I didn’t watch the Oscars this past Sunday. Based on its television ratings, which were the lowest ever for the event, I wasn’t the only one otherwise occupied.
Once upon a time I was a voracious consumer of all things awards show related. Back during the same time period I was an equally voracious consumer of all things media, watching network TV every night, wearing out a path between myself and the local record store to pick up the latest anything, a frequent visitor to nearby cinemas and routinely bringing home the latest VHS tape (yes, I’m old) of recent or recently released movies. These days I find myself increasingly doing none of the above. Especially the VHS part. And get off my lawn.
Despite this profound lack of interest in whatever the entertainment media machine is pushing these days, I do keep casual tabs on the latest and, uh, latest. Before I completely fossilize, it is important to understand what is going on so I can actually converse with people lower than my age bracket. That whole Paul tack about being all things to all people. Or me attempting to stay relevant. Take your pick.
One movie I did see last year was Coco. I have been a devotee of Pixar films since the first Toy Story, and while there has been the occasional misstep (Cars 2 was dreadful, this made all the more disappointing by the first movie being my unquestioned all-time favorite), for the most part Pixar is synonymous with top-notch cinema.
Coco, for those of you who somehow missed it, is set in contemporary Mexico. For its backdrop it draws heavily, with scrupulous accuracy, on Mexican culture, specifically the annual celebration of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). However, Coco uses this not as a focal point, but a springboard to weave an amazing tale of family, truth seeking, and forgiveness. The cultural detailing is flawless, but it is not the story any more than the ofttimes breathtaking animation is the story. Coco is a powerful, universal story. It is not merely one of the best animated films I have ever seen. It is one of the best movies I have seen period. I have not seen any of the movies that were nominated for Best Picture in the now concluded Oscars, but I have great difficulty believing they were all sufficiently better than Coco to where they each deserved nomination more than Pixar’s latest exercise in movie magic.
Much — far too much — has been written and said by all sides in the culture and political battle between Hollywood on the left and conservatives on the right. Once in a while, can we set the online warfare aside and simply watch a movie that uplifts even as it entertains? They do exist. Coco is living proof. We need more of this. No one is denying anyone the right to their opinion. But can we all, at least once in a while, agree that a powerful story well told is something on which we can actually agree?
Sure would be nice.