That was Something New: Oscar in 2020

E: Once upon a time (though not in Hollywood), there was this guy.  A spectacularly good-looking guy, the friend of some friends.  This guy was so hot that when we were in his vicinity my friends and I would covertly observe him, looking for any kind of physical flaw.  And no, we never found one. He was also, according to our mutual friends, incredibly smart, which added to his swoon-worthiness even more.

But despite this outer perfection, none of us ever graduated to an actual crush on him, because our friends also assured us that he was a self-involved jerk. We appreciated his perfect form.  We were impressed.  We looked with no desire to touch.

So that’s how I feel about last night.  I can appreciate Parasite‘s win – it ticks many of the representation boxes that really matter to me, it brought a lot of exciting firsts to the table (first South Korean nominee in any category, first Korean winner in the four categories it won, first foreign language film to win Best Picture, first film with an all Asian cast to win Best Picture), it’s a thoughtful and well-made movie, its cast and director seemed funny and sweet and adorably joyous.  I just don’t want to spend anymore time, ever, with a movie whose gaping, empty soul I couldn’t enjoy.

Of course there were many things to enjoy about last night.  The acting wins went just as everyone knew they would, but all four really stepped up with their speeches.  The producers threw quite a lot of rap at the stage, as well as presenters of color, in an apparently effort to be more current and look less racist.  Janelle Monae opened the show with what felt more like a tribute to movies that were under-nominated or totally ignored, starting with A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and featuring dancers dressed in costumes from (among others) outrageous comedy Dolemite is My Name, and horror hits  Midsommar and Us.

(Speaking of those movies, I cannot believe I forgot to mention Lupita N’yongo as a huge snub for Best Actress in Us.  Really, I forgot about Us altogether, probably because horror is not my thing, and when it came out nearly a year ago I was too much of wimp to see it.)  There were gorgeous dresses, dashing tuxes and enjoyable musical performances.  (Yay Cynthia Erivo!  Yay Chrissy Metz!  All bow to Sir Elton!  International Elsas, come on! Where did Eminem come from?) Because I’m ready to thank God for small favors, I’m just pleased The Irishman didn’t win anything.

And that might be all I want to say about any of that, at least for now.  I can’t help feeling like Parasite‘s win was at least partly a reaction to the #Oscarsowhite backlash from the nominations, and that can only be a good thing.  Here’s hoping for a more truly inclusive future!

Oscar in 2020: Predicting the Winners

E: The list of films I loved this year was pretty small.  The overlap with Oscar was even smaller.  But hey, it is what it is, right?  I’ve been doing this long enough to know I need to find joy where ever I can.

Aside from not being my favorite, this is also not a year with a lot of room for surprise.  The acting frontrunners have won every single chance they’ve had – not even a tiny wiggle like last year’s unexpected BAFTA win for Olivia Coleman foretelling her criminal upset of Glenn Close.  Nope, they’re all solid locks – the Golden Globes, the Critics Choice, the Screen Actors awards and the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and Sciences all picked the same four people.  Best Picture was literally up for grabs until about a week ago, but BAFTA, the Producers Guild and the Directors Guild have solidified that race pretty nicely, too.  Sure, there’s a little wiggle room, but not a lot.  Let’s talk about what we already know, shall we?

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“Maybe Those Are Just the Best Movies This Year”: #WhiteMan’sOscar in Context

E: Much of the discontent around this year’s very white, very male-oriented Oscar nominations has focused on the all-male slate of directors, and particularly on Greta Gerwig’s exclusion from the list.  Fans of the film from Entertainment Weekly to Trevor Noah keep asking “Did Little Women direct itself?”  Of course, she’s not the only one – exclusion is inevitable when there are nine Best Picture nominees and only five Directing nominees, including both Gerwig and her husband Noah Baumbach, who each helmed Best Picture nominees that received 6 nominations over all.  But so few women achieve this honor (and none for the second time, as Gerwig was poised to) that it sticks out.

What strikes me most about the whole situation is this: comment after comment on these article asked, well, what if the five directors chosen were just the best ones this year?  Why, the public seems to wonder, do you have to make a big deal about one nomination?  Gerwig isn’t entitled to a nomination just because she’s a woman.  She got legitimately beat, and now the political correctness police are crying foul.

And that is what gets me, because the whole issue with the 2020 Oscars is not individual snubs but the pattern those snubs betray through history and context.  If you don’t pay attention, it might seem like hey, it’s just one nomination.  It’s just this year.  It’s all subjective.  Who cares?   But ah, context.

So.  Let’s look at it all.  Let’s talk about some context.

 And to do that let’s admit that the entire point of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and of that group creating the Oscar award way back in 1929, has always been to sell more movie tickets, with the lesser goal of establishing film-making as an art form to be celebrated rather than mocked by intellectual elites.  The nominated films are chosen by industry professionals, and are supposed to represent the height of their craft — but winning an Oscar has never been like winning a footrace.  There’s a subjective groupthink involved.  It’s always reasonable to question the preferences of Oscar voters, because it’s always been a popularity contest.  What’s worrisome about this year’s Oscar’s has been worrisome for quite some time.  As more opportunities arise for women and artists of color, AMPAS  shifts what it deems award-worthy, making sure for each step forward, there’s at least one corresponding step back.

Let’s take a look back, to the first year of every decade, and see what sorts of movies Oscar has favored in the past, and whether that tells a different story than what Oscar favors now.

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It’s the #WhitemansOscar: Nomination Reactions, 2020

E: Yep, that’s what I figured was going to happen.   Oscar loves what it loves – in this case, Joker, 1917, Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, and The Irishman.  Films by white men, for white men, starring white men, featuring almost no women or people of color.  Let’s review:

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White Man’s Oscars? Only Tomorrow Can Tell: Oscar Nomination Predictions, 2020

E: There are two ways that this can go.  We can end up with a slate of nominations that ignores many of the best reviewed films of the year, continuing a trend that ignores well-received works by women and people of color.  Or the Academy can prove that inducting new members has made a difference in their ability to look for work beyond ever narrowing limits.  Or Oscars will narrow it’s vision, promoting a world that consists largely of powerful white men (movie stars, race car drivers, mobsters) behaving badly.

Every once in a while, Oscar bucks the trend of the precursor award shows and rights a few wrongs. I’m going to be honest and say I don’t have a lot of hope, but until Monday morning, I’m going to live in a Schrodinger’s box of possibilities.  Let me dazzle you with possibilities, and remind you of what’s out there, before we come back to earth with the blander slate we’re likely to receive in what, for me, is turning out to be an uninspiring year. Continue reading