We’re finally here. It’s Oscars Night. I’ve also managed to watch all but 2 of all the films nominated this year (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and The Lion King). I didn’t think I’d manage it but we got there. This means I finally feel ready to put down my predictions for how the show’s going to go. However, there are no real definites I guess. I mean, has anyone got over the shock that was Green Book winning Best Picture last year. The Academy is unstable and, as we can see from the nominations, aren’t always concerned about who or what is really the best. The Oscars are even more political and insane than Eurovision. But this isn’t the time for another rant. This is a time to predict the result of a stupid system that will be streamed to the world from a glitzy and expensive award show that really doesn’t need to exist. But at least everyone attending gets to dress up again this year.
Sometimes, the best thing about a film is just watching great performers do what they do best. I imagine that is part of the reason why Netflix’s The Two Popes got such a positive reaction at the Telluride Film Festival. Two of Britain’s finest actors come together to retell a piece of recent religious history. Anthony Hopkins and Jonatha Pryce play Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis respectively in a film that explores their uneasy relationship. It’s essentially a film showing two old white dudes having a back and forth about religion. On paper, it shouldn’t work but it turns out to be unexpectedly engaging. And, I’ll be honest, this wasn’t a film that I was necessarily going to watch despite the positive reaction it got. I love both actors but the story just seemed a bit much. Considering what we know about the Catholic Church, it all just seemed a bit too twee.
Seriously, Netflix has been doing great things with animation recently. So, it’s no wonder that they’ve gained two Oscar nominations for Best Animated Feature Film this year. And, though the smart money will be on Toy Story 4 because of all the reasons, there’s every chance that the streaming service could walk away with a prize in that category. After all, Klaus was the surprise winner at this year’s BAFTAs. It was the unexpected hit of their Christmas output. Mixing beautiful animation, a talented voice cast, and a charming story, Klaus brought new life to the oft-told origin story of Jolly Old Saint Nick. But it’s not their only output this Christmas time that really resonated with audiences. The French animation about a severed hand really did prove to be quite a success. Even though that statement just feels wrong.
I know you’re probably getting sick of me banging on about diversity at the Oscars by now but I’m tired of hearing people say “it’s about quality, not diversity”. Yeah, in an ideal world. This isn’t an ideal world. What the people using that argument are either stubbornly, naively, or purposefully not seeing is that the system is weighted against diverse entries. The voting system is a joke. The first round lets all members of the Academy vote for whichever eligible films they want in their related categories. You don’t have to have seen all of the films. We know that a lot of members are quite traditional (see Martin Scorsese and his hatred of comic book movies) and have specific ideas of what should and shouldn’t be eligible (see Steven Spielberg’s comments on Netflix). How many of those eligible to vote will have bothered to go out and watch Hustlers to see that J Lo gave a much better performance than Scar Jo did in Jojo? We also know that Hollywood champions films that will make money and they don’t think films with diverse casts or storylines will make money. Then there are the smaller film companies who can’t afford to put on a huge campaign for their films/stars. They are blown out of the water by the bigger film studios who can shove their big-name stars in front of everyone. Look at Brad Pitt’s Oscars campaign this year. Flawless. Even down to his photos with ex-wife Jennifer Aniston. He’ll have had a great deal of backing. Smaller movies, less well-known actors won’t get that opportunity. Therefore, they don’t grab attention in the same way. The system is weighted towards a certain type of films and those films are, typically, not diverse. Those films don’t typically have female directors. So, stop saying it’s only about quality. Until we have a system that sees every film get a fair chance, diversity needs to be discussed.
Hopefully, you’ve noticed that this week I’ve gone a bit Oscars crazy on the blog. Every year I watch all of the Best Picture nominations before the ceremony and this year, as I was already well ahead, I decided to get through as many as possible. This meant that I was faced with a load of films that I wanted to review. With my schedule as it is, I’d still have been reviewing my Oscar watches two months from now. So, I decided to just go with it and get them done this week. It’s not been easy but I’m getting there. This weekend is going to be interesting but I’ve come this far. As of today, I’ve only got a couple (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Pain and Glory and Richard Jewell) left to watch. I’m not going through foreign films, short films, or documentaries otherwise I’d probably die. And I know there are two films nominated for technical awards only that I haven’t seen (Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and The Lion King) but I’ll have to live with that. Despite that, I’m going to talk about my winners for the main categories. That is the people I’d like to win not who I think will win. We can talk about that before the awards on Sunday when I’ve seen everything I’m going to see.
I had to Google John Lithgow after watching Jay Roach’s film depicting the story about the women who exposed Fox News’ CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment. Why did I Google him? Because it’s been a long time that I haven’t seen him in a fat suit. What with him playing Winston Churchill in The Crown and then playing Ailes, John Lithgow must have spent a lot of time in a make-up trailer. Bombshell has been nominated for Best Hair and Make-Up. It’s not an award that I usually pay much attention to because who am I to say what is good or not? But Bombshell is in another world. Not only did I legitimately think that John Lithgow had piled on loads of weight but Charlize Theron does not look like Charlize Theron. If she didn’t have such a distinctive and sultry voice, I’d never have known it was her. Who are these make-up magicians? Given them a fucking Oscar and be done with it.
There are a lot of reasons why the Oscar nominations this year were disappointing. The lack of diversity is ridiculous. And to anyone out there claiming “it’s about talent not diversity” I say you’re missing the fucking point. In an ideal world, yes, the people who deserved to win prizes would be nominated for those prizes. But this isn’t an ideal world. The Oscar voting system is flawed. Each member of the Academy, over 8,000 voters, can nominate any 5 names in their given category. The votes are then tallied until you get a top 5. Now we know that films by female directors and films starring diverse casts aren’t given the stage they need. They are buried by the bigger studios who have decided that it is male directors and white actors who bring in the big bucks. With such a wide ocean of voters, the system does nothing to work around the bias. It’s a stupid system and, before we can have an awards season that truly celebrates quality, it needs to be looked at. Until then, it’s just become something we expect. The lack of female directors is shocking and the fact that people reply to it with “but there are more male directors” just proves my point. We don’t get to see films made by women. So, when they are released, nobody goes to see them. Of course, the thousands of members of the Academy aren’t going to give a shit about Céline Sciamma, Lulu Wang, or Lorene Scafaria. But Greta? She was to be our saviour. All these women deserved better but Greta was done wrong.
There was a lot of criticism following the announcement of the Oscar nominations this month. A lot of it, quite rightly, pointed out the lack of female directors and the awful lack of diversity on display. Some of it was less helpful. I saw one person on Twitter moan that 1917 had been nominated because there have already been too many World War One films. I believe the person in question actually asked: “why do we keep telling that story?” Yeah, why do we keep banging on about history? It’s already happened. It’s not like it’s important. Let’s make films about important things like The Rock and Jason Statham driving really fast cars. Although, I’ve never actually seen any of The Fast and the Furious franchise, so I’m not one to judge. The main reason being that I suspect I’d end up really liking them. Fast cars, guns, explosions, it all appeals to my inner 12-year-old boy. But I mustn’t get distracted. This is about 1917. Really, the guy answered his own question by asking it. We still need to keep telling this story when idiots fail to understand why it’s vital to keep telling it. I’m reminded of Joss Whedon’s response to the question “why do you write such strong female characters?” The answer? “Because you’re still asking me that question.”
The Oscars took place over a month ago and I’m still banging on about them. I know I know. Broken record much? But it’s one if the biggest and most controversial events in the movie lovers calendar. For the most part, this year wasn’t the most exciting. Once again, many amazing and worthy films/directors/actors were ignored and many worthy films/directors/actors got looked over for more Oscar-y films/directors/actors. I write this in the midst of Steven Spielberg’s outrageous idea to get Netflix films banned from being nominated in the future. I’d love to go into that whole argument now and rant about Spielberg’s general irrelevance these days but, as it’s my birthday, I feel like I should take the high road. So, instead let’s talk about one of the biggest surprises that came out of last Saturday that was also one of the most underwhelming. Rami Malek gave a great performance as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody and I think that he definitely deserved the win. However, I don’t think many were convinced he would. The Best Actor category was incredibly boring this year as there was no real stand-out. The most remarkable performance for me? Willem Dafoe as Vincent van Gogh. It’s a shame he lost out to it but it’s an even bigger shame that his loss isn’t as a big of a deal as it should be.
Boy, were there a few surprises during this weekend’s Oscars. I was tempted to write a post about it but decided it would just be another rant about how undeserving Green Book is of the Best Picture title. I mean, seriously? I know Roma is a Netflix film but how can anyone say it wasn’t the best film of this year? It’s fucking madness. Another (sort of) surprising turn of event were the winners of Best Actor and Best Actress category. I loved both Rami Malek and Olivia Colman’s performances and I know they both won at the BAFTAs but I just didn’t trust the voters to let them win. And, after finally seeing The Wife recently, I thought Glenn Close was kind of shoe-in. I mean, without wishing to spoilt the upcoming review, she was fucking breathtaking in that film. And this makes it her 7th time of being passed over. It’s insane and, if I didn’t love Colman quite so much, I’d be outraged. Just be sure that if Gaga had won I’d have genuinely flipped. I’d have demanded the Oscar be taken away and given to Close instead.