My Favorite Moments in the Best Picture Nominees: Ford v Ferrari

So my favorite Oscars tradition, aside from getting hammered and eating Chinese food during the ceremony, is, the day before the ceremony, presenting my favorite moments in each of the Best Picture nominees. I originally started it in 2011, when I felt like there was a lot of anger over certain things that were nominated (The Artist, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, The Help), and I just wanted to take that step back and remind myself and everyone else what it’s all about — this is because we love movies. We’re just giving out awards to the movies we liked best. It’s not about the damn awards. It’s about good movies and love of the art form. And it’s something I think we need to be reminded of, which is why I now do it before every Oscar ceremony. It doesn’t matter what wins and what doesn’t, it’s all about celebrating the great movies that came out this year.

Our next nominee is Ford v Ferrari.

5. “You’re welcome”

I love this monologue. This scene is the perfect distillation of Matt Damon’s entire character in this movie. Here’s a guy who has his own ends, and he needs Ford’s money to get to them. But they just did horrible at Le Mans ’65, and Ford is ready to pull the plug on the whole thing. So Shelby, thinking on his feet and saying whatever he needs to in order to get what he wants, completely bullshits his way into convincing Ford to give him what he wants. That’s his character: he knows what to say at all times (except, notably, at the very end). And it’s just great, how he takes something as simple as a folder being passed from person to person and turns it into this whole thing about “Well, this is actually a good thing for us.” And it works! This is a monologue that gets applause at the end of it in the theater because it’s so well-written and well-delivered, and because everyone understands all the way through that it’s complete horse shit the entire time.

4. “The Perfect Lap”

This is the big moment in the film for Bale’s character. Miles has been the brash racer who just wants to drive for the entire film, and after all sorts of strife with the higher-ups, he’s finally been able to run his race. And he’s got it won. He’s beaten Ferrari and he’s about to become the first man to win the triple crown of racing… and then the suits come up with a dumb idea and tell him basically to throw the race. And this moment is so brilliant… when he’s told, he gets in the car and goes out on the track. Because, as we’ve established, the car is the only place he can clear his mind and think clearly. And, so he goes out and breaks his own track record. AGAIN. And then… he goes along. He slows down. He decides to be a team player for once. And it’s a powerful moment. Because you see him come to that resignation that he’s gonna do it, but then he goes and breaks the lap record just to show everyone that he did it. That he’s the best. It’s a beautiful moment in which nothing needs to be said, which is the crux of the character — a pure racer.

3. Throwback

It’s such a 70s type movie. People aren’t necessarily appreciating that as much as they should be. But they will in five years, when everyone realizes they watch this whenever it’s on because it’s so damn watchable.

But this is a movie you could have seen made in 1974 with Paul Newman and Robert Redford. It just has that kinda vibe to it. The stars are just pure movie stars, the action is great and the movie is fun. You don’t see movies that pull this off anymore. You see movies that try to emulate those kinds of movies, but you rarely see a movie that truly feels like it could have truly been made at that time. And that was one of the biggest things that drew me to this film.

2. Daytona

I love this sequence. It was set up by the scene that I’m sure most people would shout out on a list like this — the scene where Shelby takes Ford out on the track. But to me, this is the more interesting moment. Because it’s a race, which is thrilling on its own, but it’s also got a full three-act structure to it. Damon’s told Ford that if Miles wins Daytona, he gets to race Le Mans. And if Miles loses, Shelby loses all control of his own company forever. He hasn’t told Miles this either, so as far as Miles knows, he’s just racing. And then the higher ups have imposed a speed limit on them, which is also playing out during the whole race. So you’ve got all these emotional stakes, and you’re nervous that it’s not gonna work out, and then you have that great moment where Damon’s like, “Fuck it” and tells Bale to just punch it and go all out. And then he does… and he wins. And it’s wonderful. The whole race is perfectly structured, and unlike a lot of racing scenes in movies has so much more subtext to it than ‘just another race’. Arguably this race is more important to the narrative of the film than Le Mans is, even though Le Mans is basically the reason they’re telling the story.

1. Shelby and Miles v Ford

The title is a real misnomer. I get why that’s the title. But it is. Ferrari isn’t the antagonist here. Not really. I mean, they try to make their driver the sneering villain and all that, but really, if you’re looking for a sneering villain in the movie, who is it? Josh Charles. The marketing guy from Ford. Because the real struggle in the film is between Shelby and Miles and the Ford company. Ford wants to race, so Shelby says, “We can do it.” Knowing that’s his opportunity to have a real budget and create a thing of beauty, something that can win the race over Ferrari. But then all the suits start meddling. And the entire movie is about these guys struggling to overcome the meddling of people who know nothing about racing. Which, of course, is a metaphor for creatives and executives in any situation. Though it’s hard not to see the comparisons to Hollywood and filmmaking. And what I love most about this movie is how it’s really about this struggle, of guys just wanting to do something ‘for love of the game’, so to speak. And these other idiots who happen to control the money are preventing them from doing that.

Also, talk about another movie with some pessimism to it. When they win at the end, they don’t even win. They get screwed out of the actual victory. Who won? Ford. The suits win. They get the prestige and the money, and these guys get nothing out of the deal. But, they don’t really care, since they’re gonna go back and keep working on their car. And ultimately that is a nice feeling, the ‘Screw it, let’s get back to work.” But the whole notion of the film being a struggle between creatives and executives was a really great aspect of it to me, on top of all the other amazing stuff that’s in it.

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