When the Oscar for best picture is handed out at Sunday’s 86th annual Academy Awards, we’ll work hard to convince ourselves that it means something. Because we’re a culture obsessed with winning, we need to think a movie that places first in the oldest, most respected cinematic horse race of all is the best of the year. We believe that choice says important things about the movies, the culture, and our lives.
And maybe it does. But what if the entire field says something more important? 2013 was such a good year for film that any of the nine best picture nominees would be considered a front-runner in a weaker season. Indeed, there are movies that didn’t even get nominated — “All Is Lost,” “Before Midnight,” “Fruitvale Station” — that might have been lauded or even won in other years.