Pensées #4: Oscar Voting

Since its inception, the Academy Awards have been about more than just the performance someone gave or the job someone did on some film that year. There are all kinds of external factors that decide who goes home with a trophy. When Humphrey Bogart won Best Actor in 1952, it wasn’t because his performance in The African Queen (as memorable as it is) was better than Marlon Brando’s in A Streetcar Named Desire. It was because Brando was the new kid on the block, and Bogart had paid his dues. He should have won three years earlier for The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, a film he wasn’t even nominated for. Career appreciation is a big factor pretty consistently at the Oscars. I think it will come into play again this year with Glenn Close finally winning. I haven’t seen her film yet, and for all I know, she gives the best performance of the year. She’s a fantastic actor. But even that being the case, you can’t tell me her career and six prior nominations with no win (a record for women) don’t come up at all in voting.

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A new consideration has cropped up in recent years with the emergence of #Oscarssowhite. Look at the three years prior to that episode, that backlash, and the three years since. In the Best Supporting Actor category, Mahershal Ali will likely win this year, making that twice in three years. In the Best Supporting Actress category, if Regina king wins for If Beale Street Could Talk, that will be two black actresses in 3 years, with Viola Davis winning 2 years ago. I think this will help Spike Lee potentially pull off an upset, though lord knows he should have won this thirty years ago for Do the Right Thing.

I kind of want the Academy Awards to just reset and do away with the “they should have won already, so let’s make up for it now.” Attempt each year to recognize the best or most impactful job done in each category for that year. Get rid of all the external noise. Won’t happen, and no one will be upset if Glenn Close and Spike Lee win. They’ve been great for a long time.

I’m not smitten with any of the Best Picture nominees. If I could hand out the award, it would go to Hereditary, and most people would be put out because most people don’t enjoy gory horror films. That’s the best film of last year though as far as I can tell, but if I’m voting on what’s on the ballot, I’d vote BlackKklansmen. I’d vote Rami Malek for Best Actor for his incarnation of a music legend. Mahershala Ali for Best Supporting, though he likely doesn’t need my vote, and Spike Lee for Best Director. I’d vote Lady Gaga for Best Actress and leave Best Supporting Actress blank, having not seen The Favourite yet.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

 

Pensées #3: Oscar Nominations 2019

So it begins. Oscar nominations morning. Always a day of outrage for me. Always a few snubs. Always a few head-scratching nominations. This year is nothing new. I will say, since I’m basically indifferent to all of last year’s crop of films, I’m less upset and surprised than in recent years.

Best Picture

Black Panther

BlackKklansmen

Bohemian Rhapsody

The Favourite

Green Book

Roma

A Star is Born

Vice

I’m surprised by the nominations for Bohemian Rhapsody and Vice, which received middling reviews. No one is surprised by Black Panther’s “historic nomination” after the Best Achievement in Popular Film idea fell through. Too much pressure on the Academy to nominate it. There was no choice. No, I don’t think it’s great, nor do I think it’s worthy of the nomination. Think about this: The Dark Knight, no nomination. Black Panther, nomination. That’s absurd. What’s the favorite to win among these films? Green Book seemed to carry some momentum, but then some trumped up controversy surfaced, perhaps hurting its chances. Is it really going to be cookie cutter Bohemian Rhapsody? I’d rather Roma become the first foreign language film to win.

Best Director

Happy to see Spike Lee finally get a nomination for Best Director. Unbelievable that he was snubbed for Do the Right Thing almost thirty years ago. That was my first thought in seeing these results. Second thought: I guess I need to see Cold War now. I didn’t here any experts predict Pawlikowski’s nomination, so that was definitely one of this year’s surprises. So too was McKay’s nomination. With the prominence of anti-Trump sentiment, it feels like politics have creeped into this year’s votes. It certainly looks like it’s Cuaron’s year for another win. The Oscars chose not to nominate Peter Farrelly, director of Green Book, most likely due to news of his flashing coworkers in the past. Is it too callous to say who cares? Not the most egregious of controversies, but enough to keep him off the list, apparently. No female nominees. Someone alert the whiners.

Best Actor

No surprises here. Oh wait, Willem? Love Willem Dafoe, but I’m shocked to see him here. If you wanted to nominate an arthouse performance, it should have been Ethan Hawke. I believe his was the best performance of the year. As for the five nominated, I’d put early money on Rami Malek.

Best Actress

I’d heard rumors, so the nomination for Aparicio isn’t out of nowhere, but I’m not very positive about it. Especially since Toni Collette was left off for her powerhouse turn in Hereditary. Predictable. The Academy just refuses to appreciate anything in the horror genre. Really, any genre. Genre films are the best films. Let’s put these five performances in a time capsule along with Collette’s and see which ones we’re still watching ten years from now. Congratulations to Glenn Close on nomination number 7, I believe the record for most nominations without a win. I’m thinking this is the year for her to take home a trophy.

Best Supporting Actor

I’m happy with this category. It’s consistently the most reliable, least upsetting every year. All fine performances (in my opinion, though my friend’s unhappy with Elliott’s nom), and Mahershala Ali should be a lock for the win. That’d be 2 in 3 years.

Best Supporting Actress

I’m not sold on either of the two nominations Roma received in the acting categories. Regina King appears to be the obvious choice here. That would make it six nominations with no wins for Amy Adams. On a side note, I hate when actors with leading role screen time get nominated in the supporting actor category. It’s ridiculous. Emma Stone is the latest. Think Rooney Mara for Carol, or Timothy Hutton for Ordinary People. If there’s no room for them in their right category, then don’t nominate them.

This year’s results seem more influenced by outside pressures than ever before. I’d go so far as to say the Academy is pandering. Something they should never do. Pandering is the opposite of prestige. I think they checked off all their little boxes besides female director.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

 

 

 

 

Pensées #2: The Oscars 2019

I’m not sure what to expect from the Oscars this year. We are 9 days away from nominations being announced and a mere month and a half away from the actual show. I’ve been wondering for a while when the producers would pick their new host, but now, through a basic google search, learn that this year’s Oscars will be without a host, and will simply have a series of presenters. That sounds awful, though it’s not without precedent apparently. Another basic google search reveals that the 1989 Academy Awards went on without a host. Looking at reviews of that ceremony doesn’t inspire confidence. Gregory Peck, Julie Andrews, Paul Newman, and Billy Wilder called it an embarrassment.

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*Overreaction warning:* The backlash Kevin Hart received and subsequent resignation from Oscar hosting duties is yet another example of ultra-toxic Twitter ruining the award ceremony. Twitter junkies, people who have no power whatsoever in reality, have found a malignant sense of power on social media, but it only works en masse, and it doesn’t mix well with reason. Why are you, the Academy, listening to them?

Kevin Hart shouldn’t have to apologize for bad jokes made several years ago, especially when he’s already apologized. Whether you’re a fan of his comedy or not, Hart has a considerable fan base, and he’s an entertainer. He’s capable of handling this enormous job, or, I guess, he was.

As only a moderate fan of Hart’s, the bigger issue to me is that I’m afraid we’ve seen the last of edgy comedians hosting the Oscars. Every comic worth his salt has a joke or two in their past that will get them disbarred by the Twitter PC authorities. If it’s true, as has been reported, that no one wanted to host the Oscars before the Hart blowup, then it’s doubly true now.

I’ve already shared my feelings on 2018 as a film year. In a word, weak. Naturally, the Oscar nominations in a week or so will reflect the lack of strong candidates mainly in the Best Picture category (there were many fine performances this year). Bohemian Rhapsody won the Golden Globe’s equivalent of Best Picture. That’s almost absurd. It’s an entertaining film, and I certainly won’t be upset about a Rami Malek victory, but the overall picture is lacking. Since the quality of candidates is down, how about some parity? A grand mystery: what will win this year’s Best Picture. Every year, we’re pretty sure what will win or we know it’s between two films. This year: How about shock and awe?

The Golden Globes granted some clarity in terms of award season favorites. I wouldn’t be upset if the Globe winners in the acting categories carry over into the Oscars. Malek and Ali’s performances I’ve seen, and would like to see rewarded. I haven’t seen Olivia Coleman’s performance in The Favourite or Regina King in If Beale Street Could Talk, but those are two films I eagerly anticipate watching.

If Alfonso Cuarón wins his second Oscar this year, that would make it 5 times in the last 6 years that a Mexican director has won Best Director. Quite an impressive run made by three talented artists. A foreign film has never won Best Picture, but what if this was the year? I’d almost be disappointed since Roma is not a masterpiece in my estimation, and I wish something like Pan’s Labyrinth or Talk to Her took the honor.

Actors don’t seem to realize that the Oscars is a show, and as such, needs to be entertaining. I’m crossing my fingers for a sense of pace, some showbiz razzle-dazzle, and a limited amount of self -aggrandizing motivational speeches. Also, I might agree with an actor politically, but that doesn’t mean I want to hear about it in this setting.

RIP to the Academy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film. You were a horrible idea, and I’m so glad that you will never see the light of day. What does achievement in popular film even mean? If they were going to go through with this award, instead of handing the winner a trophy, they should have them stand in front of the podium as a bucket of Nickelodeon slime flips over and spills its contents all over them. Has any one said yet whether the other horrible idea (technical awards being handed out before broadcast) was scrapped also?

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

 

 

Pensées #1: 2018 was a Bad Movie Year

Sayonara 2018. You were one of the weakest movie years in recent memory. Fanboys might point to Black Panther (decent) or Avengers: Infinity War (strong, though incomplete), but what truly great films did the year have to offer. 2018 was mired in sequels. Look at the year end top grossers: Marvel, sequels, and remakes.

  1. Black Panther
  2. Avengers: Infinity War
  3. Incredibles 2
  4. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
  5. Deadpool 2
  6. Dr. Seus’ The Grinch
  7. Mission Impossible: Fallout
  8. Ant-Man and the Wasp
  9. Solo: A Star Wars Story
  10. Venom

This wouldn’t be much of a problem if Oscar season hadn’t been so underwhelming. What are the big Oscar contenders this year? I don’t even know what the favorites are at this point, because nothing really stands out. A Star is Born was a good film. Roma was a good film. What else? There are a few films I still need to see: Green Book, Widows, and If Beale Street Could Talk. Hopefully, I’ll be blown away by one of these. Then, of course, I’ll eventually get to see some of the big foreign films of the year.

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In any case, I couldn’t be more ready for 2019 with the potential of being a tremendous year. Right out of the gate, we get Glass (the conclusion to M. Night Shyamalan’s brilliant trilogy), and How to Train Your Dragon 3.

In 2019, Disney will be Scrooge McDuck, jumping off of a diving board, into a pool of money. Look at their lienup: The Lion King CGI remake, Aladdin live-action remake, Toy Story 4, Star Wars: episode 9, Dumbo, Avengers: Endgame, Frozen 2, Artemis Fowl, and Spiderman: Far From Home.

My most anticipated films of the year are: Us, Jordan Peele’s new horror flick, Wonder Woman 1984, Glass, the Star Wars finale, and Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

 -Walter Tyrone Howard-

 

 

 

Christmas Film Challenge

I’ve failed. My goal was to watch and review 25 Christmas movies before the big day, and I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I thought I could climb that mountain. Writing the reviews in time proved the challenging part. I came within seeing distance of my watching 25 movies goal. Here are the ones I saw. Let me count:

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  1. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  2. A Christmas Prince
  3. Home Alone
  4. Four Christmases
  5. Christmas Inheritance
  6. The Man Who Invented Christmas
  7. The Princess Switch
  8. The Christmas Chronicles
  9. Elf
  10. Arthur Christmas
  11. The Santa Clause
  12. Frosty the Snowman
  13. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
  14. A Christmas Prince:The Royal Wedding
  15. It’s a Wonderful Life
  16. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
  17. Santa’s Surprise
  18. Santa’s Workshop
  19. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
  20. Angela’s Christmas
  21. Twas the Night Before Christmas

Of the films I viewed, It’s a Wonderful Life remains the best. I’m a traditionalist, so seeing this classic in its original black and white form every Christmas is a must. The Nightmare Before Christmas is also a great movie, but these are both films I’d seen before. Most of the new movies I watched this year were Netflix originals, and pretty basic. The Man Who Invented Christmas is probably the best new Christmas movie I had the opportunity to see. The twenty minute, amateurish short, Twas the Night Before Christmas is the worst film I watched. The animation is very poor, and even working from the classic poem, the reading of it felt stilted. Anyways, I’ll have to try this again next year.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

25 Films for Christmas (2018)

Think of all the Christmas classics: It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, White Christmas, A Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, Jingle All the Way. Alright Jingle All the Way is not a classic, but I still end up seeing it every Winter. There’s a solid half-dozen Christmas films put out each year, but becoming a perennial holiday favorite is rare and elusive. What makes a Christmas movie endure? It’s a Wonderful Life quite famously wasn’t a hit in its own time, only achieving its towering status as an All-American Christmas masterpiece much later, through reruns on television. It takes a certain kind of magic that I’m not sure can really be qualified or broken down into anything tangible. Perhaps that could be something to ponder as I start my self-directed challenge. To the point: I plan on watching 25 Christmas movies over the next 55 days, and writing a review, as well as adding some personal details about how I watched it and my experience, for each one. Like most people, I have my Christmas favorites that I’ll likely mix in, but I would like to focus on ones I either haven’t seen or have only seen once. It’s my way of getting into the spirit of the holidays. Yes, it is a bit early, but I’ll need the extra time if I want to achieve this goal. Fifty five days gives me basically two per film and review, which I think is lofty enough to keep myself motivated, but also manageable. Here’s a short list of Christmas films I’ve made. These are ones I’m less acquainted with, if at all:

The Christmas Prince (2017)

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The Polar Express (2004)

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A Christmas Carol (2009)

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This Christmas (2007)

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Four Christmases (2008)

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Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

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The Muppets Christmas Carol (1992)

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Scrooged (1988)

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The Bishop’s Wife (1947)

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Meet Me in St Louis (1944)

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Any other suggestions? Watching these with my regularly slated lineup of films should put me over my goal of 25. It starts now.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-

10 Films I Actually Haven’t Seen

I’ve seen most movies. I’ve withstood numerous questions challenging my expertise, and all manner of trivia. Whatever type of film you want to throw at me, I’ve probably seen it: Bollywood, Martial Arts, Horror, ’30s Screwball Comedy, Surfer films of the ’60s, Italian Giallos, Westerns, European prize winners, flat out horrible films, what-have-you. But, alas, I haven’t seen every movie, though it’s my nonviable dream to do so. And, at the end of the day, if I had seen every film, what would I have left to do with my life? In any case, once a year, I make a list of a 100 films I haven’t seen that I deem most crucial for me to watch. Here are 10 films off of that list that would surprise people who know me.

American Sniper                                                 2014

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Why haven’t I seen this yet? I ask myself this question. Directed by Clint Eastwood and starring an Oscar nominated Bradley Cooper, American Sniper was a massive hit, making over $500 million world-wide. My first thought was, “it must have come out while you were in bootcamp.” Looking at its release date, I can see that’s clearly not the case. I was in college when it came out, and had plenty of time to stop by the local theater. I really don’t remember why I missed this film in theaters, and since then, I’ve just gone by, pretending I’ve seen it when talking to friends or family. Enough is enough. Time to watch it. It’s not even that I’m not interested. Who knows?

Armageddon                                   1998

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I haven’t seen Armageddon, because it looks like a bad film. I haven’t enjoyed a single Michael Bay movie I’ve watched, and, despite the dozens of bad films I find amusing, his movies don’t even provide a basic camp level of entertainment. They’re big, long, loud, and dumb, but it’s important to me not to judge a film before I’ve seen it. I may have already written Armageddon off in my mind, but it’s time I give it its fair chance. People seemed to like it (not critics, critics aren’t people). It made $550 million.

The Babadook                2014

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Here’s a film I started, really enjoyed, but was then cut off from. External circumstances. This Australian horror film received rave reviews upon release. A rare horror flick directed by a woman, apparently a promising new talent, Jennifer Kent, The Babadook is really my kind of movie. It’s been on Netflix for quite some time now, so my excuses are moot. Watch it! I’m sure by the time I sit down to watch it on Netflix, it will be gone.

The Blair Witch Project                        1999

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Not all that interested in this one. Seems a bit gimmicky, and I missed the moment. It was a colossal hit in 1999, a unique point in movie history, better remembered for its innovative marketing campaign than for its product. It was one of the earliest pictures to make use of the internet in terms of advertising. Is the movie itself good? I’m really the only opinion I trust, so I’ll just have to watch and see for myself.

A Clockwork Orange                             1971

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Both film and novel, I’ve started and stopped A Clockwork Orange a half dozen times now. Both film and novel are seated at the top of my to-do list. As for the film, directed by the great Stanley Kubrick, I know it’s going to be a rough watch, but at some point, I need to suck it up, and push through.

District 9                                     2009

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Using an alien invasion as an allegory for apartheid in South Africa, Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 hit in a big way. It earned back 7 times its budget, and received 4 Oscar nominations including Best Picture. I don’t know what’s keeping me from seeing this. In truth, there are certain films that I have an irrational indifference to, and District 9 is one.

Paranormal Activity                  2007

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I missed this supernatural found footage film, and by the time I looked up again, there were already like 5 of them, watering down the whole product, making me not care. Still, I’ve heard it was legitimately scary, and well-made, so I’ll give it a shot.

The Seventh Seal                  1957

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I’ve seen a dozen Ingmar Bergman movies; a couple I love, some I hate, most I found boring. I haven’t seen his most famous work (at least internationally) which is The Seventh Seal starring Max Von Sydow as Death incarnate. A film buff needs to see this film. It’s as simple as that.

The Ten Commandments              1956

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This 4 hour epic rendition of Moses’ story is one of the biggest hits of all-time. I’ve seen bits and pieces, but have never sat down on Easter and watched it from start to finish like so many people.

Tokyo Story                                       1953

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Again, a true film buff has seen Tokyo Story. I have the means (I’ve owned a copy for some time now), and it’s just a matter of watching it. I guess I hear the film described as leisurely paced or languid and I get intimidated.

-Walter Tyrone Howard-