Sunday, March 4, 2018

Oscars, Schmoscars

Oscars, Schmoscars. Most years I could care less about  the Academy Awards’ late winter ceremony, just as I despise most award ceremonies – orgies of self-congratulations among self-satisfied elites. But, this year, more than ever ….. First, the nominations for Best Picture are the most popularly narrowest I’ve ever seen. What percentage of the public has seen Call Me by Your Name, Get Out, Lady Bird, The Shape of Water (the likeliest winner) and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri? These are all art house flics. And while this column covers primarily art house pictures, even on this level, most of these films' subject matter never struck a chord with me, and I consequently haven’t seen them. Call Me by Your Name (Luca Guadagnino) is a flavor-of-the month story of a gay couple. I’ve already reviewed Lady Bird, an overrated film by Hollywood’s current darling Greta Gerwig. Dunkirk (Christopher Nolan) admittedly has populist appeal and was a critical hit. But I found it, among other things, seriously compromised by poorly executed location shots that showed the modern city behind the staged war action! I hear that Darkest Hour (Joe Wright) is brilliant, or at least Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill is. And I don’t doubt it. But after having seen Jonathan Teplitzky’s Churchill at WIFF last fall, starring Brian Cox in a role I found highly historically questionable, another Churchill biopic was just too much. Sorry, but I have no desire to relive the Pentagon Papers news phenom of the early 1970s in Steven Spielberg’s The Post, a media sensation I always associated, anyway, with The New York Times and not The Washington Post – a  current controversy over this fact rages. Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is a bizarre almost unbelievable fantasy in the del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, 2006) tradition, and consequently seemed uninspiring. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri by British director Martin McDonough is another flavor of the month story about America’s supposed uber racism. Get Out (Jordan Peele) does interest me and I may even see it tonight (while the Oscars are on) because, while seemingly about race, it has a lot of other elements and plot twists. But Best Picture Oscar material? We’ll see. Finally, Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson) and starring Daniel Day-Lewis (his supposed final role) with Lesley Manville, about the 1950s London fashion world, is a topic and era that interest me. So I’ll reserve judgment. But virtually all these films have had little popular appeal, though I realize that shouldn’t be the only criteria ….. And, second, the other reason for “Schmoscars” this year is the apparent uber politicization of the ceremony in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein et all Hollywood sex abuse scandals. Yes, they’re horrible. But the Oscars have been politicized enough over the years – a double or triple dose this year for a ceremony the vast majority of people watch just to have fun (or criticize the women’s fashions), is a complete and utter bore.

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