Monday, March 5, 2018

90th Academy Awards: First Reactions

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Well, for this year's Academy Awards, I didn't do too badly.

Out of 24 categories, I got 18 right.  


Heroin(e) (Winner: Heaven is A Traffic Jam on the 405)




DeKalb Elementary (Winner: The Silent Child)


Dear Basketball




War for Planet of the Apes (Winner: Blade Runner 2049)






The Shape of Water


The Shape of Water


Remember Me (Coco)


Darkest Hour


Baby Driver (Winner: Dunkirk)


Phantom Thread


Blade Runner 2049


Jordan Peele (Get Out)


James Ivory (Call Me By Your Name)


The Insult (Lebanon) (Winner: A Fantastic Woman, Chile)


Allison Janney (I, Tonya)


Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)


Francis McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)


Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)


Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water)


Dunkirk (Winner: The Shape of Water)

Was I too optimistic that Dunkirk would beat out the film now derisively known as Grinding Nemo?

No.  My theory on the Film Editing/Director/Picture Connection still holds.  However, it was misapplied.

Here is my theory:  no film nominated for Best Picture that does not have either a Best Editing and/or Best Director nomination can win.  A Best Picture nominee does not need to have both Editing and Director nominations to win, but it has to have at least a nomination in one of them to end up winning.

The theory goes on to add that if a Best Picture nominee wins Best Editing, then that picture will lose Best Picture to another Best Editing/Picture nominee.  If Best Editing goes to a non-Best Picture nominee, and one of the Best Picture nominees wins Best Director, then the film that lost both Best Editing and Best Director wins Best Picture.

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Yes, I know it sounds a bit convoluted, but let's look at the last ten years: 2007-2016.

Best Editing: The Bourne Ultimatum (No Country for Old Men nominated)
Best Director: No Country for Old Men (The Bourne Ultimatum not nominated)
Best Picture: No Country for Old Men (The Bourne Ultimatum not nominated)

Best Editing: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Director: Slumdog Millionaire
Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire

Best Editing: The Hurt Locker
Best Director: The Hurt Locker
Best Picture: The Hurt Locker

Best Editing: The Social Network (The King's Speech nominated)
Best Director: The King's Speech (The Social Network nominated)
Best Picture: The King's Speech (The Social Network nominated)

Best Editing: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
Best Director: The Artist (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo not nominated)
Best Picture:  The Artist (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo not nominated)

Best Editing: Argo (Life of Pi nominated)
Best Director: The Life of Pi (Argo not nominated)
Best Picture: Argo (Life of Pi nominated)

Best Editing: Gravity (12 Years A Slave nominated)
Best Director: Gravity (12 Years A Slave nominated)
Best Picture: 12 Years A Slave (Gravity nominated)

Best Editing: Whiplash (Birdman not nominated)
Best Director: Birdman (Whiplash not nominated)
Best Picture: Birdman (Whiplash nominated)

Best Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road (The Revenant and Spotlight nominated)
Best Director: The Revenant (Mad Max: Fury Road and Spotlight nominated)
Best Picture: Spotlight (Mad Max: Fury Road and The Revenant nominated)

Best Editing: Hacksaw Ridge (La La Land and Moonlight nominated)
Best Director: La La Land (Hacksaw Ridge and Moonlight nominated)
Best Picture: Moonlight (Hacksaw Ridge and La La Land nominated)

You'll see that only twice in ten years have we had a trifecta of Editing/Director/Picture.  When a Best Editing winner is not nominated for Best Picture, the Director and Picture match.  When a Best Editing winner is nominated for Best Picture, it loses Best Picture to a film that was also nominated in those three categories.

This year, only two films received nominations in all three: The Shape of Water and DunkirkThree Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was nominated for Editing but not Director.  Get Out, Phantom Thread and Lady Bird were nominated for Best Director but not Best Editing.

My prediction for Dunkirk was based on Baby Driver pulling an upset in Best Editing.  If it had done that, then, by keeping to the theory, Dunkirk or The Shape of Water would win because a non-Best Picture nominee won Editing. 

Best Director and Best Picture have failed to match four out of five times in the past five years.  As such, a Guillermo del Toro's win for The Shape of Water would have signaled an upset for Dunkirk.

However, Baby Driver did not upset.  Instead, Dunkirk won Best Editing. As such, according to my theory, it would lose to another Best Picture nominee, which it did.  I might have counted more on how Director and Picture haven't matched up also in making my prediction.

Best Editing: Dunkirk (The Shape of Water nominated)
Best Director: The Shape of Water (Dunkirk nominated)
Best Picture: The Shape of Water (Dunkirk nominated)

I think that my theory still holds.  I just think I relied too much on a non-Best Picture nominee winning and the loosening of a Director/Picture match for my prediction.

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There is one other Oscar theory that held up last night: the Best Actor winner will win for a biopic.  Now, it was almost certain that Gary Oldman would win for Darkest Hour.  However, he won for playing a real-life figure: Winston Churchill.  

Again, from 2006 to 2017, the Best Actor winner playing a real-life figure is 6/10.  In that time period, only once have all five Best Actor nominees not come from playing a real-life figure.  Every year from 2008 to now, there has been at least one Best Actor nominee who played a nonfictional figure.

Finally, as to the awards themselves.  The best words to describe it are "safe, predictable, boring".  There were no upset, no surprises in any category. Probably the biggest surprise was Blade Runner 2049 winning Best Visual Effects, and when Best Visual Effects is the surprise choice, you have problems.

This year could be the lowest-rated ceremony in history.  Now, some of my other compatriots would put it to the excessive politicking going on at these events, and there is some truth to that.  Others would put it to the lack of recognition of the nominees, and there is some truth to that too.

However, from my vantage point, I put it to the sheer predictability of the winners.  Unlike the past, where genuine shockers could pop up like The Greatest Show on Earth winning Best Picture over High Noon and The Quiet Man, or when Peter Finch won a posthumous Oscar, everyone figured Oldman, Francis McDormand, Allison Janney and Sam Rockwell were going to win.

The cacophony of award shows from the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild and the BAFTAs to various critics and the harping of the press signaled what was coming.  

There simply is no suspense factor anymore for those who do follow these things.  As such, we have little vested interest in seeing McDormand win another trophy, begging the question, where does she actually keep all these prizes?  

You have no sense of 'there could be an upset'.  You have movies most people haven't seen or would bother to see.  You have endless posturing to where even liberals are tiring of it.  Why watch when a.) you know who is going to win, b.) you don't know or care who is nominated and c.) you get told off by people much wealthier than you?

There are no fixes to this problem.  The Academy can't tell others not to present awards.  They can't tell people to see films they don't want to: I figure more people would rather watch A Wrinkle in Time, a sneak preview interrupted so host Jimmy Kimmell could show off the latest act of Hollywood noblesse oblige to 'the little people', than they would Call Me By Your Name.  They can't tell winners to not enlighten television viewers on their positions on immigration and how they know more/better than those watching at home.

If trends continue as such, however, the Academy Awards will end up going back to what it was 90 years ago: a small industry affair only they care about that can be wrapped up in 15 minutes.

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