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:
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 protest art.
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.
And on that note, let’s get to it! Continue reading
E: Um, okay.
Sorry to take so long in my response, but it’s been crazy at work and at home. Family birthdays, school orientations, religious holidays, huge work events. You’d laugh if I told you the thing I’ve done this week. (All wholesome, but a little nutty.)
In general, that Oscar cast was funny and enjoyable. Jimmy Kimmel was largely terrific. His monologue was hilarious (Meryl Streep! discrimination!) I could have done without the mean tweets, and the tour bus gag went on a little long, but it was hilarious. The music and the opening sizzled. Most of the categories went the way I thought they would. I loved the montages of previous winners before all the acting awards, and was heartened/amused to see how fiercely the editors emphasized Oscar winners of color. I think each montage started that way. There were a few exciting wins, a few good speeches (emotional, political but not off-puttingly political), some great clothes, great music, a charming host, Hunger Games-like parashutes. And then there was the weird, wild finish.
No, it was weird enough to keep me up for another few hours Sunday night, baking (because what else do you do when the world goes crazy?). After a little time to dissect it all, I’d like to run down my thoughts – what I got wrong, what I got right, and why. Why is the most interesting question of all.
Because seriously. If you made this stuff up, no one would believe you. But with the rest of the world going crazy, why should the Oscars be any different?
E: Some years, nobody knows what’s going to happen. Some years, everyone knows. Some years, you have Crash or Shakespeare in Love or, to a lesser degree, Spotlight: other years, you have Titanic or Schindler’s List. Last year, so much was up for grabs. But this year? This is one of the years where everybody knows. This year, the biggest question isn’t who’s going to win Best Picture, but how many Oscars La La Land is going to win. Could it win enough to break the all time record of 11? It’s not actually possible for it to score a win for each of its fourteen nods (what with two coming in the same category) and is out of contention in at least one other, but a record-breaking 12 isn’t impossible. A record tying 11 is more achievable, but it’s no sinecure.
There are other good questions to ponder, however, and they’re more interesting than just the attendees clothes and the presenters on camera patter. How will Jimmy Kimmel, after a successful turn hosting the Emmy’s, do on the trickiest hosting gig in the biz? It’s not even a question of how late the show will run, but whether it feels like it’s dragging when it does, or if there’s positive momentum building. There could be a record-setting three African American acting winners this year; is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) eager to make up for last year’s appalling slight of all actors of color, and truly embrace diversity, or will it all come to nothing? Will the expected political speeches miscalculate, turning off audiences at home, or galvanize the public’s rebellion? Will the In Memoriam segment be the most gut-wrenching of all time? Do you have enough tissues handy?
Instead of worrying too much, though, let us all take inspiration from La La Land‘s attitude, and enjoy the artistry on display before us. No, all our favorites won’t win, but it’s fun to watch anyway. Here’s a guide to this year’s top categories, broken down for you with all the insight I can offer. Here’s to the ones that dream! Continue reading
E: Like January, February is a month I mostly reserve for seeing Oscar movies and writing about them. There’s normally not much to see in the theaters that isn’t a Best Picture or acting nominee. Expect more great box office for Hidden Figures and La La Land, for example – and see them if you haven’t already. If you can only choose one? La La Land will win the Oscar, but Hidden Figures is the experience you really want.
M: Which says all you need to know about the Oscars.
C: I really want to see it. I know I said that a month ago, so I need to get off my duff, but I really do!
E: Do it! Do it now!
M: This month, we have mostly the usual February mumbo-jumbo: there’s a strong chance the more promising-looking films may under-deliver, otherwise they wouldn’t be opening in February. Except for Lego Batman. That might not suck.
C: I loved The Lego Movie (unexpectedly), so high hopes here.
E: It’s true. We can say that much for this February, because of Lego: it probably won’t all suck.
M: That aside, the movie news we’re really excited about this week is the announcement of the cast and crew for 2018’s Ocean’s Eight. Yes, it’s Hollywood again proving that it either has no original ideas, or that even when they have a semi-original idea they have to package it in something that sounds familiar so that it has a built in audience and (theoretically) less chance of total failure.
C: Normally I’d complain, but HEIST MOVIES. They never get old.
M: Right, plus: Sandra Bullock is the new lead, in the Sinatra/Clooney role, with Cate Blancheit, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Mindy Kaling and Rihanna among the women filling out the other seven members of the heist crew. Gary Ross, who’s awesome and wrote things like Big and Dave and directed Seabiscuit and the first Hunger Games, is writing and directing. Awesomeness!
C: I totally freaked out when I heard about that. But let’s save our comments for that preview, huh?
E: Just noting that we are crazy excited about it, because the wait is soooo long!
M: And now, back to February.
C: Hey there, Hollywood. Did you know a lot of people think you’re “too liberal”? One’s another writer for this blog, in fact. But I gotta say: I’m not seeing it when it comes to this Casey Affleck situation.
E’s the prediction guru around here, but I have one rock-solid prediction for the 2017 Academy Awards ceremony: we’re going to hear some statements made against Trump. You know, the guy who sexually harassed women who worked with him, made them feel deeply uncomfortable and belittled, came on to them despite them being married or not interested, touched them without their permission, and used his star power to get away with it all. Just like your front-running Best Actor nominee.
From football to politics, this culture has a history of overlooking men’s treatment of women because we like what they’re doing otherwise. Despite the fact that jobs like, say, being the star of a movie or the president of a country can’t actually be accomplished without working with women — women whose hard work in supporting positions is essential to the overall success of the undertaking — we still manage to class misogyny and harassment as side-issues, not relevant to the man’s accomplishment.
No one is questioning that Affleck gave a great performance. But every year, some great performances don’t take home an Oscar. That award, by the way, is “Best Actor,” not “Best Performance.” Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, what makes a good actor in your eyes? What ideal will you hold up for the American public to admire?
Hollywood, I hope you change your mind about this. Because Constance Wu is perfectly right to say that “Casey Affleck’s win will be a nod to Trump.” And your inevitable statements at this year’s award ceremony about equality, acceptance, respect, and love will ring a little false on that account.
E: Huh. 31 out of 34 predictions correct. I feel pretty good about that! I also feel really good about the diversity of this year’s slate – three movies starring African Americans (surely a first), a movie about Indians and India, and three movies with female leads. (And yes, three out of nine is pathetic, and yet by nominating more than two in an industry where Hollywood refuses to make movies about women and then routinely ignores many of the good ones it does produce, Oscar is operating on high.)
Also? For La La Land, the view from the top is pretty sweet. And rarefied. Continue reading