It’s that time again: end of the month, and end of this phase of awards season. So the Oscars, Razzies and Indie Spirit Awards consume the cinematic consciousness — all dovetailing into this weekend.
Well, let me make this howling-in-the-wind statement as a voice against all those seemingly proper film crits and conventional cognoscenti. Enough with Damien Chazelle’s “LaLa Land”… It ain’t that good a film, let alone that great a musical. Okay, so the darn song “City of Stars” does sticks in my head — and frankly does deserve a win — but dammit, actors Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone didn’t rock my world, and just weren’t that great as either dancers or singers. As the end-all and be-all of films this year, it’s a sad statement for this one to get all those accolades. It’s a nice film with a treacley storyline saved only by its ending, but “LaLa Land” does more damage than good as the perfect anesthetic in the age of Trump, a conservatively-styled film that does what it does safely. So very vanilla.
More importantly, it didn’t make me feel any sorrow for these silly white people as they have their faux drama about trying to make their art “authentically” — especially when it comes to Gosling’s character as true jazz’s savior versus John Legend’s pop music, C’mon. There was nothing authentic about this and their paucity of singing and dancing skills made the inauthenticity even more telling…
Having now dismissed that one film getting all the attention — with its inevitable dominance over the Oscar process this year — let’s move onto films that do matter. Cross-referencing Indie Spirit with Oscars, the crosshairs are focused on several other deserving films.
Take for example “Moonlight.” As ghetto gangs get demonized ever more by Trumpian tirades, this film humanizes and, even more, details the depth of the complex, emotional lives of the inhabitants of one such ghettoized housing project in Miami, Florida. Telling it through a tryptich of young Chiron’s coming of age — as both a gang survivor and gay man on the down low — Barry Jenkins’s film of the play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” by Tarell Alvin McCraney is nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay as well.
“Moonlight” is likely to be the Indie Spirit Awards’ big winner this Saturday, and possibly will pull in wins at the Oscars because Mahershala Ali is widely expected to take home the Best Supporting Actor Oscar on Sunday. Its cast is to be feted with Indie Spirit’s Robert Altman Award, and is expected to take Best Director (for Jenkins) as well as cinematography and editing. How well it will do Oscar-wise is more of a crap shot.
“Moonlight” leads the pack there, but within the Academy’s Best Picture category “LaLa Land” is favored and “Manchester by The Sea” — director Kenneth Lonergan’s emotionally wrenching tale — offers strong competition. The rest of the Best Picture candidates all merit note — “Hidden Figures”, “Fences”, “Hacksaw Ridge”, “Hell or High Water”, “Lion”, and “Deadpool” — the last, a whacked-out comic-book flick that deconstructs its own genre.
Yet other faves — “Arrival” (for its smart sci-fi) , “Jackie” (for deconstructing the bio-pic), counter-cultural-ish “Captain Fantastic” and cowboy/cop-fied “Hell or High Water” — are likely not to garner most of the above-the-line Oscar nods. Best Director is “La La Land”’s Chazelle’s to lose; though the directorial win could/should go to others like Mel Gibson (“Hacksaw Ridge”), Jenkins (“Moonlight”) or Lonergan (“Manchester . . .”). More likely, “Arrival”’s Denis Villeneuve will win a bunch of tech awards.
On the Best Actress front no one did as remarkable a job as Natalie Portman for “Jackie.” Still, an upset might come from any of these deserving actresses: Isabelle Huppert (“Elle”); Amy Adams (“Arrival”) or Taraji P. Henson (“Hidden Figures”).
I had hoped Viggo Mortensen (“Captain Fantastic”) or Andrew Garfield (“Hacksaw Ridge”) would grab Best Actor, but certainly previous winner Denzel Washington (“Fences”) is just as deserving. It’s likely to go to Casey Affleck (“Manchester by the Sea”) or Ryan Gosling (“La La Land”) instead.
Of the other two biggies — Best Supporting Actress and Actor — they are all so deserving. Viola Davis (“Fences”), Michelle Williams (“Manchester by the Sea”), Naomie Harris (“Moonlight”), Nicole Kidman (“Lion”) and Octavia Spencer (“Hidden Figures”) have all become proven talents beyond question — and all except Harris are previous winners.
The same goes for Best Supporting Actor. It includes top flight choices: the aformentioned favorite Ali; but Jeff Bridges (“Hell or High Water”), Hugh Grant (“Florence Foster Jenkins”), Kevin Costner (“Hidden Figures”) and Issei Ogata (“Silence”) are meritorious in their roles.
It’s in their far less appreciated categories — Best Animated Feature, Best Foreign Language Film and Best Documentary Feature — where the nominations stagger between expected Hollywood fare and the truly unique.
The Best Animated Feature will most like be tapped out of these three — “Zootopia”, “Moana” and “Finding Dory” — but the other two, “Kubo” and the Two Strings” and “The Red Turtle” are the real winners for style and innovation. Best Foreign Language Film is full of fine films: “Toni Erdmann”, “The Salesman”, “A Man Called Ove”; but L”and of Mine” and “My Life as a Zucchini” tell life-changing tales.
What’s incredible about the doc picks is that three of them — “O.J.: Made in America”, “13th” and “I Am Not Your Negro” — are profound political indictments of how mainstream America has treated its people of color; “Weiner” is an indictment of celebrity culture and politics; only “Gleason” is a purely life affirming film.
And then there’s the intoxicating “Deadpool” which sadly didn’t grab significant noms in the big acting categories but should grab a tech award or two.
So this proves that people out there are looking at screens either in the theaters or in their hands, and that most of this year’s award choices offer some truly interesting and satisfying stuff.
Now this isn’t always for wins; for many of these films, just to make it as far as they did onto the vaunted nomination lists may be enough. Except for The Razzies that is.
The Affleck brothers are on either end of the spectrum with older bro Ben handing off accolades the his younger sib Casey while he has recieved heaps of scorn for both the Razziefied Batman V Superman as well as The Accountant and the gangster driven Live By Night.
But enough of the Razzies — on to the awards.