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Oscars 2020: Why The Irishman Should Win Best Picture

The 92nd Academy Awards are quickly approaching, so very soon we’ll know who will be taking home those treasured Oscars.

In this series, our team of writers take a look at each nominee for Best Picture, stating their case for why their choice should win.

When Martin Scorsese’s epic gangster drama The Irishman was released at the end of last year, it wowed both audiences and critics.

The reaction generated serious Oscar buzz, and no one was surprised when the film started receiving nomination after nomination by various award bodies.

It earned five Golden Globes nominations, ten at the BAFTAs and also ten at the Oscars, just one less than Joker which leads the race.

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However, despite all the buzz, The Irishman now seems to be firmly out of the Oscars race, especially after it failed to pick up any wins at the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs.

It has been a very strong year for cinema, as is reflected in the Best Picture category where Sam Mendes’ brilliant 1917 is set to triumph, if it isn’t pipped at the post by Bong Joon-ho’s extraordinary Parasite.

But while The Irishman is highly likely to walk away with no Academy Awards, if it did win the top prize, it would be a very worthy Best Picture winner.

That’s because as well as being nothing short of a masterpiece, The Irishman is incredibly ambitious, breaking new ground, something that the Academy should recognise.

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Just look at the use of visual effects for example, something which has been the topic for much discussion.

With a story spanning several decades, Scorsese used digital de-aging technology to a level we have never seen before, transforming the faces of his actors like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, to make them appear much, much younger.

Visual effects kings Industrial Light & Magic developed new systems to accomplish the almighty task, and while some people admitted it took them a while to get used to the younger faces, it was ultimately a triumph.

Yes, you could argue that Scorsese could have used various actors to play the characters at different stages in their lives, but the de-aging technology not only paves the way to the cast delivering staggering performances, it also aids in the beautiful storytelling.

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And what a story it is! Scorsese took a genre he has already mastered and turned it on its head, delivering a gangster drama unlike any we have seen before.

Nostalgic towards the movies he has made before, The Irishman takes on a more mature and reflective approach, being a musing on themes including growing old, guilt and humanity.

The violence is minimal, the plot light and the thrills few and far between, yet it remains completely captivating as we are absorbed into Frank Sheeran’s world.

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While a usual complaint about any film over two hours is that it is too long, The Irishman needed the lengthy 209 minute run-time to tell its epic story, one rich with detail.

Billows of smoke from cigarettes fills the screen, steak after steak is consumed, and you will have to listen very carefully to the characters’ mutterings as they discuss business, shrugging their way through their day-to-day lives.

Spending time with these characters as they go about their everyday lives is a joy, something helped by the fact the casts’ performances are mesmerising.

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Scorsese not only went big with the story, run-time and technology, but he was ambitious with this cast too, assembling a team of rising stars (Stephen Graham, Jesse Plemons) and some of the greatest actors of all-time, known for their work in the genre (De Niro, Pacino, Joe Pesci).

It is no surprise Pesci, who came out of retirement to join the film, and Pacino have both received nominations for their performances, and it is fair to say De Niro was snubbed by the Academy for his.

The film just wouldn’t have had the same impact with a different cast, and it really does feel like the central trio, alongside their director, are saying farewell to the genre, something emphasised by the melancholic tone.

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The Irishman’s grand ambition is not only why the Academy should celebrate the masterful film, but it is also the reason it is a Netflix release, with the streaming service being the only ones willing to fund the costly and huge project – and we are grateful they did as the story needed to be seen.

Previously the Academy has been rather sniffy towards Netflix original films, as has Hollywood in general, but it is time this stigma ended, and a win for The Irishman as Best Picture would reflect this turning of the tide.

It would also reflect how movies are watched in the digital age, with the growth of streaming services, but also how they are produced, with the likes of Netflix supporting both rising directors and auteurs, making phenomenal films such as The Irishman, Roma, Marriage Story and Okja.

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While The Irishman winning Best Picture would be symbolic then, it is also a deserving winner, and the Academy would be right to celebrate how Scorsese’s grand tale reaches new heights.

The 92nd Academy Awards ceremony will take place on 9th February. In the UK you can tune at 1am Monday morning.

You can shop our range of the nominated films now.

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Emily Murray

Emily Murray

Editor

Emily is a journalist and film critic who unashamedly cries at most movies having got too emotionally attached. When not at the cinema, she is at home cuddling her cat Holmes, whilst binge watching New Girl.