Are the Oscars Afraid of Twitter?

At this point, I basically get all my news, good and bad, from Twitter hashtags (of course, it’s mostly bad). When a celebrity’s name pops up under the trending header, I hold my breath until I investigate and make sure it isn’t connected to death or scandal. Twitter can be used for some cool things. I’ve discovered a large bracket of people on Twitter who share my love of film, and am constantly finding new obscure movies to watch thanks to fellow buffs I follow. Outside of this context though, I find Twitter fairly toxic, mostly in that it seems to be giving more and more power to the type of people who spend large doses of time on the platform (meaning trolls). All of the sudden the movers and shakers of Twitter can jumpstart movements and pile on disgraced celebrities. Mob mentality rules on Twitter, and that would be fine if we could go back to the days of important people ignoring their followers, or, more to my point, important institutions ignoring individuals. The Oscars is an award given by an institution to a select number of people deemed worthy by that institution. The only thing that makes it special is that it comes from a remote group of people, an institution with mystique. If the number of opinions that matter in determining winners grows, than the award is lesser for it, and if actors can start complaining and effecting the decisions to benefit their best interests, than it will soon be equivalent to the People’s Choice Awards. Nobody cares who I think the Oscars should go to beyond it being an interesting conversation starter. The only people whose decisions matter are those mysterious Academy members.

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In recent years, however, starting with #Oscarssowhite, twitter members have risen up in swarms of amusing posts to, in my opinion, have a real impact on Academy Awards nominations and winners at the ceremony. I’ll grant that there has always been some cultural politics involved in the voting process-Humphrey Bogart getting the trophy over Marlon Brando’s performance in A Streetcar Named Desire was surely a legacy vote-but it had heretofore been behind the scenes where it was less egregious. Complaining about awards is tacky, even if that actor has an important point like Natalie Portman calling out the “All-Male” nominees for Best Director at the Golden Globes. That moment became a Twitter sensation, and bam! Greta Gerwig is nominated for Best Director. I really believe the Academy was terrified of what the response would be if she wasn’t included. Same too with Octavia Spencer playing the exact same role in The Shape of Water as she’s played in a half dozen other films. And then there’s James Franco being blackballed for alleged misconduct, alleged unproven misconduct. Enter Denzel Wshington being nominated for a film that falls below the fresh line on Rotten Tomatoes. How many actors in history have been nominated for films that weren’t well-reviewed. It’s an insult really. These silly hashtag movements still put the onus on a trophy rather than the execs in Hollywood, also known as people who actually matter. The Academy needs to stop answering to random bums, and at least feign an air of infallibility. Even when they’re wrong, they have to hold their ground or risk losing the prestige.

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-Walter Howard-

 

February 2018 in Film (so far)

So far, February 2018 has given us the abysmal Winchester, Fifty Shades Freed, Peter Rabbit, and 15:17 to Paris (as awkward as it is well-meaning). Fifty Shades Freed (I don’t understand the title (and I don’t want to)) arrives just in time for Valentines Day, for couples with bad taste in movies or a healthy sense of humor. Peter Rabbit starring Domnhall Gleeson and Rose Byrne offers something for families looking for something to see at the multiplex, though I would point out that Paddington 2 is still available, equally British, and much better.  15:17 to Paris, 87-year-old Clint Eastwood’s latest about three Americans who thwarted a terrorist attack aboard a train heading for France 2 and a half years ago, is a bad effort by people you feel funny criticizing. All in all, it’s been a bad two weeks at the movies. Thankfully, next Friday brings Black Panther. Currently sitting at 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, Marvel seems to be getting better each time out. Black Panther is, however, more than just a big-budget spectacle. It’s the first big-budget spectacle with a predominantly black cast. Those two factors have made the superhero flick an event, and I’m eager not just to see the film, but to see what effect it has on pop culture and the future of moviemaking.

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Oscar Nominations 2018-My Thoughts

Another year, another round of Oscar nominations. Announced this morning by Andy Serkis and Tiffany Haddish, the event went pretty much as planned. No real surprises, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing at this stage. There’s always one or two disappointments. One or two pleasant surprises. Here are the nominations: http://variety.com/2018/film/news/list-2018-oscar-nominations-1202668757/

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And here are my thoughts:

  1. Oscars so white?-The first thing that jaded me looked at was if the voters were able to keep the #Oscarssowhite movement at bay for another year. Indeed, they did. Jordan Peele for Best Director. Daniel Kaluuya and Denzel for Best Actor. Octavia Spencer and Mary J. Blige for Best Supporting Actress. I’m ecstatic about Peele and Kaluuya’s nominations. In my opinion, Get Out was the movie of the year. Less enthused about Spencer and Denzel’s nominations. Denzel receives his eighth nomination in his incredible career, and I think he’s one of the best, most accomplished actors of all-time, but Roman J. Esquire by all accounts is a pretty mediocre film. Octavia Spencer receives her third nomination for The Shape of Water in a role that is essentially the exact same role she played in The Help or Hidden Figures. There were other performances that deserved that spot (Holly Hunter in The Big Sick for example). This feels like exactly what I didn’t want to happen where it becomes obligatory to nominate a black performer, bypassing merit.
  2. A woman directing? A movie?-Greta Gerwig becomes the fifth female nominated for Best Director, and, after that perfectly executed shade spewed by Natalie Portman at the Golden Globes, I saw this coming. Still, it’s completely warranted as Gerwig was able to turn a deeply personal story into a relatable, funny, and moving film.
  3. Christopher Nolan’s first nomination-A man by the name of Christopher Nolan received his first Oscar nomination this morning. You would think that he’s a newcomer right? Not someone who’s been perhaps the most influential, successful, and ambitious director of the past decade. It’s insane that it’s taken this long, but congratulations to him.
  4. PTA and Phantom Thread love-Paul Thomas Anderson has long been my vote for best director working. Sadly, that rarely translates to an Oscar for Best Director (reference Kubrick, Hitchcock, Powell). I was pleasantly surprised this morning to see him even nominated for his latest film, Phantom Thread, which wound up with a number of nominations. Yay. It’s important to note, however, that he has no chance of winning.
  5. The exes-This one is none of my business, but it intrigues me nonetheless. Gary Oldman and Leslie Manville are both nominated for performing Oscars. Gary Oldman in Best Actor for The Darkest Hour and Leslie Manville in Best Supporting Actress for Phantom Thread. The two were formerly married, and I wonder how often that’s happened in Oscar history. I remember Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron in 2009, but that’s the only one that comes to mind.
  6. Meryl Streep-Yes, another year, another Meryl Streep nomination. Frankly, I’m sick of it.
  7. The three amigos- In the past five years, the winners for Best Director have been Alejandro Inarritu (twice), Alfonso Cuaron, last year’s Damien Chazelle, and all indications point to Guillermo Del Toro this year. The significance? A Mexican director will have won it four of the last five years. Viva La Mexico.
  8. Genre love and auteur appreciation-The Shape of Water and Get Out are basking in Oscar love this morning. That’s a monster movie and a horror film getting extremely rare consideration. Historically, The Silence of the Lambs and the Exorcist are the only horror films that I can think of to get Best Picture noms. Maybe Rosemary’s Baby. Outside of that, I’ve been happy with how the Oscars is increasingly recognizing original directors and films rather than reward the perfectly boring Oscar bait movies. Birdman a few years ago. Moonlight last year. The Shape of Water and Three Billboards outside of Ebbing, Missouri this year. Good trend.

-Walter Howard-

Oscar Predictions (The Day Before)

One day to go until we get the announcements for the 2017 Academy Awards nominations. The show, set to be hosted by Jimmy Kimmel for the second year in a row, will commence on Sunday, March 4, slightly later than its usual late-February date. Here are my guesses for what we will hear tomorrow across the six major categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress. I will predict the winners in each category at some point down the road.

Best Supporting Actor

Willem Dafoe-The Florida Project

Armie Hammer-Call Me By Your Name

Christopher Plummer-All the Money in the World

Sam Rockwell-Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri

Best Supporting Actress

Mary J. Blige-Mudbound

Hong Chau-Downsizing

Allison Janney-I, Tonya

Lesley Manville-Phantom Thread

Laurie Metcalf-Lady Bird

Best Actor

Timothy Chalamet-Call Me By Your Name

Daniel Day-Lewis-Phantom Thread

Hugh Jackman-Logan

Daniel Kaluuya-Get Out

Gary Oldman-The Darkest Hour

Best Actress

Sally Hawkins-The Shape of Water

Frances McDormand-Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri

Margot Robbie-I, Tonya

Saoirse Ronan-Lady Bird

Michelle Williams-All the Money in the World

Best Director

Guillermo Del Toro-The Shape of Water

Greta Gerwig-Lady Bird

Martin McDonagh-Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri

Christopher Nolan-Dunkirk

Jordan Peele-Get Out

Best Picture

The Big Sick

Blade Runner 2049

Call Me By Your Name

The Darkest Hour

Dunkirk

Get Out

Lady Bird

The Post

The Shape of Water

Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri

-Walter Howard-

 

The Mark Wahlberg Travesty

Earlier this week, Mark Wahlberg donated  1.5 million dollars to the Time’s Up legal fund in a desperate PR move after heavy criticism/trumped-up outrage from the movers and shakers on twitter. Why was this necessary? Well, it all starts with Kevin Spacey. Kevin Spacey did what he did. We all now are aware of what he did. The studio thus recast his role as J. Paul Getty with Christopher Plummer which meant they (the film’s stars included) had to redo a number of scenes in a very short amount of time. I haven’t seen the film yet, but to everyone involved’s credit, reviews indicate that they pulled it off. Well done. Recently, however, reports leaked out that Mark Wahlberg made 1.5 million dollars on the reshoots, while costar (and lead performer in the film) made something like $80 dollars per day. That’s a pretty egregious difference. Michelle Williams reportedly said upon learning about the reshoots, “They could have my money, they could have my holiday, whatever they wanted.” I admire her selflessness. Mark Wahlberg on the other hand refused to do the reshoots unless they paid him, and paid him well.

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Does this make him a bad person? He had serious negotiating leverage and he capitalized on it. Michelle Williams could have done the same. Is Mark Wahlberg expected to be Michelle William’s costar and agent? Is that what Time’s Up is about? I just don’t understand the animosity towards Wahlberg over this issue. If the studio had integrity they would have made sure that Williams was being equally treated, but they didn’t and that’s not a surprise. You can’t expect the studio and film execs to pay a dollar more than they have to, because they’re greedy, and it’s all about money for them. That’s why Wahlberg’s hardball tactics (while selfish, sure) make more sense in the long run than Williams’ team-player mentality. And for those angry at Wahlberg, I would ask how often, if at all, have you turned away from a chance to make a million dollars. If, as I suspect, the answer is never, how can you judge him in this situation?

-Walter Howard-

Films of 2018

Last year offered a film worth running out to see every month. I’m hoping 2018 does the same. Here’s a movie for each month I’m anticipating:

January

Phantom Thread

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Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson       Starring Daniel Day-Lewis

Daniel Day-Lewis is promoting this as his last performance. He plays Reynolds Woodcock, a goliath fashion designer in the 1950s, slowly unraveling as he falls in love with a young woman. Nothing about the synopsis sounds very exciting, and the trailer didn’t do much for me either, but a Paul Thomas Anderson film is an event. The man makes masterpieces. -January 12-

February

Black Panther

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Directed by Ryan Coogler      Starring Chadwick Boseman

Opening night. I’ll be there. The first cut is apparently 4 hours. It will be cut, of course, but I’m expecting the ambition and epicness to remain. T’Challa, Avengers recruit and prince of Wakanda, an African country under attack, fights to defend his kingdom. One of the few Marvel productions I eagerly look forward too. They tend to be fine but too manufactured and soulless. Need Black Panther to be more. -February 16-

March

Ready Player One

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Directed by Steven Spielberg     Starring Tye Sheridan

Wasn’t on board with this film early. I am now. The second trailer they issued was much more compelling. The story follows Wade Owen Watts as he enters the OASIS, a virtual world where a billionaire’s hidden an enormous fortune. A tribute to escapism that will also function as a diverting afternoon at the movies. -March 30-

April

The New Mutants

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Directed by Josh Boone       Starring Maisie Williams

I love X-Men for some reason. Most of the X-Men offerings have been either mediocre or worse, and yet I still look forward to the next entry. This one centers around a fresh cast of characters as they come to terms with their abilities. -April 13-

May

Solo: A Star Wars Movie

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Directed by Ron Howard         Starring Alden Ehrenreich

It’s a big month for films. The obvious choice for most would be the first part of Avengers: Infinity War, but I’m just not interested. Solo, this year’s Star Wars entry, and the latest spinoff at least has me somewhat curious. The project changed directors, and I’m waiting to see if that hurt the film. In general, these spinoffs feel like cash grabs and that doesn’t translate to quality movie, but Rogue One was okay, and I do love Star Wars. Plus, it’s being described as a western. I’ll take any kind of western at this point.-May 25-

June

The Incredibles 2

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Directed by Brad Bird       Voice of Holly Hunter

In a month that sees the release of a new Jurassic Park, Deadpool, Ocean’s movie and Sicario, nothing beats my anticipation of The Incredibles 2. It will be 14 years between the release of the first Incredibles (best superhero film of all time; or tied with Unbreakable) and its sequel, but Incredibles 2 is said to be picking up right where it left off in terms of story, with the Parr family taking on the Underminer. -June 15-

July

Ant-Man and the Wasp

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Directed by Peyton Reed      Starring Paul Rudd

I’m less enthusiastic about the sequels coming out in this month. Mamma Mia 2? Hotel Transylvania 3? Even Mission Impossible 6 seems like overkill, though somehow they keep getting better. Ant Man and the Wasp is getting my pick for this month simply because it has a colorful title. There’s not much information about the plot available yet except that “The Wasp” is a good guy and not the film’s villain as I assumed. The Wasp will be a new suit created for Evangeline Lilly. I’m not actually very happy about this. -July 6-

August

The Happytime Murders

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Directed by Brian Henson     Starring Melissa McCarthy

There’s nothing that sounds good coming out this month. A Scarface remake. Yet another Predator reboot. Dirty Women, another gender reversed remake of a classic (in a year that already features Ocean’s 8 and Overboard), starring Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson in their version of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. I’m picking The Happytime Murders by virtue of being original and sounding kind of fun. It takes place in a world where puppets live with humans, and follows a hard-boiled puppet detective as he pursues his brother’s killer. Melissa McCarthy costars as the puppet protagonist’s partner. Oh, and the Jim Henson company is  handling the puppets. -August 17-

September

Robin Hood

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Directed by Otto Bathurst       Starring Taran Egerton

A reboot of Robin Hood with Taran Egerton on paper sounds good. I like Taran Egerton, and think he’s perfect for the role. As for the surrounding elements-Jamie Foxx as Little John for example- I’ll have to wait and see.-September 21-

October

Mowgli

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Directed by Andy Serkis        Starring Rohan Chand

There’s a solo Venom film starring Tom Hardy. There’s a Halloween reboot with Jamie Lee Curtis returning. But I’m looking at Mowgli. Directed by Andy Serkis (a terrific actor famed for his motion capture performances), this is basically another Jungle Book. Unfortunately for the filmmakers here, Disney beat them to the punch and released their The Jungle Book in 2016. Warner Bros. responded by pushing this back, and retitling it Mowgli so people won’t think of it as a retread. Personally, I love every single version I’ve seen of Rudyard Kipling’s classic material. I love the Sabu version, the animated 1967 version, Disney’s live action foray in the early ’90s, and Jon Favreau’s adaptation two years ago. This one features the voices of Serkis himself (Baloo), Christian Bale (Bagheera), and most notably Benedict Cumberbatch (Shere Khan).-October 19-

November

Holmes and Watson

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Directed by Etan Cohen       Starring Will Ferrell

A big month of films: Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave) returns with Widows starring Viola Davis. A new telling of the Grinch with Benedict Cumberbatch’s voice. Wreck-it-Ralph 2, Creed 2, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms, Fantastic Beasts 2, and Robert Zemeckis’ intriguing new fantasy adventure starring Steve Carrell all sound worth a trip to the theater, but I’m most curious about Holmes and Watson. Reteaming Ferrell and John C. Reilly who have insane comedic chemistry, but for some reason haven’t made a film together since 2008’s Step Brothers. The title pretty much says it all. Ferrell will play Sherlock Holmes and John C. Reilly plays Dr. Watson. Ferrell has been on a cold streak critically, so maybe this will help turn things around.-November 9-

December

Mortal Engines

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Directed by Peter Jackson      Starring Robert Sheehan

Lord, this lineup of December movies appears dreadful. Aquaman, last time I checked is a DC film, which means it’s not going to be any good. Mary Poppins Returns is unnecessary though I’d bet on it to be decent. I’ll pick Mortal Engines, despite it’s horrible title, and wholly underwhelming teaser. Peter Jackson, simply deserves some respect after his Lord of The Rings and King Kong spectacles. This one is a futuristic, Howl’s Moving Castle-esque tale of two unlikely friends fighting for good in a post-apocalyptic society. -December 14-

-Walter Howard-

 

 

 

 

 

Golden Globes Thoughts (2018)

Another year, another round of “Road to the Oscars.” Not to demean the event, but the Golden Globes have always been a warm-up for the Oscars to me. The Golden Globes are the first real indicator of who the favorite is in each category. In recent years, Golden Globes have bolstered their actual show by emphasizing comedy with hosts like Ricky Gervais and the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler tandem. Their show has been better than the Academy Awards for a while, and though that doesn’t quite make their trophy more meaningful, it does make tomorrow’s ceremony something to watch. Here’s why I’m watching:

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  1. Seth Meyers will be hosting, and I’m eager to see if he touches or attempts to make any jokes about the sexual harassment culture in Hollywood that was revealed all through last year. It’s a very touchy subject, so a joke that doesn’t land could spell permanent audience-iciness making the show painfully awkward. I also think it will be awkward if he doesn’t address the subject at all. My guess is that he will start the show by making a serious statement on harassment and then try to move on. That’s the safe play.
  2. What’s the Best Picture favorite? I honestly have no idea at this point. While winning a Golden Globe for Best Drama has hardly guaranteed Oscar love in the past, I’m still curious as to what film will emerge from the pack tomorrow night with any momentum. The Best Drama nominees are Call Me by Your Name, Dunkirk, The Post, The Shape of Water, and Three Billboards. I can’t picture any of those being Best Picture, but if I had to guess, I would put my money on Dunkirk. Get Out has a serious chance coming out of the Best Comedy pack, but horror films and comedies never win.
  3. Best Actor in a Drama-Denzel versus Daniel Day-Lewis. It’s not set in stone, but my feeling is Best Actor comes down to two of the greatest actors of my lifetime. They’re both living legends, and will always warrant consideration. Day-Lewis is supposedly retiring (I’m not sure I believe him), and that bodes well for his chances. Awards love him anyways, but now on top of that, there’s the chance to award his swan song. For Denzel, there’s a feeling that he’s been overlooked (despite being nominated 7 times and winning twice). It stems mainly from the fact that he doesn’t win for his best performances. He should have won for Malcolm X. He should have won for The Hurricane. Maybe he should have won last year for Fences. Being snubbed, and the Oscars making amends is hardly unique to him (see Al Pacino’s career), but the point is, I could see them giving him the equivalent of a makeup Oscar for what is, by all accounts a mediocre film.
  4. Best Actress in a Drama-I’m all in on Frances McDormand. I believe her performance for Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri will see her all the way to the Oscar stage. I think she sweeps up during this awards circuit. That should start tomorrow night.
  5. Supporting-I’m less confident about my picks here. The thing with supporting is that the Golden Globes does tend to correspond with the Oscars and other award, at least, in these two categories. For now, I’m betting on Sam Rockwell for Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri and Allison Janney for I, Tonya. They’ve been around for a while, and well-respected. This should be both their first times being nominated for Academy Awards though.
  6. All the Money in the World-The Hollywood Foreign Press gave a great deal of recognition to Ridley Scott and his production after having to replace their star actor (Kevin Spacey) at the last minute. I doubt that carries over to Oscars, but maybe Christopher Plummer gets a nod.
  7. Are the Hollywood Foreign Press’ snubs a sign of more to come? Blade Runner 2049 (though I personally dismissed it) was a major critical success. That translated to 0 Golden Globes nominations somehow. Why? I have no idea.

The 75th Golden Globe Awards broadcasts tomorrow, January 7, 2018, on NBC at 8 P.M Eastern Time.

-Walter Howard-