The 2015 Oscars will be upon the world in a few days and it’s been one of controversy thanks to the revelation that the majority of the US film industry is made up of old white dudes and is both racist and misogynist by omission.
Of course we knew all this already and if we’re getting angry that the Academy Awards is not providing validation for minority filmmakers then we might as well get furious that we can’t nail jelly to the ceiling. As has been said before, we know the films honoured are never on the true cutting edge of cinema. But for people (i.e. voters) who spend their days working on Robotkoala or Dolphinpocalypse (don’t laugh, I bet they’ll be screened on TV within a couple of years) these are the films that make them feel good about themselves and the industry that they – more often than not – earn obscene amount of money for.
And, once again, we can shout at the screen, make fun of all those familiar facelifts and try and decide which speeches are funny and which are buttock-clenchingly embarrassing (it’s usually a two to one ratio in favour of the buttock clenching). So, if we want to support those filmmakers who don’t a get a chance we need to vote with our feet and get down to our cinemas to see those films by brilliant female and minority filmmakers. And if they’re not shown, we need to ask our local theatres why. And, while we do that, we can sit there and make fun of the Oscars. This year’s contenders are (and, as an aside, it’s a scandal that Foxcatcher isn’t nominated for Best Picture):
Dir. Clint Eastwood
Or America, Fuck Yeah!: The Movie. Mired in controversy because of its perceived jingoism, it still leaves less of a bad taste in the mouth than Michael Bay’s consistent odes to militarism and is solidly directed and acted. It will ultimately divide the Academy and – even with Eastwood always being a popular choice – this will most likely see it not walking away with Best Picture.
Dir. Alejandro G. Iñárritu
In some ways it’s the perfect choice – it makes fun of Hollywood conventions and pretension (thus showing that everyone in Hollywood has a sense of humour) and – as an added bonus – comes with the notion that all critics are complete dicks. However, for every Hollywood-ite with a sense of humour, there’s one with skin so thin you can see their internal organs. These will probably prevent it for getting Best Picture though Michael Keaton has a good chance of getting Best Actor….
Dir. Richard Linklater
While everyone has fallen over themselves to talk about how original and brave this is (has no-one seen, for example, Michael Winterbottom’s Everyday? No-one?), it is remarkable that a two and a half hour film about growing up has struck such a chord. Certainly there’s universality to the story that appeals to everyone, the acting is great and Linklater is loved in the community for straddling both the blockbuster and the arthouse worlds. With already plenty of awards under its belt, it has to be considered one of the faves.
Dir. Wes Anderson
Anderson’s aesthetic has always divided people. Some people love his theatrical kookiness while others detest his candy box worlds. While I am firmly in the former camp – and TGBH (as all the cool kids are calling it) remains one of my favourite films of the year – Anderson will probably not have enough clout to go all the way.
Dir. Morten Tyldum
Bendirk Slaptibach. I mean Benefrid Cumbersnole. Actually, Benjamin Cootersnitch. Ok, that guy who plays Sherlock is contractually obliged to be in at least one Oscar nominated film. His performance as mathematician Alan Turing is great but the fatal error made by the film is having the temerity to suggest that the English had a huge hand in winning World War II without the help of the Americans (and if you think I am being cruel, I suggest you watch U-571 for some choice of Hollywood WWII revisionism). Not a chance.
Dir. Ava DuVernay
AKA The one that caused all the trouble. In all honesty Selma – that follows the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches in the US – is a powerful piece of work but it does feel a little TV movie at points and – issues of minority representation in both the Academy and the film industry in general aside – is not the strongest film on the list. The overwhelming feeling amongst voters will most likely be “Well, we voted for 12 Years A Slave last year, that’s our conscience made to feel better,” and it will ultimately be an also-ran.
Dir. James Marsh
This is really one of those TV movies you see in the afternoon with a bigger budget and famous actors. Suffering from the usual exposition of these kind of movies (let’s have two characters explain particle physics to each others in a conversation that IN NO WAY makes it look like you’re explaining it to the audience) and the fact that it tries to wring drama out in some tortuous way. Stephen and Jane Hawking’s story is a courageous one – and both Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones are excellent – but this will most likely get acting awards than the big nod.
Dir. Damien Chazelle
This year’s ‘little film’ is a great piece of work full of passion and energy. But everyone will give the Best Supporting Actor to JK Simmons and think that Whiplash should be grateful to be nominated. Don’t worry about whether it gets an Oscar. Just go see it. It’s great.
And that’s it for this year. A year in which everyone wants that Academy to change and be more diverse. Sadly I think The Devil will be skating to work before that happens in any meaningful way. And anyway, we all know why we’re going to be watching. And if Tangerines doesn’t win Best Foreign Language feature, we’re going to riot. Correct?