Monday, February 25, 2019

Oscar Recap

So Green Book, eh? It’s going to be ugly on Film Twitter for a while after this one – the likes of which we haven’t seen before – since Crash was the pre-Twitter days. As much as some of the winners since Crash haven’t been overly popular with Film Twitter – nothing has been as maligned as Green Book.
If you hated Green Book, and want to look at the bright side of things, last night’s winners surely do indicate an Academy in transition. I think people often think that the Academy speaks in a singular voice, but that’s just not true. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Screenplay winners where you couldn’t possibly pick two more different films than Green Book and Blackkklansman – which are essentially polar opposites of each other. Blackkklansman criticizes everything Green Book stands for. The Academy also embraced Black Panther – including giving the long overdue Ruth E. Carter a costume design win, and the wonderful work of Hannah Beachler, who gave a great speech. You had more women winning than ever before – the aforementioned Carter and Beachler, along with Lady Gaga for Song, director Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi one of the winners for Free Solo, Nina Hartstone won of the Sound Mixing winners for Bohemian Rhapsody, director Rayka Zehtabchi who won for Best Documentary Short, director Domee Shi who won for Animated Short. Three of the four acting winners were not white, the diverse winners for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, etc. Alfosno Cuaron on stage three times – including Best Director, which for the 5th time in 6 years went to a Mexican director – and for the first time to a Foreign Language film. He also became the first director to win a cinematography Oscar for a film he shot himself.
The show itself was, for the most part, pretty good. The show ran just over three hours, and I for one, didn’t really miss having a host. Tina Fey, Maya Rudolph and Amy Poehler got the show to a good start (what’s that? They had a pointless and poor performance by Queen to open the show – I don’t remember that) giving us a rapid fire monologue, and then getting right to the awards itself. The musical performances were mainly forgettable – none more so than Jennifer Hudson’s of the RBG song, which although that woman can belt, I forget as soon as it was over. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs song was better, and who can really complain about Bette Midler – even if, I basically forgot that song as well. But the Bradley Cooper/Lady Gaga performance of Shallow from A Star is Born is an Oscar all timer – a great performance, perfectly introduced (with no real introduction) and an emotional high point of the show. If they had seen that performance before they voted, maybe Cooper could have prevented the injustice of the Best Actor category.
For the most part as well, the speeches were very good to great. The makeup winners for Vice were awful – but almost so historically awful that you’ll at least remember it. But you won’t soon forget Regina King’s speech for her deserved win for If Beale Street Could Talk, Ruth E. Carter’s speech for Costume Design – fitting it happened in the same year as Spike Lee finally won, and she called him out in his speech – Hannah Bleachler’s emotional speech was also great. I wasn’t a huge fan of short doc winner Period, End of Sentence – but that was a good speech, as was the Animated Short winner. You got another all timer moment when Spike Lee won – perfectly announced by Samuel L. Jackson – who Spike leapt into. The beeped swear word, the speech, the emotion, the standing ovation – that was amazing for Spike – and for those of us who think he should have won an Oscar decades ago. And yet none of those moments compare with Olivia Colman – a shocked winner for The Favourite – who delivered a funny, emotional, shocked speech. She is also the kind of character actress finally given the role of a lifetime who never really wins in the lead category. That was a great moment.
Now, because we can walk and chew gum at the same time, we can admit that while Colman’s win was deserved (in my opinion anyway) and the speech was an all-timer, we can still feel bad for Glenn Close losing for the seventh time. She is the most nominated actress to have never won an Oscar (she’s tied for second with Richard Burton – Peter O’Toole holds the record with 8 noms, and no wins – although he won a Lifetime Achievement Award – something I assume we’ll see for Close sooner rather than later). Will the 71-year-old Close get another shot at a competitive Oscar? Well, they do have Sunset Blvd. in development, so who knows? Still, it’s never fun to see an expected winner – especially a deserving, never awarded veteran – losing on Oscar night. The Academy could have avoided this by just giving her the Oscar she deserved for Dangerous Liaisons 30 years ago.
Does all of that take the sting out of the fact that the worst picture nominee in a decade ended up with four Oscars? I’m talking of course of Bohemian Rhapsody – whose two sound wins aren’t really defensible when First Man, Roma and Black Panther were all nominated – even if the sound of that film was actually quite good. The editing win is perhaps a little more defensible, even if the work itself isn’t as good – as Ottman had a massive challenge on his hands, being given the work of two different directors and having to make sense of it. The Rami Malek win remains a mystery to me – as it has all season. I like Malek as an actor – and as I said, if someone wanted to make a better biopic of Freddie Mercury, I’d be all for casting him again. But there wasn’t much for him to work with there, and he didn’t even do his own singing. I’m perplexed as to how Bradley Cooper lost all momentum and couldn’t pull off this victory. With 4 acting nominations under his belt, he is probably (along with his American Hustle co-star Amy Adams, with six acting noms, and no wins) the actors the Academy are probably most looking to give an Oscar to – and soon. They have entered Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet territory before they finally won.
And now, Green Book. I didn’t hate it as much as many did. Part of that is undeniably because I saw the film in ideal circumstances – at TIFF, with a packed house who clearly loved it, and before all the think pieces about it came out. I enjoyed the film for what it is – a liberal fantasy of race relations from the 1960s, that probably could have been made in that decade (minus the one scene that acknowledged Don Shirley’s sexuality). But to call it the best film of the year? When they could have given the Oscar to Roma or Blackkklansman or The Favourite or A Star is Born or Black Panther is frankly silly. I admire the way Mahershala Ali handled himself this season – and if you were going to award one thing from that film, his performance would be it. But still, when they could have awarded Richard E. Grant, Adam Driver or Sam Elliott? The screenplay win is another one of those mystifying wins. I had not predicted Green Book to win the Oscar – but for some reason, right before Julia Roberts announced the win, I knew it was going to Green Book. This is a textbook case as to why I think the Academy should go back to 5 nominees for Best Picture, and get rid of the ranked ballot. The preferential ballot has given us some good winners – Spotlight and Moonlight for example – that I don’t think would have won otherwise, but I cannot help but think in another era, Green Book doesn’t win.  
The Academy is changing – and you can see that in some of the wins and nominations this year. But you can also see that the old guard is holding on tight – for now anyway. For the most part, I liked the show itself, but the winners were a mixed bag.
As for my predictions – I missed Best Picture (I had Roma), Actress (I had Close), Documentary (I had RBG), Editing (I had Blackkklansman), Production Design (I had The Favourite), Sound Editing (I had First Man), Visual Effects (I had Avengers) – and all three shorts – so I only went 14/24. Not good – so hopefully you didn’t use my predictions to place any money on the show. If you did, too bad for you I guess.
I am glad the Oscar season is over. As much as I like it, it can be exhausting, and even with some great moments and winners, there were some not so great winners last night as well. But it’s behind us for now – and we won’t have to think about it again for a few months.

No comments:

Post a Comment