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How Your Oscars Sausage Gets Made

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It’s not exactly news that the Academy Awards have generally failed to identify the movies that would be best-loved in retrospect by either audiences or critics with its Best Picture winners, instead generally settling on middlebrow mediocrities nobody cares about six months after they win. The Hollywood Reporter has a BRUTALLY HONEST interview with a voter, and…as Emily Nussbaum says, you can’t say it’s not illuminating:

Then I eliminated Get Out. It’s a good B-movie and I enjoyed it, but what bothered me afterwards was that instead of focusing on the fact that this was an entertaining little horror movie that made quite a bit of money, they started trying to suggest it had deeper meaning than it does, and, as far as I’m concerned, they played the race card, and that really turned me off. In fact, at one of the luncheons, the lead actor [Daniel Kaluuya], who is not from the United States [he’s British], was giving us a lecture on racism in America and how black lives matter, and I thought, “What does this have to do with Get Out? They’re trying to make me think that if I don’t vote for this movie, I’m a racist.” I was really offended. That sealed it for me.

“It’s just a B-movie! It didn’t mean anything, and certainly should not cause me to think about anything! But how dare some nameless British guy deny the obvious truth that everything here is just fine! This is my carefully considered analysis.”

That left it down to Darkest Hour and The Shape of Water. Darkest Hour was pretty much a perfect movie to me — well, maybe not the subway scene, but it was really well done overall, and you really understood from it the courage that it took from Churchill to save that country. I wish we had more politicians today who were as courageous. While I thought it was the best movie of the year, I didn’t think it would have a chance of winning, so I put The Shape of Water, which I also liked a lot, at number one. It’s a beautiful film with a good story well told — horror meets love — and I’ll be very happy if it wins.

I have no opinion of either of these movies, having not seen them, and it’s possible that one or both are good choices. (I think there’s a 0% chance I would personally prefer The Shape of Water to Lady Bird or Get Out , but that’s a matter of taste.) But what’s interesting is the strategic voting. Voting based on what you think other people are voting for rather than what you personally like best is a good path to another Crash or Out of Africa winning Best Picture.

Maybe she’s better with actors?

I eliminated the guy from Get Out [Daniel Kaluuya] first — it was a very entertaining movie and he did a good job, but it wasn’t Oscar-worthy.

“The guy.”

Then I eliminated [Call Me by Your Name’s] Timothee Chalamet. He’s a charming young man — I met him at one of these luncheons — but he’s so much like he is in that movie that I don’t think his acting was that stretched.

“This brief exchange of pleasantries was certainly enough to make it clear that he was exactly like the character he played in a movie.”

Next out was [Phantom Thread’s] Daniel Day-Lewis, who I absolutely adore, but God, did I hate his character — there wasn’t one thing likable about the guy, which isn’t Daniel’s fault, but I couldn’t get past it.

“I just couldn’t vote for Ralph Fiennes. Sure, his acting was quite skilled, but I couldn’t get over the fact that Amon Goeth wasn’t very likable.”

I’ll quote this for djw:

I eliminated Logan first because I really hated that movie — I like a good comic book movie, but they made this one so dark that it wasn’t fun.

Are you ready more condescension about Get Out?

I thought Get Out was a B-movie. I used to watch B-movies on Saturday afternoons and they were great — a lot of fun. I think this guy [Jordan Peele] saw Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner and thought he would turn it into a horror movie, with white people as the villains, because horror movies make money, and it sure did.

Yeah, this was totally a risk-free project on the part of “this guy”. (It’s also odd how the motives of white filmmakers don’t get the same scrutiny.)

As much as I liked Lady Bird — I found it thoroughly entertaining as a teenage angst movie — I thought its script was not as good as The Shape of Water’s. The Shape of Water was a lot more challenging to do. At a talkback, he [del Toro] said, “I wrote a love story because I really think that if we love each other more, it will solve a lot of the problems in the world today.” I hadn’t thought about things that way and I liked that.

I would be shocked if The Shape of Water has a better script than Lady Bird — correct me if I’m wrong, but even the positive reviews of the former generally describe the story as an attack on 50s conformism with roughly Alan Ball levels of nuance, redeemed by del Toro’s eye and superb acting. I can’t say that the judgment of someone who thinks “if we love each other more, it will solve a lot of the problems in the world today” is piece of profound wisdom dissuades me.

And now, the piece de resistance you can probably see coming:

I eliminated Traffic Stop first. It’s a good subject for a short, but that woman [Breaion King] was the wrong vehicle for it. Everybody knows — and I taught my kids this — that if you’re pulled over by the cops, you put your hands on the steering wheel and you follow directions. You certainly don’t get out and you don’t do anything until they tell you to. It’s just common sense to me. She’s a smart woman, she’s not a dumb woman, so it just irritated me that she did absolutely everything wrong — she was hysterical and she was belligerent. If she had just behaved intelligently, she probably would have gotten, at most, a speeding ticket for $50, or maybe not gotten a ticket at all.

“As an affluent white woman, I can assure you that nothing bad can happen to an African-American at a traffic stop if they follow certain rules, and I also see no possible reason why being given a bunch of arbitrary commands after being pulled over by the police would be upsetting, and am absolutely certain how I would react. This was a B Movie, but I bet the director really made a lot of money!” By the way, what Breaion King got instead of a speeding ticket was being slammed to the ground and then arrested despite doing nothing wrong aside from her minor traffic offense by a racist police officer who was recently fired because of his consistent brutality.

I’d say the Hollywood Reporter did a very useful service here. Better to have this kind of thing out in the open. Consider this an Oscars open thread if you’re so inclined.

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