Saturday, March 3, 2018 at 8:42 AM

The Oscars: My Picks

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

With all due respect to critics and members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Academy), how much a film makes, not whether it wins an Oscar, is the generally recognized measure of its success. Especially considering that winning an Oscar is more the result of crass political campaigning than any assessment of artistic achievement.

Indeed, it might surprise, if not disillusion, many of you to learn that studios covet the Oscar for Best Picture primarily because — as Sumner Redstone, the owner of Paramount, conceded in a moment of extraordinary candor — it guarantees millions more in box office receipts.

(“My Review of the 2008 Oscars,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 25, 2008)

Frankly, from the Golden Globes to the BAFTAS, the entertainment industry hands out so many movie awards, the Oscars are becoming more of an afterthought than a crowning achievement. Not to mention the sapping of suspense this backslapping process now entails.

Apropos of which, the biggest suspense this year will probably be in watching to see which actresses skirt E!’s red-carpet interviews with Ryan Seacrest. Just years ago, the Hollywood Reporter named this producer of shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians as the most powerful man in Reality TV. This is why actresses coveted promotional interviews with him as much as they coveted movie roles from Harvey Weinstein.

But then his former stylist, Suzie Hardy, began making MeToo allegations of sexual abuse against Seacrest. What’s more, hers are every bit as salacious and credible as those Rose McGowan and other actresses made against Weinstein.

Hardy claimed that she endured the abuse for years out of concern over being able to provide for her daughter, and that the situation only ended in 2013, when, after reporting Seacrest’s actions to human-resources executives, her employment ended.

(Variety, February 26, 2018)

To be fair, Seacrest insists that, far from being a victim, Hardy is just trying to shake him down for $15 million. What’s more, his employer, E! News, claims that its internal investigation found her claims to be without merit – as I suppose E! would.

All the same, to be consistent (i.e., believe the woman), stars walking the red-carpet will have to treat Seacrest like that proverbial skunk at the garden party. This, especially given reports that the Oscars will pay special tribute to the Time’s Up movement.

Of course, the sensible and honorable thing would be for Seacrest to bow out. This would spare some actresses the spectacle of trying to avoid him and others the backlash that would surely follow interviewing with him. But I fear that, like all sexual predators, he might feel too entitled to do so.

Stay tuned.

That said, here are my picks in the six and only categories most people care about.

  • Actor in a Supporting Role

Woody Harrelson in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: As much for taking us from Cheers through a body of impressive, but unsung movies (most notably The People vs. Larry Flynt) and back to True Detective, as for delivering a compelling performance in this movie.

But Christopher Plummer deserves honorable mention for replacing Kevin Spacey so seamlessly in All the Money in the World after several men outed Spacey as a serial sexual predator.

  • Actress in a Supporting Role

Allison Janney in I, Tonya: Not since Charlize Theron won for playing Aileen Wuornos in Monster has an Oscar for playing a thoroughly despicable character been so well deserved. Indeed, Janney’s performance makes the despicable role Tonya Harding played in that infamous assault on rival Nancy Kerrigan seem sympathetic. That’s how compelling Janney is as Tonya’s mother. I mean, with a mother like that, it’s a wonder Tonya did not end up, well, like the murderous Wuornos.

  • Actress in a Leading Role

Frances McDormand in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: She’s a lock, but this is a head scratcher. After all, McDormand plays what looks like the same role she played in Fargo, for which she won this award in 1996. I’ve heard of two actors winning Oscars for playing the same role (e.g., Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro playing Vito Corleone). But this is ridiculous. Granted, McDormand is not playing the same role. But if you’ve seen Helena Bonham Carter in Dark Shadows in 2012 and Alice Through the Looking Glass in 2016, you’ll know what I mean – hardly a stretch.

  • Actor in a Leading Role

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour: The bandwagon momentum for Oldman seems unstoppable. But, truth be told, John Lithgow played a better Winston Churchill in The Crown. Not to mention the disqualifying fact of court documents alleging that Oldman is as much a wife beater as Trump’s former staff secretary Rob Porter. (Remember him?) So, if a wife beater is too disreputable to work in the White House of a misogynistic president, why should one even be eligible to win an Oscar in the Hollywood of a MeToo reckoning? One has to wonder what ironic, if not hypocritical, force is compelling preview shows to tap Oldman for this award over other, worthier contenders like Daniel Kaluuya in Get Out and Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread.

  • Directing

Guillermo del Toro for The Shape of Water: Only because most Academy voters are too stupid to know (and too lazy to learn) the difference between directing and cinematography. I’ve watched enough of this film (far more than the three minutes Academy voter Jenner Lawrence claims she gave Phantom Thread) to know that, instead of del Toro winning for Directing, his cinematographer Dan Laustsen should win for Cinematography.

Yet del Toro seems bound to continue the cinematic inconsistency of the director of the film that wins Best Picture failing to win this award. For example, last year, director Damien Chazelle won for La La Land, but Moonlight won for Best Picture. Even worse, Academy voters compounded the inconsistency this year by failing to even nominate Martin Faranan McDonagh, the director of the film they are likely to vote as Best Picture, namely, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Oy vey!

Incidentally, I didn’t mean to pick on Lawrence. Not least because it’s an open secret in Hollywood that 50 percent of Academy voters never even bother to watch three seconds of 50 percent of the eligible movies. They simply vote for the actor or movie in each category that is mounting the best PR campaign (i.e., of the type I alluded to in my opening quote).

As it happened, no producer was better at mounting such campaigns than the venal and predatory Harvey Weinstein. That’s why his movies won so many Oscars.

  • Best Picture

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri: As much because it dramatizes the zeitgeist of social activism, which has given us everything from Black Lives Matter to Time’s Up, as for any intrinsic cinematic value.

In case you haven’t noticed, copying Three Billboards is now a thing. For example, activists are using them to great effect in highlighting Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s shameful support for the NRA with big billboards on the side of three trucks that read:

Slaughtered in School – And Still No Gun Control? – How Come Marco Rubio?

Related commentaries:
wife beater

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.

My Books

VFC Painting


Subscribe via Email

Powered by FeedBlitz