No major elaborations on a movie observation this week. I just want to get a few thoughts out about the Best Picture category after the events of Sunday Night.
I have to get something out of the way first, though. They made a mistake. The best picture announcement was a mess.
This was fascinating. I thought it was interesting that La La Land producer Jordan Horowitz was praised the next day for having such poise on stage. It is true that he could have thrashed about, attacked elderly Warren Beatty, cursed into the microphone on live TV, and had a disgruntled NFL coach press conference after the show. Instead he acknowledged very quickly that there was a mistake, and tried as hard as he could to put the emphasis on Moonlight, the true winner. Here’s the thing: I don’t know what it is about my background and upbringing, but I feel I have a very keen eye for someone who is absolutely pissed off, blood boiling, rage turned up to 11, yet holding it in. This was Horowitz on stage. I don’t know why I felt like addressing that. It is stating the obvious to point out that he was shocked, upset, holding something back, but he was far from “cool”.
Now onto the important issue. The best picture award itself. They made a mistake. Not the embarrassing fumble of the envelope(can you imagine how many people under age 30 who only know Warren Beatty for this?), but rather the choice to award best picture to Moonlight. Who cares? It is subjective. People are probably going to vote for what is hot at that time. Moonlight seemed to receive a standing ovation every time it was mentioned that night. When I saw the movie a week before the award show, I did not understand what all the fuss was about. Nothing happens in the movie. Our main character goes from being a shy kid in a tough situation, to a shy adolescent in a bad situation, to a shy adult in a…slightly better but morally just as bad situation? I really did not understand his arc. It was boring. The main character is boring. I love to hear the rebuttal that the main character is supposed to be boring because he is made that way by his surroundings. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO TELL THIS STORY! Barry Jenkins could have made a movie about more interesting subject matter. Nothing was stopping him from doing that. If he wants to make a boring movie, he has every right to do that, but why reward it?
Here is my challenge to people who saw Moonlight: tell me something about Chiron, the protagonist, as a character, that has nothing to do with his occupation, race, or sexual orientation. For example, in La La Land, Ryan Gosling’s character Sebastian has a strong, borderline detrimental love of old-fashioned art, especially jazz. He goes out of his way to make it a part of his life and to distance himself from people who do not feel the same way. What is the equivalent characteristic for Chiron?
*People have praised the 3 actors playing Chiron for being able to replicate each other’s expressions. Add me to that list! I can make a blank face too!
I propose voters take subject matter out of the best picture discussion. Here is a simple criteria: What movie is most likely to inspire a young film maker to either go into film making, or stick with it. Last year Spotlight won over movies like The Revenant and my personal pick, Mad Max: Fury Road. Spotlight was a fine movie, but would it really have been as well regarded if it were not for the very serious and high profile subject matter? Is Spotlight much better than 2002’s Shattered Glass(check it out, it will redeem Hayden Christensen ever so slightly for Star Wars fans) or the newspaper scenes in season 5 of HBO’s The Wire? Mad Max and The Revenant have scenes that inspire awe. They make you wonder how something like that could actually be pulled off on screen. All the time those scenes work in conjunction with characters that have been established and fleshed-out through effective writing.
La La Land was an Oscar pandering movie in its own way. The Hollywood setting. Song and Dance numbers between our romantic leads. Explicit references to old movies like Rebel Without a Cause. But is the opening single-take tracking song and dance piece Another Day of Sun less impressive because it takes place in Los Angeles?
Just some ranting, extemporaneous, possibly offensive thoughts on the Oscars. Let me know what you think!