In a year that challenged our perceptions of what makes a movie a movie, the Los Angeles Film Critics have provocatively chosen a five-part series, Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology, as Best Picture.
No one’s disputing the excellent of Small Axe. But is it a single “picture”? The series, streaming on Amazon Prime, tells five separate but loosely connected stories of West Indians in the United Kingdom from the late 1960s to early 1980s.
A debate immediately ensued online about whether Small Axe is itself a film or a series of five films. The different installments are Mangrove, Lovers Rock, Red White and Blue, Alex Wheatle and Education.
The Los Angeles film critics clearly knew they would spark debate about whether a movie needs to be a single, self-contained story. Variety noted that Amazon Prime has not submitted the Small Axe series in the Oscars, but had planned to submit it for Emmys.
Individual installments might also fare well this awards season — Lover’s Rock deservedly landed on many critics lists as one of the best films of the year. But at just over an hour, it might have posed a quandary for Best Picture Oscar voters accustomed to lengthier films.
In addition to the Best Picture win, Small Axe won best cinematography, for Shabier Kirchner.
Other winners included Chloé Zhao, who won for her Frances McDormand road movie Nomadland.
Chadwick Boseman posthumously for his leading role in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and his co-star Glynn Turman won for best supporting actor.
Promising Young Woman earned best actress for Carey Mulligan and best screenplay for writer-director Emerald Fennell.
Yuh-jung Youn won for best supporting actress for her role in Minari.
You can listen to our Low Key podcast discussion of Lovers Rock, from the Small Axe anthology, on on Apple or Spotify or here: