Tuesday, November 28, 2017

On the edge of a messy Oscar season; thoughts on the Gotham Awards and (kind of) predicting the NBR


Last night, the Gotham Awards happened. Watching it unfold on Twitter it seemed as if we were going to have a "Get Out" sweep, but it didn't happen. James Franco won Best Actor for "The Disaster Artist." (I guess that nomination is actually going to happen. Something I wouldn't have believed a couple of months ago. That being said, I haven't seen the film and the trailer is warming up on me.) And "Call Me By Your Name" won Best Feature.

I want to talk a little about the National Board of Review (which is happening today at 2:00PM CST), but before that, I want to touch base on something that has been on my mind since Thursday, continuing all the way into last night/this morning.

There is an amazing conversation happening right now. It is the conversation that sexual harassment, rape, abuse...these things are not ok. People are coming forward with their accounts and their bravery is changing the way we are looking at Hollywood. Hopefully changing Hollywood itself, and perhaps even the real world.

Why did these people not come forward before? It doesn't matter, but I can tell you denial is a defense mechanism that often keeps us alive until we can actually process something.

There are also conversations about race, sexuality, equality. Incredible, necessary conversations. I read a remarkable piece at Awards Daily yesterday about Dee Rees and Greta Gerwig. You should read it, it's great.

Two Women in the Best Director Race — Two Very Different Receptions

But...things are going to get ugly very soon. And perhaps even earlier than usual. It's the nature of Oscar season. None of us seem to have the capability of loving a film without tearing down its nearest competition. The irony of this is that Harvey Weinstein wrote the modern playbook on the Oscar smear.

Already thinking about this, I read a friend's opinion on "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" on Facebook last night. Needless to say, he was enraged. I admit that I struggled in the first third of the film. Hearing "fag" used not once, but twice...and the second time by Woody Harrelson's endearing cop was a bit heartbreaking. These characters aren't likeable. They aren't perfect, by any means. They are funny, though...and they are hurt. They are damaged. About halfway through the film I gave in, and by the end I loved it. It might actually be the most honest portrayal of our current society today. I heard someone say that Frances McDormand's character might have voted for Trump. I believe that to be true. And guess what y'all, those people exist! And that doesn't mean that writer/director Martin McDonagh hates gays or is a racist. It means that he has perception and a voice.

I can't quite comment on "Call Me By Your Name" winning over "Get Out" last night, but I can comment on something I heard over Thanksgiving dinner. A family member who is completely removed from the Oscars/Hollywood brought to my attention that Hollywood was chastising the likes of Kevin Spacey for doing the same thing that Armie Hammer's character does in this film and rewards it (as it did last night).

I have not seen the film, and I could say very little in defense of "Call Me By Your Name" other than the fact that these things are different...but you add the fact that these characters are white and privileged and put them up against the strong/powerful message in "Get Out" and you have a big, messy Oscar season coming that will make "La La Land" v/s "Moonlight" look like child's play.

It very well might open the door for "Dunkirk" to win Best Picture in the vein of "The King's Speech," "Argo" and the "Artist." An unfair comparison in terms of quality, but not in terms of reception.

Speaking of "Dunkirk," let's chat about the National Board of Review which announces today. When I think of NBR, I always go back to 2000. It was the year I found Oscarwatch (now Awards Daily), and the year "Quills," a film I loved won Best Film. Looking at their winners over the next 16 years the only one that really sticks out as strange is "Finding Neverland," and maybe "Her." They gave fantastic films the prize, "Letters from Iwo Jima," "No Country for Old Men," "A Most Violent Year," to name a few.

And they gave a few of my top films the prize as well including "Hugo," "Zero Dark Thirty," "Mad Max: Fury Road" and "The Social Network."

Last year, they went with "Manchester By the Sea," which at that time was part of what Oscar progs were calling the three way race between "La La Land," "Moonlight" and "Manchester By the Sea." But now, in retrospect we all know that it was a two way race and "Manchester" was on the fringes with "Hidden Figures" actually in front of it. But "Manchester By the Sea" was beloved by critics. If you look at the NBR's history, they aren't in the business of trying to predict the Oscars.

What will they do here? Who knows? If you look at the way people are writing about this year's Oscars and last night's Gotham awards our frontrunners are "Get Out" and "Call Me By Your Name." So, maybe they will go with "Dunkirk." But I'm thinking not. Nothing on their winners list looks anything like "Dunkirk." I'm guessing they will go with either "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," "Mudbound" or "The Shape of Water."

But don't count on that.

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