Successfully Mundane, CODA Truly is Best Picture

Emilia Jones signing I love you in Best Picture winner CODA
CODA – A Disney Channel Original Best Picture Winner

CODA won Best Picture at the 2021 Oscars. Nothing changes that, and it’s honestly really sweet to see a movie like CODA win the Best Picture category. It’s an accessible piece of fiction, it represents the underrepresented, it’s inoffensive and charismatic; CODA is a simple win. And for the last week, although I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about CODA, every time CODA came up in my mind, I always thought to myself how strange it is that it won Best Picture.

There’s a hubris to the art field that perturbs virtually everyone except those who inhabit it. This hubris is what creates adjectives like “high-art” and genre’s like “elevated horror”. It’s the self-important group that hands out megaphones at conventions so everyone can be heard, but gosh-darn it nobody wants to hear them anyway. These individuals are likely insufferable to be around, only propagating their thoughts on blogs and twitter accounts to those who think similarly. Like a sine wave that only a certain demographic can hear yet canceling its value out by being the only sine wave in its class. Ever stood at just the right angle to hear two tones together? They vanish. What a blessing. Unfortunate it doesn’t happen with the pretentious as often as we’d prefer.

Being a fan of any particular artform, be it music, painting, sculpting, dance, or in our particular case, film, it’s easy to equate the learnt with the pretentious. I’ve been considered this by others (perhaps right now, as you read this). I’m not sure what from. A month or two ago, around the time The Adam Project was about to release, I had a friend come talk to me about movies. They asked me if I was going to see it, but before they finished asking their question, they paused, looked away, chuckled, and went, “Ahh, that’s not something you’d see. You’re not into that kind of movie!” they say as they laugh.

I chuckled in response, as one socially does, and said, “Wait, what do you mean by that? What kind of movie do I like?” before I turned serious, almost accusatory, “What kind of movies do I like!?”

“You know!” He says, “You know! Not The Adam Project!”

I responded, “Hold up, I’m looking forward to The Adam Project! I like Ryan Reynolds! Free Guy was a lot of fun!”

Emilia Jones with Marlee Matlin and Daniel Durant in Best Picture winner CODA
It’s the kind of conversation that uniquely demands one’s attention.

I like movies. I don’t fight for “high art”, and I especially despise a term like “elevated horror”. These are bizarre things to me. Truly. I like movies, not some external thing that demands to be taken seriously. I’m not a part of the Magician’s Alliance. It’s ridiculousness, right? Scroll through my Letterboxd diary and anyone can see my interests and tastes are all over. Not necessarily eclectic, merely ever-changing.

I like movies. I like the craft, the unique offerings of the medium, the pairing of music and visuals, the cuts between scenes, the coloring and motion; I like movies.

So, when a movie like CODA wins best picture, I wonder why I step away confused, you know? I don’t ascribe this strange, transcendental quality to film, despite there being clearly transcendental filmmaking. You know the kind I’m talking about. The movie that touches you deeply, while also stretching into categories beyond the norms of the motion picture.

CODA didn’t do that to me, so of course I, personally, didn’t care to see it win Best Picture. I even spend an entire podcast episode somewhat complaining about what, in my opinion, keeps it from being the Best Picture winner. Even so, CODA, like any movie, earns the right to be in the running, at the very least, and perhaps I’m simply adjacent to the Academy. For the Academy, CODA was the best picture of 2021, and more power to CODA for wooing its judges. Fair’s fair, after all.

And yet, CODA’s victory appropriately challenges my denial of pretention. Perhaps, as my friend put it, The Adam Project truly isn’t a movie I’d be into.

Eugenio Derbez in Best Picture winner CODA
It leaves me wondering what else I’m supposed to, and therefore not supposed to, be into.

Silliness, of course. I’m dynamic like any human being. My interests are long reaching. I liked The Adam Project and I liked CODA.

But the real thing at the forefront of my mind, this week, as I thought on CODA, was never whether I liked the movie or not (I did, mostly). It was:

Best Picture of 2021? CODA? Really?

And I’m just wondering what that means about me. Am I silliness, too? During Quarantine, people returned to Forks, Washington to enjoy vampires and werewolves once again, so maybe CODA’s victory is attributed to its wholly inoffensive, comfortable, and unthreatening presentation. Maybe a movie like CODA is exactly the kind of winner people want. It’s so strangely mundane, with only one extraordinary quality (it’s representation of disabilities) that makes it, frankly, exceptional for a horrendously painful two years. CODA feels like the kind of life we wish we were experiencing from 2019 to 2022. Everything works out in the end. Best Picture winner 2021 indeed.

Maybe I’m pretentious. Maybe I don’t know what my kind of movie is. Maybe I’m left confused and misjudged, or I’m left self-righteous and abrasive. I’m not sure. I’m never sure of anything, really. But, for a film to so strangely itch my brain for a week about winning Best Picture, I reckon there’s something equally transfixing as there is irritating about CODA. Under any circumstance, I likely would forget about CODA, but now I will forever remember what’s beneath the shadow of Best Picture 2021, and it’s not the Will Smith slap, it’s CODA’s borderline banality.

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Melvin Benson Cinematic Doctrine Christian Movie Podcast Host

Melvin Benson is the Founder, Editor-In-Chief, and Lead Host of Cinematic Doctrine. He’s written fiction and nonfiction for over a decade with short stories featured on the Creepypasta Wiki and Wattpad. His novelette Ethereal Temptation, a teen drama with a tinge of magical-realism, can be read for free here. His hope is to see King Jesus glorified as far as the east is from the west!

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