Oscars So… Popular?

The now Oscar-winning Avengers: Infinity War was being touted as the new gold standard of how art meets commerce among many industry executives backstage..

Hangover 4 rebooted the entire franchise with its recent Oscar win and Warner Bros. is now talking multi-episode story arcs along the lines of Star Wars as Bradley Cooper circles a revamped multi-pic deal with the studio through his freshly-minted Wall Street-backed production company as director-producer-star…

Of course, THE viral moment of ANY Academy Awards ceremony occurred back in in 2019 when seven-time Oscar nominee Glenn Close, finally a winner for that year’s The Wife, was forced to pick up her trophy during a commercial break in a filmed off-camera segment and tersely growled I’m not going to be ignored! – an oft-quoted line from her box-office hit Fatal Attraction – before justifiably storming offstage and out the doors of the Dolby Theatre…

Oh yes, it can happen. And more.

Don’t toy with me, Chairy

This week the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences announced without warning to its 6000 plus membership – and us – that its Board of Governors voted for some noteworthy changes to future Oscar ceremonies that include:

1- The addition of a new Oscar for Best Popular Film.

2 – The presentation of some Oscars off-camera (who knows, it may even be backstage)…during commercial breaks…in categories to be determined

3- An earlier airdate from late February to early February.

This is certainly not an emergency situation given what is going on in the world at the moment. Still, if you’re an inveterate Oscar watcher – whether as cheerleader or snide, smack-talking comment-maker – it is one more assault on one more of the dependable and seemingly scarce growing pleasures left on the planet Earth.

but for real… when does it end?

It seems that millions and billions of dollars in profit should be enough, doesn’t it?   No. Michelin will soon be awarding 4 or 5 stars to the top McDonald’s franchise, People Magazine will no doubt be forced into doing a Sexiest Armadillo Alive issue for disenfranchised pet lovers and the Nobel Peace Prize for Best Villain Whose War Was Prevented by a Treaty of Nations could most conceivably and likely be awarded to our current sitting American president at some future date he deems to his own liking by way of Oval Office pressure privately applied.

The latter analogy is apt because changes by organizations like the Motion Picture Academy don’t just happen, even when they seem to be doing so. That’s like believing the mere election of a Person of Color as a U.S. president created the corrupt crop of American racism aka Nationalism that is sweeping the country. It pays attention only to the mere tipping point without acknowledging the tides of this nature that have been sweeping and swirling about for decades, if not centuries.

ABC-Disney broadcasts the Oscars and the show’s ratings have been steadily declining in recent years. In fact, last year they dropped a whopping 19% to an all-time low of 26.5 million viewers, marking the first time in 10 years they registered at less than 30 million.

Big Bang Theory has the highest weekly ratings on TV with approx. 18 million viewers per week. #PERSPECTIVE #embarrassmentofriches

This means that even though The Shape of Water was a genre film and more popular than the previous year’s indie best picture winner, Moonlight, it didn’t seem to matter. In fact, research over the last few decades showed the only times the ratings could be counted on to seriously tick up was when blockbuster grossing films like Avatar or Lord of the Rings were in serious contention.

Nevermind the general decrease in television ratings among younger demographics and the competition of online and streaming entertainment. Something had to be done.

The urgency of this can be certainly be attributed to commerce. Networks justifiably do not like to lose money, especially when we keep being reminded of how well the economy is doing.

But…well…there is something about these changes that smell a little to those with a sensitive sniffer – or who are just sensitive (Note: Which used to be the euphemism used for all artists, not to mention the gays and lesbians among and outside them).

See, Disney – that is half of ABC-Disney, in case this is becoming too complicated – is also the distributor and defacto partial financier of all Marvel Films. That’s pretty much the majority of all the Oscar overlooked superhero hopefuls.

So yeah.. basically this.

It’s also the distributor and defacto partial financier of all Pixar Films. That’s pretty much the majority of all of the Oscar overlooked animated films before the installation of the best animated Oscar category in 2002.

Not to mention, it also distributes and serves as the defacto partial financier of all the Star Wars/Lucasfilm movies.

These are all very POPULAR FILMS. In fact, consistently among the MOST POPULAR. Though certainly they are not among the biggest Oscar winners. And often they are…gasp…not even in contention.

Well… except for Best Visual Effects

As a person with year-round season allergies, even I CAN SMELL something rotten here in Hollywood beyond the phony Donald J. Trump Walk of Fame stars some right wing conservative group pasted directly onto the streets last week.

BARF

We seem to be living in a world where money is not enough and massive amounts of fame proves to be inadequate for the insatiable. The next bastion seems to be legitimacy in the form of some type of higher class of award or recognition usually reserved for the artistic and/or intellectual.

Next, we resurrect Edward G. Robinson to give away the award for best false idol

Of course it’s impossible to argue at this point that all Oscars are consistently high class, intellectual or even the most artistic. Yet if over the years you compare the winners to the Golden Globes, People’s Choice and MTV…well, our standards are our standards.

Yet somewhere it has now been decided that the producer/director of a short film or documentary who did something brilliant and/or original (and is likely maxed out on their credit cards) doesn’t deserve that kind of international attention for artistic achievement, especially if it can be given to someone the world is already familiar with.

Sort of like an American president pushing the president of a tiny country – say, Montenegro – out of the way in order to get one more photo op to add to the many millions accrued previously or to be added in the future.

There is no known cure

Never mind the fact that all outstanding leaders in their fields deserve some attention, even those of more modest means, in those rare moments when the spotlight happens to turn on them.

The more categories included, i.e. the more awards given, the more diluted and less prestigious any honor will become. This is one reason why the Oscars has managed to maintain whatever star quality and specialness it has left – it limited itself to 24 categories, eliminating some others while adding a few more over time.

Then, some years ago, when ego and commerce and the omission of a best picture nominee like Dark Knight dictated – rules were changed to include up to TEN best picture nominees – with hope for some more superhero or at least commercial inclusion, if not winners.

because all movies are the same…. right?

When that didn’t work…well…now there’s the popular film – dragging along all the other Oscars along with it so they can be awarded TWO OR THREE WEEKS earlier in hopes they can at least capitalize on some additional amorphous awards buzz along with everyone else. Forgetting entirely that sometimes you want to stand out from a group instead of delivering a cheap imitation of what everyone else has already grown so used to.

This kind of strategy slowly makes irrelevant not only a date of broadcast but the very awards themselves.   Much like a bad leader can do to any organization, corporate leader or country.

Wicked Cast – “Popular”

 

A New/Old Golden Age?

Art, historically, is always at its best and most provocative when it can be in opposition to something – when the artist disagrees with the government she lives in. – Hanya Yanagihara, Editor in Chief, T Magazine

This week the New York Times published a special issue of its Style Magazine entitled — 1981-1983 New York: 36 Months that Changed the Culture.

Among the many articles, stories and sidebars is an accompanying 12-minute video of interviews at a photo shoot of 21 actors who had their breakthrough moments in the city as young artists at the time.

Click to watch the video!

There are lots of familiar names, many of them now stars, all of them respected at their craft not only onstage in New York but often in film and television.   Not to mention, one of them is now even running to be the next governor of New York.

Kathy Bates, Glenn Close, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick , Cynthia Nixon, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Willem Dafoe, Nathan Lane, Harvey Fierstein, Ed Harris, Loretta Devine, Joan Allen, Elizabeth McGovern, Mercedes Ruehl, Victor Garber, Amanda Plummer, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Michael Cerveris, Mia Katigbak, Stephen Bogardus and John Kelly.

It was impossible to know at the time who in the above group would:

1- Create roles so indelible that they’d live on forever in the pop culture landscape.

2- Become rich and famous beyond their (and our) wildest dreams.

My face when I think about SJP’s wallet. Yes, we’re looking at you shoe lady!

3- Continue to be doing avant-garde, cutting edge work so many decades later.

4- Change your life with a single performance or film appearance or, perish the thought back then if you were a true artiste, weekly TV show.

And perhaps, most importantly (at least for them):

5- Survive long enough to attend or even be wanted at a photo shoot/class reunion in the year 2018 organized by the NY Times about the city’s once-in-a-era cultural scene.

It is easy to look back and write about an iconically fertile or low period in artistic and political history. But it is one mean feat of supernatural ESP to know that this is what’s going on in your particular time at the time and be absolutely right about it.

Amen, Andy Bernard. Amen.

The truth is, everyone thinks that both the time they’re living in and the work they’re doing is important, artistic, relevant and potentially world and/or life-changing. Either that or they assume there is nothing at all important about it – certainly nothing people would ever look back on decades later in wonderment or nostalgia.

Of course, both viewpoints are incorrect. No one really knows which times are or will be relevant to other generations and how or in what way. Sure, you’ve got gut feelings about stuff, especially in 1980s NY where people on the artistic scene slowly began dying around you from an unnamed plague. But in that moment, it isn’t easy to fully realize how time will remember it or if you and/or your generation’s work will live on or be forgotten. What is even more likely is that you won’t be right about it.

OK maybe we had a good idea about this guy #legend

Cases in point:

— I remember working with a 17 year old Cynthia Nixon on a little known Robert Altman film, OC & Stiggs, in the early eighties and thinking: She’s so sweet and smart, not to mention natural in front of the camera – I hope the biz of show doesn’t eat her alive. I never dreamed I’d see her on Broadway a year later seducing a major movie star onstage right before my eyes, go on to win two Tonys, then follow it all by becoming a female role model/TV star on Sex in the City.  And now a run for governor? Are you kidding???

Oh she’s the real thing alright!

— As the arts editor of my college radio station I got tickets to see this off-Broadway play called Vanities in the seventies where a very young and very unknown Kathy Bates played one of three friends whose lives we trace though high school, college and post graduation. She was fun AND sort of sad simultaneously, the kind of fantastic NY actress you knew would work forever but would probably never be a star because, well, the business…SUCKED!!

Which it didn’t because in the eighties she became a local Broadway legend playing a suicidal daughter in night, Mother and in the early nineties became an Oscar winning, axe-wielding movie star in Misery.

And then win an Emmy for playing a HEAD in American Horror Story

The latter was, by the way, five years after I had worked on the movie version of ‘night, Mother and was tasked to arrange a private pre-release screening for Ms. Bates so she could take in the work done by Sissy Spacek in the role SHE had originated. Again, I thought, this business…SUCKS! Which, of course, it didn’t once again and, in fact, only showed how wrong one (okay, I) can be – TWICE. And in two different decades.

— Then there was the time in early eighties NY where I saw Harvey Fierstein playing a gay, Jewish drag queen in his play Torch Song Trilogy and considered just how wrong I was a third time (ok, maybe that was #2) about what could and could not be accomplished in a business that, at the end of the day, actually might not at all always totally…SUCK.

Oh.. hello, Mother

This might be hard for younger people today to imagine but the idea of a gay guy from the boroughs playing a gay guy from the boroughs in a play he had himself, a gay guy from the boroughs, written about the relationship a gay guy from the boroughs has with an impossibly closeted gay guy he’s in love with and his own impossibly know-it-all Jewish mother seemed…well… impossible at the time. Until it wasn’t. And never would be again (Note: Especially for this gay guy from the boroughs) thanks to people like “Harvey,” who worked in cheap, roach infested, barely standing stages far away from the harsh glare of world-changing and international recognition.

You can never be great – in life or in art – if you’re forever thinking about being great or are sure you will never be great because the odds are against you and the times you live in just don’t allow it.

Also avoid self aggrandizing

All you can really do is put everything you have into your work and your life (both of those being art) in the best way you can, revel in each action and task with as much enthusiasm as you can and – hope for the best.

I still have to remind myself about living in the moment and enjoying each task at hand, unconcerned with result and I saw most of the above unlikely actor/stars in their iconic performances all those years ago in the early eighties.

I was killin’ it and didn’t even know it!

Of course these days it sometimes takes journalistic behemoths like the NY Times to remind us that the eighties – a decade many of my peers consider hideous beyond words because of its ethos of Greed is Good, big hair and the AIDS plague – did indeed have its moments in hindsight.

That is among many other things we depend on them to remind us of daily these days. Which is the subject of another story. Though the lesson is the same – stay focused and do the work as best you can – even if you think no one is listening and despite what you perceive your odds are for success.  Because the future – yours and all of ours – just might surprise you — and us – if you (nee We) just keep going.

Nina Hagen – New York New York (1983)

The Foreman

The death of director extraordinaire Milos Forman this week makes one remember a time when movies were movies.

What do we mean by that?

Well, quite simply, he didn’t have a genre. He wasn’t an actor’s director. And his films weren’t all about how they looked, or how they were edited or how they sounded.

He didn’t really have a STYLE.

His movies were not all about the MESSAGE they sent.

Once upon a time, in a world that grows farther and farther away, movies were simply stories. About people. Who wanted something that was difficult or near impossible to get.

Tell em Norma!

They had real and imagined obstacles to get these things and whether they did or did not get them it was usually, at the end of the day, only about a handful of simple things: love, family, justice, or simply finding a place to belong where they could feel less alone.

This is generally why we tell stories. Yes, to be heard. But mostly, to feel less alone.

Oh you know.. just these little known films

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Hair (1979)

Ragtime (1981)

Amadeus (1984)

Valmont (1989)

The People vs Larry Flynt (1996)

Man on the Moon (1999)

Every one of them was about a recognizable person living on this planet. NONE of them had superpowers or were set safely in a dystopian future or reimagined past.

This is not a knock to sci-fi or action or horror or even the Marvel Universe. They can make for great stories on both the big and small screen. Heck, they’re even the setting for some cool books. Anyone remember those?

Allow me to get out my sweater…

These days we have a ton of imagined worlds and past, future and parallel-present imposing end-of-the-universe experiences. There is no lack of people who have cyborg-ish limbs which can throw an object the size of, say, the Empire State Building, from one coast to the other. Or perhaps even THE Empire State Building.

What we don’t have anymore are future movies from filmmakers like Milos Forman and very many film studios or large production companies willing to finance them.

Every detail indeed

One can argue every film creates its own pushed reality and exists in an alternate universe with larger than life characters not entirely of this world. Certainly Mr. Forman’s movies did just that.

I remember very distinctly seeing Hair at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood and being transported into a 1960s universe in Central Park exactly how I wished it could be – but probably never was – with the help of sound, editing and great music that enabled a group of joyous actors to simply do their thing.

Sing it with me now…. AGE OF AQUAAAAARIUS

Or the anger and rage at the government that The People vs Larry Flynt gave voice to at what still felt like for me to be the height of the AIDS crisis.

Not to mention the comic hysteria and sheer tribute to artistic will expressed in Man on the Moon that somehow became oddly healing to a generation of us moviegoers still idealistic enough to believe somewhere deep down that iconoclastic comedian Andy Kaufman had not really died of cancer at the age of 35.

Or how the behaviors of all the supposedly insane characters in One Flew Cuckoo’s Nest exactly mirrored what all of the rest of us normal people on the outside saw or even exhibited on any given day in the 1970s.

Me then, and let’s be honest, me now

And, finally — the way the same group of petty, racist and haughty rich, straight white people manage to show up generation after generation, in decade after decade in various modes of dress illustrated in films like Amadeus, Ragtime and Valmont – films that managed to give many of us OTHERS hope because they showed us categorically that the Haughties will always be defeated either by themselves or some other group of more thoughtful and ingenious OTHERS. People who were, more or less, just like us.

Mr. Forman made just seven major studio movies in over 24 years where he managed to win two best director Oscars for himself, another two best picture Oscars for his producers and countless other nominations in pretty much every other category of excellence offered by the Academy and elsewhere all over the world.

Thanks Milos

These films also generated enough revenue, attention and critical acclaim for him to be given subsequent chance after chance (nee $$$) by the powers-that-be to produce the kind of work that would change the lives of several generations of filmgoers, many of them aspiring artists themselves who would go on to inspire still others, in the process. (Note: And if you think those facts are being overstated, just read the endless tributes on Twitter).

Point being, this was all done without EVER having to leave the planet, imagining a dystopic and/or end of the world scenario, inventing a superpower or coming up with a single tacky line, scene or sequence offensive enough to alienate any one marginalized group of people.

Some might say, Well, everything was different back then.

To which we all might consider the one question that all of Mr. Forman’s films did manage to ask – and answer:

Were they, really?

Randy Newman, “Theme from Ragtime”

That Girl

This week, The Chair finds himself off recruiting young minds for the resistance (what else?).  But fear not! Pop culture criticism must go on!

In a fascinating example of film reconsideration, Molly Ringwald (in a piece for the New Yorker) revisited her classic film The Breakfast Club — a film that just recently entered the highly sought after Criterion Collection shelf space (like I didn’t already order my copy? please). Her reassessment of the film in light of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movement makes for a provocative piece. With the Chair’s blessing… here’s a critical read that does not feature a porn star or a President (can I get an Amen?!):

Click here for Ringwald’s article!

Two Words

It’s not enough to say this year’s Academy Awards was all about diversity or representation or #TimesUp.

Because what it really was all about was the inclusion rider.

This is a provision in an actor’s contract that can ensure casting in films be more diverse and provide percentages by which to achieve it (e.g. gender parity, people of color, LGBTQ, disabled). It may also extend to ALL CREW MEMBERS on any given film.

In an electric speech near the end of the ceremony, Frances McDormand did many things but the most interesting among them had nothing to do with her best actress win or performance in Three Billboards Outside Ebbings, Missouri.

her moment

It was the I have two words to leave with you tonight, ladies and gentlemen – inclusion ridera line that went from getting a blank stare from tens of millions of viewers to almost instantly becoming not only the #1 trending topic on Twitter but the Merriam-Webster dictionary website’s top search for the night.

There are ribbons and there are movements but at the end of the day there are really only CONTRACTS.

This is not a Hollywood thing. This is a business thing. ALL BUSINESSES.

Ms. McDormand makes it clear with each public appearance that it’s no accident she’s gained her greatest acclaim playing no-nonsense, complicated women.   But with that last line, specifically those two words, she’s not playing. She’s instead employing an extremely savvy use of a very public platform towards a really specific CONTRACTUAL REQUIREMENT to diversify.

It’s the iteration that follows the movement, which followed the ribbons, which channeled the marches – but this time on paper and in a court of law, if it comes to that.

Or put another way – the less kind and gentler version of you are the change you’ve been waiting for.

Her second most interesting moment was that, after thanking her family, she requested EVERY FEMALE NOMINEE in EVERY CATEGORY stand up for the world, and more importantly, the Hollywood patriarchy in attendance or watching, to see. She then admonished all those in power (aka many of the straight white guys of a certain age who claimed to be shocked by actions of guys like Harvey Weinstein – my editorial comment, not hers) that each and every one of these women have stories to tell and projects we need financed and instead of talking to them at a party that night to meet with them in an OFFICE (Note: We’ll go to yours or you can come to OURS) in a few days where we’ll tell you about them.

Who run the world?

This was not just the actors and the female writers and directors and producers she was pointing to. This was the female cinematographers, songwriters, composers, designers… Well, you get the picture.

Sure, there were other MOMENTS. Jimmy Kimmel was funny, charming really. Presenter Sandra Bullock made some hilarious remarks about dimming the lights so she could look 35 again, and 89-year-old James Ivory finally got the Oscar that eluded him as director of such classic films as Howard’s End, Maurice and Remains of the Day for his brilliant screenplay adaptation of Call Me By Your Name.

Oh and that shirt! #legend

Not to mention cinematographer Roger Deakins actually winning an Oscar after FOURTEEN nominations for his work on Blade Runner 2049 and Mexican-born Guillermo Del Toro’s two heartfelt acceptance speeches about the value of youth, art and American immigration as the best director and producer of this year’s best picture, The Shape of Water.

All of them were good, if not great. In fact, so were all the musical numbers. (Note: Yes, we were surprised too!).

But nothing captured the desire and mood of what’s really going on in the industry like the inclusion rider. Nothing.

Let the buyer beware.

Frances McDormand Oscar 2018 Acceptance Speech

Call me Chair, and I’ll Call You Oscar

Decades of working inside and outside, around and through the entertainment industry has taught me one thing:

NO ONE can reliably predict the Oscar winners each year.

Oh sure, the odd person can get lucky every once in a while and ace the whole thing, even the bonus questions in your local online poll. But maintaining that accuracy every year would mean there is some secret formula to understanding Hollywood.

Trust me, there isn’t.

The only secret is that, at the end of the day, there is no secret.

That’s because Hollywood is more of an idea than a location with an overriding opinion. And that’s coming from someone like me who actually lives IN Hollywood.

Oh.. and about my Oscar party

Oh there are lots of opinions here, too many, but there is no guiding principal to any one school of thinking when it comes to awards.

Not money, not artistic merit. Not dues-paying, good looks or familial connections.

Any one or two or three of those can help but they are no guarantee of anything.

Hollywood is more a state of mind in a particular moment where someone with power makes a decision based on – well – an opinion. Put 6000 or so of those together and what comes out are the annual list of Oscar winners – about as elusive of figuring in advance as receiving the shiny gold plated 8 ½ lb. statuette itself. (Note: And a mere 13.5 inches high. Though it does FEEL taller and HEAVIER in person).

Are you saying size doesn’t matter?

So, in that spirit, let’s get started on an online cheat sheet that can maybe help you gain an edge in the categories where you have doubts. (Note: The kind word for that is a consensus of informed opinions. The cynical one: guesswork). We’ll also include the Chair Choice (what we would vote for among the list of nominees) because…well….we want to and we can.

Best Picture

Who’s it gonna be?

Call Me by Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Winner: The Shape of Water

Chair Choice: Lady Bird

The toughest category this year. The Shape of Water is singularly the most original and yet the one that most reflects the best of the mainstream movie industry as it now stands in that it combines dazzling visual effects with an emotional story. A case can be made for Three Billboards but its odds are a bit lowered since it received no director nomination. Sadly, we haven’t gotten to the cultural moment where a gay love story like Call Me By Your Name, beautiful as it is, could win best film. Some think we will hit a different cultural moment with Get Out but I don’t think so – The Shape of Water is probably the safer genre choice – not to mention the better film. As for Chair Choice, try making a truly great coming-of-age movie (aka Lady Bird) in the age of cynicism and see how far you get.

 

Lead Actor

Elio… Oliver… Sigh

Timothée Chalamet, Call Me by Your Name              

Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread

Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out


Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour

Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Winner: Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name

Chair Choice: Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name

Yup, you read right. We’re going far out on a limb here because Gary Oldman is the odds-on favorite. But Chalamet’s performance was so unusual, raw and riveting for even those most cynical about his film, that it just feels like he could be rewarded. Also, there are three words in his favor – the crying scene. Yes, the Oldman/Churchill turn was hard to turn away from – for SO many reasons. And he did win the SAG Award, a good predictor here since the actors are the largest voting branch. It doesn’t matter. We’re NOT going with the favorite here. EVER.

 

Lead Actress

American Badass

Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water

Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Margot Robbie, I, Tonya

Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird

Meryl Streep, The Post

Winner: Frances McDormand, Three Billboards

Chair Choice: Saioirse Ronan, Lady Bird

Seriously, FM is gonna win. Though we prefer Saioirse Ronan’s feat of so many colors in Lady Bird the idea of hearing a McDormand acceptance speech televised LIVE internationally to tens of millions of people is just too tempting not to simultaneously root for.

 

Supporting Actor

No comment.

Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project

Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri


Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water

Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World

Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Winner: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards

Chair Choice: Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards

It’s Sam Rockwell’s year. He’s a character actor everyone in the industry respects and it’s the kind of emotionally showy performance that wins supporting acting awards. Many of us have issues with the film (ahem, the performances, the tone and even the writing), but there is something about Rockwell’s work here that ultimately rises above the naysaying. Perhaps…talent?

 

Supporting Actress

Lady (with a) Bird

Mary J. Blige, Mudbound

Allison Janney, I, Tonya

Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread

Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird


Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water

Winner: Allison Janney, I Tonya

Chair Choice: Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

This will be the most UNJUST award of the evening. Allison Janney, an often brilliant actress, will win for an over-the-top turn in an over-the-top film despite Laurie Metcalf being nothing short of brilliant as the hate her/love her Mom in Lady Bird. There were literal scenes with that fictional mother that I actually recall living through as a teenager in 197___. Now how can that be????

 

Director

His time

Christopher Nolan, Dunkirk

Jordan Peele, Get Out

Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird

Paul Thomas Anderson, Phantom Thread


Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

Winner & Chair Choice: Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water

He’s going to win. Del Toro was innovative, unusual and Hollywood. It’s not Nolan’s year. Give it up.

 

Animated Feature

No brainer

The Boss Baby, Tom McGrath, Ramsey Ann Naito

The Breadwinner, Nora Twomey, Anthony Leo

Coco, Lee Unkrich, Darla K. Anderson

Ferdinand, Carlos Saldanha

Loving Vincent, Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Sean Bobbitt, Ivan Mactaggart, Hugh Welchman

Winner & Chair Choice: Coco

It’s a sure thing. Nothing to discuss.

 

Animated Short

Kobe’s got it

Dear Basketball, Glen Keane, Kobe Bryant

Garden Party, Victor Caire, Gabriel Grapperon

Lou, Dave Mullins, Dana Murray

Negative Space, Max Porter, Ru Kuwahata

Revolting Rhymes, Jakob Schuh, Jan Lachauer

Winner: Dear Basketball

Chair Choice: Lou

I’ve actually seen all of these. Not being a sports fan, I guess I didn’t at all get Dear Basketball. But watching a drawing of a young would-be Kobe Bryant acting to the words spoken by the actual Kobe Bryant of what basketball meant to him in a film produced by the real Kobe Bryant has gotten to ALMOST everyone who wants to see the live Kobe Bryant accept an Oscar in the flesh. I myself prefer Pixar’s Lou, the story of how and why a young bully gets reformed because I guess I’m still working through my childhood issues.

 

Adapted Screenplay

Can I just say.. SIGH… again

Call Me by Your Name, James Ivory

The Disaster Artist, Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber

Logan, Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green

Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin

Mudbound, Virgil Williams and Dee Rees

Winner & Chair Choice: Call Me By Your Name, James Ivory

It’s the very definition of brilliant screen adaptation of a novel that was made into one of the most unique films of the year. Plus, it was written by the guy who directed and produced such classic movies as Howard’s End, Remains of The Day, and Maurice.   James Ivory has never won an Oscar, was robbed off it too many times to count and is now 89 years old. You do the math.

 

Original Screenplay

The Academy’s cup of tea

The Big Sick, Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani

Get Out, Jordan Peele

Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig

The Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro, Vanessa Taylor

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Martin McDonagh

Winner: Get Out, Jordan Peele

Chair Choice: Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig

The idea for Get Out is brilliant, as is the script and film that everyone is writing about. Sadly, that’s not the film I saw – at an actual movie theatre early on – and not at a screening and not on DVD. But the screenplay for the movie that’s getting talked about is the one that I WANT to see. Still, who cares what I think? Certainly, not anyone in the Academy. So we’ll just sit home and sulk, knowing Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird was the far more accomplished and nuanced achievement in storytelling.

 

Cinematography

Is it his time?

Blade Runner 2049, Roger Deakins

Darkest Hour, Bruno Delbonnel

Dunkirk, Hoyte van Hoytema

Mudbound, Rachel Morrison

The Shape of Water, Dan Laustsen

Winner & Chair Choice: Blade Runner 2049, Roger Deakins

This is Roger Deakins’ FOURTEENTH nomination for best cinematography WITHOUT A WIN. While it is possible the brilliant work in Mudbound or The Shape of Water or Dunkirk could win, we won’t be responsible for it.

 

Best Documentary Feature

Heartbreaking

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Steve James, Mark Mitten, Julie Goldman

Faces Places, JR, Agnès Varda, Rosalie Varda

Icarus, Bryan Fogel, Dan Cogan

Last Men in Aleppo, Feras Fayyad, Kareem Abeed, Soren Steen Jepersen

Strong Island, Yance Ford, Joslyn Barnes

Winner & Chair Choice: Last Men In Aleppo

It was near impossible to get through. Can you imagine making it? To do that you’d have to slog through thousands of dead bodies in Syria, side by side with the ordinary citizens of Syria, searching for survivors, and then relive it all again and again and again in the editing. For bringing the unendurable and unimaginable into the light, this one should and will win.

 

Best Documentary Short Subject

Edith+Eddie, Laura Checkoway, Thomas Lee Wright

Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405, Frank Stiefel

Heroin(e), Elaine McMillion Sheldon, Kerrin Sheldon

Knife Skills, Thomas Lennon

Traffic Stop, Kate Davis, David Heilbroner

Winner & Chair Choice: Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405, Frank Stiefel


I saw all of these. A lot of wonderful stories but nothing has stayed with me like Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405. You MUST watch this woman’s story. Then think about art. And what it means to survive. That’s all we’ll say.

 

Best Live Action Short Film

DeKalb Elementary, Reed Van Dyk

The Eleven O’Clock, Derin Seale, Josh Lawson

My Nephew Emmett, Kevin Wilson, Jr.

The Silent Child, Chris Overton, Rachel Shenton

Watu Wote/All of Us, Katja Benrath, Tobias Rosen

Winner & Chair Choice: DeKalb Elementary, Reed Van Dyk

After watching these DeKalb Elementary left me speechless, even though I had read all about the real story it is based on right after it happened. And that was prior to the recent school shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, FL, which happened just prior to the date Academy’s final voting ballots were due.

 

Best Foreign Language Film

Oscar sparkle

A Fantastic Woman (Chile)

The Insult (Lebanon)

Loveless (Russia)

On Body and Soul (Hungary)

The Square (Sweden)

Winner & Chair Choice: A Fantastic Woman (Chile)

This is a guess based on speaking to people and the one film in the bunch I experienced. That film, A Fantastic Woman was a slow build around a trans actress who always appeared to be living, and not acting, a trans woman not unlike herself onscreen. It’s the likely winner.

 

Film Editing

Baby Driver, Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss

Dunkirk, Lee Smith

I, Tonya, Tatiana S. Riegel

The Shape of Water, Sidney Wolinsky

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Jon Gregory

Winner: Dunkirk, Lee Smith


Chair Choice: Baby Driver, Jonathan Amos, Paul Machliss

It’s hard to understand how a movie that many of us couldn’t follow could win the Oscar for editing. Isn’t coherence part of good editing? Isn’t that common sense? Of course, in Oscar polls and award giving, sense is not always the ultimate deciding factor, common or not. And who are we to talk when we’re advocating for a movie starring Kevin Spacey?

 

Sound Editing

you guessed it

Baby Driver, Julian Slater

Blade Runner 2049, Mark Mangini, Theo Green

Dunkirk, Alex Gibson, Richard King

The Shape of Water, Nathan Robitaille, Nelson Ferreira

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ren Klyce, Matthew Wood

Winner & Chair Choice: Dunkirk, Alex Gibson, Richard King


It’s the only thing I liked in the film. I don’t care what you think.

 

Sound Mixing

one more time!

Baby Driver, Mary H. Ellis, Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin

Blade Runner 2049, Mac Ruth, Ron Bartlett, Doug Hephill

Dunkirk, Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo

The Shape of Water, Glen Gauthier, Christian Cooke, Brad Zoern

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Stuart Wilson, Ren Klyce, David Parker, Michae l Semanick

Winner & Chair Choice: Dunkirk, Mark Weingarten, Gregg Landaker, Gary A. Rizzo


See above. And I still don’t care. At all.

 

Production Design

I preferred the fish man

Beauty and the Beast, Sarah Greenwood; Katie Spencer

Blade Runner 2049, Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola

Darkest Hour, Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer

Dunkirk, Nathan Crowley, Gary Fettis

The Shape of Water, Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau

Winner: Blade Runner 2049, Dennis Gassner, Alessandra Querzola


Chair Choice: The Shape of Water, Paul D. Austerberry, Jeffrey A. Melvin, Shane Vieau

One of my dearest friends is a big time production designer and he says it’s Blade Runner. I, myself, loved the fish man, the marquee lights and the largest bathroom a tenement building has ever seen in The Shape of Water.

 

Original Score

Dunkirk, Hans Zimmer

Phantom Thread, Jonny Greenwood

The Shape of Water, Alexandre Desplat

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, John Williams

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Carter Burwell

Winner: The Shape of Water, Alexandre Desplat


Chair Choice: Phantom Thread, Jonny Greenwood
 

The score for The Shape of Water was wonderful but The Phantom Thread score was brilliant and made it the movie it was. Either could win but the edge goes to the fish man.

 

Original Song

Tears

“Mighty River” from Mudbound, Mary J. Blige

“Mystery of Love” from Call Me by Your Name, Sufjan Stevens

“Remember Me” from Coco, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez

“Stand Up for Something” from Marshall, Diane Warren, Common

“This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul

Winner & Chair Choice: “Remember Me” from Coco

This song provided THE central motif of the movie. That’s what the best original song is supposed to do. Plus, it’s a good song. Okay, perhaps not as memorable as such other Oscar winners as “(The Theme from) Shaft” but you can’t have everything.

 

Makeup and Hair

Darkest Hour, Kazuhiro Tsuji, David Malinowski, Lucy Sibbick

Victoria and Abdul, Daniel Phillips and Lou Sheppard

Wonder, Arjen Tuiten

Winner: The Darkest Hour

Chair Choice: Either of the other two.

The latex, the bald cap and the insistence that this was a HISTORICAL CHARACTER and we have to get CHURCHILL right!! Lawd.

 

Costume Design

I see you

Beauty and the Beast, Jacqueline Durran

Darkest Hour, Jacqueline Durran

Phantom Thread, Mark Bridges

The Shape of Water, Luis Sequeira

Victoria and Abdul, Consolata Boyle

Winner & Chair Choice: Phantom Thread, Mark Bridges

Phantom Thread is a movie about a CLOTHING DESIGNER and it received SIX nominations.   Get it? Not to take anything away from the accuracy and beauty of its costumes or some of the other nominees. But this is another sure thing.

 

Visual Effects

Blade Runner 2049, John Nelson, Paul Lambert, Richard R. Hoover, Gerd Nefzer

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Jonathan Fawkner, Dan Sudick

Kong: Skull Island, Stephen Rosenbaum, Jeff White, Scott Benza, Mike Meinardus

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Ben Morris, Mike Mulholland, Chris Corbould, Neal Scanlan

War for the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist

Winner & Chair Choice: War for the Planet of the Apes, Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, Daniel Barrett, Joel Whist

Things have come a long way since the original Planet of the Apes – at least visual effects-wise. The CG apes, the real apes – who knew? Still, it’s a crime the Fish Man in Shape of Water will go unrecognized – and went un-nominated.

Best Original Songs 2000-2017