Oscars 2019 — No Host, Some Progress, and Gaga/Cooper Sizzle

Posted on February 25, 2019 at 12:00 pm

Raise your hand if you missed having a host at the Oscars. Yeah, me neither. Without a host to mock-mock the stars and studios and be instantly dissected on social media, the Oscar telecast seemed almost — supple and elegant, if still not anywhere close to the authenticity of the Spirit Awards or the grace and aplomb of the Tony Awards. Highlights, lowlights, upsets, and a couple of moments sure to be on Oscar highlight reels for decades to come.

Best idea: Skipping the host. That position, meaning both the assignment and the opening of the show, has become impossible. Starting with a rousing musical number from Queen (though Adam Lambert is no Freddie Mercury, and not even a Rami Malek) was just fine. And the always-brilliant trio of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph gave us a light sprinkling of pointed but not mean one-liners to remind us not to take the awards too seriously. Thanks, Academy, for jettisoning almost all of the achingly arch fake banter of the presenters, too.

Worst idea: Trains. Stylists, please remember that the stars may have to do more than swirl on the red carpet. When they have to go up the stairs to claim their Oscars, those trains get in the way. Huge thanks to the gallant Chris Evans for discreetly lending a hand to Regina King.

Best moment: Screens all around the world melted during the sizzling performance of “Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradly Cooper. Instead of coming out from the wings, they simply got up from their seats in the audience and sat down on stage as naturally as if it was their own living room. The performance was breathtakingly intimate and touching. When he left his stool to come sit beside her on the piano bench, their deep affection and respect was palpable.

Best speeches: Regina King’s heartfelt tribute to her mother’s support and love, Spike Lee’s jubilance, Olivia Colman’s very un-British dissolve into incoherence.

Best omission: In multiple wins for “Bohemian Rhapsody,” no one mentioned the now-disgraced director.

Best dress: Michell Yeoh in Elie Saab

Runner-up: Billy Porter, designed by my favorite Project Runway winner, Christian Siriano

Porter’s ensemble inspired the evening’s best Twitter comments.

From Broadway star Audra McDonald: Audra McDonald’s time of death: Billy Porter O’ Clock.
From writer/director Ava Duverney: I really just think I’ve seen all I need to see as this outfit is paying all my bills, offering advice, watering my plants and generally giving me life as well as afterlife. I’m going to go somewhere and have a good cry. Amen.
And Porter himself, who noted that the ensemble was a tribute to iconic Hector Xtravaganza of the House of Xtravaganza, who died in December: “My goal is to be a walking piece of political art every time I show up.”

Color theme of the evening’s couture: Pink, worn by many of the most glamorous stars, including Best Picture presenter Julia Roberts, who looked ravishing.

Best surprise: The conventional choices for Best Animated Feature would be whatever movie Disney or Pixar released. I loved “Incredibles 2” and “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” but was thrilled to see the wonderfully inclusive and wildly innovative “Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse” win. My Spidey sense tingled right up my spine with that one.

Best development: Oscars are a little less white this year, not just in the key acting awards, with Regina King and Mahershala Ali winning for supporting roles (Ali is now only the second black performer to win more than one Oscar, after Denzel Washington), but crucially historic wins at the below the line level, with “Black Panther’s” Ruth Carter (costume designer) and Hannah Beachler (production designer, with Jay Hart) becoming the first black women to win in their categories.

“Roma” became the first Mexican film to win Best Foreign Language Picture, and Alfonso Cuaron, its writer/director/cinematographer, who based the story on his own life, won for direction and cinematography as well. This was the fifth time in six years a Mexican director has won Best Director. The other categories had a heartening diversity as well, including Peter Ramsey, the first black director to win an Oscar for Best Animated Feature, and the Chinese-American Domee Shi, who wrote and directed the award-winning animated short “Bao.” Three of the four acting awards went to people of color.

Far to go: But the writing awards sharply highlighted the way that the AMPAS is still grappling with the way American movies tell stories about race and class. The thrill of the adapted screenplay win by Spike Lee for “BlackKklansman.” Lee has been criminally overlooked by the Oscars for decades (except for one honorary award). The joy at his award was instantly eclipsed by the original screenplay award to “Green Book,” which many people consider to be condescending and insensitive. The choice of “Green Book” as Best Picture prompted an explosion of furious Twitter comments. The clueless acceptance speeches of the writer/producers failed to mention either Dr. Don Shirley or the titular travel guide and seemed clueless about the way some audience members responded to it. Their kumbayah-style comments came across as, well, condescending and insensitive.

I gave up on the idea of the Oscars as indicators, much less arbiters, of absolute value, aesthetic or cultural, many, many years ago, which leaves me free to enjoy the show as what it is — the industry saluting and, more important, revealing itself. If you want to know which are the best films of the year, check out the Critics Choice Awards, voted on by people whose profession is to watch all movies, not just those supported by the studios for awards, and to evaluate them. Or check out the Spirit Awards, given the night before the Oscars, which pay tribute to the films made entirely out of passionate commitment to the art of telling stories, not the art of making money. And the awards show has an outsider perspective that ensures no one takes any of it too seriously.

But the Oscars are always un-missable, and this year’s show, frustrating as it was, to me showed great progress and has me already looking forward to next year.

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Spirit Awards 2019: If Beale Street Could Talk, Glenn Close, Roma

Posted on February 24, 2019 at 8:00 am

Copyright Annapurna 2018
For me, the most significant and enjoyable movie awards of the year are the Spirit Awards (formerly Independent Spirit). I was thrilled that my favorite film of 2018, “If Beale Street Could Talk” was selected for Best Picture, Director, and Supporting Actress.

Here are the awards:

Best Feature

Best Director

Best First Feature

Best Male Lead

Best Female Lead
Glenn Close, THE WIFE

Best Supporting Female Actor

Best Supporting Male Actor

Best Cinematography
Sayombhu Mukdeeprom, SUSPIRIA

Best Screenplay
Nicole Holofcener & Jeff Whitty, CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?

Best First Screenplay

Best Editing

Best Documentary

Best International Film
ROMA (Mexico)

The Truer Than Fiction Award

Producers Award
Shrihari Sathe

The Someone to Watch Award
Alex Moratto, SÓCRATES

The Bonnie Award
Debra Granik

Robert Altman Award
Director: Luca Guadagnino
Casting Directors: Avy Kaufman, Stella Savino
Ensemble Cast: Malgosia Bela, Ingrid Caven, Lutz Ebersdorf, Elena Fokina, Mia Goth, Jessica Harper, Dakota Johnson, Gala Moody, Chloë Grace Moretz, Renée Soutendijk, Tilda Swinton, Sylvie Testud, Angela Winkler

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Awards Independent

The Razzies 2019: Holmes and Watson

Posted on February 23, 2019 at 8:04 pm

Copyright STX Films
The Golden Raspberry Awards, known as the Razzies, announced their winners Saturday, awarding the best of the worst in film. As usual, the Razzies tend to go for the obvious and repetitive, and sometimes blame the performers when it isn’t their fault. This year they got rather political. And there’s a bit of a surprise here with Melissa McCarthy being called out for two terrible movies, when tomorrow night she’s up for an Oscar for an excellent one.

Worst picture: Holmes and Watson
“The Happytime Murders”
“Robin Hood”

Worst director: Etan Cohen, “Holmes & Watson”
Kevin Connolly, “Gotti”
James Foley, “Fifty Shades Freed”
Brian Henson, “The Happytime Murders”
The Spierig Brothers (Michael and Peter), “Winchester”

Worst actress: Melissa McCarthy, “The Happytime Murders”and “Life of the Party”
Jennifer Garner, “Peppermint”
Amber Heard, “London Fields”
Helen Mirren, “Winchester”
Amanda Seyfried, “The Clapper”

Worst actor: Donald J. Trump (as himself), “Death of a Nation” and “Fahrenheit 11/9”
Johnny Depp, “Sherlock Gnomes”
Will Ferrell, “Holmes & Watson”
John Travolta, “Gotti”
Bruce Willis, “Death Wish”

Worst supporting actress: Kellyanne Conway (as herself), “Fahrenheit 11/9”
Marcia Gay Harden, “Fifty Shades Freed”
Kelly Preston, “Gotti”
Jaz Sinclair, “Slender Man”
Melania Trump (as herself), “Fahrenheit 11/9”

Worst supporting actor: John C. Reilly, “Holmes & Watson”
Jamie Foxx, “Robin Hood”
Ludacris (voice), “Show Dogs”
Justice Smith, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”

Worst screen couple: “Donald J. Trump and his self-perpetuating pettiness,” “Death of a Nation” and “Fahrenheit 11/9”
“Any two actors or puppets,” “Happytime Murders”
“Johnny Depp and his fast-fading film career,” “Sherlock Gnomes”
“Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly (trashing two of literature’s most beloved characters),” “Holmes & Watson”
“Kelly Preston and John Travolta (getting ‘Battlefield Earth’-type reviews!),” “Gotti”

Worst screenplay: “Fifty Shades Freed”
“Death of a Nation”
“The Happytime Murders”

Worst remake, ripoff or sequel: “Holmes & Watson”
“Death of a Nation”
“Death Wish”
“The Meg” (ripoff of “Jaws”)
“Robin Hood”

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Join Me (Virtually) To Watch the Oscars!

Posted on February 23, 2019 at 6:07 pm

What’s more fun than watching the Oscars? Watching it with a bunch of cool movie critics! My colleagues and I will be chatting about the show and the awards in real time, and you can submit questions or comments. Hey, they don’t have a host, so you’ll need us!

You can join the conversation two ways:

1) click on the link
2) download the Goodtalk app, find “The Oscars” discussion on the main page

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