(Forgive the haphazard and listicle qualities of this offering. It’s my way of easing back into real writing.)
- Let’s get the elephant in the room dealt with and talk about the all-white ballot. “Great,” I thought when I heard this, “now we’re going to have this argument every day until the Oscars.” Does that frustrate me because I think the conversation will be hijacked by overblown oversensitivity? No, because I think the racism is real. I think institutional racism runs through this country to be fought every day, so it’s to be expected that it will also run through our motion picture industry. I’m frustrated because we’re going to get sidetracked by the wrong conversation on it.
The Oscars is the tip of the iceberg. The problem isn’t so much racism at the Oscars as it is racism within the film community. It’s not whether a certain non-white actor or director was snubbed, but whether there was enough of a body of work from non-white artists to fairly represent their contribution. It’s nearly impossible to rank Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance in The Revenant to Will Smith’s in Concussion, so we get lost in arguing film vs film without getting at the heart of the problem.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t racism at the Oscars as well. Maybe Straight Outta Compton does deserve to be on the slate instead of The Big Short. I don’t know, I didn’t see Compton since it was in and out of our rural PA cineplex too quickly (which, oddly, finds plenty of screen room for any Kirk Cameron-ish fundamentalist nonsense, but that’s another post). It’s just hard to have the conversation we need to have when everyone lines up like it’s a dodgeball game. Admit there’s a serious problem. Talk together about how to fix it, which includes honestly talking about what each of us wants to see at the movies.
Twelve screens, people. We can share.
- I decided a few weeks ago that I wasn’t going to do Oscar Quest again this year, where I scramble to see each film nominated in the major categories. I’m too old to see movies I don’t really want to see, not as long as I keep my film diet varied, as I do. A lot of this has to do with watching Still Alice last year, which I should have walked out of. Not because it was bad, you see, but because it was brilliant. Julianne Moore, in particular, was brilliant, and deserved the Oscar she won. It was just too painful, and I’d already lived through that with a loved one, so I didn’t really need to go through the wringer again. Watching that was what I think it was like for D-Day veterans to watch Saving Private Ryan. Cathartic for some, brutalizing for others. I was in the latter category, so I decided I’ve established enough movie cred to cut myself some slack.
Then when the nominations came out, I found I was one short of the Best Picture nominees – Brooklyn – so I thought I need to see it, being so close to completing the category. But, no. I have no strong desire to see Brooklyn outside of an OCD desire to not leave a loose string. I’m sure it’s a fine film. Probably if I see it I’ll be glad I did. But if I had a therapist, I’m sure she’d tell me that I need to stand up for myself more often, so I’m going to do that here. Instead I’ll see two films again that I’ve already seen while they’re still on the big screen (The Revenant and The Hateful Eight) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the third time. This weekend.
- I’m immensely pleased that Mad Max: Fury Road was nominated for Best Picture. I saw this one in the theaters three times, and that says something about a film. One of the reasons we go to the movies is for the spectacle, to see something we’ve never seen in real life, something we’ll never see in real life. To be wowed. To be OMGd. That’s not the only reason to go to the movies, of course, but it is a legitimate service the movies provide, and The Academy needs to recognize that more often. In Mad Max, at the end of the pursuit into the desert storm, I exhaled. Without realizing it, I found that I had been holding my breath. And that was at my first AND second viewings of the film.
- Having said that, I find myself inexplicably not outraged that Star Wars was not nominated in the Best Picture category. I’m not sure I understand why that is. Maybe I have this idea of the whole Star Wars universe as having bypassed mere movies, books, and toys, and being injected straight into our consciousness. It transcends regular film expectations. I thought Episode 7 was so good that it returned the franchise back to the original. Maybe an earthly Oscar is meaningless in the face of that.
- I’m pleased that Mark Rylance was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in Bridge of Spies (which I also saw twice in theaters, come to think of it), and I believe he deserves the win. But I think the statue might go to Sylvester Stallone for Creed as a sort of “Lifetime Achievement Award” like John Wayne got for True Grit. That won’t bother me as much as you’d think it would, partially because I’m an adult and have learned not to expect justice from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. But also, I have to admit Stallone was really good in Creed.*
- I was kinda hoping to see Charlize Theron scoop up a nomination (but not a win) for Mad Max: Fury Road.
- The Revenant should clean up. The Revenant had better clean up, if The Academy has any brains at all. Except for Mark Rylance.
- I thought Sicario was pretty good. Not sure I’d elbow anything else out, but I liked it is all.
*I saw Creed twice, too. I need help.