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My Predictions For The 2016 Academy Awards

DISCLAIMER: There was an incomplete post like this yesterday. The reason was I was editing from my smartphone and intended to update the draft, not publish the blog. It published anyways. This blog here is my complete blog for Oscar predictions.

Chocolate Oscar

The Academy Awards are here. I’ve seen enough movies to make up 82 of the nominations this year. It was quite the year with lots to offer and a lot of things that appeared guaranteed weren’t. So without further ado, let’s get on with the predictions:

BEST PICTURE WRAP-UP

You all saw my three summaries of all nine nominees. Doing shorter summaries were better for me this year. Maybe next year I won’t be so busy or have as many ailments. So here goes for predicting the winner:

-Arrival-  This is the first movie about aliens to be nominated for an Oscar. A very smart film that was loaded with buzz when it first came out. However its awards excitement faded over time as did its Best Picture chances.

-Fences- I like it when I see a celebrated play brought to the big screen. Especially around Oscar time. I felt it was done excellently. However it is up in this category against meatier competition. This is one category I think Fences won’t win.

-Hacksaw Ridge- Very rarely does a pro-religion movie have a chance for Best Picture. Hacksaw Ridge is the pro-religion film in the past 15 years most deserving of a nomination. However it does have some formulaic elements that come up every now and then and it has better chances in the technical categories instead of Best Picture.

-Hell Or High Water-  This year’s ‘summer survivor.’ Those like me who missed out on it during the summer missed out on a gem. A crime story that’s funny and entertaining, but smart too. However I’m not too optimistic in its Oscar chances here.

-Hidden Figures- This movie started with very little Oscar buzz at first but it increased as rapport from the film–from both critics and audience alike– grew. It seems like it doesn’t have good chances to win Best Picture but it could pull a surprise. A very slim chance of that but it is likely.

-La La Land- What can I say? People have been embracing it in droves. Why? Because people just really like a good musical? Because of its feel? Because it reminds one of the charm of old Hollywood? Whatever it is, it’s made it the frontrunner that looks hard to beat. That’s why it’s my Will Win pick. the biggest reason why I hope it win is because last year I said: “One more Best Picture winner that fails to gross $100 million and I’m done Oscarwatching.” I don’t know what made me carry on even after Spotlight won– and it didn’t even make $50 million— but La La Land makes me glad I did.

-Lion- I’m no expert in Oscar trivia but I think this is the first Australian film to be nominated for Best Picture, and a deserving nominee. It’s won over everyone I know who has seen it. It may have had better Best Picture chances in another year.

-Manchester By The Sea- This is a film that was loaded with buzz at the beginning of the Oscar race and looked to be the one film that could beat out La La Land. The buzz faded over time, despite how great the film was. May have an outside chance but not too likely.

-Moonlight- This is one film that proves that less is more. Less dialogue, more of a feel of what’s happening. Less showy characters, more knowing who the characters are. Less singing and dancing, more feel for the music in the film. This is the surprise of the Oscar race that was able to let it speak for itself. I know it faces a hell of a fight against La La Land to win Best Picture but I give this my Should Win pick.

BEST DIRECTOR:

Should Win – Barry Jenkins, Moonlight

Will Win – Damien Chazelle, La La Land

I felt that Moonlight is the better picture and Jenkins did an excellent job of directing but I know this is the year of La La Land and it’s Damien Chazelle’s to take.

BEST ACTOR:

Should Win and Will Win – Denzel Washington, Fences

These past two years saw the rise of the #OscarsSoWhite outcry. This year there are seven non-white acting nominees. Denzel may have won twice before but his performance as Troy Maxson has been getting loads of buzz and even surprised favorite Casey Affleck at the SAG Awards. The only way I can see Casey winning instead of Denzel is if the Academy doesn’t want to make this his third Oscar, and it is a possibility.

BEST ACTRESS:

Should Win – Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Will Win – Emma Stone, La La Land

Some are saying that Isabelle Huppert looks to be the biggest threat to Emma Stone’s win. It is a possibility but I think Casey Affleck beating out Denzel appears more likely. It’s Emma’s to lose.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

Should Win and Will Win – Mahershala Ali, Moonlight

Mahershala Ali may have only been seen in the first part of Moonlight but there was something about his performance of Juan that stood out like no other supporting performance this year. Was it Juan’s charisma? Was it his silent coolness? Whatever it is, it’s what made Mahershala stand out this year among all the supporting actor performances.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

Should Win and Will Win – Viola Davis, Fences

What can I say? If there’s anyone who can steal the show from Denzel, it’s Viola Davis. She reminded us very well that Fences wasn’t just about Troy Maxson. It was about Rose too.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

Should Win – Taylor Sheridan, Hell Or High Water

Will Win – Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea

A lot of people are expecting Damien Chazelle to do it again here but I feel that Kenneth Lonergan will take it for one of the best scripts of the year. It was a film that cuts deep and doesn’t water down.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

Should Win and Will Win – Barry Jenkins and Terell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight

It all started with a short story by McCraney, then Jenkins developed a screenplay, and now it’s one of the best of the year. No stopping it.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:

Should Win: Kubo And The Two Strings

Will Win: Zootopia

Kubo was the best at taking your imagination away this year. However in comparison to frontrunner Zootopia, it isn’t really all that family friendly and that I believe is where it will hurt it. Zootopia was without a doubt this year’s crowd charmer. Besides this is the one category Disney wants to take year after year.

BEST ART DIRECTION:

Will Win: La La Land

Let’s face it. Any movie that shows off the classic areas in Los Angeles and even meshes it into the present will win this category.

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:

Will Win: Linus Sandgren, La La Land

BEST COSTUME DESIGN:

Will Win: Madeline Fontaine, Jackie

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:

Will Win: O. J. Simpson: Made In America

BEST FILM EDITING:

Will Win: Tom Cross, La La Land

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:

Will Win: The Salesman (Iran)

Salesman director Asghar Farhadi has been the subject of news as it was believed Donald Trump’s travel ban could prevent him from attending the Oscars. Whatever the situation, he boycotted the Oscars in protest of Trump’s policies.

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING:

Will Win: A Man Called Ove

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:

Will Win: Justin Hurwitz, La La Land

I’m sure we’ve all been waiting for the longest time for a musical of original composition. Especially the Academy.

BEST ORIGINAL SONG:

Should Win: ‘Audition (The Fools Who Dream)’, La La Land

Will Win: ‘City Of Stars’, La La Land

BEST SOUND MIXING:

Will Win: La La Land

BEST SOUND EDITING:

Will Win: Hacksaw Ridge

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:

Will Win: The Jungle Book

I think the reason why Star Wars lost this category last year is because having the best digital effects of the year is expected for a Star Wars movie. That’s where The Jungle Book has the edge for this year.

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM:

Click here for reviews and predictions.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM:

Click here for reviews and predictions.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT:

Will Win: Joe’s Helmet

JUST ONE MORE – TOP OSCAR UPSETS

I did this for the first time last year. I want to do it again this year.:

  • Moonlight wins Best Picture
  • Casey Affleck wins Best Actor for Manchester By The Sea
  • Kubo And The Two Strings wins Best Animated Feature
  • Arrival wins Best Adapted Screenplay
  • Greig Fraser wins Best Cinematography for Lion.

And there you have it. My predictions for Hollywood’s night of nights. Let’s see how Jimmy Kimmel does as host this time.

Oscars 2016 Shorts Reviews: Animation and Live-Action

Cinema

I’m lucky to be living in Vancouver. It’s one of the few cities one can be able to see the nominated shorts in a big-screen theatre. Gives me a chance to review them myself and even make a should-win pick for myself. This year is quite an array of nominees in both animation and live-action. So without further ado, here are my thoughts on the nominated shorts:

ANIMATED:

-Blind Vaysha (Canada/France): dir. Theodore Ushev- This is a unique 2D animation story of a Bulgarian folk-tale. A story of a girl with one eye that can see the past and one eye that can see the future and cannot live in the present. The story also shows the attempts of others to fix Vaysha’s blindness. The linocut-style animation, however, was unique and had a lot of style and flare to it.

The story doesn’t really end. Instead the film ends asking the audience their perspective. It has a unique narrative point and I get why it’s done that way, but I often wonder if the film ended on the right note.

-Borrowed Time (USA): dirs. Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj – At first you’ll think this is a family-friendly story at the beginning but soon learn it’s not such as you move on. It’s a dark Western story of a man returning to the spot of a family tragedy from his childhood. The hurt comes back from it and he decides to do something drastic but something happens.

I have to admire Pixar animators Coats and Hamou-Lhadj for making a brief departure from their traditional family fare and doing something more mature under Quorum Films. No, it’s not R-rated like Pear Cider And Cigarettes but it’s dark enough to be adult. I think this short is most likely to upset my pick for the winner.

-Pear Cider and Cigarettes (Canada): dirs. Robert Valley and Cara Speller- Now this is a refreshing R-rated alternative. It sometimes reminds you of a Grand Theft Auto video game or the film Waltz With Bashir. However it is a personal story from director Valley. It’s a story that makes you wonder how far would you go for a friend? Especially if that friend is selfish, conniving, irresponsible and manipulative?

It’s a story that entertains and charms and even gets you to hate Techno too. Sometimes I wonder why was he friends with that jerk? I don’t know if it’s because it was set in Vancouver or because it was an R-rated alternative but it won me over and I make it my Should Win pick.

-Pearl (USA): dir. Patrick Osborne- This is the first VR short to be nominated for an Academy Award. A musician and his daughter travel in a hatchback with a song as a bond between the two. We see the two age, the daughter mature into a musician of her own and have her own version of the song. The viewer gets a 360 degree view of the whole 5-minute story.

Looks like something Richard Linklater would do. Actually it might remind you of Waking Life. An excellent short that’s entertaining and will touch you too. Might even make you go to iTunes and download No Wrong Way Home.

-Piper (USA): dirs. Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer- This is the short shown before Finding Dory. A baby bird looking for food on the beach with her mother looking on and guiding her. Pixar does it again by delivering a clever, charming, and entertaining short with the dialogue absent and the animation as detailed to a tee as it gets. It’s excellent, but it’s something we’ve come to expect from Pixar even with their shorts. Nevertheless this is my Will Win prediction.

And those are my thoughts for the Animated Shorts up for the Oscar. A lot of styles of animation between Canadian and American companies. All five were very entertaining. We’ll see who wins.

LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILMS

This year there are no films with English as the language of the majority. All five are from European countries. Here’s the rundown:

-Ennemis interieurs (France): dir. Selim Azzazi – A man from Algeria seeks to be a French citizen but the interrogator at immigration has big questions for him about meeting with a group of Algerian men back some years ago which led to him being arrested and imprisoned for two years. The interrogator keeps insisting he answers but he’s very reluctant to do so. Even to the point of neglecting his chances of French Citizenship. Why? What will make the man give his answers?

It’s a story that appears boring at first but grows with intrigue with each minute and with each new detail. The interest builds over time. It even makes you wonder why is he withholding the names of the other men? Feelings of brotherhood? Fear of retaliation from them? Also this may be about an incident in the past but it’s very relevant, especially with the Paris bombings happening in November 2015. This is my Will Win pick.

-La Femme et le TGV (Switzerland): dirs. Timo von Gunten and Giacun Caduff – Elise is a woman who wave her Swiss flag at the passing TGV train to Zurich every time it passes her house at 6 in the morning and 6 in the evening . After that she bicycles to her job at the town patisserie. It’s her daily routine for 30 years; a routine she doesn’t want to change. One day, she comes across a letter that was thrown to her by a man who goes on that daily TGV. He’s a man from France looking for work. The two develop a friendship only by mail and packages. Over time she hopes to meet this man. Then one day the train stops coming. It’s changed route? How will she deal with the change? Will she ever see the man?

It’s a charming comedy that has you engaged with the character (based on a person who has existed and did wave her Swiss flag at passing TGV trains). Gets you thinking about the woman. Is she an eccentric? Is she naive? Lonely? Unpredictable ending but a happy one.

-Silent Nights (Denmark): dirs. Aske Bang and Kim Magnusson – Inger is a young Danish woman who helps at the Salvation Army during the day and looks after her ailing mother at night. Kwame is a Ghanian immigrant who came to Denmark for a better future and to support his wife and children at home. However he’s been left homeless and makes money from recycling.

They both meet as Kwame agrees to help. The two develop a mutual friendship and even progress into something more. However it’s put to the test when Kwame steals money from the charity to pay for his daughter’s malaria treatments. Even though Kwame is banned for life, Inger forgives him and still loves him. Then Inger’s mother dies and she learns about Kwame’s family in Ghana just as she learns she is pregnant. It’s over between the two. However Inger sees Kwame one last time where she gives him advice, and something else.

It’s obvious that this story is about the immigrant situation in Denmark and the difficultly of the times for all. It presents both Inger’s side and Kwame’s side. However it’s more. It’s about a love that’s true. Inger loves Kwame so much, she’s willing to forgive him for all the terrible things he did. It makes the choice she makes for her and her baby look like the right thing. This is my Should Win pick.

-Sing (Hungary) dirs. Kristof Deak and Anna Udvardy – Zsofi is the new girl at a school. She most looks forward to singing in the choir. However on her first rehearsal, the instructor talks of a choir competition where the prize is a performance in Sweden. She also tells Zsofi her voice is not ready for the choir and tells her to lip sync. Along the way, Zsofi finds a friend in star singer Liza. The two become good friends. However Liza notices Zsofi not singing but others. When she brings this up with the instructor, she not only admits it but tries to convince the children it’s the right thing for the competition. All of which leads to a surprise ending and the ending you think is right.

Often I question what the point of this film is. Is it about competitiveness to the point the ‘lesser’ singers are not allowed to sing for the sake of the big prize? Or is it a reminder of Hungary’s past communist regime; of how those that fit in are allowed to and those that don’t aren’t, but make like everything’s okay?  Even the choir director could remind you of a communist dictator on retrospect. Whatever the point, the story was entertaining and sweet. Reminds you of the joys of childhood and the right thing paying off in the end.

-Timecode (Spain) dir. Juanjo Gimenez – It starts as a check for a woman on a security job during the day. One day she learns of a broken car light. Upon viewing the video of what happened, she sees the worker before her dancing before hitting the car. She decides to give him a dancing video of her own. Video after video follows. Then on their last day, magic happens.

At first you think the man is something eccentric but this story builds into something that ends on a bizarre note. A very good film.

And there are my thoughts on this year’s nominated shorts. Now remember both categories are the hardest to predict the winner. For example, last year the consensus of critics ranked Stutterer the least likely to win Best Live Action Short and it won. Even Annie wins for Piper and Pear Cider and Cigarettes are not a guarantee that either will win.

With my shorts predictions out of the way, I just have my main predictions for all the categories to deliver. But not before my last Best Picture summary. Coming up tomorrow morning.

 

My Predictions For The 2016 Academy Award Nominees

Chocolate Oscar

I know I haven’t been blogging as much as I normally have. You may have noticed I didn’t post predictions for the Golden Globes this year. Heck, I’ve even delayed publishing my review of Doctor Strange! It’s not just about my busy schedule but my lack of hits to my blog in 2016: the least since 2011. However since I’ve been getting more hits to my blog this January, it gives me the energy to publish my next blog.

Of course I wouldn’t miss out on predicting the Oscar nominations. I have been paying attention to the race and seen some of the heavily favored films. The race looks exciting and it’s hard to tell who will win. La La Land looks like the best bet but there have been surprises before, like Spotlight trouncing The Revenant last year. And speaking of last year, I believe the #OscarsSoWhite row has paid off as the Academy has seen a lot of diversity in this year’s new inductees, which I will reflect on in a blog in a week or two, and there appears to be four or five non-white actors heavily favored to be nominated. Cheryl Boone Isaacs even said she’ll have the Academy lead by example.

Anyways without further ado, I have my predictions. To start off, here are my predictions for the nominations on Tuesday:

BEST PICTURE

  • Arrival
  • Fences
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • Hell Or High Water
  • Hidden Figures
  • La La Land
  • Lion
  • Manchester By The Sea
  • Moonlight
  • Sully

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  • Garth Davis, Lion
  • Barry Jenkins, Moonlight
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea
  • Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

BEST ACTOR

  • Casey Affleck, Manchester By The Sea
  • Andrew Garfield, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Ryan Gosling, La La Land
  • Viggo Mortenson, Captain Fantastic
  • Denzel Washington, Fences

BEST ACTRESS

  • Amy Adams, Arrival
  •  Emily Blunt, The Girl On The Train
  • Natalie Portman, Jackie
  • Emma Stone, La La Land
  • Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Mahershala Ali, Moonlight
  • Jeff Bridges, Hell Or High Water
  • Hugh Grant, Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Lucas Hedges, Manchester By The Sea
  • Dev Patel, Lion

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Viola Davis, Fences
  • Naomie Harris, Moonlight
  • Nicole Kidman, Lion
  •  Janelle Monae, Hidden Figures
  • Michelle Williams, Manchester By The Sea

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Damien Chazelle, La La Land
  • Yorgos Lanthimos and Efyhimis Filipou, The Lobster
  • Paul Laverty, I, Daniel Blake
  • Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester By The Sea
  • Jeff Nichols, Loving

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • Luke Davies, Lion
  • Tom Ford, Nocturnal Animals
  • Barry Jenkins And Terell Alvin McCraney, Moonlight
  • Allison Schroeder and Theodore Melfi, Hidden Figures
  • August Wilson, Fences

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

  • Finding Dory
  • Kubo And The Two Strings
  • Moana
  • The Red Turtle
  • Zootopia

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Greg Fraser, Lion
  • James Laxton, Moonlight
  • Rodrigo Prieto, Silence
  • Linus Sandgren, La La Land
  • Bradford Young, Arrival

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • Colleen Atwood, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
  • Consolata Boyle, Florence Foster Jenkins
  • Madeline Fontaine, Jackie
  • Mary Zophres, Hail Caesar!
  • Mary Zophres, La La Land

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

  • The Eagle Huntress
  • Life, Animated
  • OJ: Made In America
  • Tower
  • Weiner

BEST FILM EDITING

  • Julian Clarke, Deadpool
  • Tom Cross, La La Land
  • John Gilbert, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Jennifer Lame, Manchester By The Sea
  • Nat Sanders and Joi McMillon, Moonlight

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

  • It’s Only The End Of The World (Canada)
  • A Man Called Ove (Sweden)
  • The Salesman (Iran)
  • Tanna (Australia)
  • Toni Erdmann (Germany)

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  • Nicholas Britwell, Moonlight
  • Justin Hurwitz, La La Land
  • Dustin O’Halloran and Hauschka, Lion
  • John Williams, The BFG
  • Hans Zimmer, Pharrel Williams and Benjamin Walfisch, Hidden Figures

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  • ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’, Trolls
  • ‘City Of Stars’, La La Land
  • ‘Faith’, Sing
  • ‘Heathens’, Suicide Squad
  • ‘How Far I’ll Go’, Moana

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
  • Hail Caesar!
  • Hacksaw Ridge
  • La La Land
  • Rogue One

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

  • Arrival
  • Captain America: Civil War
  • Doctor Strange
  • The Jungle Book
  • Rogue One

Those are my predictions for nominations. I also include predictions for possible upsetters for my main predictions. They could upset some of my favorites and get nominated instead. Without further ado, here is my list for the most likely upsetters:

BEST PICTURE

  • Loving
  • Deadpool
  • Elle

BEST DIRECTOR

  • Mel Gibson, Hacksaw Ridge
  • Denzel Washington, Fences

BEST ACTOR

  • Tom Hanks, Sully
  • Joel Edgerton, Loving

BEST ACTRESS

  • Isabelle Huppert, Elle
  • Ruth Negga, Loving

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

  • Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Nocturnal Animals
  • Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

  • Octavia Spencer, Hidden Figures
  • Greta Gerwig, 20th Century Women

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

  • Taylor Sheridan, Hell Or High Water

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

  • Eric Heisserer, Arrival
  • Jay Cocks and Martin Scorsese, Silence

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE

  • My Life As a Zucchini
  • Miss Hokusai

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

  • Seamus McGarvey, Nocturnal Animals

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

  • Marion Boyce and Margot Wilson, The Dressmaker
  • Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh, Love & Friendship

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

  • 13th

BEST FILM EDITING

  • Joe Walker, Arrival
  • Jake Roberts, Hell Or High Water

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

  • Abel Korzeniowski, Nocturnal Animals

BEST ORIGINAL SONG

  •  ‘Try Everything’, Zootopia
  •  ‘Just Like Fire’, Alice Through Looking Glass

BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN

  • Arrival
  • Jackie

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:

  • Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them

So did my predictions come true? Which of my upsetter predictions caused the biggest shocker? Or which nominations from left-field happened? We’ll find out Tuesdayj morning.

2015 Oscars: The Buzz And The Biz

Best Picture 2015

This year’s Best Picture nominees brought in the most box office gold since 2012 but the winner…

Once again, it’s my annual look at this year’s top Academy Awards contenders and how they fared at the Box Office. This was something that once again had to wait until one month after the end of the Oscars to get the full picture. Boy did they have a lot to tell. Once again, all credits for my research to Box Office Mojo.

Before I get into explaining the box office results, I’ll let you all in that Awards Daily showed an interesting graph. It showed how not even $500,000 was spent on a For Your Consideration ad for a Golden Globe win but a win brought in megamillions. It also showed how millions are spent on For Your Consideration ads for the Oscar but the box office draw isn’t even half of what one gets from a Golden Globe win. Something to think about. Especially as we all read on.

When the nominations were announced, two of the eight Best Picture nominees–Mad Max:Fury Road and The Martian— had already grossed over $100 million. That wasn’t the case last year when none of them passed that mark on ‘Nomination Day.’ And that was the Thursday just before American Sniper had its wide release. Actually the eight-set of Best Picture nominees turned in an average of over $75 million. Very impressive.

The film that definitely had its biggest boost since its Best Picture nomination was The Revenant. Between Nomination Day and Awards day, it grossed $116.5 million. A significant boost also came to Room which only grossed $5.2 million before the nominations but $8.2 million between Nomination Day and Awards Day. Films like Spotlight, The Big Short and Brooklyn didn’t double their grosses after their nominations like The Revenant and Room did but their Oscar nominations did give them a good added boost. The Big Short received an additional 423.9 million: more than 50% more than before its nominations. Brooklyn also showed a bigger-than-50% increase in its box office results after their nominations. Spotlight also had an increase but it was just slightly over $10 million.

The only three movies that didn’t see a significant boost after their Oscar nominations were Mad Max: Fury Road, Bridge of Spies and The Martian because they had already neared completion of their box office run with their totals as impressive as they would get. Actually Mad Max: Fury Road wasn’t re-released after its Oscar nominations.

Now Awards Day came and three of the eight Best Picture winners had grossed over $100 million. However the Best Picture winner was a film that was one of the lowest-grossing of the eight nominees: Spotlight. It didn’t even have $40 million grossed by Awards Night. Ever since it’s only grossed an additional $5.2 million and it’s highly unlikely it will hit $50 million. This makes it the second year in a row the Best Picture winner failed to gross $50 million and the third year in a row it fails to gross $100 million. This is a bit of a surprise since I said to myself months earlier: “One more Best Picture winner that fails to gross $100 million and I’m done with Oscar tracking.”

Actually those were temporary feeling as despite Spotlight‘s low gross, it was a film that gave something to admire. However it does point some interesting stats. This will make it the fourth Best Picture winner of the 2010’s that didn’t gross $100 million and there’s still four more years left. The naughts, the decade before the 2010’s, only had three that failed to do so as did the 90’s. You’d figure that the title of Best Picture Winner’ would be a draw to the box office but now it appears less than ever. This shows an interesting detail about how the Academy is in terms of voting for Best Picture. In the past, it was almost always a Hollywood picture. Then things changed with the 1996 Oscars when Jerry Maguire was the only one of the five Best Picture nominees done by a major Hollywood studio to receive a Best Picture nomination. All of the other four nominees including winner The English Patient were independent films.

Since then, the independent films have been winning the Academy over. This has led to a bigger gap than ever between blockbuster films and critical darlings. It has definitely become evident over these last ten years. It’s a bit of a downer for me because I’d really like to see good cinema do well at the box office deep down inside. However it’s becoming more fact. I read an article from Awards Daily which talked about how independent films and films of critical renown don’t so well nowadays at the box office. In the past, you had the movie box office which gave a first run and second run of movies before it even hit video. Now we have such a wide variety of media methods like Netflix and Shomi. It seems like if you want to bring people to the movies, you have to have what it takes to do it. Moviegoers are now choosier as they can decide whether a movie is worth seeing in a cinema or worth waiting for it on Netflix. That would often mean big special effects and often theatre things like showing them in 3D or AVX or in D-Box seats. You mostly won’t get that with the films that win the biggest critical renown. That could have a lot to do with the Best Picture winner constantly grossing lower and lower. For the record, the last Best Picture winner that grossed $100 million+ is 2012’s Argo.

The box office may not have been friendly to Spotlight but it was friendly to the eight Best Picture winners as a whole. The eight have grossed a combined total of $803.8 million– just over $100 million per film for the first time since 2012– an all of them have grossed over $10 million. Spotlight wasn’t the only nominee to bag some extra money after the Oscars. The Revenant took an extra $11.4 million, The Big Short gained an extra $1.6 million, Brooklyn grossed an extra $1.5 million and Room grabbed an extra $1.2 million. Overall The Revenant and Room were the two with the biggest boosts from the Oscar buzz.

The box office results of this year’s nominees told a lot about moviegoers and their choices this year. The winner told lots about the Academy and how they’ve changed as far as voting for Best Picture. Next year should tell more.

My 2015 Academy Award Predictions

Chocolate Oscar

No kidding there was a lot of news about this year’s Oscar nominees from the lack of diversity and the boycotts and AMPAS reform that followed to how this being one of the most unpredictable years as far as Best Picture is concerned. Despite the protests, Chris Rock will still host the Oscars.

As for me, I’ve seen all the Best Picture nominees. This makes it the fifteenth year in a row I’ve seen them all before the awards night. It almost would have been my last as I was losing faith in the Academy as the last two Best Picture winners failed to gross $100 million both individually and combined. For the record, 2012’s Argo is the last Best Picture winner with a gross of higher than $100 million. However that could change with The Revenant being a strong favorite.

Collectively I have seen enough films and shorts to make up 86 of this year’s nominees. It’s a shame there won’t be any more members at large because I think I’d make a better Oscar voter. Anyways here are my predictions for this year’s Oscar winners. Note that the bigger categories will get the focus as well as my prediction. Only in few smaller categories will I elaborate. Also you will receive links to my reviews.

Best Picture 2015

BEST PICTURE SUMMARY

This year’s eight Best Picture nominees are quite different. Some have a lot of similarities but there are some surprises. Who would’ve though a Mad Max movie would be one of the nominees? Or even The Big Short would be a heavy favorite? Anyways here’s my summary with the titles hyperlinked to my review:

-The Big Short –  My favorite of the Best Picture nominees and my Should Win pick. I admire it for it being unconventional and making sense of something very technical. However I feel it may come up a bit short to my prediction for the winner.

-Bridge Of Spies –  I feel this is the most underrated movie of the whole Best Picture race. It did a great job in capturing the eerie feel of the Cold War and even the political tension behind it. Too bad it finds itself out of contention for the win because it is deserving of it.

-Brooklyn – It’s easy to think Brooklyn has all the bait of what would win the Academy over. However this was a tightly competitive year. Plus the Academy will always surprise you about what it thinks ids the best.

-Mad Max: Fury Road –  Very rarely does a science fiction movie have a chance at winning Best Picture. This film surprised everyone about how good a sci-fi story can go. A deserving winner, but the competition was tight and also I don’t think the Academy will make it Best Picture.

-The Martian –  Space stories have been winning over the Academy more often lately. Two years ago, it was Gravity.Now The Martian. A good choice for a nominee but I think there were too many parts that were a bit cornball.

-The Revenant –  It may have a lot of buzz but it doesn’t completely guarantee it will win Best Picture. The Revenant may have won the Golden Globe and BAFTA but Spotlight won the Critics Choice award and The Big Short won the Producers Guild. The buzz however is too hard to ignore and I feel that The Revenant Will Win Best Picture. Anyways I find it refreshing having a movie that made over $100 million win Best Picture, especially after Birdman’s poor gross.

-Room – One of two Canada/Ireland entries for Best Picture. Very well-acted and well-written but I don’t think a movie about two young people abducted makes for a Best Picture winner. It deserves respect for making this scenario watchable on screen but not enough to make it a winner.

-Spotlight –  This is this year’s critical darling. It has a lot to offer with a great ensemble of acting, an excellently-written story and well-directed. It has what it takes to win Best Picture. However I feel its November release has hurt its chances for the win. It still has some good chances to win but it faces rivalry against later releases like The Revenant and The Big Short.

BEST DIRECTOR:

-Should Win and Will Win – Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu – The Revenant – This last while has been the emergence of Inarritu. He first burst onto the scene in 2000 with Amores Perros. He received his first Best Director nomination for Babel. Last year, he won for Birdman. This time around he directs an epic thriller and he succeeds excellently at it. Also it pays off at the box office this time.

BEST ACTOR:

-Should Win and Will Win – Leonardo DiCaprio – The Revenant – Everybody’s saying “Leo should win it.” It’s easy to see why. He’s done a lot of great performances. Plus winning the Oscar could be the case of career culmination for him. It’s too easy to declare career culmination for his anticipated Oscar win. However you have to see The Revenant for yourself to see why. It involved a lot of physical acting as well as a lot of acting moments involving no speaking at all. You can easily see why he’s a deserving winner.

BEST ACTRESS:

-Should Win and Will Win – Brie Larson – Room – Often enough winning an acting Oscar is often a case of career culmination. Other times it can be that case where you’re lucky to have that role of a lifetime. This is the case for Brie Larson. She was mostly unknown and her biggest work up to then was acting in Trainwreck. However her turn as Joy Newsome as a woman braking free from her kidnapping and struggling to live life in what should be freedom is that role of a lifetime.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

-Should Win – Mark Rylance – Bridge Of Spies – I’ll only base my decision on the supporting performances I’ve seen. Mark was excellent as he had to embody the character of a frail 50 year-old man from head to toe. Not only that but give him a unique charm that’s able to steal the show away from Tom Hanks.

-Will Win – Sylvester Stallone – Creed – I’m not a fan of Sylvester Stallone. In fact I can easily see why the Golden Raspberry awards like to give him accolades. However if there’s one role in which he knows how to do right, it’s Rocky Balboa. I believe with this being possibly the last movie of the Rocky saga, Stallone will win it.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

-Should Win – Rooney Mara – Carol – I have to say of all the supporting actress performances I’ve seen, I’m most impressed with Rooney Mara. She played a young woman who was insecure with herself and just learning about herself until Carol helps her to understand herself and not be afraid to love.

-Will Win – Alicia Vikander – The Danish Girl – I admit I have not seen The Danish Girl. However Alicia’s performance has already generated a ton of buzz. It seems like a no-brainer she’ll win. Some are already touting her as the biggest thing out of Scandinavia since Liv Ullmann. We’ll see.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

-Should Win – Matt Charman, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen – Bridge Of Spies – I liked Bridge Of Spies and how it captured the time of fear and paranoia of the Cold War. This was a unique collaboration of Spielberg and the Coen brothers. I thought Bridge Of Spies was one of the smartest films this year.

-Will Win – Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer – Spotlight – Spotlight is one film that has gotten a lot of renown for its story of trying to bring a story to the presses. It’s a deserving winner as it is a story that will keep you interested and intrigued from star to finish. At the same time, it makes a film about sexual abuse by the clergy actually watchable.

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

-Should Win & Will Win- Adam McKay and Charles Randolph – The Big Short – All I can say is the script was full of energy. It defied convention and at the same time made sense out of a confusing topic which only those inside the banking world can fully understand. A deserving winner here.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:

-Should Win & Will Win- What can I say? Inside Out is the animated movie of the year. It’s very much the case that when Disney/Pixar releases an original film, it’s bound to be the class of the field in terms of animated films. Heck, the script was even nominated for Best Original Screenplay so how can you rival that?

Here are the rest of the categories. I will only predict who Will Win. As well as give some notes if I feel so.

BEST ART DIRECTION:

Colin Gibson & Lisa Thompson – Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY:

-Robert Richardson – The Hateful Eight

BEST COSTUME DESIGN:

-Jenny Beavan – Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:

Amy

BEST FILM EDITING:

-Margaret Sixel – Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:

-Son Of Saul – Hungary

BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING:

-The Revenant

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:

-Ennio Morricone – The Hateful Eight

BEST ORIGINAL SONG:

-“Til It Happens To You” – The Hunting Ground

As far as songs go, that’s the biggest talk about Til It Happens To You and Lady Gaga winning the Oscar. I’m cool with it. As long as she doesn’t wear a meat dress.

BEST SOUND MIXING:

The Revenant

BEST SOUND EDITING:

-Mad Max: Fury Road

Actually I will have my final prediction in this category Saturday evening as that’s when we’ll know the Motion Picture Sound Editors Guild winner.

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:

-Star Wars: The Force Awakens

It seemed like a no-brainer to predict Star Wars to win that category. However it’s not to say it didn’t have it rivals. Accolades have also been given to the effects of The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road.

BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT FILM:

Click here for reviews and predictions.

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM:

Click here for reviews and predictions.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT:

-Chau: Beyond The Lines

JUST ONE MORE – TOP OSCAR UPSETS

This is something new for me. I’m picking the five most likely upsets of the evening, especially those that will go against my own predictions:

  • The Big Short to win Best Picture
  • Mark Rylance wins Best Supporting Actor for Bridge Of Spies
  • Mad Max: Fury Road win Best Visual Effects
  • Mustang (from France) wins Best Foreign Language Film
  • Sandy Powell wins Best Costume Design for Cinderella

And there you have it. My predictions for Hollywood’s night of nights. You might only care about who wears what but see who wins on Sunday the 28th. Even attend a party. You might win prizes.

Reviews Of Other Nominated Movies Viewed:

-Joy

-Ex Machina

-Straight Outta Compton

-Anomalisa

-Boy And The World

-Cinderella

Oscars And Diversity: The Struggle Continues

Elba

Idris Elba in his supporting performance in Beasts Of No Nation had the best chances for a non-white actor to receive an acting nomination for this year’s Oscars. Despite being heavily favored, it didn’t happen.

Remember last year I talked about the issue of Oscars and race that took over headlines? Yes, it’s nice to see people pay attention to something about the Oscars besides who wears what? However it did focus on a problem in which many people including myself hoped would only exist last year. Unfortunately it was not the case.

THIS YEAR’S HOPE

Last year was a big focus of the lack of diversity. I even did a focus on it myself and even explained how things worked in all my 15 years of ‘OscarWatching.’ Many including myself were hoping that this year would not have the same mistake this year. And this year had a performance by a black actor eligible for a nomination: Idris Elba in the Supporting Actor category for Beasts Of No Nation. It had all the eligible clout: a Golden Globe nomination, a Screen Actors Guild nomination and a BAFTA nomination. Although nothing is guaranteed or earned in showbiz, it had the right amount of juice to clinch the nomination in that category. Many wanted to see the nomination happen. I also wanted to see it happen. I know that if it didn’t happen, there would be a whole whack of controversy and outrage. I even thought the Academy wouldn’t deny him the nomination, not after the #OscarsSoWhite embarrassment from last year.

The nominations were announced on January 14th. Elba was not among the nominees in that category. There were the nominations of Christian Bale and Mark Rylance which were also nominated for the same awards previously mentioned, the was Golden Globe winner Sylvester Stallone. However there was Mark Ruffalo who had earned a SAG nomination and Critics Choice nomination and Tom Hardy who had amassed only a Critics Choice nomination. All the acting nominees were white. All eight Best Picture nominees consisted of a predominantly white cast and predominantly white crew. As for directing and writing, the only non-white nominee was Mexican Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu.

The lack of diversity wasn’t just the black-and-white issue. Gay director Todd Haynes was heavily favored to be nominated for Best Director for Carol and even for Carol itself to be nominated for Best Picture but those didn’t happen either. If there’s one positive thing, there were four women who receive scriptwriting nominations: up from zero from last year.

THE BACKLASH

People were already speaking their outrage. A new Twitter hashtag– #OscarsStillSoWhite– came about. Civil Rights leader Al Sharpton, whom last year said he would set up a ‘diversity task force,’ was outspoken in his outrage and urged boycotts. Boycotts did happen from Spike Lee, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. Some actors who did not intend to boycott like George Clooney, Viola Davis and Lupita Nyong’o spoke their criticism. Host Chris Rock was under pressure to boycott the Oscars. He declined but he will be focusing on it during his opening routine at this year’s ceremony. Even Barack Obama spoke out about the controversy: “I think that when everyone’s story is told then that makes for better art, it makes for better entertainment it makes everybody feel part of one American family, so I think as a whole the industry should do what every other industry should do which is to look for talent, provide opportunity to everybody. And I think the Oscar debate is really just an expression of this broader issue. Are we making sure that everybody is getting a fair shot?”

racist-oscarsThe Academy especially came under fire as they were scrutinized and analyzed and it was revealed that over 90% of the Academy were white in comparison to 65% of the population of the United States being white. In addition three out of every four Academy members were male. Despite the criticism and outrage, there were defenders coming from the likes of actress Penelope Ann Miller:  “I voted for a number of black performers, and I was sorry they weren’t nominated. To imply that this is because all of us are racists is extremely offensive. I don’t want to be lumped into a category of being a racist because I’m certainly not and because I support and benefit from the talent of black people in this business. It was just an incredibly competitive year.” Even black actors like Ice Cube and Whoopi Goldberg  dismissed the labeling of the Academy as racist. Ice Cube described the labeling of racism as “crying about not having enough icing on your cake.” Whoopi whom herself has won an Oscar and even host the Oscar ceremonies for many years stated: “Even if you fill the Academy with black and Latino and Asian members, if there’s no one on the screen to vote for, you’re not going to get the outcome that you want. I won once, so it can’t be that racist. I’ve been black the whole time.”

THE AMPAS PRESIDENT

With all the criticism the Academy faced this year, the one person who had to do the responding was AMPAS president Cheryl Boone Isaacs. Born in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1949, Boone Isaacs grew up in a middle-class African-American family. She graduated from Springfield Central High School in 1967 and from Whittier College in 1971 with a degree in political science. Her studies in college included a program studying abroad in Denmark.

Her introduction to showbiz came at the age of 25 through her older brother Ashley Boone Jr. who worked as an executive in Hollywood. She started work in Hollywood as a publicist for Columbia Pictures. Her first job was being a publicist for Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. She would work for various film companies as a publicist. Her publicity work on films would eventually lead to higher stature such as Vice President, Worldwide Advertising and Publicity of Melvin Simon Productions and Director of Advertising and Publicity for The Ladd Company. Under Paramount Pictures starting in 1984, she would start as Director, Publicity and Promotion, West Coast and then eventually become the Worldwide Publicity Director. Some of her marketing campaigns included successful Oscar campaigns for Best Picture winners Forrest Gump and Braveheart.

Success continued for Boone Isaacs as she would become President of Theatrical Marketing for New Line Cinema, the first black woman to hold such a position. She even has her own promotion company, CBI Enterprises, Inc., where she has worked on successful promotion of Best Picture winners: The King’s Speech and The Artist.

Boone Isaacs has been a member of the Academy since 1988. In 2013, she was promoted to the position of AMPAS president in 2013and became the first African-American president of the Academy as well as only the third woman, after only Bette Davis and Fay Kanin. Since her inception as president, he achievements have included lifting the cap or restriction on the number of Academy members. she also initiated a drive to invite over 400 new members coming from many ages and backgrounds.

THE PRESIDENT AND THE ISSUE OF DIVERSITY

“It’s easier to be the president of the United States as a black person than to be the head of a studio.”

-Spike Lee

The issue of the Academy and diversity appeared to be making progress since the start of the new millennium. Actors of various races were earning nominations more than ever before as well as non-white directors. Even in the minor categories, minorities were getting an increasing number of nominations. However it’s almost always in the acting categories where the issue of the Academy and racial diversity gets the heaviest scrutiny. That was the case last year when the first hashtag #OscarsSoWhite came out.

Isaacs

AMPAS president Cheryl Boone Isaacs didn’t hesitate to make changes to the Academy in response to the backlack which included boycotts from Spike Lee and Will Smith.

Cheryl Boone Isaacs, an African-American woman herself, knew this was an issue that needed looking into and she made her efforts. This was especially noteworthy at the AMPAS’s annual Governor Awards  on Saturday November 14th. One of those awarded was Spike Lee where he was given an honorary Oscar. Before Boone Isaacs announced her plans, Lee talked about the lack of diversity even commenting that when he goes through Hollywood offices, he only sees white faces and the only non-white is the person checking his name at the door.

At those Awards, Boone Isaacs announced her plan which she called A2020: an initiative to age, gender, race, national origin and point-of-view, in Hollywood over the next five years.  Her A2020 initiative is a five-year plan to study practices at the Academy with the aim of improving the diversity of its own staff and governance while also bringing new voices into the organization. Outside of the Academy, the plan is also intended to encourage and to push the industry to examine its hiring practices and to begin to make changes. Boone Isaacs stated: “When it comes to fair and equal representation in our industry, words are not enough. We also have a responsibility to take action and we have an unique opportunity to do so now.” At those ceremonies, Lee thanked her and said: “she’s trying to do something that needs to be done.”

THE PRESIDENT RESPONDS TO THE CONTROVERSY

“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up.”

-Cheryl Boone Isaacs

If there’s one thing most people would feel upon learning of this year’s nominees, it’s that Cheryl’s A2020 plan isn’t happening fast enough. Even though the set of 51 new members of the Academy was more diverse especially with 17 of them being women, the end result on nomination day was one of disappointment. Boone Isaacs herself came under fire by some for not doing enough. Even civil rights leader Al Sharpton ridiculed her by referring to her as a pawn in a predominantly white members-only club.

No doubt Boone Isaacs felt the heat. It was only a matter of a mere eight days after the nominations were announced that Boone Isaacs announced the sweeping changes to the membership rules for Academy members. This was published on the AMPAS website under the title ‘Academy Takes Historic Action To Increase Diversity.’ For those interested in the plans, click here to the official document.

The day before, the Board Of Governors approved through a unanimous vote a set of sweeping changes coming to the Academy’s membership. Its intent was to make the Academy members more diverse and open the door to more women and visible minorities. However one of the things they most wanted to get tough on was the membership of their older members. Examples of the proposed changes starting this year are:

  • New members lasting 10 years and renewed if that new member has been active in motion pictures during that decade.
  • Lifetime voting rights after three ten-year terms or if they’ve won or have been nominated for an Academy Award. Standards also applied retroactively to current members.
  • Current members that have not been active for 10 years can still qualify if they meet the other criteria.
  • Members not qualifying for active status will be moved to emeritus status and will be denied voting privileges.
  • An ambitious global campaign will be launched to identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity.
  • To increase diversity in its Board Of Governors, the Academy will establish three new governor seats that will be nominated by the president for three year terms and confirmed by the board.
  • New members who are not governors will be added to its executive and board committees where key decisions about membership and governance are made. This allows for new members to become more active in the Academy’s decision-making and help the Academy identify and nurture future leaders.

Most of the response has been good. Some of the biggest came from Selma director Ava DuVernay through Twitter: “One good step in a long, complicated journey for people of color + women artists. Shame is one helluva motivator.” Lee stood by his boycott but applauded Boone Isaacs and the Board of Governers for: “trying to do the right thing. It’s a start.” Steven Spielberg also reminded us: “I do think that what the Academy is doing, in a proactive way, to open up the membership to diversity, I think that’s very, very important. But it’s not just the Academy, and I think we have to stop pointing fingers and blaming the Academy. It’s people that hire, it’s people at the main gate of studios and independents. It’s the stories that are being told. It’s who’s writing diversity — it starts on the page. And we all have to be more proactive in getting out there and just seeking talent.”

I admire Cheryl Boone Isaacs for taking the initiative for making these needed changes. The Academy always was aboard with its own membership rules and needed reform back in the 1960’s because of its own issues then. Issues came again now and reform was needed. The changes proposed look great: less members for life.

However I do believe they are not a 100% guarantee of diversity happening on a consistent basis. No kidding diversity will be increasing at double the rate it’s been happening in past years. However it doesn’t mean that every year from next year onward will feature a diverse array of nominees. I’ve seen the various film seasons over the years and see how certain films excel more than others. I’ve seen years that have been very generous towards minority actor and have given them roles that can contend for glory at various awards shows including the Oscars. However I’ve also seen years which have been lackluster for them and they would lack parts that can propel them among the ‘elite of the year.’ I know it’s a start and there will be more to come but I’m still a bit cynical it’s a solve-all.

Also it also depends on the media too. I’ve seen them label some films long before the Oscars full of ‘Oscar buzz.’ And most of them are predominantly white. The media can’t just simply label a film ‘Oscar bait’ because it has characteristics that are common with what wins the Academy over. They should call it ‘Oscar bait’ because of top notch quality, and skin color should not matter.

Nevertheless next year is the first year when these changes are to come into effect. Hopefully over time we will see a more diverse Academy. And not just more blacks; more women, more Hispanics, more Asians, more of all minorities. As for 2016, potential is already showing as this year’s Sundance showed The Birth Of A Nation: a film with a predominantly African-American cast that had rave reviews and huge buzz. The release date to the box office has not been set but Fox Searchlight has bought the film’s rights at $17.5 million, the most ever for a Sundance film.

The outrage over the lack of diversity at this year’s Academy Award nominees was just the catalyst needed for the necessary changes to happen. The future will tell if these changes pay off or not. However the lack of diversity is still an ugly reminder of what happens when you turn art into a competition.

WORKS CITED:

WIKIPEDIA: 88th Academy Awards. Wikipedia.com. 2016. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/88th_Academy_Awards>

WIKIPEDIA: Cheryl Boone Isaacs. Wikipedia.com. 2016. Wikimedia Foundation Inc.  <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheryl_Boone_Isaacs>

Kilday, Gregg. “Spike Lee: Getting a Black President Is Easier Than a Black Studio Head” The Hollywood reporter. 14 November 2015 <http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/spike-lee-getting-a-black-840371>

Gray, Tim. “Governors Award Winner Spike Lee to Hollywood: ‘You Better Get Smart’” Variety. 15 November 2015 <http://variety.com/2015/film/news/governors-award-winner-spike-lee-to-hollywood-you-better-get-smart-1201640307/>

“ACADEMY TAKES HISTORIC ACTION TO INCREASE DIVERSITY” Oscars.org 22 January 2016 <http://www.oscars.org/news/academy-takes-historic-action-increase-diversity>

 

Oscars 2015 Shorts Review: Best Animated Short Film

Cinema

Just recently I published my review of the live-action shorts nominees of this year. Now’s my chance to publish my thoughts on the nominated animated shorts of this year. They range in variety from 2D artistic to primitive 2D to common 3D computer animated to 3D with a unique style. All five are excellent and unique in their unique way but who deserves to win?

Bear Story (Chile): dirs. Gabriel Osorio Vargas and Pato Escala Pierart – It’s a story of a bear who misses his wife and son dearly. Every day he goes out on the street and shows a diorama show to those of the story of how he was abducted from them both and taken away to be part of the circus. The show also ends showing his hope that one day he will be reunited with them both.

The film is a sad story that touches your heart without trying to mess with it. It’s 3D animation but instead of the characters looking human, it comes looking like toy soldiers. I’m not too sure of the creative purpose of that. Nevertheless it does make for an entertaining short film.

Prologue (UK): dirs. Richard Williams and Imogen Sutton – This is one film where there was a viewer discretion warning and advised minors to leave the theatre before it was shown. The film takes part 2,400 years in the past. A child watches a brutal war between two teams of Spartan and Athenian warriors.

This is the rawest nominated short I’ve ever seen ever since they’ve shown the shorts in theatres. The art is simplistic as it consists mostly of pencil drawings with very little coloring. However it merits a lot in terms of its artistry. It also tells a story in brutally relentless fashion even depicting the battles in gory manner. It’s very rare to see a short animated film that’s strictly adults only. It also made it refreshing to see such a short.

Sanjay’s Super Team (USA): dirs: Sanjay Patel and Nicole Paradis Grindle – Sanjay loves watching the Super Team on television but his father is very insistent on a religious prayer habit, even at Sanjay’s young age. Right during the prayer ritual, Sanjay’s imagination comes alive. The gods he’s praying to form a Super Team of his own and they join Sanjay in the battle against a nemesis.

This is from Pixar and was the short before The Good Dinosaur. Director Sanjay Patel has an impressive resume working as an animator for Pixar in films like A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 2, the two Monsters movies, The Incredibles and Ratatouille. This film in which he co-directs is his directing debut. The film shows similar imagination to that of the Pixar team while also taking us into a brief but memorable time into an incredible fantasy world. Very good from start to finish. I predict it as my Should Win pick and Will Win pick.

We Can’t Live Without Cosmos (Russia): dir. Konstantin Bronzit – Two childhood friends train to be cosmonauts in space. Only one will go off into space. The other will be the alternate or next in line if something bad happens to the first. One friend got picked. The other friend wishes him well on his voyage. However shortly after blast off, the friend disappears. The friend down on earth is unhappy. He can’t even adjust well to his alternate whom he doesn’t get along with at all. Actually the alternate can’t get along with anyone. The friend makes a decision to the surprise of many, and to us. It’s a decision we’re glad he made.

It’s a 2D film with a story that doesn’t need dialogue for us to get the messages. Over time we learn the story isn’t about trying to make it into space but about just how close the friendship is. The two train together and dream together. When his friend is lost into oblivion, his ambition to be the next in space disappears just like that. You can easily see why he made the decision to do what he did.

World Of Tomorrow (UK) dir. Don Hirtzfeldt – The story begins with a toddler named Emily in a room. Out of nowhere comes a clone also named Emily who came from 227 years into the future back to the present. The adult Emily, ‘Emily Clone,’ tells the child Emily, ‘Emily Prime,’ of the human’s attempts to achieve immortality through cloning and showcasing the various worlds including the ‘Outernet’ and the various memories of the clone Emily. Very different and very unique.

This is another 2D short. The drawing is very simplistic. However it’s the story that’s the top quality of the film. We see a bizarre but unique story of Emily Clone and Emily Prime the future world and the future of Emily. The funniest element of the short is Emily Clone keeps on talking in her highly scientific speech and all Emily Prime does is just respond back in her childish gibberish. That adds to the humor of the short.

In conclusion I know I picked Sanjay’s Super Team as both my Should Win and Will Win choice. Normally I wouldn’t pick such a film to win but I find it hard to see any of the other four films try to top it. All five are excellent but I think Sanjay stands alone. I know World Of Tomorrow won the Annie Award but I have my feeling about Oscars voters. Mind you the shorts categories are some of the least predictable categories of the Oscars.

And there you go. My thoughts on the Oscar nominated Animated Shorts. Winner to be decided in two weeks.

Oscars 2015 Shorts Review: Best Live-Action Short Film

Cinema

The Oscar-nominated short films were back in theatres again. However this year I only had the chances to see the live-action one day and the animated another. I have no problem writing separate reviews for both. So here’s my take on the live-action shorts:

Ave Maria (Palestine/France/Germany): dirs. Eric Dupont and Basil Khalil – Five nuns pray at a convent in a ‘war-zone’ area of Palestine. Then they hear what sounds like an explosive car crash. One tries to help despite the fact they are under a vow of silence. What happened was a car driven by Jewish residents accidentally crashed into the Virgin Mary statue. They try to help but there are conflicts with the nuns’ vows of silence and the family’s strict adherence to the Sabbath and with kosherisms. Not to mention they don’t want to be noticed by Arab residents in the area.

The film does focus on the religious tensions in Palestine but in a humorous way. All of this takes place in the area of the convent. However it’s funny how something as little as a car crash and people trying to seek out help can lead to such religious conflicts. That may have been the least of problems in Palestine but even then it just shows the humor of the whole situation and of how in the end it’s all about doing the right thing. I feel the film’s mix of humor while conveying a social message is why I predict it Will Win the Oscar.

Shok (Kosovo/UK): dir. Jamie Donoughue – A car driving on a Kosovo road stops at an abandoned child’s bicycle. But why would a grown male from the car leave the car to look at the bicycle? And why would he ride it soon after?

The answer flashes back to the mid-90’s. Two Kosovar Albanian boys Petrit and Oki are the closest of friends. They frequently go to school riding on the bicycle Oki bought after a year of selling almonds. Petrit wants a bike of his own but feels he can get it by selling drugs and rolling papers to Serbian soldiers who’ve taken over the area. He feels it could also prevent them invading their village despite news stories of other areas of Kosovo being invaded. He even tells Oki he’s safe with him.

However Petrit’s promise and ‘business’ is put under heavy question during one of his ‘deals’ as a Serbian soldier wants Oki’s bicycle. It’s not the lost bicycle Oki’s angry about but the fact Petrit is willing to do something dangerous and dishonest for money and it threatens their friendship. They reconcile after Petrit is willing to take an assault from a soldier after Albanian books are found in Oki’s bag and Petrit claims them as his own. Unfortunately the invasion of their village eventually comes and with it the tragic end of the friendship of Oki and Petrit.

Of all five shorts, this is the one that still stayed with me long after I left the theatre. This is a story based on true events. I easily remember the war in the Balkans, especially the bloodshed in Bosnia, back in the 90’s. It dominated the news that decade. The war in Kosovo just years after the war in Bosnia ended was another example of the tyranny and I remember that as well. It does leave you feeling it was unfair of what happened to Oki. He was the smart one. He was the one who kept Petrit’s head on straight. But he was the one killed. Also that end scene where we see a grown-up Petrit still haunted by the war more that fifteen years later reminds you that war still haunts even as time passes and even if Kosovo did get its independence. My cousin once said: “No country’s freedom came without some amount of bloodshed.” True, but the bloodshed still leaves people with a trauma not even independence can solve. That’s why I pick Shok to be my Should Win pick.

Eveything Will Be Okay (Austria/Germany): dir. Patrick Vollrath – The film starts on a simple note. A man named Michael goes to see his daughter Lea for visitation. His ex-wife and new boyfriend don’t have a problem with that at all so we think it will just be a fun day of the two of them without incident. It starts on a fun note as he buys her a big Playmobil toy and promises to taker her to the fair afterwards. However things get a bit suspicious as the two go to a photo booth where he gets Lea to have a photo of her own and takes to a passport office for rush processing. Things get even fishier when Michael sells his car and they take a cab to the airport. Soon we get what’s going on. It’s a miracle the flight to Dubai was cancelled but they have a replacement flight the next morning. Despite Lea wanting to go home, Michael is insistent on taking her and for her to cooperate. It’s by the luck of Lea making a phone call to her mother overnight that they’re able to prevent an abduction from happening. But not without a struggle.

This is a film of a scenario that happens all too often. A broken marriage and children caught in the middle even to the point of them being abducted. This is something that happens all over the world. However the story is not just about the child caught in the middle but the parent who’s hurting and feels that the child is being taken away from him. The film leaves you wondering if Michael suffers from a mental illness or if he’s just a hurting person. It leaves you feeling that way of a lot of parents from failed marriages. Is that why they abduct their children? The film also leaves you relieved that the flight was cancelled and that Lea was able to make that phone call to her mother in the early morning. Not as many children are as lucky.

The best quality of the film is that it helps the audience live the moment. We don’t know what’s really happening at first but we soon get a better understanding of what’s happening as time goes on. Even as they go to the fair and ride the bumper cars, we still can’t take our mind off of what we suspect will happen. And as time moves on, what we suspect is exactly what’s happening. In addition that scene which we think is the end where the police, Lea’s mother and the hotel personnel try to stop the heist ends up being a scene where a new conflict begins. Michael still struggle to hang onto Lea. That’s another quality of the film where right where we think it’s all over, it’s not and a new struggle begins. On top of that the film’s story is shown without any musical score which adds to the intensity of the drama.

This is a film of a story of an incident that happens all too often in our world. The film’s best qualities are the story unfolding quietly as time unfolds and the unexpected twists in the drama.

-Stutterer (UK/Ireland): dirs. Benjamin Cleary and Serena Armitage – Greenwood, a twentysomething London male with a stutter finds life difficult. His stutter is so severe, it causes problems when calling customer service. He has a job as a typographer but his social life is limited to him with his father. Often he fakes himself as death to try and avoid conversation. His thoughts however are perfectly coherent.

Despite his social flaws and his speech problem, he has developed an online relationship with a woman named Ellie. That works excellently and they keep the relationship going for six months despite never meeting face to face. However the day comes when Ellie would like to meet Greenwood for the first time. He’s in a crisis of what to do and abandons her at first but agrees to do so the next day despite being nervous as hell. The ending will surprise you.

This is a charming story. It takes you into the person’s feelings as well as their insecurities. You learn of Greenwood’s stutter and of what he’s really thinking and easily see the barriers he has to face. You learn about Greenwood the person and hope that in the end he does win Ellie. The ending will delight you. Very clever short film.

 –Day One (USA): dir. Henry Hughes – Feda is a young woman just hired by the U.S. Army to act as interpreter. She’s in her 30’s and admits to her colleague who also speaks Arabic that she’s never been married and has no children. Her operation on Day One involves dealing with an enemy bomb maker the army is about to arrest. The operation involves a lot more. It also involves bring his fatherless niece to safety. It also involves dealing with his wife who’s about to give birth.

As if trying to deliver the baby isn’t stressful enough, there’s the fact the baby’s hand is hanging out. The doctor tests for a pulse from the baby and assumes there isn’t one. Feda is given orders to cut the deceased baby’s limbs so that the mother doesn’t bleed to death. Even before Feda attempts the first cut, she notices the hand move. The baby’s alive. There is a sigh of relief but there’s the new stress of making sure the baby’s born right and the mother not bleeding to death. The film ends on a sad but hopeful note.

Just like Everything Will Be Okay, it captures the drama of the moment and allows the audience to capture the intensity as the events are slowly unfolding. The various twists and turns in the story also adds to the continuous drama. The happy ending we all hope for doesn’t happen but it does end with a moment of hope, especially for Feda.

In conclusion, I feel Shok should win the Oscar because of how it’s a story that stays with you long after you leave the theatre. It was creative and it told a story that will touch you deep down inside. I still remember hearing a couple of people in tears after Oki was shot. However I don’t know if the Academy will pick a short that’s all too serious. I think they might want to go for a story leading more to the humorous side. I think Ave Maria with its mix of humor and social awareness will take the Oscar. I think the Academy would prefer a film like that.

And there are my thoughts for this year’s five nominees in the category of Best Live Action Short Film. Winners to be decided on the big night. Also click here for my reviews of the animated shorts.

My Predictions For The 2015 Academy Award Nominees

Chocolate Oscar

Yes, my chocolate Oscar. Find out who gets nominated for the real ones Thursday.

Another year, another set of Oscar predictions. All summer I didn’t think I would be up for predicting again. I think Birdman‘s win left a bitter taste in my mouth. Actually I do get a bit disheartened when any movie that gives nothing to really admire or appreciate wins Best Picture. These last few weeks, I’ve been accelerating in terms of my movie viewership. I even watch Bridge Of Spies coming home. Review coming soon. This is the third year I’m  doing the ‘laxed’ Oscar tracking while maintaining the same amount of enthusiasm. In addition to my ‘laxed’ Oscar tracking, I decided this year to only bother making nomination predictions for 14 categories instead of the whole thing because it’s easier and also there are contests that ask just for predictions for the Top 8 categories. I didn’t think the whole thing was worth it. So here are my predictions for the nominees:

BEST PICTURE:

  • The Big Short
  • Bridge Of Spies
  • Brooklyn
  • Carol
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant
  • Room
  • Spotlight
  • Straight Outta Compton

BEST DIRECTOR:

  • Todd Haynes,Carol
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant
  • Tom McCarthy, Spotlight
  • Adam McKay,The Big Short
  • Ridley Scott, The Martian

BEST ACTOR:

  • Bryan Cranston, Trumbo
  • Matt Damon, The Martian
  • Leonardo Dicaprio, The Revenant
  • Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs
  • Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

BEST ACTRESS:

  • Cate Blanchett, Carol
  • Brie Larson, Room
  • Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
  • Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
  • Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

  • Christian Bale, The Big Short
  • Idris Elba,Beasts of No Nation
  • Mark Rylance,Bridge of Spies
  • Michael Shannon,99 Homes
  • Sylvester Stallone, Creed

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

  • Jennifer Jason Leigh , The Hateful Eight
  • Rooney Mara, Carol
  • Kate Winslet, Steve Jobs
  • Helen Mirren , Trumbo
  • Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

  • Ethan Coen, Joel Coen & Matt Charman, Bridge of Spies
  • Josh Cooley, Meg Lefauve & Pete Docter, Inside Out
  • Alex Garland,Ex Machina
  • Josh Singer & Thomas Mccarthy, Spotlight
  • Quentin Tarantino,The Hateful Eight

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

  • Emma Donoghue, Room
  • Adam McKay,The Big Short
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu & Mark L. Smith, The Revenant
  • Phyllis Nagy,Carol
  • Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:

  • Anomalisa
  • The Good Dinosaur
  • Inside Out
  • The Peanuts Movie
  • Shaun The Sheep Movie

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE:

  • Amy
  • Best of Enemies
  • Cartel Land
  • He Named Me Malala
  • The Look of Silence

BEST FILM EDITING:

  • Hank Corwin,The Big Short
  • Tom McArdle,Spotlight
  • Stephen Mirrione,The Revenant
  • Pietro Scalia, The Martian
  • Margaret Sixel,Mad Max: Fury Road

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:

  • The Brand New Testament (Belgium)
  • Embrace Of The Serpent (Columbia)
  • Mustang (France)
  • Son Of Saul (Hungary)
  • Theeb (Jordan)

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:

  • Carter Burwell, Carol
  • Bryce Dessner, Carsten Nicolai & Ryuichi Sakamoto,The Revenant
  • Johan Johannson,Sicario
  • Ennio Morricone,The Hateful Eight
  • John Williams,Star Wars: The Force Awakens

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:

  • Jurassic World
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • The Martian
  • The Revenant
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens

MOST LIKELY UPSETTERS:

Here is where I predict who will most likely upset in my predictions for the nominees. I only predict in the ones I feel I can make a good judgment for an upsetter:

BEST PICTURE:

  • The Hateful Eight
  • Inside Out

BEST DIRECTOR:

  • George Miller,Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Steven Spielberg, Bridge of Spies

BEST ACTOR:

  • Will Smith, Concussion
  • Johnny Depp, Black Mass

BEST ACTRESS:

  • Helen Mirren, Woman In Gold
  • Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:

  • Paul Dano, Love & Mercy
  • Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:

  • Rachel McAdams, Spotlight
  • Jane Fonda, Youth

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY:

  • Andrea Berloff & Jonathan Herman, Straight Outta Compton

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY:

  • Drew Goddard, The Martian
  • Nick Hornby,Brooklyn

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE:

  • Minions

BEST DOCUMENTARY:

  • Where To Invade Next
  • Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief

BEST FILM EDITING:

  • Michael Kahn, Bridge of Spies
  • Alfonso Concalves, Carol

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM:

  • The Fencer (Finland)

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE:

  • Thomas Newman, Bridge Of Spies
  • Howard Shore, Spotlight

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS:

  • Ex Machina
  • The Walk

And there you have it. My predictions for the Academy Award nominees. The official results will be seen live Thursday at 5:30 Hollywood time. Did all that money on all those For Your Consideration ads pay off? We’ll see.

2014 Oscars And Diversity

DISCLAIMER: Some of you may wonder about the lateness of this blog. True, I could have posted this around the time of the nominations or around the time the winners were announced. However I was busy enough with watching and reviewing films around Oscar time. Also I was tired of blogging for a long time after the Oscars were awarded. This is something long-time subscribers of mine are familiar with where I take time out from blogging after the Awards. Nevertheless this is a subject that is relevant any time and is worth posting even now.

The Academy's lack of diversity was exposed this year with the subbing of David Oyelowo's performance in Selma from a Best Actor nomination and director Ava DuVernay's snub of a Best Director nomination.

The Academy’s lack of diversity was exposed this year with the subbing of David Oyelowo’s performance of Martin Luther King in Selma from a Best Actor nomination and director Ava DuVernay’s snub of a Best Director nomination.

When the Oscar nominations came out Thursday January 15th, with it came the ranting and complaining from people. The Hollywood Reporter is right that if there’s one thing we love more than watching the Oscars, it’s complaining about them. Every year, there are complaints from people about nominations that deserved to happen but didn’t. The biggest example for this year would be The LEGO Movie snubbed in the Best Animated Feature category. There’s also the possible complaint from people, especially Republicans, that none of the eight Best Picture nominees had grossed even $60 million at that time. One such to raise eyebrows, especially at Box Office Mojo. However the biggest noise came over the lack of racial diversity among the nominees, especially the acting nominees. It was all over social media. It even appeared in a speech by Jessica Chastain at this year’s Critics Choice awards. The question being how legitimate is this claim? And what does this say of the film industry.

How The Oscar Race Works

One thing I’ve been doing in my fifteen years of paying close attention to the Oscar race is learning how nominations are won. One thing I already know that having a phenomenal performance or effort in a critically-renowned film is good to get the buzz started. Then it involves having it taken to all those Critics Circle awards, film body awards, Top 10 films of the year charts from critics, the Hollywood Foreign Press, the respective various guilds and members of the Academy through various DVDs with ‘for your consideration’ stamped all over it and even ‘for your consideration’ posters. Even things of merit like Oscar nominations require marketing to success in this lovely industry called showbiz.

Then it’s up for the Academy members to vote. How does one become a member? The easiest way– or should I say the most guaranteed way as nothing’s easy in showbiz– is be nominated for an Oscar. That’s the sure-fire method. The harder method is to earn consistent acclaim over the years with your efforts and performances. There are a lot of members that were never nominated for an Oscar so there must be some merit system towards achieving Academy membership. Performances and efforts get a lot of Oscar buzz and a load of acclaim from critics, critics’ boards and awards juries. It’s now up for the members of the Academy to vote for the nominees. One thing we need to remember is that nominating operates branch-by-branch. Actors nominate actors, directors nominate directors, scriptwriters nominate scripts, documentarians nominate documentaries, and so forth. One thing’s that’s certain is all members vote for Best Picture.

The funny thing is how many performances and efforts each year that are labeled Oscar-worthy. It’s like I always describe the nominations race: “Lots of performances deserving of the win. Only room for five nominees.” You can tell how hard it is to be among what should be called the ‘elite of the year.’ I even describe that by saying “Sometimes even excellent isn’t good enough.” It’s obvious why a lot of actors and other people in film rely on such buzz and advertising to get a nomination because they can’t rely on just their performance as-is. This is showbiz and it’s about that push and about politicking and advertising and cash pumping that lead to all these nominations and nothing is completely guaranteed. Even The LEGO Movie looked like a sure bet for the Best Animated Feature nomination but it didn’t get it. That to me was the biggest snub this year.

Then the nominations came. Selma was among the eight films to earn nominations for Best Picture. However the big shock came in the latter categories. Selma also had its best hopes in earning nominations in the Best Actor category for David Oyelowo and the Best Director category for Ava DuVernay. Both were already Golden Globe nominees and Critics Choice award nominees. However neither of the nominations happened. The only other nomination that Selma received was in the Best Original Song category for ‘Glory’ which had already won the Golden Globe.

The snubs bit. Ava’s bit especially since this would have made her the fourth black director and the fifth female director to clinch a Best Director nomination. Just as irritating is who was nominated in their place. For Best Actor, Redmayne, Keaton, Cumberbatch and Carell had enough buzz to sit pretty. David Oyelowo and Jake Gyllenhall of Nightcrawler looked like to be the tightest race for the fifth spot. For Best Director, Inarritu, Tyldum, Linklater and Anderson had the biggest buzz while DuVernay appeared to have her biggest competition for the fifth sport from Clint Eastwood for American Sniper. As what should have been expected for Best Actor, it went to a peer: Bradley Cooper for American Sniper. This was the third year in a row he was nominated for an Oscar. Unexpectedly in Best Director, the directors went for a lesser-celebrated peer: Bennett Miller for Foxcatcher. This is his second nomination, first being for Capote in 2005.

As much as the snubs bit, it’s not that unusual for more celebrated performances to be snubbed out in favor of lesser-hailed performances and efforts by Academy ‘peers.’ I first learned that in 2000, the very first year I paid serious attention to the Oscar race, when after I saw Billy Elliot, I was rooting for young Jamie Bell to get a Best Actor nomination. I even said: “If Billy Elliot gets a Best Picture nomination, then Jamie better get a Best Actor nomination.” The Academy granted my wish by making neither nomination happen. Favored over Jamie in the Best Actor category was the performance of Ed Harris, who had two previous Oscar nominations, in his self-directed Pollock: a movie and performance whose buzz either slipped under the radar or was kept low key because it wasn’t as heralded by previous awards. I saw it repeated in 2004 in the Best Actor category when Clint Eastwood was nominated for Million Dollar Baby. Sure his directing work was hugely heralded and his Best Director nomination was expected but his Best Actor nomination was completely out of the blue as it neither won nor was nominated for any other awards, major or minor. I continue to see it on a yearly basis in the Best Original Score category. It’s a given that whenever John Williams composes a score for a film, he’s guaranteed to get nominated. Even if it’s mostly unnoticed, it will find itself on the nominees lists even over more lauded scores by lesser known composers. Surprise nominees have happened in other categories over the years too. Rarely but often enough to take notice.

You can bet the outrage would start after the snubbing of Selma. All the acting and directing nominees were white. All the directing and writing nominees were white males. Additional irritation came when the script of Gone Girl was not nominated. This would have made Gillian Flynn the lone female writer among screenplay nominees. The anger came fast. Sasha Stone at the Awards Daily website was fuming. Bill Maher lampooned it. Jessica Chastain talked about the importance of diversity among Oscar nominees in her Critics Choice award acceptance speech. There was even the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. The craziest news came from the Rev. Al Sharpton and his plan to start up a diversity task force on the Academy. Actually Al’s remarks were the least of my concern. Al Sharpton is less of a civil rights leader than he is a drama queen.

However it was later exposed in an Entertainment Weekly article where DuVernay herself was personally interviewed by the magazine the real facts. It wasn’t racism as so many want to believe. It wasn’t even the controversy of her portrayal of LBJ. Nor was it even her involvement in raising activism over the not-guilty verdict over the shooting of Michael Brown or her promotion of the ‘I Can’t Breathe’ campaign. It was however marketing. Even though she had a Golden Globe nomination as did Oyelowo, the film was shunned out of the Screen Actors Guild awards, Directors Guild awards and the Producers Guild’s Golden Laurel awards, weakening Selma‘s chances for Oscar nominations. Even her own late distribution of the promotional DVD to Academy members, meaning members wouldn’t get it until later-December with little time to spare for nomination voting, decreased Selma‘s chances even further. Who you know doesn’t just involve getting acting jobs. It can even involve awards nominations too. In the end, Selma was nominated for Best Picture but its only other nomination was for Best Original Song for ‘Glory,’ which would go on to win the Oscar. However Selma became the first Best Picture nominee since 2002’s Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers without additional nominations in acting, directing or scriptwriting.

Whatever happened, it did expose a lot of holes in the Academy. Having a group of peers declaring nominees does leave for a lot of subjectivity in its choices. You can describe a lot of performances as ‘deserving’ of an Oscar win or even a nomination but the reality is this is showbiz. As much as there are a lot of performances and efforts deserving of nominations, I’m also well aware that showbiz is one domain where you won’t get what you deserve no matter how hard you work. Being able to command at least $1,000,000 per film, getting the big break of a lifetime and even getting an Oscar nomination are all as much about luck as even making it as an actor, especially in Hollywood. And it’s not uncommon to see peer favoritism in terms of Oscar nominations and seeing a deserving performance from an up-and-comer snubbed out.

Such snubs especially bite when it happens to a minority. People magazine even did a 1996 cover article entitled ‘Hollywood Black-Out’ about how black actors and other blacks in the film industry are shunned out. It’s not just blacks. Seeing the rare times when an actor/actress of a different race is nominated brings up reminders how their race is also given too little acclaim from the Academy. Having black celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg and Chris Rock host the Oscars has done little to quell this controversy. The fact that the AMPAS Academy is headed by a black woman, Cheryl Boone-Isaacs,  still did little to ease whatever tensions over diversity pop up. Even the awarding of Best Picture to Twelve Years A Slave last year was instantly forgotten. Even though I’ve faced the fact that this is showbiz and there’s really no such thing as unfair, I too would like to see more diversity happen.

Diversity Not Just Black And White

It’s not just a case of black actors or directors or other African-American filmworkers of various trades. We should also remember about Latin Americans. The last fifteen years has seen a good number of nominations going to actors from the Latin American countries or Americans of Latin American ancestry but even those are very rare as are the wins. I think Benicio del Toro is the only winner for this century. Just as excluded are Asian actors. I remember there wasn’t a single acting nomination for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon despite its many nominations. There have only been two winners in the history of the Oscars: Miyoshi Umeki and Haing Ngor. Even actors of other races have been shunned aside or given limited acclaim.

Even gender is a diversity issue. Four women have been nominated for Best Director. The first being Lina Wertmuller in 1975. The fourth and most recent being Kathryn Bigelow in 2009 who became the first woman to win the Oscar in that category for The Hurt Locker. Scriptwriting has been more friendly with more female nominees but still predominantly male. Nevertheless this year bit when the script from the hugely successful Gone Girl which was adapted to film by the novel’s own author Gillian Flynn was shunned out of the nominations. Gender diversity is more active in the technical nominations like Best Costume Design or Best Film Editing and even in the short film categories. Nevertheless seeing missing nominations in the higher categories does cause one to notice the exclusivity.

New Century, Bigger Diversity

The biggest surprise of it all is that the 21st century has either equaled, or has come close to equaling, the diversity numbers of the 20th century. On the subject of black actors and actresses, they have achieved five wins and thirty-one total nominations in the whole 20th century and amassed a total of nine wins and twenty-nine nominations in the 21st century. The 21st century has also included breakthroughs like Halle Berry being the first to win Best Actress and Denzel Washington becoming the first ever to win two Oscars. Even in the Best Director category there was only one black director ever nominated in the 20th century: John Singleton for Boyz ‘N Tha Hood. This century there were two: Lee Daniels for Precious and Steve McQueen for 12 Years A Slave. It’s not just African-Americans getting nominations and wins but black actors from many countries being nominated in this century like Djimon Hounsou from Benin, Sophie Okonedo and Chitewel Ejiofor from the UK and Mexican-born Kenyan actress Lupita Nyong’o.

On the subject of other races, one bright light was that 2003 had the most racially diverse set of acting nominees with nine non-white actors nominated including New Zealand Maori Keshia Castle-Hughes, Iranian Shohreh Aghdashloo, half-Indian British actor Ben Kingsley and Japanese actor Ken Watanabe among the many.

Some of you may be shocked to know that 2014 is only the second year in the 21st century that the acting nominations went all to white actors. Makes you wonder what’s more shocking? The fact that all were white or the fact that this is only the second year in the 21st century to do such? The only other year that this has been the case was 2010. Only back then there were no performances by racial minorities that garnered significant buzz to stimulate Oscar buzz. Not like this year where efforts from Selma achieved noticeable buzz.

Diversity is slowly but surely opening up in the directing categories. The last three Best Director wins have been won by racial minorities: Ang Lee, Alfonso Cuaron and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu. The 21st century may have had only two female Best Director nominees including one winner but there were only two in the whole 20th century. The 21st century has also opened up to female writers more. I even noticed in 2007 that three of the five scripts nominated for Best Original Screenplay were written by women including the winning script from Juno by Diablo Cody.

The Future Of Diversity In Hollywood

Despite the improvement in diversity over the last few decades, we have to look at the big picture of diversity not just in the Academy but Hollywood as a whole. I will admit that minorities are underserved in terms of box office fare. It’s not like the 90’s or the noughts where there were bigger box office stars of different races. Actually this last century has been an enigma in terms of defining a movie star’s success altogether. However I will say there was noticeably more movies back during those decades where a minority was the main star. We all remember a lot of those hip hop movies from long ago? Or even rappers taking on acting roles? Sometimes you wonder if we should blame Hollywood or the movie-going public? Like why does it seem the most racial diversity we see in terms of blockbuster fare nowadays are Tyler Perry movies?

Back on the topic of the Oscars, I wanted to delay my blog about this because I wanted the firestorm after the nominations to die down. Yes, there were a lot of people angry about the lack of diversity this year. There even some angry enough to dismiss past diversity of Oscar nominees, including AwardsDaily’s Sasha Stone dismissing it as an “Illusion of inclusion,” which is typical of Sasha’s ranting. There were some critics however who pointed out there were a lot of other snubs from deserving efforts from non-minorities reminding us how chancy it is to get nominated. Even one anonymous blogger said “You can’t simply give a nomination to them because they’re a minority. You should nominate them because you feel their performance deserves it.” It is true. Even though I would love to see diversity happen amongst Oscar nominees, I am aware of the harsh realities of showbiz including that of the Academy. In actual fact, the Academy actually does not owe anyone diversity. Same as Hollywood doesn’t really owe anybody anything. The only thing the Academy really owes on ‘Nomination Day’ are nominations to the five best performances and efforts of the year.

One thing I do feel the Academy should do is reorganize itself. It should especially reorganize its ability in selecting members of the Academy. It’s not clear how members of the Academy outside of past Oscar nominees are selected. One thing it should do is allow for more fair rules for allowing for diversity. Whatever panel that selects Academy members should go to more film events like the various film festivals for selecting new members including those with focus on minorities. It should go to more media events as well. I’m even tempted to suggest the Academy should expand its nominees per category from five to seven but that’s up for the Academy to decide.

Since I mentioned film festivals, this is my next focus on how to increase opportunities for minorities, and this isn’t simply for Oscar nominations. Film festivals have to be the most minority-friendly of opportunities. I know because I’ve attended the Vancouver Film festival for many years. I’ve seen films from various countries directed by a diverse variety of people including many films directed by women. Minorities of both race and gender should seize every channel they can to get their works out into the public eye and film festivals are their best bet. There are even ‘specific’ film festivals dedicated to race and ethnicity and even women’s film festivals including one festival that advertises ‘by women for everyone.’ That’s why I said after the Oscar nominations: “You want diversity? Go to a film festival. There you’ll get diversity in film making.”

Since I’m on the topic, that’s another thing I feel minorities should overcome: beating out false stigmas associated with their works. I know I’ve talked a lot about changes and improvements certain professionals should make. I can’t really say the same about minority actors and directors because they’re not really doing anything wrong. They should all keep doing what they’re doing and follow their dreams. Even David and Ava did nothing wrong really and they should keep on chasing their dreams. However they are sometimes given a stigma with their works and efforts that’s not entirely true in which they should fight off. I often feel that most of the film world thinks of black directors to be like Spike Lee who always has an angry view of white people. It’s not 100% true as Selma showed the white supporters of the Selma marches in a positive light. As for female directors, I feel there’s a bit of a myth that sometimes female directors can either direct ‘chick movies’ or be the type that mocks men just like Roseanne Barr used to. It’s not true as I’ve seen films directed by women at the VIFF that depicted men in a fair light. Plus I never saw Ava try to give a negative impression of men in Selma. Yes, these stigmas are an undeserved burden for them but they should fight it by letting their works speak for themselves.

In conclusion, the lack of diversity among the 2014 Oscar nominees not only exposed a big hole in the Academy but also in Hollywood. As if showbiz isn’t unfair enough. 2015 is only three months old. The 2014 Oscars were decided a month ago and the nominations for 2015 are 9 1/2 months away. There have already been film festivals like Sundance, SXSW and Berlin showcasing films for this year. There will be more film festivals this year like Cannes, Venice and Toronto and even smaller film festivals showcasing a multitude of films locally and around the world. Time will tell which will receive Oscar buzz. Time will also pay close attention to potential nominees. However tracing improvements or declines in diversity can’t be traced in a single year. This is something that will have to take at least a decade or two to see if progress in terms of diversity has been achieved. Even though Hollywood and the Academy is as much of a clique as any other channel of showbiz and even smaller film communities, barriers still should be broken and diversity of newcomers should still be welcomed.

2014 was definitely a year when minorities of both race and gender were overlooked in terms of Oscar acclaim. Despite the Academy being more open in the last two decades, most people were left with the common impression: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Only time will tell if improvements in diversity within the Academy and film making as a whole have been made.