The Changing Face of the Oscars

Michael Philp 

The Oscars have changed remarkably over the past decade. Since the expansion of the Best Picture slot to include up to 10 nominees, there’s been a marked increase in the inclusion – and celebration – of films centred on diversity. This movement kicked up a notch last year with Moonlight’s win, but the Weinstein scandal last October appeared to throw those efforts into sharp relief. Last Monday, it was suddenly a lot more obvious that white men were winning, or even being nominated for, an award over their “diverse” colleagues.

For many of us, this year’s awards felt caught between the Academy’s old habits and the new wave of socially conscious, diversity-focused filmmaking. The Shape of Water won Best Picture, but it was up against mediocre Oscar bait that shouldn’t have had a chance in hell – namely The Post, but also Darkest Hour, and to a lesser extent Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. In previous years those films would have been serious contenders, and Darkest Hour probably would have won, but in 2018 the Academy has begun to move on from the kind of stodgy biopics that have been their bread-and-butter for the past century.

But of course, they haven’t entirely moved on, creating the clear division mentioned above. Everyone knew Gary Oldman was going to win Best Actor, even if the film around him wasn’t up to snuff. “It was a legacy award” went the chant, while an undefined contingent wondered when we might stop needing to say such things, and instead get to celebrate the work that we actually liked.

Which brings me to the films that sat right in the middle of the divide – the ones that half of us liked and half of us railed against. More specifically, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Our review praised it, but, personally, I found it distasteful and crass. No matter what you think of the film, it was fairly obvious why it was up there – if not, the “Times Up” pins, shining brightly against black suits, were a pretty good hint.

It is my sincerest hope that in the future we won’t need such glaring political statements to consider a film worthy of recognition. In the same vein, I hope next year we won’t have to take a mediocre biopic seriously. Beyond that, I hope we’ll eventually move past diversity showcases like Shape of Water (politics is fine, but “diversity is good” feels like such a no-brainer that I hope we outgrow it quickly). These aspects of the ceremony already feel outdated – there are richer conversations to be had, the Academy just needs to grow into them. For instance, in the future, we’ll hopefully see more films from people of Asian and Indian backgrounds. Statistically speaking they should be represented far better than they are, maybe one day we’ll examine that problem.

The divisions that we’re experiencing right now aren’t cause for alarm; they’re part of a natural process of correction. It is not that we shouldn’t celebrate white stories, but that they should have to earn their place, rather than being nominated by default. The Oscars are entering a period where they are hungry for exciting ideas from fresh filmmakers. They no longer blindly reflect the movie-going public, but are instead interested in how films function as modern art. You can criticise that approach as elitist, but I would urge you to recognise that the ultimate goal hasn’t changed – it is still to tell stories of everyday people doing extraordinary things. The difference is that the definition of everyday people has been broadened to include groups other than white men. What a world.

Image courtesy of Kevin Mazur/WireImage
Source: http://oscar.go.com/photos/2018/red-carpet-arrivals-2018/90th-annual-academy-awards-arrivals-129

90th Academy Awards

Zachary Cruz-Tan & Rhys Graeme-Drury

Another year, another predictably endless cascade of complaints. Such is the Academy Awards, which this year was more sullen and plain than any other I can recall. Jimmy Kimmel reprised his role as host and deftly shifted the focus of his comedy away from politics (apart from a few initial jabs at Harvey Weinstein) to the Oscars itself – promising a jet ski and vacation to the winner with the shortest speech – and channelled much of his humorous energy on Christopher Plummer, who of course absorbed it with immaculate sportsmanship.

Female empowerment was once again a highlight, with Best Actress winner Frances McDormand commanding the stage and inviting all the female nominees to rise with her. There was also an alarming amount of female presenters, as if the Academy’s idea of equality is to tilt the scale completely in the other direction. But in the midst of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, it was lovely to once again see stunningly simple fashion on display, particularly on Eiza González and in the elegance of Laura Dern (I’d love to know whose curtains Zendaya ripped and threw on herself).

As always, some winners were justified while others were not, and some nominees were completely forgotten altogether. Nine films were nominated for Best Picture, of which perhaps five were truly deserving. I was surprised that Kathryn Bigelow’s utterly masterful Detroit was not favoured in place of Joe Wright’s lukewarm Darkest Hour, a major misstep by the Academy who could’ve made further history by including two women in the Best Director category. In the end, The Shape of Water nudged out Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri for the trophy and its director, Guillermo del Toro, nabbed his very first Oscar.

Oh, and you know who also nabbed a first Oscar? Kobe Bryant. Yes, Kobe Bryant the sportsman, for his contributions to the animated short film Dear Basketball. He now has more Oscars than Alfred Hitchcock and Ralph Fiennes put together. It was the most shocking part of an event that was otherwise rather predictable and safe. But with so much going on right now, perhaps predictable and safe was the right way to go.

Of the winners, none was more deserving than cinematographer Roger Deakins, winning his first statuette at his scarcely believable fourteenth attempt. Taking to the stage with a shaky rock star swagger that wouldn’t look amiss on Mick Jagger, Deakins’ work has been overlooked by the Academy for far too long, and while a lot of the attention was heaped upon hot young newcomers like Greta Gerwig, it shouldn’t go unnoticed that some veterans who were long overdue an award didn’t go home empty-handed. Alongside del Toro and Deakins, Sam Rockwell was honoured for his performance in Three Billboards and of course, British thespian Gary Oldman, whose tearful Best Actor acceptance speech capped off a season filled with accolades.

Surprisingly, 2018 saw the Academy steer away from what one would consider typical ‘Oscar bait’. Aside from Oldman’s bellowing Prime Minister, the bulk of the wins went to genre films and filmmakers such as Get Out, del Toro, Jordan Peele and Blade Runner 2049. Has there ever been a year where genre fare has been so strongly represented?

All told, the 90th Academy Awards were a rather forgettable affair; Kimmel continues to be a solid host, the major categories were under lock and key well before the opening curtain and, with no major gaffes like 2017’s La La Land kerfuffle, the whole thing felt rather pedestrian. Still, maybe that’s what the industry needs; for the focus to remain firmly on the art, rather than controversy and calamity.

Image courtesy of Tinseltown / Shutterstock.com

Movie Review – Phantom Thread

Being a fan of Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis certainly requires years of patience, fortunately they make it worth the lengthy wait. 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan 

Famous London fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is renowned for his incredible garments tailor-made for high society people. His creative genius stems from his notoriously controlling and massively obsessive-compulsive personality; each activity of his day follows a strict regime down to the tiniest detail. Any slight disturbance or disruption can unhinge Reynolds completely, unleashing his temper and aggressive nature. When he meets a waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps) on a trip to the countryside, he pursues a relationship, but once she moves in with him, her more impulsive, emotional behaviour clashes with his ordered world, and a great power play begins.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s distinguished career has given us great variety with ensemble comedy dramas about porn’s golden era (Boogie Nights), a mosaic of depression in L.A. (Magnolia), and a drug-fuelled crime caper (Inherent Vice). He’s explored the extreme highs and lows of gambling (Hard Eight), a mental illness love story (Punch-Drunk Love), the monsters of greed and corruption in the old west (There Will Be Blood), and the seductive horrors of joining a cult (The Master).

Once again, PTA goes into completely new territory with Phantom Thread. His second collaboration with Daniel Day-Lewis comes at the ten-year anniversary of their masterpiece There Will Be Blood, making Phantom Thread one of the most anticipated period piece gothic romances ever.

PTA’s unpredictable storytelling and filmmaking methods are on full display here, and the result is something compulsively watchable. The trailers and posters have wisely revealed little of the plot; it is best to head in with a blank slate and let the intoxicating beauty of PTA’s version of a 50’s London wash over you. Complete with stunningly recreated costume work (consider designer Mark Bridges a strong bet for the Oscar) on dazzling 16mm-shot film, Phantom Thread is essentially a slow-burning, unique spin on the eccentric older male prodigy and his younger female muse trope, but again, its curiosities are best discovered for oneself.

On top of the fact that PTA and DDL’s last team-up gave us one of the greatest cinematic masterpieces of the 21st century, Day-Lewis has announced that this will be his curtain call from acting. He has, of course, threatened retirement in the past, and given his films are more infrequent these days than even Paul Thomas Anderson’s, it’s difficult to know what to believe. But if this is to truly be his swansong, he’s bowed out with a brilliant performance that’s not his usual show eruption, but instead a contained masterclass in restraint.

As Reynolds Woodcock, he brings obsessive compulsive genius to a new level; a mad tyrant wrapped in a calm, charismatic personal charm – that is provided his strict daily routine goes exactly as planned. It’s entirely possible that Day-Lewis has decided to leave us with a performance that mirrors his own creative process, given his famously intense preparation and methods in completely embodying his characters.

And then, there’s an even bigger surprise. As both the light of his life and bane of his existence, newcomer Vicky Krieps perfectly forms the yin to DDL’s yang as his young lover Alma. It’s no mean feat for an unknown actress to share the screen with a legendary actor and match him compellingly. Though Lesley Manville earned the Supporting Actress nod (also deservingly, as Reynolds’ subservient sister), Krieps is the true powerhouse and driving force of a deliciously twisted romance for the ages. As DDL’s career ends, hers begins – it’s quite poetic.

If there’s one niggle it’s the somewhat impotent outcome to their magnetic relationship, though it’s a conclusion to be debated rather than scorned. And that’s how PTA, DDL and VK leave us; deep in thought and certain of only one thing – that this is a triumph for all involved.

Phantom Thread is available in Australian cinemas from February 1

Image (c) Universal Pictures 2018

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 

7 Oscar Winners That Went Straight to DVD

Rhys Graeme-Drury

Winning an Academy Award doesn’t give you the magic, Midas touch. There’s no guarantee that everything you later star in will also be golden, just as these 7 actors and actresses have learned.

The recent DVD release of Natalie Portman’s troubled Western Jane Got a Gun got me thinking; how many other Oscar winning actors have slummed it in low budget, poorly received films that went straight to DVD ?

1. Sandra Bullock – Our Brand Is Crisis (2016)

06 June - 7 Oscar Winners Bullock
Sandra Bullock is no stranger to contrasting fortunes; her contribution to the woeful All About Steve famously bagged her a Razzie Award for Worst Actress the same week she also won her Oscar for her compelling performance in The Blind Side.

But just because Sandy B has an Oscar on her mantle, doesn’t mean she hasn’t landed a stinker or two from time to time. Earlier this year the former Best Actress winner starred in Our Brand is Crisis, a high-stakes political thriller that flunked Stateside before skipping the theatre and slinking onto shelves here in Australia. The film boasted an impressive cast including Anthony Mackie, Scoot McNairy and Billy Bob Thornton (another Oscar winner), but unfortunately this talented ensemble wasn’t enough to convince audiences or distributors that the film belonged in cinemas.


2. Nicolas Cage – Outcast (2014)

06 June - 7 Oscar Winners Cage
An episode of Community once posed the question – Nicolas Cage, good or bad? And, as one character later found out, it’s impossible to reach a definitive conclusion when reflecting on his unconventional filmography.

Cage is an Oscar winner following his work in Leaving Las Vegas, but in recent times he has found himself in an endless B-movie slump. Whilst there are more than a few to choose from, it’s 2014’s Outcast that I’m going to single out as his most baffling career choice to date. The film sees Cage plays a medieval crusader-turned-bandit who is tasked with returning a Chinese prince to his rightful place on the throne. Unsurprisingly, the film currently boasts a 6% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, proving that Oscar glory doesn’t guarantee bountiful critical acclaim later on.


3. Charlize Theron – Dark Places (2015)

06 June - 7 Oscar Winners Theron
Charlize Theron’s chilling portrayal of serial killer Aileen Wuornos in the crime drama Monster may have earned her an Academy Award win for Best Actress in 2003, but not every project fronted by Theron has enjoyed the same critical success in the intervening years – as evidenced by her starring role in 2015’s Dark Places.

Following the success of Gillian Flynn‘s Gone Girl, French director and screenwriter Gilles Paquet-Brenner recruited the talents of Theron for an adaptation one of Flynn’s earlier novels. Dark Places should’ve been able to ride the coattails of Gone Girl into cinemas, but instead a limited theatre run in the United States was met with tepid reviews and meagre takings. The film’s fate was sealed when consigned to the bargain bin, an outcome that is probably for the best – Dark Places is the polar opposite of Gone Girl in terms of quality.


4. Anthony Hopkins – Misconduct (2016)

06 June - 7 Oscar Winners Hopkins
Anthony Hopkins’ terrifying performance in 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs has immortalised the character of Hannibal Lecter in popular culture forever, but his subsequent Oscar glory hasn’t prevented the seasoned actor’s career from sometimes taking a wrong turn, as evidenced by his recent role in 2016’s Misconduct.

The Shintaro Shimosawa directed crime drama boasts not one, but two past Oscar winners. Joining Hopkins on the bill is Al Pacino. With a cast like this, surely the movie couldn’t fail, right? Wrong. The double-whammy of Hopkins and Pacino couldn’t save Misconduct from limping onto VOD earlier in the year. C’mon guys, we know you can do better than that!


5. Morgan Freeman – Last Knights (2015)

06 June - 7 Oscar Winners Freeman

Morgan Freeman’s deep vocals have been coating our ears in honeyed dialogue delivery ever since the mid-eighties. It was his terrific performance in Clint Eastwood’s 2004 boxing film Million Dollar Baby that saw the actor land win his sole Oscar so far.

However, this triumph hasn’t prevented Freeman from sashaying into the world of direct-to-DVD. Only last year Freeman starred alongside Clive Owen in another low-budget sword-and-sandal fantasy epic, Last Knights. Haven’t heard of it? Not surprised; its limited cinema run fizzled out faster than a wet firecracker and ensured the film was destined for an eternity on dusty JB Hi-Fi shelves.


6. Natalie Portman – Jane Got A Gun (2016)

06 June - 7 Oscar Winners Portman
Léon: The Professional, Garden State, Closer, V for Vendetta
– Natalie Portman has made a career out of exciting choices, culminating in her terrifying performance in Darren Aronofsky’s indelible and incredible Black Swan. Her total commitment to the role was equal parts frightening and compelling, earning her an undisputed Best Actress Oscar in 2010.

Unfortunately, Portman has been unable to replicate this success since then; originally signing on for hard-boiled Western Jane Got a Gun way back in May 2012, Portman saw the project cycle through various directors and screenwriters. When the film finally made it onto screens in the US earlier this year (over 18 months after its original release date), it scraped in a measly box office taking. The distributor decided to call it quits and put it out on DVD and VOD everywhere else. Shame, as Portman is actually pretty good in the movie.


7. Kevin Spacey – Father Of Invention (2010)

06 June - 7 Oscar Winners Spacey
Nowadays it’s hard to separate Kevin Spacey from his smooth-talking politician alter ego Frank Underwood, but back in 90’s Spacey was honoured with Academy Awards for his memorable performances in Bryan Singer’s neo-noir crime thriller The Usual Suspects (1995) and Sam Mendes’ erotic drama American Beauty (1999).

However, dual Oscars haven’t prevented Spacey from popping up in a clunker or two – most notably, 2010’s comedy-drama Father of Invention. The film sees Spacey play an infomercial guru who loses it all when one of his inventions accidentally maims thousands of customers – much like how this film was maimed by critics who mercilessly slapped it with a 0% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s right – zero. Thankfully, Netflix and David Fincher came a-knocking with House of Cards and no one remembers (or probably even saw) this stinker.


Images courtesy of Roadshow Films, Transmission Films, Defiant Screen Entertainment and Anchor Bay Entertainment 

What’s Race Got To Do With It?

Uh oh, the white supremacists at the Academy Awards have reignited racism again! Take some time out from sharpening your hashtags and see why they’re not as bad as you think.

Corey Hogan

Welcome to the 2016 Oscars race – “race” being the key word here. Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past month or so, you’ve probably heard about the controversy surrounding the Academy Awards for a lack of diversity in their 88th nomination picks – namely on the complete exclusion of any black candidates.

Quick recap in case you’re out of the loop: the January 14th nomination announcement of an all-white slate (save Alejandro G. Iñárritu and his Mexican team behind The Revenant) was met with immediate outrage and commentary from media outlets, celebrities and Hollywood alumni (both black and white), and, of course, the internet.

#OscarsSoWhite began to trend online, and prolific writer/director Spike Lee, along with actress Jada Pinkett-Smith (backed by husband Will Smith, among other black artists) called for a boycott of the ceremony, to a widely divisive reaction. Many showed their support, while others defended the Academy; host Chris Rock faced pressure to step down, but instead rewrote a now highly anticipated opening monologue. Some luminaries expressed concern, but noted that the problem is sourced from the oversight of minorities in filmmaking itself – can the Academy really be held responsible if black actors and directors aren’t getting enough work in the first place? Does the Academy deserve the condemning its copped, and is it truly something they should concern themselves with?

Those crying out injustices over the selections have generally suggested the same black-centric 2015 films that could have easily made the grade – Concussion, Beasts of No Nation, Creed and Straight Outta Compton. But this is a mere four films of the literally hundreds released last year; one could just as easily point out any of the other great films that the Academy also failed to recognise (Love & Mercy, 99 Homes etc.).

Perhaps the reality that there was only four films worth arguing for says that the industry’s black counterparts simply didn’t produce a great deal of exemplary output, and that even those select four, while each boasting awards-worthy aspects, certainly weren’t without their faults.

Conversely, the greater issue could stem from the tendency of Hollywood to limit themselves in the roles they fill; copping regular criticism for “white-washing” in their casting departments. Without a doubt, there should have been Egyptian actors in Exodus: Gods and Kings and Gods of Egypt, for example, but what about the quality films that the Academy actually pays attention to? More often than not the Awards are dominated by novel adaptations and biographical features; surely more than a few eyebrows would be raised if a black actor was cast as Steve Jobs or Dalton Trumbo.

The fact is that there is a meagre five slots available in each category (and between five and ten for Best Picture) – it’s designed to be competitive, and only the best of the best are voted in. The Award would hardly be as prestigious if the number of nominees in each category was expanded to give everyone a fair go, and nominating someone based on the colour of their skin is missing the point of the Awards entirely. It’s about recognising the most outstanding performances and impressive efforts of the hard working people in front of and behind the camera; their race should be completely irrelevant.

Of course, the choices are always entirely subjective, and anyone can argue for the sake of a film (Best Picture winners are usually good, but they’re rarely my favourite film of their respective years) or a person excluded from the ballots (okay, Idris Elba’s devious dictator from Beasts of No Nation probably deserved the Supporting Actor nod over Tom Hardy’s mumbling madman of The Revenant). But ultimately, majority wins, and the choices are the result of what the Academy’s voters have most commonly selected; can this reasoning and process really be argued with?

Of course it can – naysayers were quick to blame the fact that voters were comprised mostly of older white men who may not have a diverse enough taste to favour a broad enough range of films. In response to the backlash, the Academy announced that it would be making drastic changes to its membership and diversifying it in areas of gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. At surface-level, this would appear to be a step in the right direction – but perhaps it would be wiser to first reflect on who makes up the Awards’ audience, not their members.

It seems that the majority of the crowd kicking up a fuss about the diversity issue do not even plan on watching the ceremony. It’s possible that they never did in the first place, given the broadcast’s consistent low ratings; which is fair enough – why watch if you are not interested in any of the nominated films? Personally, I love the Oscars. I’ve watched it religiously for years, forever doing my best to see every nominee before the big night; it’s prime time for an enormous amount of the year’s finest films, and indulging in an Oscars drinking game is always a hoot. I might not always love everything selected, and the ceremony is never without its problems, but hell, I’d take Oscar season over Christmas any day.

So if the plan is for this whiny bunch to bury their heads in the sand and pretend the Oscars don’t exist, why ruin it for the rest of us? Sadly it’s the people who the Awards do matter to who have to suffer at the hands of this controversy – namely the actual nominees. I can’t help but feel for those up for the golden statue, particularly young first timers like Brie Larson and Saoirse Ronan – imagine how you would feel working your ass off to receive your industry’s highest honour, only to have it undermined because of the colour of your skin. Is that not the textbook definition of racism? Or is it still impossible to be racist towards white folk? Perhaps most empathetic is poor Leonardo DiCaprio – the year he’s finally touted to win after two decades of faultless performances happens to be the same year the Academy’s choices are widely criticised; the guy can’t seem to catch a break.

Funnily enough, this is only the second year in a row that the Oscars have had no black people on their roster, and yet this isn’t being seen as an overreaction. It’s been only two years since we were subjected to the white guilt of 12 Years a Slave – are we only meant to feel shame in a cinema now, instead of being entertained, or watching in awe of a breathtaking performance? On the positive side, a push for diversity in Hollywood could open up an exciting new world of fresh stories and creativity over the abundance of remakes and sequels plaguing our screens at the moment. Let’s just pray that this comes about through a more effective means than complaining or boycotting; in any competition, if you complained about being excluded (without hiding behind the diversity barrier) you’d be seen as a sore loser – no one wants that, do they?

Image sourced from image.net – Getty Images (c) 2016 

Oscar Nominees & Predictions 2015

By Cherie Wheeler

The Academy sure doesn’t waste any time; mere days after the conclusion of the Golden Globes ceremony, the nominees for the 2015 Oscars were announced. Most of the nominations mimic the selections for the Globes fairly closely, with only the occasional addition or substitution. Here’s a rundown of the major movers and shakers, as well as my predictions for how each of the Best Picture nominees will fare (scroll to the end).

No surprises; as expected, Birdman, The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Imitation Game dominate almost every category.

The switch up; Foxcatcher was a notable snub for Best Picture, despite receiving the equivalent nomination at the Golden Globes. Its absence makes way for Clint Eastwood’s modern war tale American Sniper. As the Globes split the most outstanding films of the year into two categories according to genre, less deserving productions, such as Into The Woods, were able to sneak in, and gain a nomination. The Oscars, on the other hand, are not forced to privilege comedies and musicals over higher calibre films, therefore the critically acclaimed Whiplash is now in the running to win Best Picture.

A preference for psychopaths; the lovely Amy Adams may have taken home Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical at the Golden Globes, but the Academy has shown no such love for her portrayal of artist Margaret Keane in Big Eyes. Instead, it has recognised Rosamund Pike for her performance in Gone Girl.

Heroes before weirdos; the Globes were prepared to stand up and acknowledge Jake Gyllenhaal for his performance as an eccentric video journalist in Nightcrawler, but he has been completely overlooked by the Academy. In his place for Best Actor is Bradley Cooper for his role in American Sniper as true life Navy SEAL Chris Kyle.

Under appreciated; there was a lot of fuss when Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken failed to rustle up a single Golden Globe nomination, and whilst it has once again missed out in the major categories, the Academy has given the film a few nods of approval in terms of its cinematography and sound design.

 

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