Monday, February 25, 2019

A quick look at the 91st Oscars

All I can say is, "I have an Oscar headache."

There simply is no universe in which Green Book, which won this year's Oscar for best picture, is a better movie than Roma. It's not even as good as Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman or The Favourite, other nominees which it beat for 2019's top honor.

Maybe the Academy flinched, refusing to go all the way with Roma, a Netflix picture that took home several Oscars, including best foreign-language film, best director (Alfonso Cuaron) and best cinematography (also Cuaron).

For me, Green Book's best-picture award made for a sour end to an evening that contained some genuinely nice moments:
-- Regina King's win as best supporting actress for her work in If Beale Street Could Talk
-- Olivia Colman's surprise win as best actress for her portrayal of Queen Anne in The Favourite
-- Spike Lee's undisguised joy at winning a piece of an Oscar for his work, along with three other writers, on the screenplay for BlacKkKlansman
-- the infectious exuberance of all the winners in the short-film categories
-- Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's show-stopping performance of Shallow, which went on to win best song
-- Ruth E. Carter's delight at winning best costume design for Black Panther and Hannah Beachler, also of Black Panther, taking the production design Oscar. Carter and Beachler are the first two African Americans to win in their respective categories.

I'm sure I'm omitting other high points, but I have an episode of True Detective to catch up with, and as I said I've got a headache.

Still, I'm never going to tire of thinking that Green Book now joins the ranks of dubious best picture winners such as Crash. I'm not even going to talk about the racial controversies pertaining to Green Book. Google away and you'll find plenty to read.

I'm talking about direction: Green Book's director -- Peter Farrelly -- wasn't even nominated for best director. And I was less than wowed by watching Viggo Mortensen, a best-actor nominee, channel his inner Joe Pesci.

For those who've managed to avoid Green Book, note that Mahershala Ali -- winner of this year's best-supporting-actor Oscar -- portrayed pianist Don Shirley, a man who traveled through the South during the 1960s with Mortensen's Tony Vallelonga as his driver and bodyguard. No matter, I guess, that Shirley's brother described the film as a "symphony of lies."

Reviewing the movie in The New York Times, A.O. Scott wrote that he found the two principals to be "good company," but was less than enthusiastic about the movie itself.

"There is virtually no milestone in this tale of interracial male friendship that you won't see coming from a long way off, including scenes that seem too corny or misguided for any movie in its right mind to contemplate," Scott wrote.

Or if you want another take, consider this Oscar-night Tweet from critic Claudia Puig: "GB was & always will be a mediocre story of men & Roma is an exceptional story of a woman (&family)."

People who love Green Book applaud the statement it makes: A bigoted white guy can change his stripes, assuming he shares a road trip with a black man. Oh well, Green Book enthusiasts never will be convinced to turn against the movie, and I'll never join the cheering chorus. As I mentioned in my predictions story, Green Book probably falls short of a total Oscar embarrassment, but still ...

Without a host, Oscar percolated along at a generally good clip offering a fair measure of highlights.

Among them: Spike Lee added political flavor by reminding everyone to do the right thing (yeah, he referenced his own movie) in the upcoming 2020 election. I'm thinking he didn't mean we should re-elect the current president.

In an opening bit involving Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph, Rudolph joked that Mexico was not paying for the wall. Which wall? Come on, you know.

I suppose the line of the night came from one of the directors of the documentary short, Period. End of Sentence, a look at The Pad Project, a program that supplies sanitary napkins to women in India, many of whom have been stigmatized for a natural bodily function.

"I can't believe a film on menstruation won an Oscar,'' said its director, Rayka Zehtabchi.

And, yes, I feel sorry for Glenn Close, widely regarded as the front runner for best actress. Close has been nominated seven times and never has won an Oscar. The Wife -- her 2018 movie -- didn't do the trick, either.

Bohemian Rhapsody nabbed Oscars for sound mixing, sound editing, editing and earned a best-actor Oscar for Rami Malek, who played the late Freddie Mercury. That film, too, has a tattered history. Although director Byan Singer was fired from the picture, he didn't lose his directing credit. None of the recipients of the Bohemian Rhapsody Oscars mentioned Singer in their acceptance speeches. Singer also has been accused of sexual misconduct.

Speaking of names that weren't mentioned, director Stanley Donen (Singin' in the Rain) died Thursday at the age of 94. He was excluded from the section commemorating those who passed away since last year's Oscars. How difficult would it have been to insert another picture in the stream of photos of the departed?

Oh well, the Oscars are done for another year, and we now can return to our regular programming. Me? I'm taking two aspirin and ask you, please not to call me in the morning.*
*The above was written immediately following Sunday's Oscar ceremonies. As did you -- if you're reading this -- I awoke this a.m. ready to put Oscar in the rearview mirror. One of the great things about movies: We feel as though we have a personal relationship with our favorites. As several folks pointed out last night, the Oscars may seem like a big deal -- and they are to the industry and to those who receive them -- but they can't (or at least shouldn't) alter anyone's personal relationship with a movie. For most of us, movies aren't remembered because of the awards they win or lose, but for how they speak to us. And when they speak to us, they do so for a myriad of reasons that have little to do with gold statues.

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