2020 Oscar Reviews: Ford v Ferrari

Each year for the past few years, I have attempted to watch as many of that year’s Oscar nominees as possible before the awards are presented. It’s just a little personal challenge for fun, and I’ve had varying degrees of success in both seeing the films, and making predictions (ok that’s stretching the truth- my predictions are always failures). This year the nomination announcements caught me by surprise somehow. I’d managed to completely miss the Golden Globes (whose nominations I usually use to get a jump start), and for the first time ever, I have not seen a single one of the nominees already on my own. Doh! Lots of work to do! Last year I wrote up reviews of all the nominees I managed to see, and published both my predictions, and my reactions. I hope to do the same this year, but I’ll try to write up my reviews individually as I see the films, and then will do a big prediction post at the end. Today we focus on…

Ford v Ferrari

(4 nominations, including best picture, film editing, sound editing, and sound mixing)

Ford2

Here’s some context. I watched Ford v Ferarri at the tail end of one of the longest, weirdest, moat mentally-exhausting days of my life. It was my 14th 2020 Oscar film, my final of nine best picture nominees, and my 5th full-length feature in 6 days. I was a little frayed. But I was also determined to reset and relax, so when my spouse suggested we watch it, and I looked at the clock and realized we can just fit it in before bedtime if we start now (spoiler: We should have checked the whopping 2.5 hour run time!). This looked like a light fun ride, which was just what I needed, and the sense of accomplishment for finishing off the Best Picture category would be a nice boost with which to cap off that day’s madness.

I was right about it being a light fun ride! Though for real there’s no reason for it to be so long; it would have been very easy to chop down for speed, much like a sports car. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it actively lost my interest, but more so that the combination of the long run time, my wonky day, and my lack of personal interest in the central subject matter failed to fully hold my interest the entire time. When the film ended, my spouse said, “I am getting the feeling that you didn’t like it.” That’s not true- I didn’t dislike it. But, recall the context I detailed above. I’d just watched several Oscar winners in a row. The other recent films I’d watched tackled class inequality, gender inequality, sexual harassment, sexual assault, drug addiction, child abuse, divorce, the role of organized religion, desperation, war, fascism, and slavery.

THIS movie, on the other hand, was about a couple of dudes who felt like making a car go really fast for fun. They have an endless supply of money, talent, and resources, do some trial and error for a while, and don’t have any major problems to face except for one dude who kinda doesn’t like them and would prefer if a different guy drove the car.

So… yeah, maybe the themes didn’t permeate the depths of my soul quite like the other nominees did.

This film has a weird assortment of nominations. Editing, sound, more sound… and BEST PICTURE? No cinematography, no director, no acting, and no writing. Are we to believe that this movie is basically one of the 9 best movies of the entire year because they do a really good job making the cars look and sound cool? Well, kinda, but there’s a little more to it than that. This film doesn’t have anything important to say, but I don’t think that’ really what it was trying to do (though maybe I’m wrong- the script had a handful of ridiculously cheesy speeches, and I had a hard time telling how seriously we were supposed to be taking them). Instead, like I said, it’s a fun light sports movie. We’ve got fun characters (or at least Christian Bale’s guy is super fun. Matt Damon’s guy just kinda stands around with stupid hair and spends all his time asking Christina Bale to drive a car, or asking Ford executives if Christian Bale can drive a car).  We’ve got fun training montages, fun climactic sports scenes, fun little problems that are always solved by smashing your car with some sort of tool, fun inspirational speeches (see above), and a villain who is mean for really like no discernible reason. Anyone who is into cars will, I think, LOVE the crap out of this movie, because it’s just a quality execution of a fun true story, and what’s not to love about that? I’m not into car racing at all, so I was just kinda neutral while watching it, but if someone made this high a calibur film about some sport or hobby that I was really into, then hell’s to the yeah I would be over the moon.

There is one really effective scene, though, that I’d like to elevate for you. Like I just said, I’m not into car racing. Like, AT ALL. Bill Maher kinda summed up my thoughts about cars and car movies on his show in 2017″

“Stop making movies where the hero is a guy who can drive a car, something we let sixteen year olds do. What does it say about our psyche that Hollywood can always count on men to plunk down ten bucks to watch another man make a motor go ‘vroom vroom?’ You know, I recently caught up with Baby Driver because the critics loved it and I had forgotten that critics are stupid. And it turns out it’s just one more in a long line of movies like the Transporter series, and Fast and Furious parts one to infinity, and the new Wheelman, and Gone in 60 Seconds, and Driven, and Drive, and The Driver, and Drive Angry, and ten others all with the exact same plot: when there is a tough job, or even an impossible mission, the key to it is a guy who possesses the elite, mind-blowing skill… OF DRIVING.”

He goes on for a while with several more driving jokes before revealing it was all a big intro to a more serious point he wanted to make about toxic male laziness. You can watch the whole thing here:

Now, if you’re someone who actually is into cars and car racing and car driving movies, etc, you’re possibly seething right now. Which is fair! And which brings me to the scene I wanted to mention. The movie is full of Matt Damon talking about how important and impressive cars and driving cars is, etc. To me it came across as silly. BUT… then he finally decides to SHOW us.

{SPOILER ALERT CUZ THIS SCENE IS PIVOTAL}

In this scene, Henry Ford II shows up at the test track to take a look at the car. Matt Damon offers to take him out for a spin, and before anyone can stop him, he is whizzing around the track at a gajillion miles per hour (probably more like 200, but whatevs), drifting around the corners while the whole machine shakes as if it’s about to take off. We, as viewers, can practically feel our seats shaking. It is CRAZY. When the car screeches to a halt, Ford, a rich, powerful old executive in a fancy suit. starts weeping uncontrollably. “I had no idea!” he gasps. Which sounds dumb, but his body has just gone through that very few people on the planet have ever experienced, and he’s freaking out. Matt Damon then gives a speech about how these elite race cars are powerful machines that can only be controlled by the most skilled drivers in the world. Sure, Ford made it so that everyone on the planet can drive A car, but almost nobody can handle THIS car. Its not that I didn’t understand it when people had told me, but here, this film finally put me in the car and showed me. So that was pretty neat.

Should you see this film? Sure! It’s pretty good! Should you give it the Oscar for best picture? What? No! Absolutely not! Should someone cut 30 minutes off of it? Yes please.


2 thoughts on “2020 Oscar Reviews: Ford v Ferrari

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