Oscars Preview 2017, The Essay

In the Oscars Preview podcast that Bev & I posted on the 26th of Feb, we chatted about all the major Oscar nominees and even some of the minor ones. We also discussed our faves of 2017 (only a handful of which are up for Best Picture, by the way). But as soon as I finished editing that episode, I did what I usually do when polishing off one of our podcasts and had a case of the “I shoulda saids”. So here’s more blithering of the idiotic kind about this year’s underwhelming Academy Awards, with a focus on the 9 Best Picture nominees.

Careful: I’m rarely this mean. Double careful: I’m gonna break out some cuss words, so if fuck offends you deeply, you can fuck on over to some other wise-ass article. Engage!

Bev & I didn’t pay a lot of compliments to The Fish-Fucker in our podcast, but I think I’ve figured out why The Shape Of H2O is so popular, especially with women. First, the overlooked, undersexed loaner lady has mind-blowing orgasms with a dude who can’t talk. Bonus! He also can’t risk being abusive because he’d be re-captured or shot dead if she got tired of his crapola and kicked him out of her tub. Bully for her! The Shape also has a neato subtext about being an immigrant in America. In this case, the immigrant has the healing powers of Jesus (or E.T., aka the Jesus who likes beer and candy). Or maybe Elisa just wants to copulate with a foreigner (an illegal alien, perhaps?) and the kindhearted creature in the tank was handy. She’s a rebel too because she pals around with gay guys & black chicks. Wait a minute, she’s not making America great at all. Lock her up! The government totally wrecks this love story in the end though, unless you believe that Guillermo Del Toro’s Aquaman can actually revive a repeatedly-shot woman with the power of love. Cue Huey Lewis. “Splash Without Hanks” has the most nominations this year (13), which is just 1 fewer than La La Land had last year (14, for all you mathletes out there). Wouldn’t it be poetic (or cruel) if Del Toro wins Best Director like Damien Chazelle did, then the Best Picture presenters read the wrong name and fish-cock-teases Shape before calling out Three Billboards instead?

Considering it’s a PTA opus, Phantom (Menace) Thread is just bollocks. Maybe after this and Inherent…zzzzz (wake up, Ryan!) Vice, Anderson is just losing his touch ever since he told Daniel Day-Lewis to ice Paul Dano with a bowling pin. Anyway, I couldn’t tell if Vicky Krieps was playing a stone-cold psychopath who’s ready to kill the asshole clothes-maker she loves just to prove a point or if the actress herself is not talented enough to convey the emotions asked of her. I could tell that DDL was nothing special in Phantom Of The Opera Thread. Ralph Fiennes or maybe even Joseph Fiennes could have nailed this part just as well as the man who claims he’s going to retire after this dud. Too bad DDL didn’t choose to stop being an actor after playing Lincoln. There was a bit of poetry in that flick where this great actor was killed by, of all things, an actor. Deeeeeep. It was probably always going to be downhill after playing Mister President, Dan, but Phantom Threadbare should not be your swan song. You should hang ’em up on a stronger note than The Daniel Wears Prada.

As for The Post, well, it’s not quite a pile of horse leavings, but Spielberg—never a master of subtlety—is clonking us in the head with a rather large ballpeen hammer in this “journalists are fuckin’ heroes, man” screed. Mary Louise Streep (look it up) plays it mousy and she’s certainly not award-worthy. The Academy probably just feels obligated to nominate her every year so they can plunk her in the front row and make her the new Nicholson. Anyway, you can’t avoid comparing Zee Post to All The President’s Men, which has aged very well and is 10 times better than Steve’s rendition of “hold up, everybody, did you know that Nixon was a corrupt meanie?!” What stands out the most about this (self-) important movie is that the movie itself seems to be reinforcing the sexist notion that Katherine Graham was barely qualified to run her own life, let alone qualified to run her own newspaper. If anyone thinks Streep’s role is empowering to women, they need to raise their empowerment standards a tick.

Call Me By Your Name is perfect and I’m not allowed to jokes about it. The previous sentence has been brought to you by a guy who still hasn’t seen the movie. I sound like Travolta in Get Shorty. “I haven’t read the script yet, but I will.” But, see, unlike the guy who rubbed his hairy knuckles all over Indina Menzel’s face a few years ago, I really will see Call Me. I’m just too busy writing this article for you 7 readers to block out 2+ hours to see Armie Hammer statutorily rape Hey Hey Whadya Say Timothee Chalamet. That’s some name. Did his parents want him to get beat up at recess? (Note: I finally saw the movie not even a full day before posting this article and I truly enjoyed it. Lovely stuff. I just liked my riffs in this paragraph enough to not want to lose them. My cheeky wordplay is more important than truth today! Oh, and Bev’s right that Armie And The Twink is one of the best movies of the year. I’ll just never look at a peach the same way again.)

The Advertiser Outside Ebbing Missouri has so much going for it (and it even knows how to suck up to Middle America), but some plot turns needed some re-thinking. Sam Rockwell goes from a savage, sexist, racist (everything “ist”, really) jerkface to a good egg just because his boss confessed he always saw potential in him. Woody Harrelson is Luke Skywalker to Sam Rockwell’s Darth Vader. “There’s good in him, I can feel it.” But Star Wars isn’t as en vogue as usual this year (whiny bitch Luke Skywalker and all), so let’s get back to the Billboards Three. I’m all for “you’re good enough, you’re smart enough and, doggone it, people like you” letters sent by ailing cops, but is that really enough to transform his bastard underling into a hero, especially after he’s nearly been murdered by a grieving mama throwing Molotov cocktails at his office? Can’t Martin McDonagh see that first-half-of-the-movie-Rockwell would hulk up and murder the entire town once he recovered from his Molotovian burns, not forgive & improve the way second-half-of-the-movie Rockwell does? Plus, it concerns me that Frankie McDormand doesn’t seem to want justice for her dead daughter so much as she wants revenge. She’s the 2017 version of Braveheart, if she wore makeup and a skirt.

The key word in Lady Bird is in fact “lady”. (Thought I’d say “bird’, didn’t you, you weirdo.) The 2 main characters are female, which is an unexpected #metoo bonus about 5 of the 9 Best Picture noms. That’s unusual even in just a random sampling of 9 movies, never mind Oscar hopefuls. There aren’t even any friendly hookers or disapproving wives in those 5. Progress? Well, Sarah Paulson is completely wasted as Hanksikins’ supportive wife in The Post, but that’s not my angle here. Let me have my angle! I included Phantom Thread The Needle in that group of 5, by the way, because the main character is Alma, not Reynolds. Reynolds Woodcock, huh? Another recess-pummelling name if there ever was one. Anyway, I’ve never been a big fan of the actress Greta Gerwig, but writer/director Greta Gerwig is a natural. Plus, you have to admire someone who has her lead character deliberately fall out of a moving car just to frighten her mother. I guess that’s less messy than becoming a cutter. And it’s a ballsy choice, Grettie Gers.

But over in Camp Testosterone, there’s Saving Private Harry Styles (what you rule-followers call Dunkirk). Stiffen your lip, folks, the British are warring. Other than producer Emma Thomas, I don’t know if a woman had a hand in making this film…or even watched this film. Okay, one. Bev saw it and I think she wanted to punch Hans Zimmer directly in the schnoz for his droney music score. I’ll have to see this solid-but-unremarkable war-’em-up at least a few more times just to figure out what the blimey is going on. In the meantime, won’t somebody please tell me who the devil is whom? I understand that the fog of war is confusing for soldiers, but it shouldn’t be completely confusing for the audience. It’s hard to believe that this “it’s okay, but I’ve seen better” blood-and-gutser is Chris Nolan’s first nomination for Best Director, considering how beloved at least 4 of his previous films are. Watch him win and join the group headed by Marty Scorsese, Jim Cameron and Ron Howard who clutched the golden calf for the wrong movie.

Covering some of the same events Saving Private Dunkirk did but from the talkie talkie side of things, you’ve got the hilarious Darkest Hour. Wait, hilarious? Well, yes it is if you make wisecracks through it like we did. Not only is it unworthy of its 6 nominations, it’s one of the worst movies of the year. Obvious from the start and not even well-acted by basically anyone, it proves that Steven Spielberg isn’t the only bloke who can direct a nominee for the big prize with less subtlety than Harvey Weinstein in a hot tub full of Roses and Umas. Gary Oldman is going to win his first Oscar for this turkey and maybe he should because you can really see all the acting going on. The Academy loves ACTING!!! “Gary, you tried hard and you’ve been great for decades. Don’t leave the Dolby Theatre without your trophy!” Best Actor is a terrible category this year because 3 of the 5 guys (the Oldster, Denzel and even Daniel Dud-Lewis) just aren’t very good. Gary’s take on Churchill is also inscrutable as all fuck. They should’ve called this movie “Mush Mouth”. Sometimes an actor’s obsession with vocal authenticity just results in the audience straining to figure out what he’s saying. And since the movie is 94% talking, it would’ve been pleasant if the main character’s orations weren’t halfway impossible to understand. But, see, I’ve pinpointed the real problem, even more than Joe Wright’s direction or Oldman reminding us of Benicio Del Toro in The Usual Suspects. That problem is that the same writer wrote The Theory Of Everything. Never let this man near a laptop again. He is not talented.

I saved Get Out(tttttt Of Here) for the end. Why? Sometimes you just have to listen to disgraced beauty pageant-winners like Vanessa Williams and save the best for last. I’m still a bit surprised that a movie that came out a year before the Oscars was even remembered when this year’s nominations came out. They got it right though because this is an uber-smart horror/satire and I’ll see it lots of times as the years eek on. Jordan Peele does a helluva job for a guy who’s never been behind a bullhorn before and he even managed to get a performance out of Allison Williams that I didn’t hate. Maybe he should win Best Director for that feat alone. It’s one of those “of the moment” type movies too and the influx of black people into the Academy’s voting body might make this a surprise winner on March 4th, but….well, there’s actually no but. I’m saying it’s the best movie in this group, so winning the top prize would be a shocking delight. Plus, any movie that stabs smug Bradley Whitford in the guts with an antler deserves kudos.

I just wish the ninesome included The Florida Project or Logan. Unfortunately, the Academy would rather overlook those to find room for the “newspapers are good and, geez, they’re sooooo not fake, yo” film and the “if you love me, then poison me” PTA movie and multiple instalments of “shit, man, World War II was a bitch”. When we look back at 2017 in a decade or so, we’ll remember how terrible a year it was in the world as a whole, but we’ll also wonder why about half the Best Picture hopefuls got anywhere near that category.

Oh, and then there’s all the politics. You’re going to hear a Trumpload about President Shit and probably even more about harassment & sexual equality. It’ll bring the house down if somebody says “I’d like to not thank Harvey Weinstein”, not just cuz he’s a probable rapist but because he’s been thanked approximately 2593 times in previous Oscar speeches, so a few “fuck you, Harveys” goes a small way towards levelling the see-saw. Frances McDormand is going to give a helluva speech (if/when they call her name) and Jordan Peele probably will too if they call his. Plus, there’s always one or two big surprises in the “wow, can you believe that person said that?!” area.

So tune into the 90th Oscars (or don’t, it’s your 4 hours) and see if the predictions that Bev & I made in our podcast come true. If we’re repeatedly wrong, all I can tell you is I’m the guy who would’ve bet the house on Rocky Stallone winning Best Supporting Mumbler a few years ago…and he didn’t. I can’t even say which flicker show will triumph as Best Picture because it’s so wide open. Go out and get ’em, Get Out! If the modest box-office hit about the black, homosexual, drug dealer can win the richest prize in the biz last year (despite Matt Damon’s dad’s attempts to sabotage that by stuffing the wrong envelope into Clyde Barrow’s hands), then surely a box-office juggernaut with a sense of humour and excellent subtext can make it 2 black-centric Best Picture-winners in a row.

Surely. Right? In America. In 2018. No? Wait, not The Fish-Fucker! If Splash can’t get a Best Picture nomination in 1984 for making a delightful comedy out of the same story, then The Splash Of Water shouldn’t be bogarting Get Out’s moment. But, alas, it probably will. Fuckin’ Fish-Fucking movie.

Somewhat sincerely, Ryan Ellis