The Oscars are a week away, but the race has been going on for what seems like forever. And even more than most years, this has been pretty dramatic, with issues ranging from the trivial (“IS THIS LEO’S YEAR?!?!”) to the monumental (could #OscarsSoWhite change Hollywood and not just the Academy body?). Here’s some big stuff that’s been on all of our minds.
It’s apparently controversial to talk against gender inequality, and the same with #OscarsSoWhite, the movement to shame the Oscar body after the second year in a row in which all the actor nominees were blindingly white. The backlash has been fierce and, perhaps worse, has resulted in thoughtless comments by some of your favorite cool artists (Charlotte Rampling! Julie Delpy! The Coen Brothers!).
But boycotts are about effecting change, and so far it seems to be working: The Academy has vowed to diversify, and thus better reflect a changing country. But awards are only a reflection of what’s being made. The real sign of improvement will be if Hollywood acknowledges the lack of non-white, non-male stories being told.
Even ignoring all that, “Creed” is so obviously a better film to sweep the Oscars than “The Revenant”: a crowd-pleaser that was also respectable and intelligently made. Instead its token nomination went to the white guy, Sly Stallone, who still totally deserves it.
The case of ‘Sanjay’s Super Team’
Not all categories are lily-white. The directing Oscar will almost certainly once again go to a Mexican filmmaker, even if it’s the same Mexican filmmaker: the (alas) overrated Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, of the mediocre “Birdman” and the deeply suspect “The Revenant.” And tucked all the way at the bottom of your Oscar ballot is the one for Best Animated Short, whose roster includes “Sanjay’s Super Team.” It’s the one toon short you’ve probably seen: the latest Pixar mini, it was attached to “The Good Dinosaur.” (Though given that proved the company’s lowest ever grosser, maybe you didn’t.) It’s explicitly about the melding of cultures: directed by one Sanjay Patel, it shows a young Indian boy trying to bond with his traditionalist father by recasting his Hindu gods as Western-style superheroes. It’s fun and it’s lovely. And yet it should still lose to Don Hertzfeldt’s devastating/hilarious “World of Tomorrow.”
Brie vs. Saoirse
Much as we love us some Cate Blanchett in “Carol,” it won’t be a shame if the Best Actress trophy goes to either “Room”’s Brie Larsen or “Brooklyn”’s Saoirse Ronan. They’re both worthy, as is Charlotte Rampling from “45 Years.” (Sorry, Jennifer Lawrence of “Joy,” though you were quite good, too.) But one nice thing is that the two young actresses haven’t descended into a WCW-style rivalry. They’ve bro-ed down, been seen enjoying each other’s company and clearly don’t care which one winds up enshrined in Oscars history. Frankly we’re just happy people are talking about them, and everyone may even now know how to pronounce “Saoirse.” (We’re not helping you if you don’t.)
No, no DiCaprio
We expanded on this one at some length here, but short version: We think Leonardo DiCaprio is a great actor but “The Revenant” isn’t acting, it’s suffering. It’s Leo’s year, but it shouldn’t be.
‘Mad Max’ deserves 10 (or 20, or 30) nominations
One of the great pleasures and very minor annoyances of the Oscar season has been explaining that the action movie with a guitar flamethrower and a dude with serious gout deserves the many, many noms it’s received. Genre filmmaking is historically snubbed by the elites, but George Miller’s fourquel/semi-reboot plowed into the Oscars with the force of a one-armed Charlize Theron driving her truck through that mindboggle of a sandstorm. We’ve been puffing up its importance by pointing out it’s an angry feminist tract in which women battle their male oppressors. That’s true, too, but it’d be fine if it was simply seen as a beaut of pure action cinema, where real stunts meet dynamic camerawork and thoughtful yet propulsive editing. This isn’t great genre filmmaking; it’s great filmmaking. Witness it.
Bonus grumble: Rooney and Alicia aren’t supporting characters
This gripe is as old as the Oscars itself: As ever, films featuring co-leads — namely “Carol” and “The Danish Girl” — found the other half banished to the Supporting Actress category. Rooney Mara’s Therese has more screentime in “Carol” than Blanchett’s “Carol.” Ditto Alicia Vikander’s jilted but devoted wife in “The Danish Girl.” But because both actors had more of a chance of getting nominated if they went Supporting, the Oscars ignored the basics of storytelling: which one is the protagonist? Is it both? In this case it was the latter. But we’re already weary of talking about this, as we wind up talking about this just about every year. Never change, Oscars (except totally change).