Should it give us answers? Or should it give us questions?

I think that the best way to consider the worth of a film is to let it state its intentions. Let it be what it wants to be as much as it can be, and judge it by how well it achieves that.
An art critic doesn’t walk into a Rothko exhibition and complain that he isn’t like Monet. When critiquing an artist, one looks at the mission statement and considers how the art responds to that. The mission statement itself is under critique as much as the work. The reasons you give must be good ones.

This year’s best picture is Slumdog Millionaire. I have yet to catch up with any of the other nominees so have no idea if it is a worthy winner or not but I do know this: It is a good film.
Yes, it is cheesy. Yes, we know how it ends. Yes, it brings nothing new to the party.
It is also honest about its intentions. It knows what it is and doesn’t aspire to be anything else. There are no tear stricken monologues edited with “And the Nominees are…” in mind. It isn’t elitist. It doesn’t revel in ignorance.
In fact, it’s better than a “Winner of 8 Oscars” tag.