The Oscars cometh on February 28, as the #OscarsSoWhite controversy resurges, and everyone wonders just how show host Chris Rock will address it all.
With little viewing experience of this year’s Oscar contenders, I’ve set a preliminary list of Academy Award-nominated films and artists I’d most like to see. I’ve seen and enjoyed The Martian and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (twice on the big screen), but there are many more performances worth seeing, stories worth experiencing. The 88th Annual Academy Awards is just another touchstone of an opportunity to learn about them.
It actually took me until this post to bother to look up the synopses for the films I’m less familiar with, which is ironic since I’m hosting our second annual Oscars party on Sunday. Oh well. I just care more about Outlander than movies right now, I guess.
My roughly prioritized selections are based on genre interests, preferred actors and other movie makers, Oscar buzz, feminist leanings, and sheer curiosity.
- Mad Max: Fury Road – for the impeccable and unique film editing of Margaret Sixel, wife of director George Miller, plus Charlize Theron and her women warriors’ badassness. I’d like to get to know Tom Hardy’s work better, too.
- The Revenant – Wilderness and Leo and, again, Tom Hardy, and bears and buzz.
- Room or Carol or Joy, depending on mood – Curious about Brie Larson’s performance in Room, long-time fan of Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, co-stars of Carol; and love Jennifer Lawrence, too. Saw The Hunger Games, American Hustle, and Silver Linings Playbook already, and Joy will be particularly uplifting, I think. Yeah, I guess Joy will be the first of these three that I see.
- The Hateful Eight – Tarantino, people. Tarantino. Plus, cast and music.
- Spotlight – curiosity about the history/story, plus a great cast.
And as for the snubbed, if I get around to it:
- Woman in Gold – Helen Mirren seen by some to have been snubbed for lead actress in this and supporting in Trumbo. Co-starring Ryan Reynolds, a WWII Jewish cultural heritage story. Always liked both actors.
- Steve Jobs because I like Aaron Sorkin‘s writing; I love Fassbender and Winslet.
- Straight Outta Compton – As a white girl and 80s New Wave fan, I’ll get to learn some new things, gain greater music and cultural appreciation from my youth.
- Inside Out – It’s supposed to be interesting.
- Bridge of Spies – WWII and Hanks usually work. Spielberg‘s the apparent snub here.
I have no desire to see The Big Short, Brooklyn, Creed, or Concussion despite all the hype, mainly due to subject matter, though I’ve heard Brooklyn is also underwhelming.
The Danish Girl sounds interesting, but I have yet to see The Theory of Everything on my DVR, so I haven’t become enamored of Eddie Redmayne yet. I’ve also seen what are probably more compelling transgender works in both film and TV. If anything, I’ll revisit Transamerica, for which Felicity Huffman earned a Golden Globe nod (2005) for playing a male-to-female, pre-operative transgender in a more complex and interesting story. A woman as a man on his way to becoming a woman–how very Shakespearean!
About the awards controversy, it’s more complicated than simple prejudice, injustice, banning, and protest. I doubt most mistakes, if they can rightly be called mistakes, have occurred out of malice. A few other thoughts:
- It’s nothing new–as in, not just last year, but decades’ worth of overlooked, deserving artists of color. Therefore, pick your battles.
- Whites have been snubbed for meritorious work as well.
- What about Hispanics, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and women?
- The problems stem from limitations, both cultural and political, on the front end of movie making more so than at the awards-giving phase. Where are all the female directors? Which movies get made, and which actors get cast, in the first place? Etc.
- Besides, as with censorship, some degree of controversy is useful to raise awareness of art that’s worthy of experience and celebration.
So there you have it. If apparent prejudice gets your dander up, by all means join the conversation. It’s still a free country, even for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, who by the way, are already making changes to their policies to address concerns about improper bias.
But these are the arts, people; bias is the name of the game. It’s a matter of taste and critical mass. Not everyone can secure a nomination, just as only one can win the award. If everyone’s special, nobody is.
In the end, though, awards and critical acclaim are just a highlight, a blip on the screen of the long cultural arc of arts and entertainment stories. As Star Wars: The Force Awakens‘ box office records show, ticket sales can tell a different and equally valid story.