Movies - The Oscars posts
Tuesday April 27, 2021
Oscar's Great Depression
My wife and I watched the Oscars Sunday night and we were in the minority. According to the Nielsen company, the previous ratings low for an Oscars telecast was last year, right before the pandemic, when only 23.6 million Americans tuned in to see “Parasite” win best picture. This year, with “Nomadland” winning, it was less than half that: 9.85 million. We're basically at Game 3 of the World Series territory. Which I also watch. I'm becoming like William H. Macy's character in “The Cooler”: whatever I gravitate toward, it's on the way out.
Not that I don't get it. We just went through a mostly movie theater-less year when we were all sheltering in place. And while we wound up watching a lot, it wasn't the movies that were nominated. To be honest, I was kind of with the mass on that one. My wife saw each of the nominated films but I kept begging off. I know: me. I'd see part of a movie (“Sound of Metal”) and think “Nah. Not now. Can't deal with this now.” In a year of great loss, it was a tough sell to get people to watch someone lose their hearing, or their home, or their mind. In the midst of the Great Depression, the movies gave us Cagney, Gable, Harlow, Astaire: rat-a-tat, romance, top hat and tails. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the movies gave us a great depression.
I did wind up seeing five of the eight (I still need “Promising Young Woman,” “Trial of the Chicago 7” and “Sound of Metal” to complete the set) and I'm glad “Nomadland” won. It's a beautiful film about a tough subject, and Frances McDormand rocks. I would've also been happy with “Judas and the Black Messiah,” which, of all the nominees, seems the most accessible. It's got punch, and it drives its story forward, and Daniel Kaluuya rocks. “Minari” is a slice-of-life about a Korean family in Reagan's America making a go of it in the Deep South. It's a gentle film, kinder than I thought it would be, although you're still waiting for disaster to happen, and it does, but the disaster isn't a disaster. It's a binding force. Nice thought for these times. “Mank” was a disappointment, while “The Father,” brutal to watch, intrigued with its unreliable narrator. And Anthony Hopkins rocks.
Whoever made the decision to put best actor last, perhaps anticipating a win for the late, great Chadwick Boseman, well, that was a bad call. Never make that kind of call on an unsure outcome. Boseman didn't win, Hopkins did, and the usual noise machine went at it on Twitter. Mark Harris gave the tweet of the night with this one:
Hopkins is the oldest Oscar winner ever, at 83, and wasn't present, so the presenter, last year's winner Joaquin Phoenix, said the Academy accepted it in his absence and g'night. That also rubbed people the wrong way—the quick exit—but I didn't mind. I have a friend, Jim, who tends to end phone calls: “Are we done? We're done.” Rip that Band-Aid off. Be like Hitchcock, not Spielberg. But best picture should always go last. I don't care if the second coming of Jesus is up for best actor, put picture last.
McDormand is now a three-time best actress winner, second only to the late great Kate Hepburn, and it's all so deserved. She is no bullshit, as John Mulaney said a few years back. Youn Yuh-jung is the second Asian woman to win an acting award, and her great, crazy riffs from the podium made everyone's night. (For more on Oscar trivia, see Nathaniel, the master on the topic.)
I wasn't a fan of the in-house trivia contest—which songs by Black artists were or weren't nominated for Oscars, and finishing up with Glenn Close doing “Da Butt” from the old Spike Lee joint “School Daze”—and overall I miss hosts. I miss comedians. I missed someone looking at the camera. Steven Soderbergh produced the Oscars this year and most presenters presented to the room, like we weren't there, and it was a little weird. As with most things in the world now, too many cooks are stirring the Oscar pot, saying it needs to be X, Y and Z, and you can't please everyone, and you wind up pleasing no one and getting less than half of the lowest rating ever, but a lot of it isn't the Academy's fault. In the past, there was a kind of popular, human-centered, middle-ground film that could get nominated, like “Jerry Maguire” or “Apollo 13” or “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” and now that middle ground barely exists. Now it's either the Marvel Noise Machine or someone losing their hearing, or their home, or their mind. Even when a middle-ground movie gets made, like “Ford v. Ferrari” in 2019, and it gets nominated, well, it's not really part of the discussion, is it? For Oscar or box office. It had Batman, Bourne and cars, but people didn't flock to it the way they would to any of the “Fast & Furious” films. It wasn't dumb enough. It was too rooted in reality.
Is there a way out? Nominate something like “Avengers: Endgame” for best picture? Produce more story-driven indie films? Even that might not work. Hollywood keeps getting kicked every which way for crimes real or imagined. When the Star-Tribune tweeted about the bad Oscar ratings, commentators real or bottish blamed Hollywood for its longtime treatment of Blacks, gays, et al., and for not caring about “regular people.” No matter what Hollywood does, it's hated.
Well, not everywhere. I'm glad we watched. It was a nice evening. After a year away, it was nice seeing everyone again.
Tuesday April 13, 2021
Oh Right. The Oscars. II.
So the DGAs and the PGAs recently made their choices, and both went with “Nomadland” as the best picture of our shut-in, theaterless, pandemic year. The DGAs has been around since the late '40s, the PGAs since 1989, which means there have been 31 Oscar seasons before this one in which both have given their opinions. Of those, how often have these two guild bodies agreed? A lot: 22 times or 71%. And of those agreements, how often did the Oscar for best picture go to a different movie? Five times: 77%. So I'd still put money on “Nomadland.”
Have to say, the early years when Oscar went a different path doesn't speak well for Oscar. It feels like the Academy was overly influenced by something tawdry: Weinstein PR pushes (“Shakesepare in Love”), homophobia (“Crash”) and whatever the hell happened in '95 to elevate Mel Gibson and “Braveheart.” More recent years have been better. Feels like the Academy is rewarding artistry. That bodes well for “Nomadland,” too. Although if Oscar had been rewarding diversity, going with “Moonlight” and “Parasite” over “La La Land” and “1917,” then we could get an upset: “Judas and the Black Priest,” for example.
April 25, FWIW.
When the DGAs and PGAs Agree
|2017||The Shape of Water||The Shape of Water||The Shape of Water|
|2016||La La Land||La La Land||Moonlight|
|2011||The Artist||The Artist||The Artist|
|2010||The King's Speech||The King's Speech||The King's Speech|
|2009||The Hurt Locker||The Hurt Locker||The Hurt Locker|
|2008||Slumdog Millionaire||Slumdog Millionaire||Slumdog Millionaire|
|2007||No Country for Old Men||No Country for Old Men||No Country for Old Men|
|2005||Brokeback Mountain||Brokeback Mountain||Crash|
|2003||Lord of the Rings||Lord of the Rings||Lord of the Rings|
|1999||American Beauty||American Beauty||American Beauty|
|1998||Saving Private Ryan||Saving Private Ryan||Shakespeare in Love|
|1996||The English Patient||The English Patient||The English Patient|
|1995||Apollo 13||Apollo 13||Braveheart|
|1994||Forrest Gump||Forrest Gump||Forrest Gump|
|1993||Schindler's List||Schindler's List||Schindler's List|
|1991||Silence of the Lambs||The Silence of the Lambs||The Silence of the Lambs|
|1990||Dances with Wolves||Dances with Wolves||Dances with Wolves|
Thursday March 18, 2021
Oh Right. The Oscars.
I've been focusing on other things this pandemic year besides Oscar hopefuls, which arrived anyway, and as always, late in the season.
Among the eight best picture nominess announced on Monday, I've seen three: “Mank,” “Nomadland,” and “Judas and the Black Messiah,” and of those three, the one with the most nominations, “Mank” with 10, is the one I'd least like to win. So it goes. I'd vote “Nomadland” but would applaud “Judas.” Both are great. Here are the eight:
|Judas the Black Messiah||Promising Young Woman|
|Mank*||Sound of Metal|
|Minari*||Promising Young Woman*|
The asterisks indicate a directing nod as well, usually a prereq to win, but who knows this year. We've got two women nom'ed for directing for the first time ever: Chloe Zhao for “Nomadland” and Emerald Fennell for “Promising Young Woman.” I'd vote for Zhao. I believe Lee Isaac Chung for “Minari” is the first Asian-American directing nod, too. The fifth nomination went to Danish director Thomas Vinterberg for “Another Round,” which my wife watched (she's mad about Mads) but I didn't. Anyway, it's good to see that tightfisted directing group opening up. For most of its history, the winners have been exclusively white American men or white European men. Ang Lee finally broke through in 2005 and Kathryn Bigelow in 2009, and for the past decade it's gone: Brit, French, Taiwanese, Mexican, Mexican, Mexican, American, Mexican, Mexican, Korean. I'm hoping we'll add Chinese to that list, even if China may no longer be enamored of the idea. Well, screw those guys. Or trolls.
The big acting controversy this year isn't of the #OscarSoWhite variety—six of the 10 actor nominees are people of color—but “category fraud,” since the co-leads in “Judas” are both nominated in supporting, meaning, to the Academy, there's no lead actor in “Judas.” I guess I'd need a rundown of screentime but off the top of my head I'd have gone Lakeith Stanfield for lead and Daniel Kaluuya in supporting. Anyway, the Academy has a long history of this. Al Pacino as supporting in “The Godfather” for starters.
Not sure who the favorites are. I'm guessing Chadwick Boseman (R.I.P.) for actor, Kaluuya for supporting (he's amazing), unless he and Lakeith split the vote, in which case ... Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman in “The Trial of the Chicago 7”? I'd go Francis McDormand or Viola Davis for actress but I don't know how that's going to shake out. And does Glenn Close finally get a statuette in supporting?
Oscar telecast is April 25. Maybe my interest will be roused by then.
Saturday February 29, 2020
Next Year's Oscars?
He's just met a girl named Maria. Has a remake of a best picture winner ever won best picture? No.
Jeffrey Wells over at Hollywood Elsewhere is already handicapping next year's Oscars, and lays out his top 10 picks. Links go to trailers if available or IMDb and the lot if not. Scratch that. There are no trailers. There are barely stills. So the links just go to IMDb.
- “Mank” (David Fincher): The creation of “Citizen Kane” from, one assumes, given the title, the perspective of screenwriter Herman Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) rather than Orson Welles (Tom Burke of “The Souvenir”). Amanda Seyfried plays Marion “Rosebud” Davies. Netflix movie. Should be fun.
- “Trial of the Chicago 7” (Aaron Sorkin): I don't know if I‘ve seen better recent casting than Sacha Baron Cohen as Abbie Hoffman, and Frank Langella will make a good, thunderous Judge Hoffman. Plus the rest of the cast (Mark Rylance, Eddie Redmayne, John Carroll Lynch)? Mmwa. But can Sorkin direct? This is his second effort, after the disappointing “Molly’s Game.” Except hyper-articulate speeches. Ambllin/Paramount.
- “The Last Duel” (Ridley Scott), about the last official duel permitted by the King of France, in the 14th century. Read more here. From a screenplay by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon and Nicole Holofcener. It's the “Good Will Hunting” boys' first co-screenwriting credit since “Good Will Hunting.” Stars Matt Damon and Adam Driver as the duelists. Add it to the list of “last” titles: Samurai, Airbender, Action Hero, Knight, Blood, Tango in Paris, Picture Show. Everything dies. 20th Century Fox.
- “Stillwater” (Tom McCarthy): Has he made a bad movie? This will be his second in 2020, supposedly, after the interestingly titled “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made.” “Stillwater” stars Matt Damon (again) about an Oklahoma father who travels to France, where his daughter has been charged with murder. Focus Features.
- “West Side Story” (Steven Spielberg): I think you know it. This time, Ansel Elgort and Rachel Zegler are the star-crossed lovers.
- “Macbeth” (Joel Coen): For once, Coen isn't collaborating with brother Ethan but with this Shakespeare dude. Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand play the Mr. and Mrs. of the title. Scott Rudin/A24.
- “Blonde” (Andrew Dominik): The New Zealand director behind “Assassination of Jesse James,” etc., stars “Knives Out” hottie Ana de Armas as a fictionalized Marilyn Monroe, exploring her inner life.
- “Annette” (Leos Carax): IMDb's description: “A stand-up comedian and his opera singer wife have a 2-year-old daughter with a surprising gift.” Starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard. Nice work if you can get it, Adam. What's the surprising gift? Who knows? Let's hope not super strength. Does anyone see Adam Driver as a stand-up comedian? Maybe the Lenny Bruce type? And can anyone see the director of “Holy Motors” coming close to an Oscar nomination? Oh, and it's a musical. CG Cinema/Arte France Cinema/Amazon.
- “News of the World” (Paul Greengrass): Reteams Greengrass and Tom Hanks from “Captain Phillips” in a story about a man who brings the news of the world to local townspeople in the Old West, and who “agrees to help rescue a young girl who was kidnapped.” From the writer of “Life,” “Lion,” and “Beautiful Boy,” all of which had buzz, all of which I didn't even see. Playtone/Universal.
- “The Last Planet” (Terrence Malick): My man! And another “Last”? And per the title, about environmental destruction? No. A retelling of several episodes in the life of Christ. With Geza Rohrig (“Son of Saul”) as Jesus, Matthias Schoenaerts as Peter, and Mark Rylance as Satan. Interesting. Will the Bible thumpers who continually complain about Hollywood come out for it? Nah. No doubt there will be doubt, and they don't pay for that. No distributor yet.
So two Drivers, two Rylances, and two “Lasts.” And too auteur-driven? Reads like a critic's wishlist rather than Oscar‘s. Wells adds the caveat that “Carax is crazy” but “in a good way” and says he senses new possibilities in the post-“Parasite” world. Sure. Or reaction. People sensed new possibilities in a post-Obama world, but it turns out the people doing the sensing were fascists.
Wells adds 15 more possibles: Chris Nolan’s “Tenet,” Charlie Kaufman's “I'm Thinking Of Ending Things,” Wes Anderson's “The French Dispatch,” Guillermo del Toro's “Nightmare Alley,” Sofia Coppola's “On the Rocks,” Denis Villenueve's “Dune,” Spike Lee's “Da 5 Bloods,” Edgar Wright's “Last Night In Soho,” Steven Soderbergh's “Let Them All Talk,” Adrian Lyne's Deep Water,“ Liesl Tommy's ”Respect,“ Paul Verhoeven's ”Benedetta,“ Apichatpong Weerasethakul's ”Memoria,“ Chloe Zhao's ”Nomadland“ and Mia Hansen-Løve's Bergman ”Island."
We'll revisit down the line.
Tuesday February 11, 2020
Final Thoughts on the 92nd Oscars
OK, now that we got that out of the way...
When we began this century, a few things were obvious when it came to Oscar predictions. No. 1: Winning the DGA generally meant your movie won best picture. From 1969 to the end of the century—wait, let's go until 2012, a total of 43 years—the line between DGA and Oscar's best picture was broken only six times:
- 1981 when Warren Beatty won the DGA for “Reds” but “Chariots of Fire” won the Oscar for best picture
- 1985 when Steven Spielberg won the DGA for “The Color Purple” but “Out of Africa won best picture (that's when my friend Scott gave up on the Academy)
- 1989 when Oliver Stone won the DGA for ”Born on the Fourth of July“ but ”Driving Miss Daisy“ won best picture
- 1995 when Ron Howard won the DGA for ”Apollo 13“ but ”Braveheart“ won best picture
- 1998 when Steven Spielberg won the DGA for ”Saving Private Ryan“ but ”Shakespeare in Love“ won best picture
- 2005 when Ang Lee won the DGA for ”Brokeback Mountain“ but ”Crash“ won best picture (that's when I gave up on the Academy)
(Gotta say, DGA rocks on these; Oscar's choice is either subpar or downright embarassing.)
Six misses out of 43 tries: 87%. That's a good free-throw percentage.
Well, that line is no more. In just the last seven years, it's been broken five times. It's now less likely than more likely:
- Alfonso Cuaron DGA (and Oscar) for ”Gravity“ but best pic went to ”12 Years a Slave“
- Alejandro Innaritu DGA (and Oscar) for ”Revenant“ but best pic went to ”Spotlight“
- Damien Chazelle DGA (and Oscar) for ”La La Land“ but best pic to ”Moonlight“
- Alfonso Cuaron DGA (and Oscar) for ”Roma“ but best pic to ”Green Book“
- Sam Mendes DGA for ”1917“ but Oscar/best pic went to ”Parasite“
What else did we know? At the start of the decade, if you won the SAG award for actor, actress or the two supportings you had about a 60% chance (24 out of 40 from 2000 to 2010) of holding the Oscar. This past decade, that chance went way up to 85%: 34 out of 40, including sweeps in 2010, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2019.
If you‘re using the guilds as Oscar predictor, in other words, DGA is down while SAG is soaring.
Oh, and for a while there, it seemed like Oscar and BAFTA were in tune. For six years, from 2008 to 2013, the two never disagreed on best picture. In the six years since, they’ve never agreed:
|2017||Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri||The Shape of Water|
|2016||La La Land||Moonlight|
This year, we hosted the usual party, a bit smaller, kind of fun for that. I liked Steve Martin and Chris Rock's bit. I still think Oscar is better with hosts, particularly funny ones. I loved Joaquin Phoenix's speech and hated the way the usual snarky folks on Twitter immediately reduced it to a joke. Jesus, people, listen. Didn't see Eminem. Loved the different singers who dubbed ”Frozen II“ in other countries joining Idina Menzel's Elsa on stage. Truly an international movie moment. Don't know why Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph don't host. It's just sitting there, people. Half the standing o's seemed to be for politically correct reasons now. Hildur Guðnadottir gets an Oscar for best score for ”Joker" and everyone stands? For her? No, not for her. She's the first woman to win best score, so they stood for what she represented. Essentially the Academy was giving itself the standing o for being woke. Stop that. Embarrassing.
See you next year, Oscar. When, hopefully, you have hosts. And sit on your asses a little more.
Monday February 10, 2020
‘Parasite’ Fans Slam Oscars for Doing Marginally What Other Film Awards Don't Do At All
Immediate thought last night: Bummer for Quentin but at least it wasn't “1917.”
Second thoughts, this morning: Damn, this victory lap by “Parasite” fans is annoying.
It's the lack of perspective that bugs me most.
Last night, at the 92nd Annual Academy Awards, Oscar voters gave best original screenplay, director and picture to “Parasite,” Bong Joon-ho's movie about the Korean class system and its discontents. (Full disclosure: I'm so-so on “Parasite.”) It's the sixth time original screenplay has gone to a non-English language film (“Marie-Louise,” “The Red Balloon,” “Divorce Italian Style,” “A Man and a Woman,” and “Talk to Her”), and the second time, I believe, director has gone to a non-English language film (“Roma”).
Most important, it's the first time a foreign-language film, not to mention a foreign film, has won the Oscar for best picture.
Great. Chance to celebrate. But for some, it's also a chance to retroactively slam the Academy for not doing more.
Here‘s a column from Justin Chang, film critic at the LA Times. After doing his own victory lap (“They gave the Oscar for best picture of the year to—wait for it—the actual best picture of the year”), and after saying he’s not going to slam the Academy (“But today is not a day to spend dwelling on the regressive missteps and missed opportunities of Oscar past”), he kinda does that:
“Parasite” has dealt a much-needed slap to the American film industry's narcissism, its long-standing love affair with itself, its own product and its own image. It has startled the academy into recognizing that no country's cinema has a monopoly on greatness...
First, did “Parasite” deal the American film industry a slap or did some part of the American film industry do that to itself? And if it did, was it a slap? I'm having trouble even unpacking this quote. I guess he's saying “Parasite” startled the Academy so much with its quality that it left it no choice? But it always had a choice. On Oscar ballots, it had eight other ones. Hell, not recognizing quality is one of the things the Academy does best.
Overall, it feels like Chang is slamming the Academy for doing something marginally that other countries don't do at all. Most countries' film awards actually are monopolies, in that they tend to exclude foreign films from even being nominated. The Goya is about the best Spanish movies, the Guldbagge Swedish movies; the Golden Horse is for Chinese language films, the Blue Dragon for South Korean films. Not that that doesn't make sense. Most countries struggle to keep their own film industry afloat amid the Hollywood deluge, and awarding its own, and excluding others, is one way to do that. But at least acknowledge this difference.
Just look at best director. This past decade, the Academy Award has gone to directors from Britain, France, Taiwan, Mexico, Mexico, Mexico, America, Mexico, Mexico, and now South Korea. Kind of international. In the same timeframe, the Blue Dragon, South Korea's film award, has gone to directors from South Korea, South Korea, South Korea, South Korea, South Korea, South Korea, South Korea, South Korea, South Korea, and of course South Korea. They were the only ones eligible.
The Academy has made a lot of mistakes over the years, and broken my heart so often that I've really stopped caring, but it is among the most international of film awards. It might be good to recognize that.
Thursday January 16, 2020
The 2019 Oscar Nominations: Thelma and the First-Timers, That '90s Show, and Bringing a Rock to a Bomb Fight
Oh right. The Oscar nominations.
Remember when I used to get up early on those Tuesday mornings—wasn't it always Tuesday mornings?—to be ready when whichever supporting star or stars strode to the podium to announce the year's nominees? Good times. Remember when I used to be outraged by Oscars' choices? Better times. Now I'm just bored with those who are.
The outrage today almost completely revolves around identity politics—#OscarsSoWhite, #OscarsSoMale—but you also got your hipster film fans who trash longtime character actors like Rami Malek because they don't want them to win in a particular year. And sure, Rami probably shouldn't have for “Bohemian Rhapsody”; but don't trash the man. I remember when he sprang off the screen in 2010 in “The Pacific.” His career is more than your petty animosity.
This year's Rami seems to be Joaquin Phoenix, which is even more insane to me, because he's fucking amazing in “Joker.” Plus he has the longer, more storied career. Still, idiots/trolls keep trashing his performance. Not sure who they‘re pulling for at this point. Antonio maybe? Anyway I’m tired of it all. I'm tired of the Twitter of it all. It feels like Bernie bros all over again.
Stephen King had the temerity to weigh in the day after. Here's what he said over two tweets:
As a writer, I am allowed to nominate in just 3 categories: Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Screenplay. For me, the diversity issueas it applies to individual actors and directors, anywaydid not come up. That said...
...I would never consider diversity in matters of art. Only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.
Of course the knives came out. He was attacked, maligned; his name trended. Two hours later, he tried to clarify:
The most important thing we can do as artists and creative people is make sure everyone has the same fair shot, regardless of sex, color, or orientation. Right now such people are badly under-represented, and not only in the arts.
Howls. It was as if he'd killed MLK rather than stated a version of judging people not by the color of their skin but by the conscience of their character.
I suppose it's in the general that this conversation doesn't interest me. In the specific, I'm fine with it.
Example: Some thought J Lo should‘ve gotten nominated for “Hustlers,” which they think a great movie. I think she was fine in a lousy movie so don’t see it as a big loss. But not nominating Zhao Shuzhen from “The Farewell”? 不好意思！
Some thought Awkwafina was a cinch for lead actress in “The Farewell.” Again, eh. But Lupita Nyong'o in “Us”? C‘mon, Academy. That shit blazed.
The main thing I was disappointed in was the complete lack of anything for LuLu Wang’s “The Farewell,” which I think one of the best movies of the year. But I didn't even have time to get that complaint out. I picked up my rock only to see everyone around me tossing bombs. Classic Erik: bringing a rock to a bomb fight.
Here are the nominees. With thoughts/factoids. Some of the latter come from Nathaniel.
- Ford v Ferrari < If you'd told me when this opened it would get nominated, I would‘ve shaken my head. Need to see it. Mangold has about as solid a track record as a director can have (“Logan,” “3:10 to Yuma,” “Walk the Line”) without ever blowing me away.
- The Irishman
- Jojo Rabbit
- Joker < The most nominations this year, 11, making it the most-nominated film to ever come out of the superhero realm. But of course it’s not really a superhero film. It's “Taxi Driver” and “The King of Comedy” with clown makeup. “From the director who brought you ‘The Hangover Part III’”
- Little Women < Sixth time this has been made into a feature film. Previous: 1918, 1933, 1949, 1994, and last year. Oprah lists all the other versions, too. It's the second time the film has been nominated best picture. The first was the ‘33 with Katherine Hepburn; it lost to “Cavalcade.”
- Marriage Story
- Once upon a Time...in Hollywood < My early pick to win: a Hollywood movie about Hollywood movies. Generally, Hollywood can’t resist. Plus it's the most poignant movie from a long-time celebrated auteur whose films have never won best picture.
- Parasite < It's the 10th foreign film to be nominated for best picture, and the first from Korea. The others: Grand Illusion (1938), Z (1969), The Emigrants (1972), Cries and Whispers (1973), Il Postino (1995), Life is Beautiful (1998), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), Amour (2012), Roma (2018). None won. Oddly unsatisfying list, isn't it? I mean, considering all the great foreign films that could‘ve been nominated? Nary a Kurosawa, to begin.
DIRECTING < Though attacked for leaving off Greta Gerwig, the directing award, in terms of winners, has gone from least diverse (always white men) to most (always with the Mexicans). Among the last 10 winners: one woman (American), and then this veritable UN of men: France, Britain, Taiwan, U.S., and three Mexicans sharing five awards. The last American man to win the award was Damien Chazelle for “La La Land.” Before him? The Coen Brothers for “No Country.”
- Bong Joon-ho, Parasite < First Korean ever in this category
- Sam Mendes, 1917 < His first nomination since he won for “American Beauty” 20 years ago. That’s right: 20 years ago.
- Todd Phillips, Joker < Some are trying to Rami Malek him, but I was impressed.
- Martin Scorsese, The Irishman < His 9th directing nomination. What was his first? Nope, not that. It was “Raging Bull.” Interesting what was passed over when he was young.
- Quentin Tarantino, Once upon a Time...in Hollywood < His year? Or do they keep the UN going and choose Bong?
ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
- Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory < The indie choice; the gay film Twitter choice. His first nom, btw. He's had five Golden Globe noms and six Goyas. Zorro lives.
- Leonardo DiCaprio, Once upon a Time...in Hollywood < Not enough people are talking about how good he was in this.
- Adam Driver, Marriage Story
- Joaquin Phoenix, Joker < His speech will be magnificent.
- Jonathan Pryce, The Two Popes < His first! And least memorable! Maybe. I still need to see it. Or do I?
ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
- Cynthia Erivo, Harriet < She goes from never nominated to twice nominated: here, and in original song (“Stand Up” from “Harriet”)
- Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story < Her, too! She goes from never nom‘ed to two in one year: here and supporting (“JoJo”). Of course she’s been attacked for taking up all those acting spots. It's like there's shame in it now.
- Saoirse Ronan, Little Women < She's 25 and this is her fourth acting nomination (“Atonement,” “Brooklyn,” “Lady Bird”). Only Jennifer Lawrence got to four faster—also at age 25. Fastest to five is Kate Winslet, who was 31.
- Charlize Theron, Bombshell < I'd have gone Lupita. She should‘ve gotten nom’ed for “Young Adult” seven years ago.
- Renée Zellweger, Judy < Welcome back. Stop messing with your face. Do I have to see this movie? Do I hafta?
ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE < AKA That ‘90s Show
- Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood < I still think of him getting nominated every year but this is his first since “Castaway” in 2000. Also his first in a supporting role. Way to go, Kip!
- Anthony Hopkins, The Two Popes < Another ’90s perennial (“Silence,” “Remains,” “Nixon,” “Amistad”). His first since ‘97.
- Al Pacino, The Irishman < His ninth nomination and first since he won for lead in “Scent of a Woman” in ’93. It's ‘90s reunion week.
- Joe Pesci, The Irishman < And again! Third overall, first since he won for “Goodfellas” in ’90.
- Brad Pitt, Once upon a Time...in Hollywood < First nominated in ‘95 (“Twelve Monkeys”) and last nominated in acting in 2012 (“Moneyball”), he’s apparently the shoo-in. He's also the youngest of the five: My age, 56. He's about eight months younger than me.
ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
- Kathy Bates, Richard Jewell < Fourth overall, first since “About Schmidt” in 2002. Won't see this unless I need to do a piece on later Eastwood. He's increasingly problematic.
- Laura Dern, Marriage Story < Third nom, no wins. Likely winner here.
- Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit
- Florence Pugh, Little Women < Still need to see “Midsommar.”
- Margot Robbie, Bombshell < Her second nom after “I, Tonya.” She‘ll win soon. She’s too good and too hot not to.
- Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story < Second screenplay nom. The other was also about divorce (“Squid”).
- Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin Won, Parasite
- Rian Johnson, Knives Out < QT spoiler? Only nom for a popular film that adults can enjoy. Particulary Trump-hating adults.
- Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns, 1917
- Quentin Tarantino, Once upon a Time...in Hollywood < His fourth screenwriting nom; he's won twice (“Pulp”; “Django”). Didn't win for killing Hitler.
- Greta Gerwig, Little Women < Her third nom, second in screenplay
- Anthony McCarten, The Two Popes < He's the one I know least about in this category. Turns out he's written some of the flattest British biopics of the last 10 years that keep getting honored: “Theory of Everything,” “Darkest Hour” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” And this.
- Todd Phillips & Scott Silver, Joker
- Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit
- Steven Zaillian, The Irishman < The Old Hand. Fifth nomination. Won for “Schindler's List.”
- Jarin Blaschke, The Lighthouse < First timer. Did “The Witch” in 2015.
- Roger Deakins, 1917 < 15th nom in 25 years! I still think of him as the guy who never wins, but he won last time out, for, of all things, “Blade Runner 2049.” So never with Scorsese (“Kundun”), or the Coens (“Fargo,” “O Brother,” “No Country,” “True Grit”), or stellar work like “The Assassination of Jesse James...”
- Rodrigo Prieto, The Irishman < Storied career, third nom (“Brokeback,” “Silence”).
- Robert Richardson, Once upon a Time...in Hollywood < With Deakins, the other Old Hand: 10th nom, 2 wins. Was Oliver Stone's guy (“Platoon,” “JFK”), sometime Scorsese (“Aviator,” “Hugo”), now QT‘s.
- Lawrence Sher, Joker < “From the DP of ’The Chumscrubber.'” His first. Other 2019 credit: “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.”
FILM EDITING > AKA Thelma and the First Timers
- Tom Eagles, Jojo Rabbit < His first. He's still editing TV shows in NZ.
- Jeff Groth, Joker < His first.
- Michael McCusker and Andrew Buckland, Ford v Ferrari < Buckland's first, McCusker's second (“Walk the Line”). Only the second film Buckland has been editor on, after 2016's abyssmal “The Girl on the Train.”
- Thelma Schoonmaker, The Irishman < Longtime Scorsese collaborator with her 8th nom. Three wins: “Raging Bull,” “Aviator,” “The Departed.” How her editing of “Goodfellas” lost to the editing in “Dances with Wolves” is a true crime that needs investigating.
- Yang Jinmo, Parasite < His first. Only Hollywood credit: “Assistant to Mr. Kim,” the director of the 2013 Schwarzenegger flick “The Last Stand.”
PRODUCTION DESIGN < Is there a good doc about production design? Would love to see it.
- Dennis Gassner and Lee Sandales, 1917
- Ra Vincent and Nora Sopková, JoJo Rabbit
- Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
- Ha-jun Lee and Won-Woo Cho, Parasite
- Bob Shaw and Regina Graves, The Irishman
ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
- How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
- I Lost My Body
- Missing Link
- Toy Story 4 < Saw this one
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE < Saw none of them, but many are now streaming on the usual suspects (Neflix, Hulu).
- American Factory
- The Cave
- The Edge of Democracy
- For Sama
INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
- Corpus Christi, Poland
- Honeyland, North Macedonia
- Les Misérables, France
- Pain and Glory, Spain
- Parasite, South Korea < Saw this one.
The rest of the categories are here. The broadcast is early this year: Sunday, Feb. 9, 5 PM PST. BYOP. Popcorn. Kidding. We pop. But no bombs allowed.
Saturday March 23, 2019
The Oscars and Box Office: This Again, Again
If you‘re a best picture nominee that did well at the box office, you used to have a good shot at winning. No longer.
I’ve been busy since the Oscars—mostly being sick with the neverending crud—but I did want to post on this phenomenon since it's still holding true.
For the 20 years before 2009, when the Academy widened its best picture nominees from five to 10, the eventual Oscar winner was almost always the first- or second-biggest box-office draw among the nominees:
|1990||2||3||17||23||26||Dances with Wolves|
|1991||3||4||16||17||25||Silence of the Lambs|
|1996||4||19||41||67||108||The English Patient|
|1998||1||18||35||59||65||Shakespeare in Love|
|2001||2||11||43||59||68||A Beautiful Mind|
|2003||1||17||31||33||67||The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King|
|2004||22||24||37||40||61||Million Dollar Baby|
|2007||15||36||50||55||66||No Country for Old Men|
Since the Academy expanded to 10 nominees in 2009 (and then up to 10 starting in 2011), and implemented the preferential ballot in 2009, the winner is never from the top three box-office draws among the nominees. At best, it's fourth; it could be as low as eighth:
|2009||1||5||8||25||27||38||65||116||132||145||The Hurt Locker|
|2010||1||6||13||18||25||32||35||114||119||143||The King's Speech|
|2013||6||17||28||32||62||80||95||100||117||12 Years a Slave|
|2017||14||15||39||46||51||52||56||105||112||The Shape of Water|
What to make of this? Some guesses:
- Under the old rules, the top three nominees in terms of box office would never have been nominated in the first place: Movies like “Black Panther,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Get Out,” “The Martian,” “Toy Story 3,” “Inception,” etc. So they‘re certainly not going to win. You can dismiss those three columns entirely. It’s all a show.
- Follow up: Mostly true. But I think movies like “Avatar” (top draw in 2009) and “Gravity” (tops in 2013) would‘ve gotten nominated under the old rules; certainly “Lincoln” (top draw in 2012). All of those movies were also presumed to be best picture winners. They were frontrunners. Then poof.
- Merely nominating the boffo box office pictures frees Academy members to choose the picture they actually like rather than the one that’s popular. It's like [wiping hands], “Well, we‘ve done our duty.”
- In the past, once a movie won best picture, moviegoers flocked to it to see what the hubub was about; now they don’t. Now, at best, they wait for it to be available for home viewing.
- It's a fluke.
Not sure how the preferential ballot factors into all of this. It supposedly pushes concensus choices to the top, like “Green Book,” but this has been one of our artier decades in terms of best picture winners.
Speaking of: “Green Book” has been doing OK business since the Oscars but it still won't gross more than $100 million. This will be the sixth year in a row without a $100-million best picture winner. This used to be a regular thing (every bp winner between 1997 and 2004 grossed north of $100 mil) and now it's a nowhere thing. The 1980s had five best pictures that grossed more than $100 million—and that's unadjusted. This decade, with one year to go, has two: “The King's Speech” and “Argo.”
A quick tabulation of $100-million best picture winners, via Box Office Mojo:
- 1980s: 5
- 1990s: 7
- 2000s: 7
- 2010s: 2
Again: that's unadjusted.
I don't see how this trend will change, either. The Academy wants to be a distinguished body, honoring prestigious work, but they‘re living in a country that’s more and more infantilized—often, ironically, by the work of its own industry.
Monday February 25, 2019
“Once you realize Green Book is really just Nick Vallelonga's attempt to make a film out of the nifty road-trip stories his dad shared with him as a kid, the movie's myopia is somehow harder to be mad at. It's boneheaded, perhaps, but it's not malicious.
”Rather, that's how I feel until I remember the sickening ways that the film fabricates Dr. Shirley's feelings towards other blacks, his lack of black cultural knowledge, his utter racial isolation—falsehoods, according to his brother. Then I'm taken aback. It's one thing to get historical facts wrong, or to massage them for the sake of dramatic coherence. It's another thing entirely to take something so essential as racial identity—as the inner life of a person of color—and revise it. And to bypass due diligence. And to think, as a white filmmaker, that questions of this sort are things you can blithely make up or change outright.“
from ”The Truth About Green Book" by K. Austin Collins, Vanity Fair, December 2018—or nearly three months before this movie won best picture at the 91st Annual Academy Awards. Obviously, not enough members of the Academy read this piece.
Sunday February 24, 2019
The Self-Loathing Oscars
The Academy, which only a few years ago was making bold strides to diversify its membership, now seems exhaustingly tone-deaf and indecisive, unsure how to grow its viewership without alienating its members or its core audience, who definitely want to see the Best Cinematography category in full. Putting aside how any of the proposed changes would have meaningfully attracted viewers (was anyone really avoiding the Oscars because she couldn't stand to watch Best Editing?), the string of panicked about-faces has had a numbing effect. At times, it has felt like watching the Oscars undergo an existential crisis, which the Times summed up in the headline “Are the Oscars Ashamed to Be the Oscars?” Typically, awards season is when Hollywood gets slammed for excessive self-congratulation. Self-loathing—that's a new one.
Michael Schulman, “A Fraught Oscars Season Limps to the Finish Line,” The New Yorker
Sunday February 24, 2019
No Rooting Interests for Hostless Oscars
I‘ve been making my Top 10 movies list for 10 years now, and this is the first year without a best picture nominee on it. None, zero, zilch.
I was vaguely aware of this as I was writing it. Or I was aware there was only one, “Roma,” but it didn’t make my final cut, for which my wife still hasn't forgiven me. I was pretty sure I'd never had zero before. Had I had only one before? Not even close. Turns out, before this year, I averaged about four:
- 2018: 0
- 2017: 5: Get Out, Phantom Thread, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Lady Bird, Call Me By Your Name
- 2016: 3: La La Land, Moonlight, Manchester By the Sea
- 2015: 4: Brooklyn, Spotlight, The Big Short, The Revenant
- 2014: 3: The Grand Budapest Hotel, Birdman, Boyhood
- 2013: 3: Philomena, American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street
- 2012: 3: Argo, Amour, Lincoln
- 2011: 4: The Artist, The Descendants, Moneyball, The Tree of Life
- 2010: 5: Black Swan, Toy Story 3, Inception, The Social Network, True Grit
- 2009: 5: Inglourious Basterds, The Hurt Locker, A Serious Man, Avatar, Up
That's a lot of agreement with an institution I constantly bitch about.
At the same time, I admit I‘ve gotten too swept up in the discussions around end-of-the-year/Oscar nomination time and allowed that to sway me more than I should. I think. It feels like that anyway. This distant voice in my head: “Well, of course you have to have ’The Hurt Locker' in there.” No. No, you don‘t.
That said, what might I remove from the above? Not many. Probably “La La Land” and “Black Swan” and “The Hurt Locker.” Maybe “The Artist” or “Argo” or “Inglourious Basterds.” I’d have to see these movies again, of course. The main point is the Oscars do tend to nominate a lot of good movies. This year I just didn't think many good American movies were made. Studio or indie.
It also means tonight I don't any real rooting interests. Maybe Spike for director even though I didn't like “BlacKkKlansman” much. And even though it should really go to either Cuaron or Pawlikowski.
I do find myself amused by the passionate intensity with which #FilmTwitter is battling it out over very flawed movies. How their flawed movie should win out over this other very flawed movie. To me it's like hearing an angry, passionate debate over which brand-name peanut butter is the best. “Jif better win! I‘ve been hearing reports that Peter Pan is gaining ground, which I can’t believe. God, what's the matter with people!?!”
5 PM, PST. Hostless.
Saturday February 16, 2019
The officers of the Board of Governors for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences issued the following statement yesterday:
The Academy has heard the feedback from its membership regarding the Oscar presentation of four awards - Cinematography, Film Editing, Live Action Short, and Makeup and Hairstyling. All Academy Awards will be presented without edits, in our traditional format. We look forward to Oscar Sunday, February 24.
So once again the Academy has announced a bad idea (“most popular film,” not bringing back last year's acting winners, etc.), causing a huge outcry among its fans, and then recanted. At leat it had the sense to recant. But the fact that it had the non-sense to float these bad ideas in the first place makes me worried for Oscar's future. I think maybe they need a new Board of Governors. Or a better consigliere.
My vote, by the way, for Academy non-legal counsel would be author Mark Harris:
This stems from a conviction that the Oscars are forever “broken” and that the way to “fix” them is to make them appeal to those who hate themto say, yeah, we think they're kind of awful too. But the show can produce joy and idiosyncracy in the most unexpected moments... >— Mark Harris (@MarkHarrisNYC) February 16, 2019
Kudos to everyone who objected.