2018 Oscar Wrap-Up

They didn’t fuck it up.

After the embarrassing Best Picture debacle from last year’s Academy Awards ceremony, there were no head smacking repeats for the mostly predictable 90th annual event this year.  Unlike 2017, Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway were given the correct envelope and revealed the correct winner.

Besides taking home Best Picture, The Shape Of Water also won for its production design and its original score.  As expected, Guillermo Del Toro was announced Best Director.  In a year where the academy spread the gold around, The Shape Of Water won the most with four.

Despite not taking any major prizes, Dunkirk won three technical gongs.  It swept the sound categories and won for best editing.  The Pixar flick Coco won two for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song.

Also winning two golden naked eunuch statues was Darkest Hour.  Besides taking Best Make-Up & Hairstyling, Gary Oldman was named Best Actor.  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri also snagged a pair.  Sam Rockwell took home Best Supporting Actor (he dedicated the award to his friend, the late, great Phillip Seymour Hoffmann and thanked his hot girlfriend Leslie Bibb for lighting his fire) while an extremely enthusiastic and giddy Frances McDormand, in full-on intersectional feminist mode, won her second Best Actress prize.

Blade Runner 2049 was another double winner.  Longtime cinematographer Roger Deakins ended his ridiculously long slump by finally taking an Oscar on his 14th try.  Look at this small sample of the dozens of films he’s lensed in his 35-year-career:  Sid & Nancy, The Shawshank Redemption, Dead Man Walking, A Beautiful Mind, Skyfall, twelve Coen Brothers movies including Barton Fink and No Country For Old Men.  The man has been responsible for photographing some of the most beloved films of all time.  Much to my consternation, Blade Runner 2049 also won for Best Visual Effects.  It was my original prediction until I switched to War For The Planet Of The Apes based on what I had read online.  I should’ve stuck to my instincts because I would’ve been right.  (Despite that, I had my best year of predicting ever.  I went 20 for 24.)

Alison Janney on her first nomination won Best Supporting Actress for playing Tonya Harding’s toxic mother in I, Tonya.  She humourously quipped that she did it all on her own before thanking a bunch of people including the members of “Team Janney”.  Get Out’s Jordan Peele made history becoming the first Black man to ever win Best Original Screenplay while legendary director James Ivory, who thanked his late, longtime collaborators producer Ismail Merchant and screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, was awarded the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for penning the gay love story Call Me By Your Name.  Up until tonight, Ivory was the only one of the Merchant/Ivory trio to not have a golden gong of his own.

Chile’s A Fantastic Woman, starring the glamourous trans actor Daniela Vega was named Best Foreign Language Film while Icarus, which documents Russia’s systemic doping scheme, was named Best Documentary Feature.  Icarus was my initial prediction but in a wide open category that even FiveThirtyEight.com couldn’t predict I thought Last Men In Aleppo might pull an upset.  Again, should’ve gone with my first thought.

In a moment of true awkwardness that went unacknowledged, accused rapist Kobe Bryant won a Best Animated Short Oscar for Dear Basketball which is based on his retirement letter.  With all the stage talk of equality and change and making things better for women, it’s more than obvious that some abusers are still more popular than others.  The status quo is powerful for a reason.

Despite the predictability of the awards themselves, returning host Jimmy Kimmel was in mostly fine form despite the hit and miss opening intro.  There was an inspired bit where he teased winners with the prospect of winning a jet ski and a cheap vacation if they made the shortest speech.  (Phantom Thread’s Best Costume Design winner Mark Bridges, who got all his thank yous in under 40 seconds, came in at the end of the show riding his new prize.)  I was delighted when he said no one would be played off if they went on too long but goddamn it, that turned out to be false advertising, as a few recipients were given the orchestral hint to wrap it up.  Let them speak, for Christ’s sake.

Kimmel got in his obligatory digs at Matt Damon and even made Christopher Plummer a reliable punchline, one of which was cleverly tied in to the very first Oscars ceremony.  I’m not sure he needed to crash that Wrinkle In Time sneak preview with some selected celebrities but I did enjoy those ridiculous hot dog cannons.  More often than not, he was funny.  But presenters like Jodie Foster, Maya Rudolph and Tiffany Haddish were just as good with their comic timing, if not better.

However, it’s enough with the glorification of the military already.  Having overly pausy Indigenous actor Wes Studi (The Last Of The Mohicans) onstage to plug an unnecessary clip package of war movies made it even worse.  Diversifying the presentation of propaganda isn’t progress.  Applauding his Vietnam service was weird and tone-deaf.

Oh, and why wasn’t John Mahoney included in the In Memoriam segment?

The complete list of winners:

BEST PICTURE – THE SHAPE OF WATER

BEST DIRECTOR – Guillermo Del Toro (THE SHAPE OF WATER)

BEST ACTRESS – Frances McDormand (THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI)

BEST ACTOR – Gary Oldman (DARKEST HOUR)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Allison Janney (I, TONYA)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Sam Rockwell (THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – COCO

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – A FANTASTIC WOMAN

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – ICARUS

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Jordan Peele (GET OUT)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – James Ivory (CALL ME BY YOUR NAME)

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – Remember Me (COCO)

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – THE SHAPE OF WATER

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – THE SHAPE OF WATER

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – PHANTOM THREAD

BEST FILM EDITING – DUNKIRK

BEST SOUND EDITING – DUNKIRK

BEST SOUND MIXING – DUNKIRK

BEST MAKE-UP & HAIRSTYLING – DARKEST HOUR

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – BLADE RUNNER 2049

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – BLADE RUNNER 2049

BEST ANIMATED SHORT – DEAR BASKETBALL

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – THE SILENT CHILD

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT – HEAVEN IS A TRAFFIC JAM ON THE 405

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, March 5, 2018
1:58 a.m.

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Published in: on March 5, 2018 at 1:58 am  Leave a Comment  

90th Academy Award Predictions

BEST PICTURE – THE SHAPE OF WATER

Nine films are gunning for Oscar’s top prize in the most wide open race in more than ten years.

Let’s save time by eliminating the long shots.  Call Me By Your Name, Phantom Thread, Darkest Hour and Lady Bird are just happy to be included here and have next to no chance of winning.

Maybe if it had more acclaim and more nominations, The Post would be talked about as a serious frontrunner.  There’s a very, very small possibility of it pulling off an upset as a way for the academy to rally behind the media in this bizarre Trump era but I highly doubt it.  It’s just not as well regarded as All The President’s Men.

Since the nominations were announced in late January, only four nominated films have been considered strong contenders.  At first, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was seen as the likely winner.  But it’s been plagued by controversy about its content, a bad sign.

Dunkirk was a big hit during the summer both with critics and audiences and while there’s been complaints about its storytelling as well, it has already faded as a possible trophy snatcher.

In my view, Best Picture this year is really between the two remaining nominees, a horror film about liberal racism and an unlikely love story by a director who specializes in horror films.  It’s been over a year since Jordan Peele’s Get Out stunned most everybody who saw it but with a still mostly white, predominantly older motion picture academy voting on the winners, I just don’t agree with those who think it can win.

Yes, Moonlight won this category last year over the favourite La La Land despite that embarrassing bungle by Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway but would the academy vote for a Black-themed movie two years in a row?

I’m skeptical it has the numbers on its side (there are reports that a number of academy members refused to even screen it because it’s not a “traditional Oscar movie”) which is why I’m going with Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape Of Water.  Even though it faces a plagiarism lawsuit, almost everyone who’s had a chance to look at it loves it.  As the much missed Roger Ebert noted back in the day, academy members vote with their hearts when picking Best Picture.  Based on what critics have said, The Shape Of Water is that kind of movie.

Oh, and by the way, Beatty & Dunaway will announce the winner.  God help us all.

BEST DIRECTOR – Guillermo del Toro (THE SHAPE OF WATER)

Ebert pointed out again and again over the years, if you win the Directors Guild Of America award, nine times out of ten you go on to win the Oscar.  Guillermo Del Toro won the DGA this year for helming The Shape Of Water.  He will snag the golden naked man, as well.

BEST ACTOR – Gary Oldman (DARKEST HOUR)

For much of his career, Gary Oldman has been a chameleon.  He’s played a self-destructive punk rocker (Sid & Nancy), Lee Harvey Oswald (JFK), a lovesick vampire (Bram Stoker’s Dracula) and Commissioner Gordon (The Dark Knight Trilogy).  Despite allegations of abuse and racist comments, he has remarkably avoided being another #MeToo casualty.

In Darkest Hour, he disappears again as Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister who went from being an admirer of Adolf Hitler to a bitter foe in World War II.  It’s the kind of part anyone would kill for because it’s the kind of part that assures Oscar glory.

Oldman’s fellow nominees for Best Actor are a mix of first-time contenders and multiple past winners.  Denzel Washington (Roman J. Israel, Esq.) already has two gongs.  The supposedly retiring Daniel Day-Lewis (Phantom Thread) has three.  They don’t need any more.  While there’s always the possibility of a genuine upset (Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya is more likely to be a shock winner than Call Me By Your Name’s Timothee Chalamet), it’s highly doubtful this year.

Barring some unforeseen circumstances, it’s Oldman’s Oscar all the way.

BEST ACTRESS – Frances McDormand (THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI)

All but one of the nominated actresses in this category are either multiple past nominees or winners.  Right off the bat, three-time winner Meryl Streep is not going to be called up to the stage for her portrayal of Katherine Graham in The Post.  Neither is three-time nominee Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird).  Yes, this 23-year-old Irish lass already has three Oscar nods to her name.

After breaking through in The Wolf Of Wall Street four years ago (she was the dame with all the dough taped on her naked body), Australian Margot Robbie received her first official recognition from the academy for playing the villainous American figure skater Tonya Harding in I, Tonya.  It seems unlikely she’ll win.

That leaves Sally Hawkins (The Shape Of Water) and Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri).  Although the British Hawkins has been nominated before for her supporting work in Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine and is playing a mute character not unlike Oscar winner Holly Hunter did in The Piano, she’s competing against a perennial academy favourite.

It’s been more than 20 years since McDormand first won Best Actress for playing the smart, pregnant cop in the otherwise overrated Fargo.  Overall, she has five nominations in her long career.  Now 60, much of the praise heaped on Three Billboards has been because of her well regarded performance.  I will be very surprised if her name isn’t called out on Sunday.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Alison Janney (I, TONYA)

Here’s something that doesn’t happen very often.  All the performers in this category are middle-aged.  And all but one are first-time nominees.

58-year-old Alison Janney is best known for playing President Martin Sheen’s press secretary on The West Wing (which resulted in multiple Emmy wins) and a MILF on Mom.  62-year-old Laurie Metcalf came out of the Steppenwolf theatre group in Chicago to become Roseanne’s TV sister and Sheldon Cooper’s evangelical mother.  She also tried to seduce John Candy in Uncle Buck and tormented Bruce Willis onstage as Annie Wilkes in Misery.

61-year-old Lesley Manville (Gary Oldman’s first wife) has appeared in numerous Mike Leigh films and co-starred with Angelina Jolie in Maleficent.  Although primarily known for her music, 47-year-old Mary J. Blige has been acting as far back as 1995.  She played Malcolm X’s widow Betty Shabazz in the TV-movie Betty & Coretta.

45-year-old Octavia Spencer previously won for her popular performance in The Help.  A three-time nominee (she’s the only Black woman in Oscar history to receive two consecutive nominations), she’s been acting in movies since her debut in A Time To Kill.

So, who has the edge?  Not Spencer who already had her push in 2012 and is doing just dandy on her own now.  Blige is a longshot.  Metcalf has had a great three-pronged career in film, TV and theatre and really doesn’t need a golden gong.  It would be really interesting if Manville won on the same night as her ex-husband but that’s highly doubtful.

That leaves the well-liked Janney who critics singled out as a scene stealer in I, Tonya.  She’ll snag it on Sunday.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Sam Rockwell (THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI)

There’s only one first-time nominee in a sea of perennial never-wons and one past recipient in the race for Best Supporting Actor.

I can’t remember a time when Willem Dafoe wasn’t acting in a movie.  Previously nominated for Platoon and Shadow Of The Vampire, the third time won’t be the charm for him this year.  Like his Shape Of Water co-star Octavia Spencer, two-time nominee Richard Jenkins won’t have to worry about preparing a speech.  He’s not going to be called to the stage.

Neither is Christopher Plummer, the last-minute replacement for the disgraced Kevin Spacey in All The Money In The World, who is the only previous winner here.

Woody Harrelson, another three-time nominee, will have to watch from his seat as his Three Billboards co-star Sam Rockwell makes his way to the front of the house to deliver his acceptance speech.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – Jordan Peele (GET OUT)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – James Ivory (CALL ME BY YOUR NAME)

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – A FANTASTIC WOMAN

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – LAST MEN IN ALEPPO

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – COCO

BEST FILM EDITING – DUNKIRK

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – PHANTOM THREAD

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – BLADE RUNNER 2049

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – Remember Me (COCO)

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – THE SHAPE OF WATER

BEST SOUND EDITING – DUNKIRK

BEST SOUND MIXING – DUNKIRK

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – THE SHAPE OF WATER

BEST MAKE-UP AND HAIRSTYLING – DARKEST HOUR

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – DeKALB ELEMENTARY

BEST ANIMATED SHORT – DEAR BASKETBALL

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT – HEROIN(E)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, March 3, 2018
3:40 p.m.

Published in: on March 3, 2018 at 3:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hide And Seek (2005)

Hide And Seek is one of those pretentious thrillers that deludes itself into thinking it’s really something clever instead of the generic, unscary mess it actually is.

Robert De Niro and Amy Irving are an unhappily married couple with a young daughter (Dakota Fanning). After swallowing some pills with wine and having one last intimate moment with her kid before bedtime, she has an awkward conversation with her psychologist husband before retreating to the bathtub surrounded by candlelight.

Hours later, when he realizes she’s not in bed with him, a worried De Niro arises and discovers her dead body floating in her own blood.  Fanning stands in the bathroom doorway watching him weep and is never the same.

Now mostly silent and blankly staring, the blue-eyed, dark-haired Fanning is looked after by De Niro’s former protégé, the kindly Famke Janssen.  De Niro is planning to move her out of the city and into the country.  Janssen strongly opposes this idea because the child needs stability, not more upheaval.  De Niro is convinced that getting her as far away from the scene of her mother’s death is the best thing for her.

Because it’s the off-season, there aren’t many people around in their new neighbourhood, just the nosy, by-the-book sheriff (Dylan Baker), a forgetful real estate agent (David Chandler) and the friendly Melissa Leo and Robert John Burke, a couple in mourning.  Over time, we learn they had a daughter who looked exactly like Fanning which explains Burke’s interest in her (and all the toys in their living room).  Leo and Burke appear to be in an abusive relationship but curiously, the movie doesn’t dwell on it.  De Niro offers his professional services to Leo but she declines and the matter is dropped altogether.

As soon as they arrive here, Fanning starts acting strangely.  Once inseparable from her beloved doll Alex, she suddenly abandons it.  (De Niro finds it in the trash one night.)  And she claims to have a new friend, “Charlie”, who becomes a bad influence.

De Niro meets Elizabeth Shue, a hot divorcee looking after her niece.  When he invites them both to the new house, the niece is scared away but Shue comes back only to face resistance from Fanning.

Meanwhile, De Niro keeps having a recurring nightmare about New Year’s Eve.  We’re teased with little snippets here and there until we learn the full truth.  Some nights, at exactly 2:06 a.m., he suddenly wakes up only to walk towards the bathroom to ultimately discover a message written in blood and sometimes a dead body in the tub.  Up to that point, we’re led to believe Fanning is a Creepy Kid being manipulated by some supernatural force with a venomous streak and De Niro, in deep denial, is too stupid to see it.

Then comes that ridiculous twist which undermines everything.  It’s more than obvious that the filmmakers were trying to imitate M. Night Shyamalan but they clearly lack the skill and care to pull it off successfully.

Consider the scene where Shue shows up unannounced, lets herself in when no one answers the door and goes upstairs to try to make peace with Fanning.  While that’s going on, we see an oblivious De Niro listening to music in his headphones as he once again jots down his misguided observations about his troubled daughter.  Fanning’s in the middle of a game of hide and seek and when Shue opens the closet door, she gets a big surprise.

Later, when that scene is revisited, we find out who was in the closet.  But it’s just not possible without rewriting history which is precisely what happens.  (Otherwise, one person can’t be in two places at the same time.)

When you think about it, there’s actually a twist within the twist.  We think the reason the Amy Irving character dies is because of an exposed indiscretion but it’s really because she has a much closer relationship to Fanning.  Unfortunately, we barely get to know these characters in the abbreviated opening sequence and therefore feel emotionally disconnected from them, even before the inevitable tragedy.  We’re not as moved as we should be going forward.

As a result, Hide And Seek begins as a disappointingly bland, uninvolving melodrama but by the time of the big reveal it diminishes itself as a routine and deeply dishonest slasher flick.  De Niro was far scarier and more menacing as the vengeful Max Cady in the brilliant Cape Fear remake.  Here, I was baffled by his contradictory actions and complete lack of self-awareness.  Also puzzling is Fanning’s behaviour around him.  If she doesn’t tremble in his presence, why should we?

And what about that dopey ending?  The movie can’t seem to make up its mind about Fanning’s own state of mind as it reverses itself once again, just to tease the idea of a possible sequel which, thank God, has not been made.

All horror films involve some kind of emotional manipulation.  But when they start outright lying to you, that’s a betrayal.  Hide And Seek never levels with its audience and while it may think it gives sly clues to the big twist long before it happens, it’s really just lying to itself.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, March 2, 2018
10:19 p.m.

Published in: on March 2, 2018 at 10:19 pm  Comments (2)