Thoughts on the 91st Academy Awards
I enjoy the Oscars even though I don’t love oscar baity films that lecture me, and the endless thank yous to collaborators is monotonous. As perceptively noted by Sean Chandler Talks About, the Best Picture category appeared to be calculated with the selections appealing to different groups so the Oscars could boost its television ratings. A decision that makes the Academy look a bit desperate.
Films that reflect diversity have good odds of getting nominated. Be it a female cast and LGBT issues in The Favourite and Bohemian Rhapsody, African-American culture in Green Book, Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman and If Beale Street Could Talk , or indigenous people in Roma.
The lack of a host went fine but hosting is far from dead which Aubrey Plaza proved with her entertaining opening monologue at the Independent Spirit Awards the day before.
The “Wayne’s World” reunion was a nice idea albeit not that memorable. Melissa McCarthy’s bunny costume was funnier, especially when she opened the envelope. Olivia Colman winning Best Actress was surprising and her speech very sweet, but maybe an even bigger surprise was The Favourite going 1/10 on the night. Lady Gaga gave one of the most inspiring speeches when accepting for Best Original song, saying it’s not about winning but never giving up. Shallow was in my top 10 songs of the year and I was pleased it won. Fully deserved.
Green Book shocked with its wins for Original Screenplay and Best Picture, especially as it wasn’t tipped to go all the way. The various controversies that have plagued the film during the last few months apparently weren’t a deciding factor. That said, it is the kind of movie the Academy loves for its inclusive message. It looked as if Samuel L Jackson and Spike Lee behaved disrespectfully towards Green Book. Lee (you could call him an ungracious loser) admitted Green Book was “not his cup of tea” and that the movie was Driving Miss Daisy with changed seating arrangements. Yet Jackson and Lee also had one of the best moments on-stage when they enthusiastically hugged when Spike Lee won adapted screenplay. I guess those two veterans of the industry just do what they want. A low moment was Spike Lee swearing in front of millions (“do not turn the motherfucking clock on”) to start his speech although I’m happy for him for finally winning an overdue Oscar.
You could argue the Academy tried to make amends for Eighth Grade’s lack of nominations by having Fisher as a presenter, she looked happy to be there. Emily Blunt was also snubbed but declined to attend which meant Bette Midler stepped in to perform the nominated song from Mary Poppins Returns.
The highlight of the evening was when Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper took the stage and gave fans something to cheer about with their intimate duet and prompted new speculation about an off-screen romance.
A fan created an in memoriam montage recognizing those ignored by the Oscars, including Singin’ in the Rain director Stanley Donen and Full Metal Jacket’s R. Lee Ermey.
This Time With Alan Partridge (2019) (Episode 1)
He’s back on TV! In episode 1, the awkwardness of Alan saying the wrong thing is similar to his earlier stuff from the 90s, and in that regard the new series plays it safe. You may feel you’ve seen this type of comedy from Steve Coogan before, but he’s still fun to watch. The writing and joke telling is equally as effective as classic Partridge. It wasn’t believable Alan was on TV back then and it still isn’t that believable. This Time is a spoof on BBC’s The One Show, tackling current affairs such as seals, hygiene and hacktivism. Alan co-hosts with a female presenter which adds some tension. In contrast to Partridge’s chat show Knowing Me Knowing You, we see what happen in the studio, off air. Whether the next episodes will be just as entertaining remains to be seen, I’ll be watching.
Free Solo (2018) (documentary) (Jimmy Chin & Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi)
Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Feature documentary. The last 30 minutes when he attempts the dangerous climb at El Capitan Wall is is some of the most thrilling non-fiction you’ll ever see, especially when viewed on the big screen as it’s very visual and cinematic. But if you watch a film about free solo climbing without a safety harness then you know you are in for a nerve-racking experience. The first hour of the documentary however is less essential as doesn’t go into much detail about Alex Honnold’s life. I struggle to comprehend why someone would date a rock climber as must be very stressful that their partner could die at any time.
Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! (2008) (documentary) (Mark Hartley)
Tends to showcase the best moments of these low budget Aussie gems so approach the documentary with caution. Despite that, fun to watch what is essentially a highlight reel of Australian exploitation (Ozploitation) cinema from the 70s and 80s. Tarantino is a fan of these films and talks about them. The filmmakers who got the projects made back in the day tell their stories. In hindsight, they are aware their films are for the most part lacking deeper meaning, emphasizing the work had an audience who were just looking for a good time.
I had already seen some of the more prominent titles such as Mad Max, Walkabout, Wake in Fright and Long Weekend. But I found (or was reminded of) a bunch to watch: Patrick (1978), Dead End Drive-In (1986), Next of Kin (1982), Road Games (1981), Razorback (1984), Dark Age (1987), Fair Game (1986), Fortress (1985).
Bad Genius (2017) (Nattawut Poonpiriya)
wow, what a great discovery. Thanks to Film4Fan for pointing me towards this Thai heist thriller. A Horrible Woman will have to move into second place as Bad Genius is now my favorite foreign film of 2017.
A great premise and the storytelling matches the idea. I love how mobile phones are an active part of the story and the sequence of the STIC exam is nail-biting stuff. The characters are well-defined and the actors do a good job, especially the female lead. Currently has a 100% Rotten Tomatoes score.
Holiday (2018) (Isabella Eklöf)
A cold, dark tale set on the picturesque Turkish island of Bodrum. An interesting fact to take into account is Holiday is directed by a woman which makes the violence feel less exploitative than if a man had sat in the director’s chair. Honestly, was hard to care about these people. The group of Danes on holiday are shallow (probably intentionally) and have ties to gangsters and the drug trade.
There’s a disturbing scene about 45 minutes into the film that is getting attention and the violence going on while the kids are watching TV was also unsettling. Slowly builds to an unpredictable finale. The tensest part is in the last half hour as you don’t know what will happen next. The ending is one of 2018’s best and elevates the film by allowing the viewer to re-evaluate everything you have just seen. I just wish the first half of the film was better as I almost turned it off after 30 minutes due to indifference. In hindsight, I now realize there was an agenda with some of the early scenes. An uneven watch, but I can’t shake that ending. Holiday probably requires a second viewing to grasp the nuances.
Pity (aka Oiktos) (2018) (Babis Makridis)
By the screenwriter of Dogtooth, The Lobster, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer. The central premise of this Greek weird wave drama is one of 2018’s most original. We follow someone who becomes addicted to pity and negative feelings. Satirizes our unhealthy obsession with attention and selfishness. A thought-provoking watch, though it probably needed to be funnier to reach a bigger audience. A story that maybe could have been told in less time. The lead actor plays it well albeit the characterization was rather vague which may frustrate some viewers. A bit more back story could have made it easier to care about the characters. Despite some weaknesses, worth a look if you like weird, inventive films that are outside the mainstream. Shubhajit is back from a hiatus and writing reviews at his blog Cinemascope again. He also reviewed Pity.
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) (Barry Jenkins)
A good watch with a touching story though I’m not the biggest fan of preachy message movies. As Alissa Evans wrote in her review, the characters’ personalities feel secondary to their circumstance. The lead Stephan James has kind, gentle eyes which might be the reason he was picked. KiKi Layne is likeable as well while Regina King and Brian Tyree Henry shine in supporting roles. The jazz score is accomplished and is incorporated well.
Important and competently made yet didn’t quite manage to rock me to the core in the way Moonlight did. The characters lacked the deeper, emotional weight of Jenkins’ 2016 film. A sense of wretchedness was missing. Perhaps better captured in Baldwin’s book.
What do you think? As always, comments are welcome