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With this essay, I close my series on Oscar-nominated movies that should have won something. I take an un-romantic view of Hollywood, but I daresay I take beautification more seriously than most. It’s very hard for movies to compete with the kind of Disney/Marvel blockbuster that seems to have mesmerized the movie-going audience. It’s hard to argue with success in America. Organizing prestige a a kind of success that can at least occasionally withstand popularity is needful. It’s not working out as well as I would like, but it’s better than nothing. In 2016, this small, but influential side of movie-making gave us Loving, which I want to discuss today.
Americans have been treated to civil rights stories at the movies for almost a decade now. These are almost always prestige pictures, as opposed to popularity pictures. People who make them don’t really expect to make money by them–not that they would say no to wealth. This is one sign that morality still has a kind of purchase on the movie business. Of course, prestige is not an innocent pursuit, but what’s more important than suspecting people’s intentions now is trying to figure out what Americans might learn from these attempts to talk about justice and dignity. I think we’re broadly agreed that Americans need to pay more attention to history, but at the same time, that history is excessively revisionist these days. Possibly, the partisan character of the story-telling overcomes the all-American need for it. I think it’s true that the people who make these movies have not seen fit to make a great effort to address the American people as a whole, so there’s room for improvement.