Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Awaiting the Oscars

The movies don’t thrill, 
but inclusion and diversity might

     The Oscars are around the corner and there probably won’t be a lot of surprises with the winners.  However, there should be some verbal fireworks from Chris Rock.  I hope so because there isn’t much diversity in movies or television except for white, able-bodied straight boys.  The recent Annenberg study confirms what we know:  Hollywood executives make obscenely expensive B-movies for boys (and the girls who want to date or stay married to them) to see and preferably more than once.  

Sidney Poitier's 1964 Oscar Win
     Historically, blacks have always led the charge for equality, followed by women, other ethnicities, LGBTQ, and the disabled.  When was the last time a disabled character was in a movie or TV show?  Although TV has done and does a better job of including female characters, the recent increase of action professionals’ shows (cops, hospitals, firefighters) and superhero shows and decline of family oriented dramas (except on Freeform, which was ABC Family) and both daytime and nighttime soap operas has resulted in more tokenism and greater inequality.

     So, Hollywood trots out its “Art” from late September to mid-December and has to rely heavily on the Independent studios, some of which are boutiques of the majors and that actually care about entertainment and edification.  The take-away from the Annenberg study is that a female director or series creator will result in more diversity in front of the camera.  Spike Lee thinks that more diversity in executives would lead to more diverse projects getting the green light.  I think black, Latino, and female stars need to singly or collectively become moguls.  It’s how Féla, On Your Feet, and Selma were recently produced.

     Rock will address this in some way, though he was almost as awkward in 2005 as David Letterman was in 1994 so here’s hoping the script is better this time.  The problem is that outside of the diversity issue, there isn’t much that will surprise.  However, in 2009, the Oscars changed up Best Movie from five nominees to up to ten. Couldn’t the acting nominees be variable based upon number of votes?

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn
Movie:  We loved Brooklyn, a wonderful romance, and The Martian, which was the smartest, most spectacular comedy of the year.  Neither has a chance because neither is nominated for Director.  The Revenant will win because it’s won all over.  Will we see it?  I don’t know.  Brenda described it in enthralling detail to me, but she thought it was violent and a bunch of hairy bears (animal and human) dragging through the mud for two and a half hours could be more of a slog than I can take.
Our take:  Couldn’t Steve Jobs have been nominated?  Couldn’t Straight Outta Compton have been nominated?

Director:  Alejandro Iñárritu for The Revenant is a lock because the movie and director are generally conjoined categories.

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant
Actor:  Leonardo DiCaprio for The Revenant because he’s won everywhere else, this is his SIXTH nomination, and he’s made billions for Hollywood and, oh yes, he’s incredibly talented.
Our take:  We thought Michael Fassbender was pretty great as Steve Jobs.  Couldn’t Michael B. Jordan have been nominated for Creed?  Stallone and DeNiro were nominated for boxing roles.

Actress:  Brie Larson has won everything so far for Room, a movie we want to see, and she’ll take this too, though we loved Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn.
Our take:  Couldn’t Lily Tomlin have been recognized for Grandma?

Best Supporting Actor:  Sylvester Stallone in what will be a touching moment.
Our take:  A strange group this year because I thought Billy Crudup gave the best supporting performance in Spotlight and why couldn’t Idris Elba have been nominated for Beasts of No Nation?  I haven’t seen the movie, but he’s sensational in the clips and that’s all most viewers will see on the Oscars anyway.

Jennifer Jason Leigh
in The Hateful Eight
Best Supporting Actress:  A competitive category because female actors find more secondary than leading parts thanks to the overriding sexism of the movie industry.  It would be a lovely moment to see the great Jennifer Jason Leigh win on her first nomination for The Hateful Eight!  I can think of a number of times when she could/should have been nominated and she’s taken more risks than almost any other actress of her generation.  However, the movie didn’t take off in the way Tarantino’s most recent ones have.  Rachel McAdams is a joy in anything, but I think her nomination for Spotlight is about recognizing the ensemble, rather than her specific work.  However, Kate Winslet gives a quietly devastating turn in Steve Jobs, pulls off the tricky accent, and is practically unrecognizable.  She’ll win.

The tragic (and I use that term correctly) Amy and the simultaneously joyful and heartbreaking Inside Out were the best movies I saw this year so I hope they win their respective categories – documentary feature and animated feature.  

The Martian
I’d like to see The Martian win in its technical categories since hundreds (thousands?) worked on the movie and its production design is sumptuous.  Brooklyn should have been nominated and won for costumes.  Since it wasn’t, I don’t care.  Carol had the artiest – not necessarily the best – cinematography so it will probably win.  

For many people, the Grammys and the Oscars have become fashion shows.  Many do not see the movies that are nominated so they are more interested in the clothes. However, how many tube dresses are really that fascinating?

Anne Hathaway and James Franco at the 2011 Oscars

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