E: So that wasn’t so bad after all. I’m pleasantly surprised at last night’s outcome. Jimmy Kimmel managed perfectly well, the broadcast managed to be political and classy at the same time, and the musical performances hit me right in the feels. A little outrage, a little disappointment, and a bit of triumph to close it all out.
Which is to say, 5 out of 6 ain’t bad, especially when I was rooting to lose the 6th one. Continue reading →
We’ve heard a lot in recent months about the horrible things that powerful Hollywood men do behind closed office or hotel room doors, and the negative impact this has on the careers and mental health of women in the industry.
Surprisingly though, in the run-up to the biggest starry night of Tinseltown, we haven’t heard a peep about that time the Academy Awards broadcast a song-and-dance number reminding female actresses that, whatever they’ve accomplished in their careers, and however many awards their talent may earn them, the really crucial thing about them is that “We Saw Your Boobs.”
Sure, Seth McFarlane’s hosting gig was 5 years ago now. But just because the Academy didn’t say anything then doesn’t mean an apology isn’t still owed now.
Go look at it on Youtube if you must. Remind yourself of the smug expressions on the cadre of suited singing men. Of the many intercut reaction shots of mortified women who can’t believe this is happening, or are making a heroic effort to look amused (because cool girls have a sense of humor, even when the joke’s on them, right?).
The Oscars is basically Hollywood’s annual office holiday party: it’s technically “after hours,” you’re not precisely on the job, yet neither are you precisely off the clock. (As Tina Fey wittily pointed out, most actresses spend as much time dressing for the ceremony as one would for those physically transformed acting roles the Academy loves to award.) At an office party, outrageous behavior can still lead to consequences for your career. At an office party, a man with some power in your field who hits on or objectifies you is still a candidate for a chat from HR.
So when an organization commissions a man to speak for them — which is what an MC does, albeit with jokes — and that man performs a staged, rehearsed number that is simply a list of female actors and the movies in which their secondary sexual characteristics are visible — doesn’t that organization bear a fair amount of responsibility for reducing and demeaning those actors in what was supposed to, you know, a positive moment for them? And for throwing another log on the trashcan fire that is the workplace environment of women in Hollywood?
So there’s this DHL commercial from the late 80s or early 90s (sadly unavailable online) which sticks in my mind as one of the all time greats. My family collapsed in hilarity every damn time it came on, and as you can see, quotes it to this day. It was part of a series in which DHL showed irresponsible international curriers to use at your peril; there was one with a Russian rock band that used packages as drums, and this one, in which a deliciously heavily accented French driver had an existential crisis. “I am bored today. I am FIIILLed with bored-em. Zese bourgeois businessmen waiting for zeir packages, zey can wait.”
And that’s how I feel about this year’s Oscar race. I am filled the brim with boredom.
Sure, there will be great fashion, and someone out there will probably give a great speech. Maybe not one of the actors or director or screenwriters or producers (we’ve heard them often enough now to know), but someone. Probably. Oscar matters to industry folks in a way nothing else does, and sometimes that turns self-possessed people into piles of goo. Sometimes the non-celebrity winners have the best things to say; perhaps this year it’ll be Kareem Abeed, director of nominated documentary The Last Man in Aleppo, who was initially denied a visa to attend the ceremony. Or perhaps it’ll be a complete unknown simply paying tribute to his mom. Jimmy Kimmel should be topical and funny as he was last year; I feel like Princess Leia pleading for salvation. “Jimmy Kimmel, you’re my only hope!” Without a real effort from him, I might just be here for the protestart.
Don’t get me wrong. There are some flipping fantastic movies out there this year, movies I’m so glad I’ve seen. Movies that you should go out and see if you haven’t, movies we’ll talk about here. It’s just that the ones that speak to me are not actually winning most of the awards. Also? Every single awards show has rewarded the same performances and film. The critics didn’t produce such a homogenous response, but the industry groups? Every bloody time the same. I’m not sure there’s any race up in the air.
And oh, my lord, that’s so dull. Rolling my eyes like a tween listening to a parental lecture dull, deathly dull, mind-numbingly dull, French existential crisis-level dull. No, I’m not just saying that because I don’t like this year’s presumptive winner; it’s dull even when you like the winner. I’m not longing for last year’s electoral insanity (a remarkably juicy story chronicled here) but I can’t help wishing there’ll be something at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences big show that deviates from the script.
E: I know I told you to expect some crazy from the directors wing, but to leave out Martin McDonagh? Whoa. What’s that going to do to the Best Picture race? My head is spinning.
I miss-called 2 out of the 20 acting nominations. I wondered if James Franco would be undone by the accusations against him, and here we have the answer. I’m not at all surprised that Tom Hanks’ nominationless streak continues, though I did think he’d gbe the one to benefit if James was out. Was it just that Jason Robards made such a perfect Ben Bradlee that voters couldn’t see anyone else in the role? You have to ask if there’s something deeper going on, though, as he hits 17 years without a nod. Did people think he was overrated in the 90s, or did he leave such indelible performances then that everything else he does seems old hat? It’s a mystery – and it’s more mysterious to me that so few people talk about it.
Which is all to say that Denzel Washington is a little bit of a surprise, but not a big one.
But Leslie Manville? That was a total surprise, even after her BAFTA nom. She’s a costume drama mainstay and I’m pleased to see her recognized; I’m also not surprised that the Academy wasn’t motivated to have an Asian actor included in it’s slate. (Ditto, apparently, for the Thai cinematographer for Call Me By Your Name, Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, who made a film praised everywhere for its sumptuous visuals.) The Phantom Thread in general played far better with the Academy than it did anywhere else, and I’m surprised, far more than I am with Darkest Hour. I’m bummed; I was rooting for I, Tonya and The Big Sick. I’m fascinated that in this unsettled time in America, the Academy leans to Britain and history for consolation rather more modern explorations of the way we live now.
I’ll be back later today with full on reactions and comparisons (direction was my worst category as always, otherwise I did well).
E: If Sunday’s SAG awards are to be believed, then there’s not much mystery left in the Oscar race outside of Best Picture. No, even with Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri’s win we’re not any closer to a clear Best Picture champion, but the acting races seem all but locked in. Nothing but six weeks of winner fatigue or an unforeseen disaster could stop the inexorable march to the podium of those four actors.
And that’s why nomination morning is so much more fun for me, even after last year’s crazy Oscar night. The real insanity last year wasn’t the overturning of the presumed favorite – the roughly once-a-decade shocker of a Crash overtaking Brokeback Mountain, or Shakespeare in Love besting Saving Private Ryan – but the added drama of the wrong envelope. Which is to say, sure, sometimes the awards don’t go to the people or films we expect, but that’s more of an exception than a rule. There’s a decent proportion of surprises that always occur during the nominations, however; at least a few people who made every list will get left off this big one.
E: The year of the woman continues, at least in name: for the first time, this show has a host (the talented and extravagantly likable Kristin Bell) and (at least according to some sources) only female presenters. I’m very curious as to how this will play out; will SAG continue the tradition of having speakers from the audience explain what it means to them to be an actor? And in the days of Time’s Up and MeToo, what could that mean?
In Oscar news, tonight’s broadcast gives us our first to chance to see if Gary Oldman and Sam Rockwell really are locks, or if Timothee Chalamet and Willem Dafoe can unseat them. Will Allison Janney’s villainous stage mom thump all comers, or does Laurie Metcalf’s more realistic pessimist have a shot in the battle of the overbearing mothers? It sets up our first look at Frances McDormand and Saoirse Ronan going head to head for best actress. In most years the ingenue has the advantage, but in 2018 it’s more of a question. It’s even a question whether we can call Ronan an ingenue, given that she has 2 Oscar nominations and nearly a decade’s worth of leading roles to her credit even at 23.
It won’t give us certainty, but tonight’s show could absolutely add to the confusion between The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Epping, Missouri. A win by either couldn’t be a decisive victory at this point, but a win by a third film would muddy up the waters pretty beautifully. Sure, the tv awards don’t include anything you haven’t seen win at the Emmy’s and the Globes, but the actors and actresses still have a lot to say. So if you’re sick of football, seek out tonight’s ceremony on TNT and TBS at 8 East Standard Time. Things look like they might be pretty new.