The Oscars are going to be weird this year. They’re going to be weird in a few ways, too, beyond the way that, say, the Emmys or the Grammys were weird. Part of it is the thing where movies are meant to be seen — ideally, at first — on huge screens in theaters and theaters have been more or less closed for a year now. Part of it is how many of the big nominees — Minari, Nomadland — are the types of Oscar-y movies that people might want to watch in addition to a bunch of other lighter, sillier, explodier movies, but most of those movies have been shelved until theaters can open again, leaving people with the choice of “do I watch an assuredly good movie that might require an emotional lift I cannot offer during a pandemic or do I just rewatch some cool comforting stuff I’ve seen 15 times already?” It’s not an ideal situation for any of us.
Which brings me to my point: Should we consider, for this year only, giving the 2021 Best Picture Oscar to the 2018 ensemble comedy Game Night? It’s a fair question, one I ask for many legitimate reasons that I will think of eventually and not just because I watched Game Night for like 15th time this week and needed an excuse to write about it. I mean, if things are going to be weird already, do we just rip off the Band-Aid and go full nutso? Do we give an Oscar to a movie that debuted three full years ago and featured Rachel McAdams bonking multiple people in the head with a fire extinguisher? Let’s break down the case for and case against this idea before we reach a verdict. The important thing is that we all go into this with an open mind.
The Case For Giving The 2021 Best Picture Oscar To The 2018 Ensemble Comedy Game Night
Game Night rules. It is loaded with jokes and people you like and has a fun premise about boring adults playing board games together that keeps spiraling and spiraling into weirder territory until you reach the point where Jason Bateman is speeding down a runway in a Corvette Stingray in an attempt to stop an international criminal in an airplane and you’re watching it all happen and thinking “Yes, okay, I understand how we got to this point.” It’s a hell of a trick to pull off, especially if you, like me, have seen enough action/comedy-type movies that you can usually see twists coming.
Start with the cast. What a collection of hitters. You’ve got Bateman going full Bateman. You’ve got Rachel McAdams doing comedy in a way that makes you wonder why she ever does drama, even though she’s pretty good at that, too. You’ve got Sharon Horgan from Catastrophe and Billy Magnussen from everything, with Magnussen playing the sweetest dimwit you’ve ever seen. You’ve got Kylie Bunbury and Lamorne Morris as a feuding couple and if you have never seen Lamorne Morris from New Girl do a Denzel Washington impression, you are in for a treat. You’ve got Kyle Chandler and Michael C. Hall as different kinds of scumbags, which is something I would elaborate on if I was not already this far into a discussion about the cast without mentioning Jesse Plemons. Jesse Plemons absolutely steals this entire movie as the creepy divorced cop who lives next door and wants nothing more than to be invited to the couples game night. Look at a king do work.
This is not even his best scene in the movie. There are a bunch of great ones. This is just the best one I can show you without spoiling any of the dozen or so twists that play out afterward and make the whole thing so enjoyable. And it’s still so good. The delivery on “How can that be profitable for Frito Lay?” alone should make this movie worthy of Oscar consideration. And that’s before we even get to the part where McAdams attempts to clean a bullet wound with Chardonnay, or where everyone — again, a group of couples in their 30s and 40s who started the night with snacks and Scrabble on the itinerary — goes on a brief undercover mission at a billionaire’s secret fight club to steal a Faberge egg, or where Billy Magnussen attempts to bribe a character played by Chelsea Peretti — also in Game Night, as is Jeffrey Wright, which is another point in this movie’s favor — with one of the funnier bits of payoff-related physical comedy you’ll ever see. Game Night is so good. You should watch Game Night if you haven’t, and you should watch it again if you have.
But this, so far, is the case for why we should have given Game Night the Best Picture Oscar in the year it was eligible, not 2021. Things get trickier from here on out. It will be much simpler to address in bullet points. Here is why we should give this very good movie from 2018 the Best Picture Oscar in 2021
- It would be funny
- I would like it
- It is important to right past wrongs whenever possible
- This year’s Best Picture contenders should have an opportunity to compete in a year that isn’t tarnished with an asterisk by some snobs
- I would like to see everyone’s faces when a movie that wasn’t even nominated and currently airs on TBS like five times a year wins Best Picture
- It would keep Hollywood on its toes
- It would make next year’s Oscars a must-watch because anything could happen
- It would give the Oscars a lot of next-day publicity in a year when I think most people are not even aware they are airing on Sunday
- It would probably get tons of people to watch Game Night and then everyone will get the references I make to it
- I would look so smart if it happens
- I would never stop laughing
- I think those last two might fall under the “I would like it” bullet point from earlier
- Game Night rules
The Case Against Giving The 2021 Best Picture Oscar To The 2018 Ensemble Comedy Game Night
I don’t know. I guess it would set a bad precedent. And it wouldn’t be fair to the films that are nominated because, like, they’ve been through enough already with trying to promote and get people to see their movies in the middle of a pandemic. And it would probably make 8-year-old Minari star Alan Kim sad, which would stink, because I love that guy. If I’m being very honest here, this last thing is the most troubling issue for me. It might be enough to tank the entire other side of this argument.
We should give the 2021 Best Picture Oscar to Game Night but also give 8-year-old Minari star Alan Kim an Oscar, too. For anything. Make one up if necessary. Give him the Oscar for Best Dude Around. There we go. Win-win. Problem solved.