It was a fairly predictable night, as far as the odds makers were concerned. In the acting categories all the favorites won: Gary Oldman, Frances McDormand, Alison Janney, and Sam Rockwell. The only one of those we have seen is Oldman, and I have to agree, the dude really nailed Winston Churchill, and in real life he looks nothing like him. That performance will stand beside Daniel Day-Lewis as Lincoln, and George C. Scott as Patton.
These days we just haven’t seen many of the nominees. Lee and I saw only Darkest Hour and Get Out. I think it was a bit of a surprise that Jordan Peel won Best Original Screenplay, but I have no problem with it. That movie was not only scary, but pretty damn original, which you hardly ever see these days.
I saw Dunkirk, and thought it was one of the best war movies ever. But what is it about Dunkirk this year? I mean, Darkest Hour was the days leading up to the miraculous rescue of 300,000 British troops from the horrors of the French beach, and Dunkirk was about the operation itself. Also appearing this year was Their Finest, about a project to make a morale-building movie about the huge British defeat at Dunkirk, and don’t worry about accuracy, just make up some swell heroic stories. I really liked it.
The night got off to a bad start in the early hour, when the award for Best Animated Short Film was given to that really, really, really offensive piece of rapist-worshipping crap called Dear Basketball. The Academy must have been dazzled by the celebrity of Kobe Bryant and they did as I feared, voting for it over four infinitely better films.
Oh, well, you win some and you lose some. They got it right with the live action short, The Silent Child, the best of a very good batch this year. The woman who wrote and starred in it, Rachel Shenton, signed her acceptance. I wonder if many deaf Americans could understand it, since I just learned that BSL is a whole different language than ASL.
Maybe I should take out that crack about being a rapist up there … and maybe not. See, I didn’t hate it because KB is a rapist. (For the record, he was accused, and then the 19-year-old woman settled out of court. But KB admitted that he might have “misunderstood the situation,” whatever that means, and apologized. Therefore, it was rape.) No, it’s because it really wasn’t very good, and it took such a monumental ego to make the thing at all. Look how wonderful I am! I’m going to let the rapist remark stand.
And for the record, I don’t think that Kevin Spacey’s work in House of Cards is no longer good because we now know what a molester of young boys he is. Louis C.K.’s jokes didn’t stop being funny because of his jerk-off behavior, either. I’ll even go so far as to mention the Beast himself. The movies Harvey Weinstein produced are still just as good as they have always been, and some of them were very, very good indeed. I think we all should strive to separate the work from the artist that we may not like. Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, you two talented fuckers, stand up and take a bow!
And while we’re at it, though this #metoo movement is wonderful and long overdue, we have reached a point where some men have been unfairly accused, sometimes as the result of a single unproven complaint. We have to be careful, in our enthusiasm, not to ruin the lives of innocent people. This whole thing could easily turn into the Salem witch trials.
Many of the also-ran movies, and the winner, The Shape of Water, will be appearing on DVD in the coming weeks, and we will see them, plus a winner I’m looking forward to: Coco.
So, some thoughts …
Best presenters, by far: Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph. Scripted “gab” between presenters is often embarrassingly stilted. Not these women. I don’t know how much of it was written, but they made it all sound extemporaneous, and it was blisteringly funny. It has been suggested that they host the Oscars next year, and I wouldn’t mind that at all.
Runner up: Jodie Foster on crutches. I didn’t get what she said after she blamed “Streep,” but I looked it up, and it was “She ‘I, Tonya’d’ me,” referring to everybody’s favorite unindicted kneecapper, Tonya Harding. (Actually, Foster hurt herself skiing.) And what about her side-by-side with Jennifer Lawrence? What’s the deal with that? IMDb says Jodie is 5’3” and Jen is 5’9’. If so, Jodie must have been standing in a hole.
Second runner-up: Lupita Nyong’o and Kumail Nanjiani. She said “We are the two actors you keep hearing about but whose names you have trouble pronouncing.” No kidding! Then she said “We are also immigrants. I’m from Kenya.” And he said “And I am from Pakistan and Iowa, two places that nobody in Hollywood can find on a map.” Nice.
Classiest entrance: Rita Moreno! She wore the same dress that she wore in 1962 while getting her Oscar for West Side Story. Not only that, but she really swaggered across the stage to the microphone. She’s 86 years old, and can still fit into a dress she wore 56 years ago! She is also one of only twelve members of the EGOT Club, meaning she has won the Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards. The other surviving members are Mel Brooks, Whoopi Goldberg, Scott Rudin (who has won 15 Tony Awards!), Jonathan Tunick, and Robert Lopez. Who he? Well, he won the Oscar last night, along with his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez, for the song “Remember Me,” from Coco. They won previously for “Let It Go,” from Frozen. He became the only person to win all four awards twice.
Frances McDormand, unsurprisingly, had the best speech of the night. That lady can really kick ass. She had all the female nominees and winners stand up, and told the assembled high and mighty producers and directors to look around and hire these women. At the end she said “inclusion rider.” Everybody had to look that up (including me), to find out that it means a powerful actor can specify in their contracts that a percentage of the behind-the-camera workers must be female, minority, or LGBT. Quotas! Horror! Not really. I’m all in favor of it.
Footnote: at the Governor’s Ball afterward a real asshole named Terrence Bryant, Jr. stole her Oscar and tried to get away with it. He’s in the slammer unless he posted $20,000 bail. I think he will claim that he just wanted to have his picture taken with an Oscar. Sure, that’s why you were heading out the door, Terry, you POS. Hey, I got photographed with an Oscar, too, but it was chained down. We have a picture of that around here somewhere.
Afterward Ms. McDormand did another classy thing. She chowed down on an In-N-Out burger! I know precisely where that In-N-Out is located, on Sunset Boulevard.
Long Overdue Department: Roger Deakins, Best Cinematography for Bladerunner 2049. This guy had been nominated fourteen times without a win. Almost as bad as Randy Newman. He shot twelve Coen Brothers films, including Fargo and No Country For Old Men. He also was behind the camera for The Shawshank Redemption, The Long Walk Home, and Skyfall, among many others.
Optimistic note: A woman, Greta Gerwig, was nominated for Best Director for Lady Bird. Well, it’s a start. Even more revolutionary, in a way, was Rachel Morrison nominated for Best Cinematography for Mudbound. The first time a woman was ever nominated. Neither of them won. If you look at the end credits for any film you will hardly ever see a woman’s name on any of the technical jobs. Grips, electricians, cameramen, focus pullers, best boys … men have not loosened their hold on jobs like this. It’s about time they did.
And how about those Mexicans, huh? Did you realize that four out of five of the last Best Director winners are Mexican? Alejandro González Iñárritu won in consecutive years. I don’t think anyone has ever done that. No, wait, John Huston won in 1940 for The Grapes of Wrath, and in 1941 for How Green Was My Valley. That’s a long time ago.
While we’re at it, I just noticed that you have to go all the way back to 2009 to see an American director win. That was Katheryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker. She is one of the few women ever nominated, and the only one to win. Is this telling us something? Are the highest quality films being made by foreign directors, and mostly crap by Americans? If you look at the list of nominees for director there are a lot of foreign guys there, too.
I sort of hate to just skip over all those “boring” awards in the middle of the show, but what can you say? The presenters work very hard to make the craft awards interesting but it’s hopeless. The award for Best Sound Editing is of interest only to other sound editors. (And why two sound awards? Sound Mixing, too? Seems excessive to me.) It is undeniably true that quality (and even shitty) movies could not exist without production designers and set decorators and prop masters and makeup artists, but the vast majority of the movie-going public is not even aware of them.
Final thought: Is this the first science fiction film to win Best Picture? Short, answer: Yes. Some are saying it’s not SF. I haven’t seen it, and have deliberately not read about the plot so I’ll be surprised, I hope. But I do know that it’s about a romance between a human woman and the Creature From the Black Lagoon. Seriously, that’s what he looks like, deliberately, I presume. Is he an alien? An undiscovered race from Earth? I gather that it’s never specified, but either way, or any other way I can imagine, it is science fiction.
I looked into it a little further and found that the first SF film to be nominated for Best Picture was Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange in 1971. The French Connection won.
Here are the other nominees:
1982 E.T. the Extraterrestrial. The winner was Gandhi.
Then a big gap until …
2009 District 9 and Avatar. The winner was The Hurt Locker. I liked both Up and Up in the Air better. But I was glad Katherine Bigelow won.
2010 Inception. The winner was The King’s Speech. One of the worst winners ever. How about True Grit, Black Swan, and Toy Story 3?
2013 Gravity and Her. I thought either of those and a couple others were better than 12 Years a Slave.
2015 The Martian and Mad Max: Fury Road. The winner was Spotlight, and I’ve already forgotten what it was about. Mad Max was robbed, because it was an action picture.
2016 Arrival. The Oscar goes to … Moonlight, in the biggest fuckup in Academy Award History. I thought it was only a mediocre movie. The one they took it away from, La La Land, was joyous, and celebrated life.
And, arguably …
2017 Get Out. It involved medical and technical advances toward and evil end. I’d call it SF. I can’t comment on the winner, since I have not seen it.
There have been a lot of fantasy movies nominated:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935)
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941)
Heaven Can Wait (1943)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
The Red Shoes (1948)
The Ten Commandments (1956)
The Exorcist (1973)
Star Wars (1977)
Heaven Can Wait (1978)
Field of Dreams (1989)
The Green Mile (1999)
The Sixth Sense (1999)
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
Of those, only The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won. And yes, I do consider both The Ten Commandments and Star Wars fantasy.
And that wraps up my red carpet thoughts, though the carpet be littered with popcorn boxes and Big Gulp cups and empty Jujube wrappers left behind at the Dolby Theater by all the celebrities who seem to have shunned Ryan Seacrest this year. I wonder why? See you in 2019, if the fates allow!
March 9, 2018