Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Oscar, Oscar, Oscar (2018)

Little White Lies

"When I was eight years old, I was called to the principal's office and my father was looking very solemn. And he said 'We gotta go. It's Grand-ma.' And we got in the car and I said 'What's wrong with Grand-ma?' and he said 'Nothin'! We're goin' to the movies.'"
Sam Rockwell Acceptance Speech

90th Oscars—2018. And as usual, they fulfilled Ken Levine's summary that "for schmaltz mixed with sheer hypocrisy, you can't beat the Academy Awards" (he's wrong, of course, politics does that every day while tossing in venal mendacity to boot). Despite host Jimmy Kimmel's attempts to keep the "thank-you" speeches to a minimum (the shortest wins a jet-ski—which is a hilarious idea, then upped the prize by including a trip to a Lake Havasu resort), the broadcast ran very long. My TIVO was set to run over 30 minutes, and that didn't even make it to the "Best Actress" category; I just hit "record" when it ran out (I don't watch the Oscars "live" anymore—the commercials are interminable and I zip right through them*). 

There are, of course, ways to cut it down**—most of the awards are for technical categories and all those nominees are sitting at the back of "the Dolby" and it only makes sense to move THEM to the front so there don't have to be so many long treks to the stage. Here's the rub, though. That makes sense EXCEPT for the television audience who wants to see big stars in the most-seen front rows. So what if Gal Gadot and Chadwick Boseman aren't nominated for anything this year? You want to SEE them on TV and the producers of the broadcast know that, so they put them up front so you can see the eye-candy. Even though there's no reason for them to be there. 

There's a metaphor in there, maybe a couple, but it makes arguing about the over-long ceremonies...kinda worthless. There was no audience for that first Academy Awards 90 years ago...and it lasted 15 minutes.

This year was a little different for me: I had no intention of seeing all of the "Best Picture" nominees and I didn't even check out the lists of those who made the cut. By sheer luck, I saw all of them except Ladybird (which now has my interest peaked). I was surprised that Coco was not nominated for Best Picture and delighted that Get Out was (and that Daniel Kaluuya was nominated for Best Actor and would have LOVED to have seen him win) for the reason that both were just damned good pictures and not Oscar-bait (I mean, TWO movies about Dunkirk?). I was charmed by a lot of the wins: Jordan Peele, Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney, Roger Deakins (even though he's a man) after 14 nominations for some of the most mind-blowing cinematography ever, and Frances McDormand...just because they're all some of my favorite movie-folks working. The Shape of Water scored something of a streak, and it wasn't my favorite, but if you're going to be socially conscious, hey, there's nothing sneakier than hiding it in a sci-fi/horror/fantasy. There's a metaphor in that metaphor. Besides, Guillermo del Toro...just Guillermo del Toro ("The Oscar's great and all, Guillermo", say the money-men "but are you doing Pacific Rim 3?").

The "In Memoriam" segment bugged me because, more than most years, they left a lot of people out—you could, off the top of your head, have named a couple of folks left out—and they cut away to Eddie Vedder when they mentioned Jeanne Moreau—and so many of the ones mentioned you had to guess what they did because the font used was so frail. But, if you want a list (and this isn't complete, either) of some folks left off, take a scan at this:

Dorothy Malone
Richard Anderson (!!)

Bradford Dillman
Peggy Cummins
Clifton James

Dahlia Lavi
John Hillerman
Rose Marie
Robert Guillame
Anne Jeffreys
Dick Gregory

Connie Smith
Anne Wedgeworth
Robert Hardy (he also played Winston Churchill...six times)
Wendell Burton
Elsa Martinelli (three words: "Baby Elephant Walk")
Bill Paxton (mentioned last year)
Jean Rochefort
Red West

Shelly Berman
Michael Nyqvist
Peter Sallis (the voice of "Wallace" of Wallace and Gromit
Haruo Nakajima (the man played Godzilla, after all)
Curt Lowens
Elena Verdugo
Lorna Gray
Skip Homeier

Stephen Furst
Gaston Moschin (Don Fannucci in Godfather Part II?)
Anne Wiazemsky
Lola Albright
Roger Smith
Michael Parks (!)

Frank Vincent
Dina Merrill
Don Gordon
Alec McCowen (starred in Hitchcock's Frenzy)

Glen Campbell
Adam West

Dick Gautier
Mike Connors
Tobe Hooper
Brian Brown
Powers Boothe

John Mahoney and David Ogden Stiers
The last two were fairly recent (especially Stiers who just died Sunday night—he contributed so much to the animated Beauty and the Beast, both as Cogsworth and the Narrator as well as to Pocahontas, but if they could include Johan Johanneson (the composer for Arrival, The Theory of Everything, Sicario and mother!) who just died February, they might have included them, as well. They included Robert Osborne, who was a Hollywood reporter.  Vedder could have done an eight-bar guitar solo and they might have squeezed in 10 of them.

The most obvious question of the night was "what is an 'Inclusion rider'?"it's a proposal...explained in the below TED talk (by the person who came up with the concept) “for on-screen roles that are supporting and minor in nature, ... to be filled with norms that reflect the world in which we live.” Stacy Smith explains it all to you. 

I have a quibble with her argument—her study set is limited to "the 100 top grossing films in the United States"; IF she included ALL the films released in the United States (let alone the world), would her numbers change? I don't know. But, right now, her study is showing that American audiences support a very skewed world and that they make the movies that support that view a lot of money. More money. With a wider sample, I have no doubt that a disparity would still be there, but, I'd like to know which way it would fall. Would it be slightly worse or slightly better? But, I'm glad she mentions putting your money where your ideals are because that might invoke change. Money talks in Hollywood and protests and activism and good intentions only work in Hollywood if it affects the box-office. So, the first thing that should be done is this: IF you would like to see more films with people like you, then see films that reflect who you are and your circumstances and support them...even if they're crap, support them. Show the show business that you can make them money, too. And things will change. Maybe. You would think it's gotta be easier than putting an Atlantean on the screen.

Because let's face it: this is all like being in high school again and it's all a popularity contest.

Which (circling around) is what...really...only...what the Oscars is. 

* They're getting very tricky, though. This year, they were putting in "fake" ads—like for the recently renovated "Overlook Hotel"—which would wreak havoc on my precise fast-forwarding. 

** Yes, they could have cut the 10 minute (total) bit about surprising the folks at the Chinese Theater, but "you don't cut 'funny.'"

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