Nothing happened in the world this week, so I’m going to devote this blog to the Academy Awards.

imgres-1Yes, I know that things did happen in the world this week, but 90% of them involved Donald Trump, and I just cannot read, write or hear another word about the creeping orange terror. Seriously, this guy is sucking up all the oxygen in the universe. The Oscars will not be immune from Trump disease; my guess is host Jimmy Kimmel will take his share of fairly mild shots at Trump (Kimmel is not especially nasty like Stephen Colbert, who hates Trump with a passion), but nothing like Chris Rock’s single-minded obsession with the ‘Oscars So White’ uproar from last year. Kimmel will probably leave the pontificating to the winners; I can hardly wait to hear what the winner of best sound effects editing thinks of Trump.

So, in lieu of a recap of what Trump did this week, here are my ill-informed opinions on this year’s major Oscar candidates.

Supporting actress

Haven’t seen enough of these movies to make an informed decision, but that has never stopped me before.

My guess is that Viola Davis has a lock on this award for her performance in Fences. Why? Snot, lots and lots of snot. I haven’t seen Fences, but the one clip I’ve seen has Davis in full ACTING mode, screaming at Denzel Washington with snot cascading from her nose. Now, THAT’S acting. Also, from what I’ve heard, Davis should have been in the lead actress category, but whoever makes these decisions wisely submitted her name in the supporting category to better her chances of winning. This category contains the most ‘what the hell?’ nomination of the year — Octavia Spencer for her competent, but hardly inspiring, performance in Hidden Figures. Hell, she wasn’t even the best actress in that movie.

Supporting actor

I’ll take a guess at Mahershala Ali for Moonlighting, because he has received multiple winsw for this role from other award givers.  I saw Moonlighting last night, and I am baffled as to why this performance is winning so much praise. Most of the others will be eliminated for various reasons. Jeff Bridges in Hell or High Water is a previous winner, and in that movie he’s basically playing his late career Grizzled Jeff Bridges. Lucas Hedges in Manchester by the Sea is very young, apparently. Dev Patel is very good in Lion, but he is really a lead role. It could be Michael Shannon, a veteran character actor in a category that loves to award veteran character actors, but has anyone seen Nocturnal Animals?

Lead actress

Another tough call. I loved Emma Stone in La La Land (more on that later), but Emma Stone is just naturally loveable, and I don’t know if she did enough to warrant the Oscar. Meryl Streep is typically terrific in Florence Foster Jenkins, but Streep getting an Oscar nod is so automatic it has become a running Oscar joke. Natalie Portman seems to have the inside track for his spot-on impression of Jackie Kennedy’s breathy, little girl speaking style for Jackie, but the movie is mediocre. I think it’s between Stone and Portman, and I’ll go with Stone.

Lead actor

In the early going, it looked like Casey Affleck had a lock on this for Manchester by the Sea, which I haven’t seen and may never see (every review of this movie contains the words “sad” or “depressing”). He’s still the odds-on favourite, but it could be Denzel Washington for his ACTING!! in Fences, which I have also not seen. All the others will have to content themselves with being nominated, particularly Viggo Mortensen for something called Captain Fantastic, which, despite the name, is not a Marvel superhero movie. Bet on Affleck, but don’t bet a lot. (By the way, Michael Keaton should have been nominated for The Founder.)

Best picture

imgresI will be genuinely disappointed, and surprised, if La La Land doesn’t win. I’m all in on this movie; it’s one of those rare films that is just a pure joy, one that luxuriates in the art of filmmaking. There has been the inevitable backlash against La La Land  —  there aren’t enough black people in it, the jazz isn’t real jazz, it doesn’t make a statement, Ryan Gosling isn’t a good enough dancer – but that’s all nitpicking from people who just can’t enjoy a movie for what it is. Well, screw them. La La Land is a movie movie,  the kind of entertainment that can only be achieved in a motion picture.

As for the other films:

  • I saw Moonlight last night, which is, from what I’ve read, La La Land‘s chief competition. These films are literally as different as black and white. Moonlight is the life story of a young black man who grows up a closeted gay in the projects of Miami. We follow him through his teens, and on into his inevitable adult life as a drug dealer. Moonlight is what I call a critic’s film, where the people who are paid to watch movies fall all over themselves praising it. My guess is that the average moviegoer will find it a very tough slog. It’s one of those movies that doesn’t know how it should end, so it just … ends. And I have no idea why it is called Moonlight.
  • Manchester by the Sea I haven’t seen, and might see only when it comes to Netflix. As noted above, it is frequently called sad and depressing, and I get enough of that in the real world;
  • Lion is a good film with a solid emotional punch (much better than Moonlight), but it could have benefited from being about 10 minutes shorter;
  • Hell or High Water is also good, with plenty of atmosphere and a good story, but it’s one of those movies where you get the feeling you’ve seen it before. I liked it, but can’t honestly remember much about it;
  • Hidden Figures is one of the multiple based-on-a-true-story films on the Academy list this year. The story of the genius black women who were forced to work in obscurity (or worse) in the early days of the space race, Hidden Figures is a top notch made-for-TV movie, but not an Oscar winner;
  • Fences I haven’t seen, but from what I’ve heard it is basically a filmed play, which doesn’t bode well for its chances;
  • Arrival I haven’t seen, but hear very good things. And it has a Canadian director, Denis Villeneuve, so there’s that;
  • Hacksaw Ridge is a bit of a baffler. Another true story, based on the heroic exploits of a consciousness objector in World War II, this Mel Gibson film is so over-the-top violent it verges on torture porn. Dozens of men are blown to bits, dismembered, set ablaze, shot through the head, bayonetted, disemboweled, etc. all in close-up, gory detail. Hundreds of bombs go off in titanic fireballs (which didn’t happen in WWII). It’s not a very good film at all, and I don’t know how it made the cut. Sully was a much better film. So was Hail, Caesar! or Deadpool, or The Nice Guys, or Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, or The Inflitrator, or London Has Fallen (OK, just kidding about that one, London Has Fallen is one of the worst movies of this, or any other year.

So that’s it. Enjoy the Oscars, but here’s a tip. Set your PVR to tape it, and lauch into it about an hour in. That way you can easily skip the commercials and the acceptance speech from the winner of best sound editing.

RIP

imgres-2
Bill Paxton, not to be confused with Bill Pullman. 

Bill Paxton, 61, a familiar face to film and TV viewers for years. Paxton died from complications from surgery on Saturday. Paxton’s fame rose in the 1990s thanks to roles such as Morgan Earp in Tombstone (1993), Fred Haise in Apollo 13 (1995), the lead role in the 1996 hit Twister and as treasure hunter Brock Lovett in Titanic (1997).His television credits include a lead role in HBO’s Big Love, for which he earned three Golden Globe nominations, as well as Hatfields and McCoys. He was frequently confused with Bill Pullman … Bernie Custis, 88, the first black to play quarterback in pro football, with the Hamilton Tiger Cats in 1951. He is a member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.

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