Close to Household: Movies, history and truth

25 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

2015 Oscar nominations show lack of diversity in a year when films didn’t.

If ordinary Americans voted for the Academy Awards, ‘American Sniper,’ Clint Eastwood’s portrait of a sharpshooter in the Iraq war, would be the best picture winner, according to the annual Reuters/Ipsos Oscars poll. The day after Oscar nominations, while clearing away the “Lego” rubble, award season consultants began calling, repeating the same fear-soaked refrain: Beware the Phase Two Harvey.It’s altogether fitting that a movie called “Whiplash” was the last one named Thursday when the nominations for best picture were announced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

The film starring Bradley Cooper as the late Navy SEAL Chris Kyle was cited by 22 percent of respondents as the movie that should win the top Oscar among the eight nominees, according to an online survey of Americans conducted Jan. 16-23. Meryl’s best supporting actress nod for her portrayal of the Witch in Rob Marshall’s “Into the Woods” brings her total to 19, way ahead of Jack Nicholson and the late Katharine Hepburn, who have 12 each. If the 87th Academy Awards line-up reflects anything, it’s an industry painfully — and occasionally exhilaratingly – torqued by social, technological and creative forces it can’t quite keep up with. The Martin Luther King Jr. biopic ‘Selma‘ was the second most popular choice with 8 percent. ‘Boyhood,’ the coming-of-age story filmed over 12 years with the same actors and a favorite to win best picture, was third in the survey with 4 percent. It’s as if film’s current artistic collective decided to figure out what subject matter works for contemporary audiences — whether it spans the years or zeros in on a particular critical event.

And nobody has cut a swath through the later portion of the season more than Harvey Weinstein, whose company has taken best picture honors for “The English Patient,” “Shakespeare in Love,” “Chicago,” “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist.” Can Weinstein pull off another win this year for “The Imitation Game,” a British period drama possessing many elements — British accents, World War II, a social consciousness — that academy members find hard to resist? Abrams and Alfonso Cuaron, then by actor Chris Pine and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs, an organisation that has already been criticised for being old, white and male looked increasingly so. The Eastwood-directed film, currently No. 1 at the North American box office, has become a flashpoint of debate between liberals and conservatives over the morality of war and the role of snipers. ‘Selma‘ drew criticism from some historians for what they said was a misleading portrayal of President Lyndon B. The world’s preeminent living actress is up against Patricia Arquette (“Boyhood”), Laura Dern (“Wild”), Keira Knightley (“The Imitation Game”) and Emma Stone (“Birdman”). High-profile snubs included the author Gillian Flynn, who adapted her novel Gone Girl for the screen, and Selma director Ava DuVernay, who just a few days ago was the first African-American woman ever nominated in that category at the Golden Globes.

Johnson’s role in the fight for voting rights for blacks. ‘Selma‘ was also at the center of the upheaval over the lack of diversity in the Oscar nominations announced last week, which excluded the film’s African-American female director and lead actor. Its 12-year journey to the screen makes for a terrific hook — both for storytelling and as a narrative for voters wanting to reward something special. In a year when the stunning civil rights film, which chronicled the voting rights movement in 1965, dovetailed all too perfectly with current events – and when historians and former Washington officials aggressively campaigned against Selma’s depiction of Lyndon Baines Johnson – the oversight seems all the more stark. The film seen most by those surveyed was ‘Gone Girl,’ the film adaptation of the best-selling thriller that did not receive a best picture nomination.

The label has become, or perhaps it always was, a pejorative term, dismissive of the idea itself, hinting at a kind of overly earnest, fawning film that clings more to the mythology of a life than the reality of it and is probably dull to boot. And actors — who make up 20% of the academy — love the passion behind the project, wishing that writer-director Richard Linklater had offered them a chance to craft a character over the course of a dozen years.

The two films that lead all Academy Awards nominees with nine nods a piece, the whimsical caper ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ and the dark satire ‘Birdman,’ have been seen by 8 percent and 4 percent, respectively. Instead, as photographs of the nominees flashed behind the announcers, what emerged was a depressingly monochrome, uni-gendered visual tableau – reflecting the statistical realities of a steadfastly un-diverse industry. On 13 January, Martha Lauzen, executive director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University, released her annual Celluloid Ceiling report tracking women’s progress within the film business. I am proud to be a part of such a bold, gutsy and daring experiment… Now, if you’ll excuse me, I am going to try as best I can [to] wipe this smile off my face. Wish me luck.” “Birdman” tied with Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” for the most nominations with nine each, followed by Morten Tyldum’s “The Imitation Game” with eight.

Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” and Robert Linklater’s “Boyhood” snagged six each; James Marsh’s “The Theory of Everything,” Chris Nolan’s “Interstellar” and Damien Chazelle’s “Whiplash,” five each. Their stories are especially tempting for those in the movie trade, coming as they do fully realized — the charismatic appeal, dramatic arcs, unimaginable plot twists are built in. In The Grand Budapest Hotel, Ralph Fiennes delivered a beguiling performance as a sensitive European concierge between the wars trying to do the right thing by one of the heiresses he’s made a career flattering and fawning over.

We feel deeply honored, thrilled and, frankly, very, very pleased with ourselves.” Richard Linklater, who also bagged a best director citation, said on behalf of “Boyhood”: “It’s a huge honor for the film but I am most excited for my long-time collaborators of over 20 years—Sandra Adair and Ethan Hawke—and for our new, well, not-so-new partners Cathleen Sutherland and Patricia Arquette. Indeed, along with “Selma,” Birdman and The Theory of Everything, they represent the kind of vision and daring that only movies are capable of, and desperately need in order to survive a culture increasingly dominated by binge-friendly series on TV and the Web.

At a time when smarts, ambition and adult-friendly subject matter have found safe purchases on network, cable and such streaming upstarts as Netflix and Amazon, cinema has to prove its relevance. The director’s Oscar winners “Born on the Fourth of July” in 1989 and “JFK” in 1991 and in 2008 the underappreciated “W.” stand among his better films, his go at the famed military strategist of Macedonia, “Alexander,” in 2004 an embarrassment. And the winner is: Linklater, for all the reasons I’ve already mentioned, as well as a way to (finally) salute one of film’s most influential and talented directors. And Bennett Miller, also in the current directors’ race with “Foxcatcher,” may find it tough to top the memory of his taut, well-told “Capote” (2005). Marion is vying against Julianne Moore (“Still Alice”), Reese Witherspoon (“Wild”), and two first-timers, Felicity Jones (“Theory…”) and Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl”).

Linklater has long reveled in revealing truths great and small through moments and not plot, and “Boyhood” represents the fullest expression of his knack for pulling this off. Whether they’re working with a bold, broad canvas or in exacting miniature, these filmmakers are making the most of a cinematic medium that increasingly must prove and re-invent itself. The other nominees are Robert Duvall (“The Judge”), Ethan Hawke (“Boyhood”), Edward Norton (“Birdman”) and Mark Ruffalo (“Foxcatcher”). When the Academy nominates a feature debut like Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash – a relatively conventional kid-and-tough-mentor tale graced by superb performances from Teller and J.K. In the best foreign film derby, the five who made it from a shortlist of nine are: “Ida” (Poland), “Leviathan” (Russia), “Tangerines” (Estonia), “Timbuktu” (Mauritania) and “Wild Tales” (Argentina).

Gus Van Sant’s straightforward but emotionally evocative look at slain gay political activist Harvey Milk in “Milk.” That very eclecticism of storytelling and style has characterized some of the recent best picture winners. Last year’s “12 Years a Slave,” based on freeman Solomon Northup’s antebellum memoir of his kidnapping and years spent on Southern plantations, used a life to make the abstraction of slavery concrete. “Argo,” in 2012, was rooted in one CIA agent’s brash plan to rescue American hostages in Iran and played like a spy thriller. Roy, Chris and I… thank everyone at Disney Animation who made this possible.” Colleen Atwood, the Meryl Streep in costume design, earned another nod, solidifying her status as the most nominated living designer with 12.

Roger thanked his “Unbroken” director, Angelina Jolie: “I’m glad to be representing ‘Unbroken’ but in the end, I’m just happy to… work on the films that I do and to work with such inspiring directors as Angie.” “Champagne! Not all made the Oscar cut, but among those that did, they snagged 35 nominations across the major categories, including best picture, four of eight; director, two of five; actor, four of five; actress, two of five. There are, however, far more failures: “Amelia,” Mira Nair’s nosediving account of pilot Amelia Earhart starring Hilary Swank; “Beyond the Sea,” with Kevin Spacey directing and starring in this off-key account of crooner Bobby Darin; the laughable look at Apple genius Steve Jobs in 2013’s “Jobs,” starring Ashton Kutcher, to name a few. To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here. In contrast, Angelina Jolie’s “Unbroken” is bearing criticism for being so by-the-book in recounting WWII-vet Louis Zamperini’s remarkable survival story in such detail as to be unsurprising.

Though Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady” a few years ago earned her an Oscar, the film itself failed Thatcher and moviegoers.

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