On the Oscars

I’ve seen a lot of takes mentioning how this is the second year in a row that no women have been nominated for best director, as though this were the exception and not the rule, as though this has been a troubling new trend and not the actual modus operandi of the academy. Because yes, while Greta Gerwig was nominated two years ago for Lady Bird, you have to go back to 2010 to see another female director nominated (Kathryn Bigelow, “The Hurt Locker”). The Oscars have existed for 92 years, and in that time only 7 women have been nominated (and 6 black people, all men).

The Oscar nominees this year are overwhelmingly white and male, despite a number of excellent films featuring/created by women and POC.

It goes without saying that women and POC face challenges breaking into The film industry (and many many other industries) that aren’t present for white men. And even beyond that, the work of these creators is then judged against a conception of art established by the work of an overwhelmingly white and male canon of classics and an overwhelmingly white and male body of critics. So we call it great art when Scorsese does the same thing as usual but for 40 minutes longer (ditto for Tarantino) but struggle to apply the term to the story of a Chinese-American who returns to China with her family to visit her dying (but unaware of it) grandmother (Lulu Wang, “The Farewell”).

I recently watched a review of Little Women in which the reviewer said that he most enjoyed the parts featuring Timothée Chalamet (sad boy extraordinaire) and Tracy Letts, because, having not had sisters, he couldn’t identify with the rest of the film. I’ve never had a sister. And while Little Women maybe ostensibly, on the most superficial of levels, be about sisters, the film itself is about so much more. It’s hard to understand how anyone could fail to see this. How anyone who can readily identify with a race car driver, a hitman, or a superhero would draw the line at ‘sisters’.
I wish it were only a lack of imagination, because the more sinister (and also more likely) option, is that there are a lot of people who (whether consciously or subconsciously) who don’t want to identify with women or POC, who don’t want to put in the effort to interest themselves in their stories.
So is it lack of practice? You can learn empathy. It’s frightening to think of people with more power not wanting to recognize themselves in people “below them”, not wanting to confront evidence of the humanity of people relatively lacking in that power.

Another reviewer called the inciting incident in Queen & Slim (which, full disclosure, I haven’t seen yet, it’s not out here), in which a black couple on a first date are pulled over by a cop (for no discernable reason) and face the threat of police brutality a “contrivance”. That, with The Hate U Give coming out a year before, Queen & Slim was “redundant”. Police brutality, something that threatens the lives of African Americans every single day, a contrivance. A trope. I clearly have a lot of words, but none can describe how this makes me feel. A black story told more than once is more than enough. A white story told more than once is a classic. Forget that there are people fearing for their lives, people dying. If telling these stories isn’t at least part of what art is for, then what good is our art?

So I know I’m not a critic, and I know no one cares, but I’m rooting for Bong Joon-Ho and Parasite. But neither of those are bets I would place. Todd Phillips shouldn’t have been nominated, Lupita Nyong’o being passed over for her dual role in Us is a disappointment, but they would have just kicked out Cynthia Erivo (the only black best actress nominee, “Harriet”). I would have liked to see Eddie Murphy nominated, and would have been happy with another Best Director nomination for Gerwig, although my personal choice would have been Céline Sciamma (“Portrait de la jeune fille en feu/Portrait of a Lady on Fire”).

By all means do some research or do a quick Google, but here’s a short list of films directed by women that I think should have gathered Oscar consideration, that I enjoyed, that told different stories, and/or that I’m hoping to see:
Portrait of a Lady on Fire, The Farewell, Hustlers, Little Women, (and the following which I haven’t seen) Atlantics, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Birds of Passage, Honey Boy, Little Woods, Queen & Slim, The Souvenir, Tigers are Not Afraid.
And I’m sure I’m leaving some off.

The logistics of searching for directors based on race is harder, but the main additions to those listed above are Parasite and Us, as well as a number of the international films. Partial credit to Dolemite is my Name for telling a black story with a lot of input from Eddie Murphy, even with a largely white team.

I understand that focusing on this in a world shared by bushfires in Australia, political assassination in the Middle East, earthquakes in Puerto Rico, late capitalism, etc. is… questionable, but despite my ongoing efforts to educate myself, I still feel more qualified to talk about films than retaliatory violence against student protestors in India (for now). I also feel that if the work of women and POC continues to get less praise and make less money (in any sphere), the fewer opportunities these people will get. People will be less willing to support their work when it does get made. And back to the beginning, ad infinitum.

Links for the two test week

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It’s been such a week so I’m just going to throw some links on here and run. Seriously, right from vacation into double killer exams.  When it feel like a long week and it’s only Tuesday you know you’re in trouble.

But I bought my flight home, wheee!

  • A children’s book to teach about the huge and overwhelming emotional spectrum. Hooray for raising emotionally literate and empathetic children.
  • It’s Luckyscent’s 15 year anniversary- and they’re welcoming some cool store exclusives!
  • This instagram account makes beautiful patterns from everyday objects. One step up from freakebana?
  • My favorite Oscar speeches!- Guillermo del Toro and Frances McDormand (I just watched the latter again (for the fourth time? Still so powerful. #InclusionRider).
  • I shared an essay about Olympic figure skater Adam Rippon a week or two ago- and he seems pretty charming in person. And he has a cute belly.
  • Wait, are they going to make a film from Chekhov’s The Seagull? Because that would be amazing. Also, how many films is Saoirse Ronan in this year? Also Annette Bening.
  • Heartwarming story of the week: A tiny little girl transfixed by the National Portrait Gallery’s portrait of Michelle Obama meets her idol.
  • My favorite, sent to me by my college roommate (whose birthday was yesterday, Happy Birthday, Lily!)- the largest ever analysis of film dialogue by gender. It reminds me of how my Mom has stopped watching films exclusively about white men (she made a recent exception for Call Me By Your Name) and now finds that most films she watches are about black men. The lack of substantial female roles in the film industry is really astonishing.

Links: But also it’s OSCAR DAY

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My life is dark and full of terrors but also pretty good. I’m still getting over my stomach bug/food poisoning, my landlords are creatures from the black lagoon, I have an exam tomorrow and an exam on Friday and I am NOT PREPARED (Constance the Perpetually Unready) but I had a lovely time in Spain and Malta over my break.

What can you do?

I woke up at 3 am for my flight back to France and I’m a mess trying to gain the energy to shower and study, but today is Oscar Day and I have some time-sensitive links that should go up. And also procrastination.

Allons-y!

My Oscars Predictions as Promised

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And yes, I know that I also promised links posts on Friday an I do indeed have links, but they will need to be saved for another moment.

Why?

I finally saw Phantom Thread last night. Damn son, that was stunning.
And I just finished an abominable test today (the studying for which was preventing me from posting, so now I’m ready to unload some writing and knowledge and thoughts of a non-links variety).
So let’s talk Oscars predictions.
If you lose any money betting on this I am not accountable.

I’m only going to go into the big categories because even I can’t pretend I’m qualified to discuss best original screenplay or cinematography.
Like last year (at least I think I did it this way last year- it’s been so long!) I’m going to point out which film I think is the likely winner and which film I personally think should win.

Let’s do it.

Best Picture:
“Call Me by Your Name”
“Darkest Hour”
“Dunkirk”
“Get Out”
“Lady Bird”
“Phantom Thread”
“The Post”
“The Shape of Water”
“Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

This was really difficult for me and if I could have chosen CMBYN, Three Billboards (Panels of Vengeance, here in France), and Dunkirk, I would have. Actually I had all three highlighted in blue until a few minutes ago, when I surprised myself by picking CMBYN rather than Three Billboards, which I was thinking would be my top pick. Maybe my mind will change tomorrow, but right now I’m really feeling CMBYN, looking back on my experiences watching all of these. Why CMBYN? The beauty, the atmosphere, the tender love, the heartbreak. Why Three Billboards? Because it’s powerful and kick ass and true but bizarre. Why Dunkirk? I love a good war film, I love Nolan, and this is honestly both at their best. The timeline and story intersections were beautifully done and the humanity of it all was devastating. And you have to love the ‘solidarity’ moments, which dad has trained me to love in films (and to look over to see if he’s crying- we watched Dunkirk together in the theaters, he was.)
And why Shape of Water? Let’s do process of elimination first.  CMBYN is obviously going to turn off conservative voters (but they’re okay with fish god bestiality (tune in to my upcoming links post for more on that)) and missed nominations in a few key categories (notably Best Supporting Actor). Darkest Hour was a long, dull, plodding film (I didn’t finish, I’m surmising from the first fifteen minutes and reviews that I’ve read/watched). Dunkirk: No acting or screenplay nominations, came out a while ago, not a lot of buzz. Get Out, like CMBYN, is probably a bit to political to pull through. I was excited to see it was even nominated and would be kind of shocked if it won Best Picture. Lady Bird could potentially win (it and CMBYN are my backup choices for actual Best Picture winner) but I haven’t heard as much about it recently, while the hype for Shape of Water seems to be only picking up.  Phantom Thread and The Post don’t have many nominations in other categories- it seems the nomination in these cases is the reward. And Three Billboards, while one of my favorites, has created a lot of controversy re: the redemption of a certain racist cop character (I didn’t have trouble with the way it was done but can see why some might).
What does The Shape of Water have on its side?  It has some Hollywood self-promotion- which the Academy loves- in terms of throwbacks to silent films, musicals, old creature features (of course), and the film industry as a whole (the heroine lives above a cinema).

Lead Actor:
Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”
Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour”
Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

I mean, obviously the Oscar will go to Gary Oldman in a fastest acting his fastest ass off as a curmudgeonly Winston Churchill.  He’s an actor the Academy wants to reward for previous work. He’s in a period drama about WWII. He’s acting aggressively. Physical transformation.
Were I a one-woman Academy, the Oscar would certainly be in the hands of Timothy Chalamet. And not just because I think he’s adorable and dreamy.  His work in CMBYN is just fantastic. I can’t say so much about it beyond “watch the film”.

Lead Actress:
Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water”
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya”
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird”
Meryl Streep, “The Post”

Frances McDormand delivers a powerful performance as the lead in Three Billboards and I think she absolutely deserves this win- and it’s even more likely if we accept my poems that Three Billboards is unlikely to win Best Picture. Additionally, she’s been coming out on top in the awards ceremonies leading up to the Oscars.
Could go to Soirse or Sally Hawkins, I find wins by Margot Robbie or Meryl Streep unlikely.

Supporting Actor:
Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”
Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”
Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water”
Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”
Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”

This is I think the most difficult category to call.  There are significant reasons why the Academy might go for any one of these nominees. Willem Dafoe is a great actor representing a powerful project largely regarded as one of the more significant snubs. He’s never won before and he definitely seems like a man who could be an Oscar winner.  Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell are both excellent in Three Billboards but are likely to split the vote.  Harrelson gets less screen time but Rockwell plays the character at the center of most of the controversy affecting the film. I don’t know that Academy voters are going to want to be the one to suggest rewarding the ‘racist cop with a heart of gold’ role. Richard Jenkins is touching and sensitive in The Shape of Water, which leads in terms of number of nominations. All the Money in the World hasn’t been getting much positive press, but Christopher Plummer was called in last minute to replace Spacey after his ignominious fall from grace, and it’s quite possible the Academy will want to reward that. Two weeks for filming a significant part in an already completed film is no mean feat.

Supporting Actress:
Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”
Allison Janney, “I, Tonya”
Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird”
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water”

First I just want to say that all of these options are fantastic and there is no possible way to be displeased with any outcome.  Least likely to win is Octavia Spencer, simply because her role was less significant than the others and so has been getting less of a push and less attention.  Mudbound also hasn’t gotten much publicity (perhaps because it comes from the house of Netflix?) but Blige was potentially the best part of the film.  Lesley Manville is rather the dark horse and though her work in Phantom Thread is fantastic, I don’t think she’s likely to steal the award away from the two favorites- Janney and Metcalf.  Janney has been coming out on top more often than not and her portrayal involves more strenuous/exuberant acting. And on a personal level I liked I, Tonya more than Lady Bird.

Director:
“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig
“Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro

It was a bit of a heartbreaker for me personally to choose between Nolan and del Toro.  Neither have Oscars and both have significant bodies of beautiful work that deserve to be rewarded.  In the end I think the Academy is more likely to give it to del Toro, who seems to be their darling this season.  I prefer Nolan. Apart from my issues with The Shape of Water, I think Dunkirk was a beautifully planned and beautifully realized tour de force.

Animated Feature:
“The Boss Baby,” Tom McGrath, Ramsey Ann Naito
“The Breadwinner,” Nora Twomey, Anthony Leo
“Coco,” Lee Unkrich, Darla K. Anderson
“Ferdinand,” Carlos Saldanha
“Loving Vincent,” Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Sean Bobbitt, Ivan Mactaggart, Hugh Welchman

Coco will and should win.

Friday Links 2/2

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Let’s just roll right in…

Some Good French Films

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It’s been a weird weekend. And it’s only Saturday. Hopefully grocery shopping is uneventful tomorrow.  One minute you’re sitting on the train and the next you’re disembarking and for some reason your right hip isn’t letting you walk?
Weird stuff.
Pretty sure I’m too young for hip replacement.

SO I was talking to some friends yesterday and said I would send along a list of recommended French films. And SO I figured I would post it since it’s a list.

That said, full disclosure: I haven’t seen every French film ever so this is a superbly and spectacularly incomplete list.

Let’s Start with animated:

  • Ernest and Celestine: Bears and mice and based on a lovely children’s book series that I want to buy for my potential offspring.
  • Nocturna: Amazing world building. So much imagination. Cats.
  • The Boy with the Cuckoo Clock Heart: I walked in on dad playing music from this. He’s never seen it.
  • A Monster in Paris: There’s a giant bug and it’s a beautiful heartwarming story. Also beautiful music.

Also kid-focused but not animated:

  • Le Petit Nicolas: This is what being a child is like. But kind of more so.

I’ struggling with categorizing all the rest so I’m just going to throw them at you in one big lump:

  • Belle de Jour: Catherine Deneuve is bored and fantasizes about BDSM so she decides to be a prostitute. Also her name is Severine, which is an excellent name.
  • La Vie en Rose: Marion Cotillard is Edith Piaf and it’s as amazing as it sounds.
  • Les Trois Couleurs: Three movies which you can kind of trace from the Nouvelle Vague style. Loosely connected, all individually perfect as stand-alones. I think Blue was my favorite.
  • La Double Vie de Veronique: For some reason this hangs out with Les Trois Couleurs in my mind. Some lovely music.
  • Huit Femmes: A Christmas musical murder mystery with a who’s who cast of great French actresses.
  • Les Choristes: A teacher positively affects students lives through music. But it’s actually a good film.
  • Bonjour, Tristesse: The book is better but this is nice and light and summery. Still not a huge Jean Seberg fan.
  • The Intouchables: I always confuse this with The Untouchables, a film about taking down Al Capone. This is great too.
  • Elle: Isabelle Huppert is bae and this Oscar nominee (did it win? I don’t remember) from last year is fantastic.
  • Tous Les Matins du Monde: Music again. But also period drama stuff and sex.
  • La Pianiste: Isabelle Huppert being sexy again. But this time even more mentally off-kilter.
  • La Piscine: Romy Schneider and Jane Birkin and Alain Delon are all fabulously attractive people.  And the film is suitably sexy.
  • Les Enfants du Paradis: A long film that flew by. It’s actually a work of art and quite possibly one of the best films I watched last year. It is inspiring me to fall in love with a mime.
  • Eyes Without a Face: French New Wave does Hitchcock. I am obviously a fan.
  • Diabolique: More Hitchcockian stuff. A wife and mistress conspire to kill the guy. Then come strange events.

Weird stuff that I’m not sure I can recommend:

  • Last Year at Marienbad: I will never forget the word ‘couloir’.
  • Triplets of Belleville: What…?

Friday Links: 1/26

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I turned 22.5 yesterday and today I have an exam that threatens to destroy all that I hold most dear. I’ve been studying since I woke up at 5:30 am. (Approximately five hours ago). There are about three hours left. It’s panic time.

Here’s what’s happening online: