Does winning an Oscar actually matter?

Winning an Oscar is great and all, but is it really all that it’s cracked up to be?

 Rhys Graeme-Drury 

The annual awards circus is upon us once again. Numerous red carpets are being rolled out to receive reams of bedazzled famous faces, all of whom are hoping to drive home with a gilded statuette resting on their laps.

We place a lot of value on those who have walked away a winner on Oscar night – just ask Leonardo DiCaprio. For years the Internet yearned for Leo to finally nab one – and then he did in 2016 so we all collectively rejoiced and laid the dank memes to rest.

Apparently, an actor or filmmaker can’t claim to have truly arrived until they score an Oscar statue of some kind. Right? Eh, not exactly.

Even though it’s all very exciting and generates a lot of gossip, the Oscars aren’t actually good for all that much (and this is coming from someone who gets invested every year and is genuinely still upset that Eddie Redmayne beat Michael Keaton back in 2015).

Across its history, the Academy Awards have made a habit of routinely shunning some of the best and brightest talents and minds of the era – which sort of defeats the purpose of rewarding those who produce the best films, surely?

Filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick, Brian De Palma and Alfred Hitchcock have famously never won anything for their directorial efforts, with the latter losing out in the Best Director category on five separate occasions. Kubrick’s entire catalogue only took home a single Oscar win; 2001: A Space Odyssey won Best Visual Effects in 1969. For those of you playing along at home, that’s the same number of Oscars as Tim Burton’s 2010 remake of Alice in Wonderland and Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbour. So it’s not like the Academy is a great barometer of quality and lasting legacy, huh?

The same could be said for actors; Bill Murray has never won an Oscar, but do we view his filmography with any less reverence? The same can be said for umpteen actors and actresses from across the decades. For many people, Harrison Ford is the literal embodiment of sharp and sophisticated Hollywood stars. He is Han Solo, Indiana Jones and Jack Ryan in the flesh – we don’t need the Academy to tell us Ford is a living legend, he has crafted that legacy without their adulation.

The same goes for Gary Oldman, Edward Norton or Joaquin Phoenix; they’re back catalogues speak for themselves. Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Annette Benning and Sigourney Weaver have all been denied Hollywood’s highest honour – but that hasn’t hindered their standing as some of the most talented actresses to grace our screens.

Some may think that winning an Oscar is also guaranteed to usher in a string of professional riches for the lucky winners, but too often that isn’t the case. Hunger Games sensation Jennifer Lawrence has racked up a surprising number of nominations (four) and one win at the tender age of 26 but it wasn’t until recently with Passengers that she was given a bigger slice of the pie than her male co-stars, financially speaking.

You only have to glance at the list of the highest paid actors across the industry today to see that those raking in the most cash aren’t necessarily those who took home the most awards. Robert Downey Jnr routinely makes in excess of $50 million for each Avengers performance whilst Johnny Depp is still throwing on funny hats and making bank despite never winning an Oscar. Meanwhile I don’t see Disney or Marvel throwing $10 million at Mark Rylance or JK Simmons, the two most recent winners in the Best Supporting Actors category.

Essentially, what I’m trying to say is, it doesn’t matter whether La La Land scored four, fourteen or zero nominations; what matters is how it is making audiences feel. The same goes for Moonlight or Manchester by the Sea or any of the other films nominated this year.  After the cameras inside the Dolby Theatre have gone out on February 26 and all the very famous people have gone home, regardless of who won or not, these films will continue to captivate and enthral audiences long afterward.

Films like Sing Street, The Witch, Hunt for the Wilderpeople and Midnight Special all characterised my cinema experiences in 2016 but didn’t get a look in at the Oscars. Should I feel any less moved by their characters or narratives because they can’t claim to have been ‘Oscar nominated?’ No, of course not. Films mean so much more than just handing out trophies and racking up stats; we can leave that sort of thing to sports thank you very much.

Rather than taking a snub personally, just brush it off with a shrug. So what Amy Adams didn’t get nominated for Arrival? That doesn’t change how moving and powerful her performance was. Who cares that Sing Street didn’t get any love for Best Original Song? It doesn’t mean I don’t still love that soundtrack to pieces.

Don’t get me wrong; awards season is a lot of fun. But it’s also a lot of meaningless and banal bullshit that ultimately shouldn’t change how we view art or place value on what something made us think or feel.

Enjoy the Oscars, lap up the glamour and laugh at all the gaffes – but don’t forget that there is a whole myriad of wonderful films out there whose enduring qualities don’t change regardless of who wins or loses on the night.

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films 

Movie Review – Aloha

The word “Aloha” means both “hello” and “goodbye”, but in this case, it means: “Better luck next time”.

⭐ ⭐
Review by Tom Munday

Aloha launches immediately into the confused existence of defense contractor Brian Gilcrest (Bradley Cooper). Sent around the world, helping the USA kick ass, and take anything it wants, he is assigned to close the biggest deal of his career in Hawaii. Tarnished by professional and personal quarrels, one slip up here could get him fired, sued, and jailed in quick succession. Gilcrest, assigned to USAF fighter pilot Captain Allison Ng (Emma Stone), seeks to solve long-standing issues with an old flame, Tracy (Rachel McAdams), dodge her husband/his work friend Woody (John Krasinski), and befriend his new billionaire boss, Carson (Bill Murray).

The Hollywood romantic-comedy has gone through a roller-coaster ride of pleasant highs and dismal lows. Like horror, the genre continually attracts large audiences, thanks to predictable events, and attractive people. Its comfort-food simplicity, however, has led to a current string of pump-‘em-and-dump-‘em flicks normally starring Katherine Heigl and the “it” guy of the week. Despite the Oscar-worthy cast and interesting concepts, Aloha is no more subversive or invigorating than any Ugly Truth or Bounty Hunter. It literally and figuratively aims for the stars, but crashes and burns from the get-go. Writer/director Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire) has delivered another watered-down re-hash of his 1996 lightning-in-bottle success.

Like 2005’s Elizabethtown, Crowe’s story construction and dialogue come off like a stoned monkey reciting Shakespeare. Aloha meanders peculiarly between irritating characters, Hallmark Card emotional moments, and underdeveloped sub-plots. For the first two-thirds, Aloha never highlights its central plot-line; we stalk Gilcrest from one scene to another, pleading for some much-needed exposition. What is he working on? Why is he so depressed? Why should we care about these white people’s problems? Sadly, the third-act revelations provide underwhelming answers. The characters also add to the absurdity. Caricatures like Krasinski’s eternally-silent weakling, Danny McBride’s tick-laden comic relief, and Alec Baldwin’s screechy, vein-throbbing head honcho, leave no one likeable or engaging to cling onto.

This romantic-comedy is hindered by Crowe’s faux-philosophical dialogue. His “You complete me/Show me the money!” spirit has faded away, replaced with artificial, bumper-sticker sayings and monologues. Lines including “I was your last chance!” reveal Crowe’s detachment from reality. Similarly, his version of cultural appreciation never ventures beyond stereotypes. The second act, despite delving into Hawaiian culture and tradition, reveals Aloha’s cheap, uninspired veneer. Throwing in key phrases and rituals, it takes its unique angle for granted in favour of a generic romantic-comedy narrative. In addition, touches including Stone’s casting as a quarter-Hawaiian character hinders the movie’s own point.

There are some positives within the vaguely offensive, frustrating mess of Aloha. Of course, Hawaii’s luscious scenery and ritualistic ceremonies provide a gorgeous backdrop to the foregrounded vanilla mayhem. Each establishing shot provides hopeful relief before the madness kicks in again. The cast, trying as hard as possible, does its best to overcome the sentimental, weird material. Cooper, one of Hollywood’s most charismatic leading men, applies himself effectively. Stone’s manic persona delivers, elevating many corny lines and exchanges. McAdams, however, is pushed out of frame as the doting love interest/major obstacle. In addition, Murray’s role could easily have been filled by anyone.

Aloha, despite the monstrous pedigree at its disposal, is hindered by Crowe’s unruly writing and direction. A shadow of his former self, the man is out of time and depth.

Aloha is available in Australian cinemas as of Thursday June 4

Images courtesy of 20th Century Fox