Oscars LXXXIX – Awakenings 2017

Since I started this blog to share my point of view on how films impact me (and soon, television series and movies…if you can still call it ‘television’ as the medium evolves ) I’ve done a detailed list of award nominations and added my predictions. However, if the last 12 months have taught us anything, it’s that predictions are no indication of reality. So this time, I’m going to ramble a bit, on the day of the 89th Academy Awards, with Nina Simone in the background and a strong cuppa joe next to the keyboard….for what it’s worth.

Let’s see….ok I’ll start with the pronouncements of ‘The Oscar Race Has Begun!!’ that usually follow a favourable screening of some new film with an early screening at Sundance. Last year, the darling of the film festivals as ‘The Birth of a Nation‘. Glaringly absent from Oscar nominations, it suffered a slow decline of interest and support when Nate Parker’s past sullied the momentum of the worthy film. By the time I saw it at #TIFF16, there was already conversation about whether supporting the film was a support of rape culture. Since then, the attention to the actions of other nominees begs the questions about where the art stops and the artist starts, and whom else should have their past or opresent brought into the spotlight. How far back do you go? What if the charges were dropped? What if the allegations are circumstantial but aggregious? I’m torn on this one, and offer no answeres here.

First, my pet peeves.

1) Why increase the number of Best Picture nominees to 10 and not increase the number of Best Director slots as well? And…..and!!! Why is it that since that has been increased, there have only been 9 nominees?!? Infuriating.

2) This year there were several movies deserving  of the last slot: I Daniel Blake for one. Another is the riveting Dheepan, screened at #TIFF2015 and released in 2016. A relevant, gritty story about what people do to survive that is so timely with the current state of worldwide conflict, forcing refugees to redefine cultures on every continent. Elle and Toni Erdmann are two others that did not get enough of a push in the mainstream market.

3) Once again, no one is listening to me about the category of Best Costume Design. Here we go again. There should be two categories here….one for costume and one for wardrobe. If people used to or still dress in the manner depicted, then that’s wardrobe (Jackie, Florence Foster Jenkins). If a world is created or redefined due to the clothing, then that is costume design (Fantastic Beasts). I will never understand Ghandi winning this category over Tron (TRON!!!) in 1983. Military uniforms and loin cloths over futuristic jumpsuits? Ok…..

4) Why distinguish between documentaries, foreign language films and the rest of the English speaking categories? A good movie JUST THAT, even if one has to read subtitles. (See peeve #2…this is about education, people). I also think that 13th should have been nominated for Best Picture, outside of the documentary category this year.

My Picks and Pans

I had several AhHA! moments in screenings, but none more audible than during Hidden Figures. Really?!?!? I have a science degree and am the self annointed honorary Lt. Uhura every Halloween, and I didn’t know about the ‘human computers’ of colour who were part of the workforce at NASA. This is the only film that made me question reality walking out of the theatre

Speaking of reality, I have to talk briefly about La La Land. I get it. Those in the industry see themselves in this film. So that is why it has been lauded and elevated over the heads of the rest of the 99.9% of us who do not work in the entertainment industry. It was good-ish. I enjoyed it esque. But it was too long, singing was meh at best, and there were moments that were too familiar for me to give it Best Picture status.

The sleeper for me this year is Hacksaw Ridge. Earlier in this blog I talked about where the art stops and the artist starts. Mel Gibson knows how to make a damn good movie. This film should have gotten more attention than it did.

Although I enjoyed Hell or High Water more than La La Land, I don’t understand why it has a Best Picture nomination, or Best Supporting Actor nod for Jeff Bridges. He’s almost unintelligible in the film (should have had subtitles). I could understand him, but then I went to university in Texas. Should not be a prerequisite that I understand southern drawls to see a North American release. Same sentiment for Michael Shannon in the indulgent and unrelatable Nocturnal Animals. If anyone deserved a nomination in this category, it was Ben Foster for his unrelenting performance in HoHW.

I am pleased that a comedy made it into the fray at all. Florence Foster Jenkins is a delightful production, with a sweet premise that I have recommended to several friends. Manchester By the Sea grew on me as I watched in the theatre, wondering in the first half hour if I should stay for the rest of it and then glued to my seat as it slowly built a devastating portrait of guilt and atonement. Speaking of which, Fences was a brutal adaptation from stage to screen. Several people left the theatre when I caught it on opening weekend, for their own reasons. They missed out on a classic. I would like to see Viola Davis get the Oscar for her performance (although I think it should be for Best Actress, not supporting).

For Best Actress, I would only be offended if it was Natalie Portman. Not a hater, but I thought her depiction of the former first lady in Jackie was cringeworthy.I would love to see Isabelle Huppert to win for Elle.  My pick for Best Actor is either Denzel Washington or Casey Affleck, who really surprised me with his deft portrayal of a man also battling his demons. For Animated Feature, I loved  Zootopia and think it will win.

The most transcendent movie for me was Moonlight. It’s hard to capture isolation on film. The script, context, acting and direction was on point in every scene. There is no wasted moment in what I consider to be a rare, motion painting. As if every frame was lovingly created with thoughtful strokes. Although Lion is the only movie that made me cry last year,  I think Moonlight deserves Best Picture, but I think Lion may have greater appeal and be the upset winner of the night. Of all the categories, however, I anticipate this one will deliver the biggest surprise (Hidden Figures maybe?)

That’s all I will say about the Oscars this year. It could be a huge yawn (I e. La La Land walks away with it), or reflect the diversity of talent that was ignored last year, and over it’s history in general. The only thing I know is, I’ll be watching.

Oscar Awakenings

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