Oh, I love the Academy Awards. As George C. Scott once said, they’re “a meat parade” (I wonder what he’d say about the Globes if he had the chance now!). He wasn’t wrong, but we all love our junk food, don’t we? This awards season has been extra weird because, you know, Miss Corona Virus hasn’t ended her would tour yet, but let’s focus on the positive. I’m SO HAPPY for the beautiful Maria Bakalova, pride of Bulgaria. I hope she wins and takes the world of cinema by storm in every possible country. I’m also happy for the lovely jazz singer Celeste receiving a nomination for her beautiful song for The Trial of the Chicago 7. I’m happy for Wolfwalkers (Go n-éirí leat, Ireland), Promising Young Woman, Collective (felicitări, Romania!), Minari and lots more. Congratulations to Steven Yeun and Riz Ahmed for making long overdue history as the first pair of actors of Asian descent to be nominated in the Best Actor category. Rest in Power, two-time nominee Chadwick Boseman. I’m sure you were the first performer to ever move a lot of young moviegoers.
Haven’t picked which actors I’m rooting for yet aside from Bakalova, but I’m very excited about this set of nominees.
Years ago, I wrote a piece about a bunch of unfair Oscar snubs. Well, as the title suggests, this is part deux.
⦁ “Star Spangled Man” from Captain America: The First Avenger for Best Original Song
Alrighty, let’s start with a light one here. “Star Spangled Man” (written by David Zippel, composed Alan Menken, and sang by the within-the-film WWII troupe The Star Spangled Singers) actually made the shortlist for Best Original Song, but was left out. That’s just wrong because not only the song is, as correct terminology is, a bop, but it’s also integral to the story.
Well, sort of. The film starts with Cap being little more than a US Army mascot who pumps up crowds so they enlist and visits troops. This is the song he has to perform everytime, reading from his shield, obviously not enjoying it very much. After a failed performance, he confides in Peggy that performing chirpy song for jingoism was not exactly his plan. Then his bud Bucky disappears and Cap doesn’t let beaurocracy get in his way and rescues his bud, thus starting his journey in becoming the hero he’s meant to be. So yeah, it’s not the song that does the trick, but it’s important for Cap’s journey and where he’s character at mentally at the beginning of the film.
So, yeah, Best Original Song it is.
⦁ Nadine Labaki for Best Actress for Caramel
Years ago, I called out the Academy for not nominating Caramel for Best Foreign Language Film. At the time, Nadine’s worthiness of an acting nod evaded me. Truth is, her central performance is a testament to everything the film hopes to achieve itself.
The film’s title symbolically implies the “idea of sweet and salt, sweet and sour”, and Labaki carries all of them in her measured, but affecting performance. You can feel her frustration in the hotel scene where she’s having difficulty booking a room because the concierge suspects she may be a call girl, and you feel it again once her married lover doesn’t show up after she cleaned and prepared the room to look romantic for their meeting. You can feel a warmth to her interactions with all the characters, from her friends to the cop who takes an interest in her, beaming through the screen. But you also feel a warmth through her naturally, inspite of her very human flaws and issues. Labaki made one hell of a film and did a bangup job leading it on screen.
I guess we can take some consolation in her first female Arab director to be nominated for an Oscar in the category for Best Foreign Language Film, for her 2018 film Capernaum.
⦁ Madhur Mittal for Best Supporting Actor for Slumdog Millionaire
Back in the day, I wrote about how Indian media felt Indian-made films were being slated in favor of Slumdog Millionaire. I agree the Oscars should look beyond their own noses more, but I also liked Slumdog. That’s why I’d like to talk about how the actor who played its would be villain was left in the dust.
Madhur Mittal’s performance as Jamal’s long lost gangster brother in the film is nothing short of masterful. A strange, but copelling mix of bluster, poseur energy, anger, sadness, ambition, bravado, cowardice and braggadocio. All of this is very present in very scene he shares with Latika, who has been with him all his life, as well as every scene he shares with his brother, with whom he can’t wholly fake it no matter how hard he tries. The audience sees he’s though, scary to many, but they can also see right though him, especially when he comes to his baby brother. The scene when he kills himself, when he puts all the money and bling he has in the bathtub because that’s how he wants to die. Surrounded by the most real, yet also most feeble connection he has, the most important thing in the world to him… It’s a great character moment, so kudos to writer Simon Beaufoy and Mittal.
Mittal’s lack of studio-generated hype was very intentional, as he shrugged in an interview: “The studio wanted to promote it as a love story.”
However, it seems like nothing was lost long term given Mittal’s recent arrest for sexual assault and battery.
Good thing we got Dev Patel (NEXT JAMES BOND, PLEASE. Him or Riz, please) and Freida Pinto (Indian-born-and-bred), who are amazing performers and don’t behave like Mittal.
⦁ Joanna Johnston for Best Costume Design for The Man from U.N.C.L.E
The Man from U.N.C.L.E is a film based on Cold War-era TV series that premiered in the summer of 2015 to no hype, only to find a dedicated cult following as time passed. Its director, Guy Richie, was married to Madonna for a long time, and yet casual homophobia seems to keep of following him around. The film’s star, trust fund actor Armie Hammer, is under scrutiny because of serious allegations of emotional and sexual abuse (including gaslighting, willfully ignoring pre-set boundaries during sex and rape) from former romantic and sexual partners. So, eh…
Elizabeth Debicki was really great as the villain though! Foxy!
However, why should the impeccable work of the costume designer, Joanna Johnston, be forgotten because of faults that are not of her own?
One of the reasons people were drawn to U.N.C.L.E once it hit vod was its style. Impeccably tailored suits, gorgeous dresses, fine coats, beautiful jewellery and other accessories. Really, the best way to make my point is pictures, so as Robbie Williams would say, let me entertain you:
⦁ Anthony Perkins for Best Actor in Psycho
Alright, this is an easy one. One that gets mentioned all the damned time already, but adding one more voice ain’t gonna ever hurt nobody here.
Firts things first, Phycho was no stranger to them pesky Academy voters. Director Alfred Hitchcock (pre-convincing-himself-he-owned-Tippi-Hedren) got a Best Director nod and co-star Janet Leigh got a Best Supporting Actress nomination. She was great in the film and I can see why the members wanted to include her. However, at the end of the day, it is Perkins who carries the film. It is Perkins who has the most difficult role, who has to walk the tightrope between being sympathetic and not tip off audiences to what’s really going on. He is also the one who has to sort give ’em the chance to tell themselves that “I guess, going backwards, that makes perfect sense” in the end. The writing for the Norman Bates character was perfect and so was Perkins’s performance, and he remains one of the characters I cherish the most in cinema.
I don’t know. The film was released in 1960. Perhaps nominating and awarding an Oscar to an actor for playing a murderer who kills a woman because he finds her attractive, but he doesn’t know that because he has dissociative identity disorder and believes he’s his own overbearing mother when he wears her clothing… therefore making it “Mother” who committed the crime… was a tad too taboo for the Academy and awards season itself.
I mean, can you imagine how the interviews and the campaigning would have gone? What would the studio have even come up with? Since it was 1960, it could’ve been very backwards and damaging, but I still wish Mr Perkins would have got to have that Oscar, avoid typecasting and have the careeer he truly deserved.
May he rest in peace.