Senior Staff Writer Jake “Jake-Luc Godard” Tibbetts woke up before 10:00 am on only one occasion over winter break: Monday, January 13, when, at 8:18 am EST, John Cho and Issa Rae announced the nominees for the 92nd Academy Awards. After writing last year about which living spaces on campus corresponded to which nominees for Best Picture at last year’s ceremony, he has decided to once more connect the best releases of the past year to Columbia — this time, by exploring which campus buildings correspond to which nominees for Best Picture.
This year, the Academy Awards will be given out to winners in twenty-four categories fifteen days earlier than they were last year. (The shortened award season almost makes up for the presidential primary season being roughly 15.7 times as long as it normally is.) Because of this, I am publishing the long-awaited sequel to my “Campus Dorms As Nominees For Best Picture” post from last year about a month early. Long-awaited to whom, you might ask? Long-awaited to me, of course! If it weren’t for this platform, I would be posting these corny jokes, obscure Columbia references, and ruthless bits of film criticism on Twitter for my thirty followers to see. This piece is long-awaited to those followers, too, since now they don’t have to read any of that!
Sadly, the Academy snubbed numerous brilliant filmmakers, writers, and performers. Greta Gerwig (BC ‘06), who directed the newest adaptation of Little Women, was robbed of an opportunity to become the first woman to be nominated for Best Director on more than one occasion. Only one acting nominee (Cynthia Erivo, Harriet) out of nineteen is a person of color; performers of color like Jennifer Lopez (Hustlers), Lupita Nyong’o (Us), Eddie Murphy (Dolemite Is My Name), and Jamie Foxx (Just Mercy) were left out of the running. Even Awkwafina, who won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress — Motion Picture Comedy or Musical this year (and was the first woman of Asian descent to win such an award) for her work in The Farewell, was passed over. Robert De Niro missed out on a chance to be nominated for his performance as Frank Sheeran in The Irishman, a presumed front runner for Best Picture. Taron Egerton’s work as Elton John in Rocketman was ignored despite a Globe win. Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which has a score of 95 on Metacritic, was passed over in the Best International Feature Film category. And folks, I’m shocked to be writing this, but please bear with me: Adam Sandler deserved so much better.
Seven fantastic films were nominated for Best Picture this month. 1917 is perhaps the greatest American war movie since Saving Private Ryan. Ford v. Ferrari is dad-core done right. The Irishman is a somber, morbid twist on the gangster genre that very well might be Martin Scorsese’s swan song, and it’s a beautiful one at that. In Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood, a visually stunning look at Hollywood at the end of its golden age, Quentin Tarantino pays homage to the culture that inspired him without resorting to his trademark gratuitous violence… until, well, you know. Marriage Story is somehow a thousand times better than the Kramer vs. Kramer remake I was expecting to watch, thanks in large part to killer performances by Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, and especially Laura Dern. Little Women is a slightly subversive but truly faithful take on a beloved classic. And Parasite is a damning indictment of late capitalism that seamlessly blends a multitude of genres together thanks to Bong Joon-ho’s impeccable direction.
Two mediocre-at-best films, Joker (like Taxi Driver by way of The King of Comedy, but with no tact, no subtlety, painfully cheesy dialogue, and highly questionable politics) and Jojo Rabbit (like a Wes Anderson film, but somehow even more desperate to be witty and original and boundary-pushing), were also nominated. Eh.
Differences in quality aside, though, all of these films, much like last year’s selections, share a connection to the university we know and love. Each of these nominees corresponds perfectly to a beloved building on campus. Here they are, in alphabetical order:
1917: Hamilton Hall
Making your way through the front entrance of Hamilton at 11:40 am or 3:55 pm or 6:10 pm can feel pretty similar to storming through a battlefield on the Western Front. Also, the elevator in Hamilton smells like mustard gas and was probably built not too long after the year 1917.
Ford v. Ferrari: Butler Library
Ford v. Ferrari, is, at its core, a bro movie. It’s the type of movie that your uncle probably brought up at Christmas when he was talking about how great Jason Bourne and Batman, neither of whose real names he could remember, were in it. It was directed by the guy who made Logan, for God’s sake. This is a film made by white dudes for white dudes.
Inscribed on the Butler Library facade are the names of writers and philosophers like Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Vergil, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Shakespeare, and Milton, all of whom play a role, large or small, in the Core — and all of whom are white guys. Butler is the bro-iest building on campus. One can easily imagine Christian Bale’s name being inscribed next to Dante’s.
The Irishman: Northwest Corner Building (NoCo)
The Irishman, at 209 minutes, is longer than it probably needs to be, but so it goes. It was given a very limited theater release before being made available for screening on Netflix less than a month later, and it has given us a glimpse into what the future of cinema might hold. Its cinematography, production and costume design, editing, and visual effects made it one of the most aesthetically pleasing films of 2019.
NoCo, with oh-my-god-I-don’t-even-know-how-many floors, is probably taller than it needs to be, but so it goes. It is one of the newest buildings on the Morningside Heights campus, having opened in 2009, and it has given us a glimpse into what the future of architecture in the neighborhood might hold. Its rectangular shape and window-wall-adorned lecture halls make it one of the most aesthetically pleasing buildings in the area.
Also: The best part of NoCo is Joe Coffee. The best part of The Irishman is Joe Pesci.
Jojo Rabbit: International Affairs Building (IAB)
People seem to really dig Jojo Rabbit, finding it witty, charming, and poignant. Some critics, however, have been more, well, critical, arguing that it is far too tonally inconsistent to be enjoyable and does a pretty bad job handling its sensitive and serious subject matter. To some, it’s the best film of the year; to others, like me, it’s off-putting at best. Likewise, some people are very, very passionate about the IAB. The views from the top floors, they say, are unbeatable, and it’s a great place to study, too! Yet I really can’t fully comprehend the hype no matter how hard I try. Just as I find the playful tone of Jojo Rabbit to be jarring when juxtaposed with the film’s plot and setting, I find the big, brutalist IAB to be jarring when juxtaposed with the rest of Morningside Heights. It just isn’t my thing.
Joker: Knox Hall
Joker is a film about society, man. It’s about uncovering what features of society, exactly, drive “mentally ill loners,” to quote Joaquin Phoenix’s take on the well-known comic book villain, to commit acts of violence against society. We truly do, Todd Phillips wants us to believe, live in a society.
Knox Hall, located on 122nd Street, is perhaps most well-known as the home of the Department of Sociology. If you’re interested in studying society, this is the place to be.
There’s one small difference. The Department of Sociology is absolutely amazing (as are all the people who make it run, from Professor Shamus Khan all the way down to the TAs). Joker is one of the worst Best Picture nominees of the 2010s (better than perhaps only Bohemian Rhapsody from last year.)
Little Women: Avery Hall
Some might have thought that there was no need for another adaptation of Little Women. Greta Gerwig proved them all wrong. There is nothing redundant about this film — it is truly one-of-a-kind, and Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh in particular deliver top-notch performances. It’s the hidden gem of the awards season.
Some might walk past Avery daily without ever thinking to stop inside, wondering what purpose yet another library on campus could serve and questioning why they would ever stop in when Butler is a few minutes away. Instead of being unnecessary on a campus that is home to much larger and showier libraries, however, Avery is a one-of-a-kind safe haven from stress culture on a campus that is plagued by it. Much like watching Little Women, entering Avery feels like a warm embrace.
And just as Florence Pugh deserves a Best Supporting Actress win, Brownie’s is a real contender for Best Supporting Coffee Shop.
Marriage Story: Dodge Hall
You’ve seen the Twitter posts about that scene. You know, the one where Adam Driver and Scarlet Johansson lay into each other, and Driver delivers that zinger, which made the entire Nitehawk theater where I first watched the film burst into laughter (even though I highly doubt that was Noah Baumbach’s intention). With all due respect to Baumbach, Driver, and Johansson, the scene, perhaps the most memorable in the film, comes across a bit like a scene that first-year theater students might read aloud in order to practice delivering rapid-fire dialogue. There’s just something about it.
Perhaps those theater students would shout and punch walls in Dodge Hall, which is home to the School of the Arts and is located right above Miller Theatre.
Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood: Dodge Fitness Center
Let me cut to the chase here: Quentin Tarantino has a foot fetish. Foot shots have become something of an Easter egg to look out for in his films, but, I mean, come on — one doesn’t need to look closely to see how often a foot fills half the screen. It’s overwhelming.
Dodge Fitness Center smells like feet. That’s it. That’s the joke. This gym smells like what the worst parts of Tarantino’s films, including this one, look like. But, like Tarantino’s filmography, I always find myself coming back to Dodge.
Parasite: McBain Hall
Last year, I said that McBain was the equivalent of Bohemian Rhapsody, which, as I have already said, I loathed. The connection I am making between Parasite and McBain has nothing to do with quality. In fact, Parasite is perhaps my second-favorite nominee of the year, losing only to The Irishman. (I’ll be a Scorsese fanboy until the day I drop dead, and it would pain me to say I liked anything more in 2019 than his magnum opus, no matter how good Parasite might be.)
But McBain has, well, a parasite problem. When I lived there as a sophomore, I saw dozens of types of insects and smelled smells that, to my knowledge, can only come from decaying rodents. Plenty of unwelcome creatures are living rent-free in that building. I also have no idea what goes on in McBain’s basement. Maybe it’s not as weird as what goes on in the basement in Parasite, but I’m sure there’s something happening down there that we don’t know about.
The Lighthouse: Koronet
Uncut Gems: Absolute Bagels
The Academy, which seems to hate all A24 releases other than Moonlight and Lady Bird, gave The Lighthouse just one nomination (Best Cinematography) and snubbed Uncut Gems entirely. They aren’t Best Picture nominees, but I just wanted to show them some love anyway. Similarly, Koronet and Absolute Bagels aren’t technically “Columbia buildings,” but they still deserve a shout-out. Thanks for being there for me almost all hours of the day, you two.
Golden Lads 2: Electric Boogaloo via Flicker