The nominations have been set for the 89th Academy Awards airing on February 26th! Who will crush it? Who will slink away awaiting for their chance next time? How many even care? I know that in a world with too much useless digital information and a political climate that seems ready to implode or explode (depending on your political leanings), perhaps we all need the escapism.
And what about the host? Jimmy Kimmel is way too vanilla. Given my political mood, please give me the caustic wit of Ricky Gervais, please!!! Only he can breathe some real life into to this turgid affair. The grandstanding, the political rants, well-meaning for real, but this is a night for pure escapism for the audience, n'cest pas? I mean, does anyone really care unless they really are talking odds?
Having lived and worked in Los Angeles and having attended plenty of award shows I can honestly say that the parties are much more interesting than the award shows, but who cares when you're sitting at home in Akron, Ohio and you dream of meeting your favorite Hollywood star/starlet on an elevator in Las Vegas. (What are the odds that they will ever happen?)
Millennials and the foreign press loved La La Land, but I didn't. Maybe I'm too old and too tired to care? Manchester struck a deep and uncomfortable chord in me, having lost my only sibling this past summer. I had to sit through the screening at NY Film Festival with an LA-based producer friend of mine. Not an easy feat. How about the riveting August Wilson adaption Fences? A thought-provoking tour de force and certainly deserving of multiple Oscars in multiple categories. But I wonder aloud if La La Land can sustain their momentum heading into the Oscar. After all, there is no guarantee that momentum will continue into this year’s less-racist Academy Awards. But hey, I loved the first contact drama Arrival, and Amy Adams was excellent in the lead role as the linguistics master. (Read my review here.) It is the best thinking man's sci-fi since Contact. Hidden Figures is a remarkable movie, too. But in a divided country will this feel-good movie about sending John Glenn into space resonate with a wide enough movie audience? Do Fences and Hidden Figures cancel out each other thus allowing La La Land to win best picture?
Casey Affleck could win best actor, but I suspect Denzel will actually get the nod after Hollyweird shunned African-American actors last year. Both are equally deserving although one LA screenwriting pal vehemently disagrees with me. Emma Stone from La La Land will likely win in the Best Actress catagory, but I'll take Isabelle Huppert in Elle. And in my universe Michael Shannon is best supporting actor in Tom Ford's excellent film noir Nocturnal Animals. Nobody does brooding intensity like Mr. Shannon, but he won't win as Dev Patel may win in the gut-wrenching, must-see Lion. Viola Davis crushed it in Fences. She was a dynamic force and the emotional voice of reason in this brutally honest film of self-worth and acceptance. And I'll take Kenneth Lonergan to win best screenplay since we both live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. (One must support our neighbors!) The excellence of the animated The Red Turtle, sans dialog, is a mediative tome about accepting life and I bet it is probably too profound for simple minds. I didn't see Trolls but I once had a folk duo called The Trolls and I dig Justin Timberlake. I so wished he was the male lead in La La Land cuz he can actually sing and dance, so I'll pick his song even though La La Land will win in the "Best Song" category. Unfairly, they have two songs in that category. And if you see one documentary, or film for that matter, it should be the James Baldwin documentary I Am Not Your Negro. This provocative and extraordinary film should be required viewing for anyone who calls themselves an American. It may be the best movie of the year, too.
At the end of the day, like the award ceremony itself, and as I mentioned above, movies are escapism and one of America's biggest exports. Nobody does entertainment and movies like the good ol' U.S. of A. And given how divisive things have gotten in D.C. we call all use an escape from reality. And with that, who will you bet on at this year's Oscars? I put my predictions in bold. (Wishful thinking on some of them, no doubt.)
2017 Academy Awards
Time to book your Oscar party, people! Show of hands, who's coming to my watch party?
Mr. Wright is a content creator and cultural curator. He is a contributor to the Huffington Post, former DJ at David Lynch's Transcendental Music Radio, the former editor of Creem and Prince's New Power Generation magazines as well as a writer of films, fiction, TV, and VR content. He's also a singer/songwriter who has released five solo albums and one with folk-rock quartet GIANTfingers. And before all-of-the-above, he was a William Morris agent.