Oscar season is here. The nominations are out, and the campaigns are in full-swing, and it’s all wonderful and great, unless you are like me and you’re just realizing you went another year without seeing any of the nominated films. Whoops.
I have excuses, of course. Lots of them. My job covering television keeps me very busy, because there are a lot of television shows, and it’s hard to stay on top of everything. Also, many of the movies that get nominated for awards are very sad or serious, and I do not usually want to spend a Saturday afternoon trapped in a movie theater getting bummed out for two hours. I tend to look at movies as an escape. This becomes abundantly clear when you scan the full and complete list of new movies I watched in 2016: Popstar, The Nice Guys, Everybody Wants Some!!, Zootopia, Deadpool, Ghostbusters, The Accountant, Captain America: Civil War. and Hail, Caesar! That’s it. That’s the list. The Accountant literally contains a montage of Ben Affleck doing accounting. People should know this.
The bad news here is that my failure to see any of the nominated movies excludes me from all the fun Oscar chat, as I have no foundation on which to build an authoritative opinion. Luckily, the good news is that we live in the future and I don’t actually need any knowledge about something to have an opinion on it. I can just pop off like a goon about whatever I want. It’s terrifying. Let’s do it.
Here is my analysis of this year’s Best Picture race.
I had honestly forgotten Arrival existed. This struck me as odd, because even when I miss movies like this I tend to be very aware of their existence, in large part due to the nature of my job. You spend 8-10 hours a day scanning an RSS feed of entertainment news sites, you’re gonna pick up things whether you intend to or not. For example: Did you know Nicolas Cage just made a movie with John Cusack and Vinnie Chase from Entourage? It’s true.
Anyway, I looked into this movie to figure out why/how it skipped my mind, and then I remembered the reason: There’s apparently a huge twist at the end and I avoided reading anything about it so the twist wouldn’t be ruined for me. But now here I am a few months later and I’m no closer to seeing it. I’m just going to assume the twist is that this movie secretly starred Isla Fisher instead of Amy Adams the whole time.
I don’t want to take anything away from this movie because by all accounts it is both good and important and the sort of movie Hollywood should keep making, but I also kind of wish it was actually a movie about a cop named Hank Fences? Admittedly, this is mostly due to my belief that all one-word titled movies should also be the main character’s last name (“You’re our only hope, Fred Armageddon”), but still.
It would still star Denzel Washington, obviously, but like a half-Training Day semi-bad Denzel who roughs up bad guys and might be corrupt by decides to do the right thing at the end anyway. You know, the kind of movie where the bad guy tells the good guy that the two of them are not so different, really. Then BAM Hank Fences shoots him between the eyes.
Classic Hank Fences.
You ever wonder if the last decade or so has been the result of a bet a power-crazed, post-Passion Mel Gibson made with someone? Like…
MEL GIBSON: I bet you $10 million I have enough juice in Hollywood right now that I could go out blind drunk tonight and blame Jewish people for all the wars in the world and I could still get nominated for an Oscar within 20 years.
OTHER GUY: Hmm, 20 years is a long time..
MEL GIBSON: Okay, 15.
OTHER GUY: I dunno, Mel.
MEL GIBSON: Okay. Okay. What if, a few years after I do that, once the controversy finally starts settling down, I get ‘caught’ using the N-word?
OTHER GUY: Well…
MEL GIBSON: But, like, really using it. Just in the ugliest way I can think of.
OTHER GUY: Make it 10 years and you got a deal.
MEL GIBSON: 11.
OTHER GUY: Sold.
I do. I mean, a little.
Hell or High Water
Hmm. Upon review, I did see this movie. And I liked it a lot. Based on these two facts, I’ve got to assume it’s a shoe-in to win. Congratulations to Hell or High Water.
My mom saw this a few weeks ago. Her report: “A wonderful movie.”
La La Land
As far as I can tell, depending on when you saw it and how many articles about it you’ve read, La La Land is either a delightful and whimsical love story that harkens to an era of classic Hollywood musicals or it is a feature-length wet fart and people who liked it should feel bad. God, I love a good backlash cycle. It’s practically like reading off a script at this point.
THE INTERNET: Hey, this is good.
OTHER PEOPLE: I like it, too.
THE INTERNET: It is bad now.
OTHER PEOPLE: Hmm. You’re right. It is bad.
THE INTERNET: Actually, you are wrong, it is good.
My point here is Gosling was great in The Nice Guys.
About a million years ago, some friends of mine went to Europe for a school trip. They went all over. England, France, Italy, etc. When they came back, I asked them how the trip was, because I am a thoughtful friend who will listen to you talk about your fancy vacation for hours even as my insides boil with white-hot jealousy. Instead of telling me about the Eiffel Tower or, say, the ancient architecture of Rome, they launched into a borderline commercial for a candy bar called a Lion Bar, that is almost exclusively available in Europe. They went on and on about it, how it’s like a cross between a Kit Kat and a Twix but with little krispies in it like a Nestle Crunch, and how they must have eaten two dozen in a week, and how I had to try one, and so on and so forth.
So, when my brother went to Europe for a different school trip the next year, I asked him to grab me one and bring it back. You know what? It was really good. If this movie is as good as that candy bar was, I think it has a real shot.
Manchester By the Sea
If I wanted to spend an afternoon getting bummed out by a movie starring an Affleck, I’d watch… [clicks on Ben Affleck’s IMDb] … oh wow. There are so many bad movies on this list. Let’s go with, oh, I don’t know… Batman v. Superman. Wait, no. That won’t work. I would not watch that movie. No one should watch that movie. Man. Hey, remember in The Town how he played a criminal who was responsible for dozens of deaths and property damage and you watched it and were like, “Oh, I get it, his character is going to have a change of heart at the end but he’ll still have to die as a way to balance out the character’s sins,” but then the movie was all “NOPE everyone else dies and/or is sad but he gets away and lives in a sun-soaked water-adjacent property with a patio that he stands on to look out on the horizon in silence.” What was that about? I choose to believe Ben just crossed out the last two pages of the script and scribbled in “… but he retires to a wicked nice house, the end.”
I’m sure this is a fine movie, though.
Here’s a little trick: If you, like me, are an uncultured swine who has not seen most of this year’s Oscar movies, but you want to fake it to impress people at a fancy cocktail party between now and then, you can pull it off pretty easily. If someone starts talking up any movie other than Moonlight, just say, “I don’t know. Moonlight was so powerful,” then sit back and watch them fall all over themselves to backtrack on their choice. And if someone does pick Moonlight as their favorite, say “I don’t know. I think La La Land might have too much buzz,” then let them tucker themselves out ranting about Crash or whatever. When they’re done, excuse yourself and go get a drink. You earned it.
Good luck to the nominees. I promise I will try to see a few more of them before the ceremony on February 26.
(I will probably not see any more of them.)