Thursday, February 23, 2017


I was tempted to title this post F***K THE ACADEMY'S OSCAR PICKS, after one of my favorite ever site titles, Fuck Your Noguchi Coffee Table. (Full disclosure: I possess a bona fide knockoff [no, that's not oxymoronic; it's moronic to think that all knockoffs are created equal] of the above Noguchi table, which gives me pleasure to behold daily.  But it's effing heavy to move, so just fugettabout attempting it by yourself, not to mention it leaves permanent dents in your area rug.  But iconic design--it's totally worth it, you know?)

And iconic, to my mind, is what an Oscar-winning film or performance should be.  So here's my list.


Isabelle Huppert, Elle

Yeah, I know Emma Stone will win, but as LAT critic Justin Chang put it, the heart wants what it wants. Huppert fearlessly took on and triumphed in an ambiguous role that scared off several other actresses who'd been approached. She said in an interview with Peter Travers that director Paul Verhoeven "...gave me that big piece of work like an unshaped form and let me shape it the way I wanted all the way through." Huppert's the actress as auteur, which = iconic. 


Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Williams' character's gut-wrenching confession to her ex-husband played by Casey Affleck is a short scene I will never forget. Not convinced? Consider what Williams ("Randi") brought to the dialogue below:

Randi:  Could we ever have lunch?
Lee:     You mean us? You and me?
Randi:  Yeah. I, uh...Because...I said a lotta terrible things to you. But--
             I know you never--Maybe you don't wanna talk to me--
Lee:      It's not that.
Randi:  But let me finish.  However it--my heart was broken. It's still  
            broken. I know your heart is broken, too.


Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea

Viggo was excellent and looked real good; Garfield did a yeoman's job; Denzel declaimed vigorously; Gosling sang & danced & played piano while looking cute as hell in vintage togs.  But Affleck. Wow. Subtle, powerful--his character trying to do the right thing while tamping a lava flow of trauma and guilt. His performance took my breath away.


Michael Shannon, Nocturnal Animals

Shannon is a chameleon--he completely transforms for every role. Even though all of the other actors in this category were excellent (Ali and Bridges in particular), Shannon's meticulously played "grotesque angel," as someone oxymoronically referred to his character, was unique and impeccable.


I don't do animation, but Zootopia will likely win, say those who do.  So here's a pic:


Bradford Young, Arrival

Go ahead--check out the trailers for all the nominated films, and tell me the lighting in this one isn't amazing.  Remember the tunnel scenes?  Louise's house in the moonlight? And then the scenes like the one above--perhaps not as starkly memorable, but all exquisitely and moodily lit, composed, and shot. (Yeah, I know the guild gave it to Greig Fraser for Lion, the film with the really long scary train ride [I get it--mimetic] and interminable push-pin-mania scenes, but this is my own private list, remember? Besides, I liked Fraser's work in Zero Dark Thirty better.)


Madeline Fontaine, Jackie

The costume design in this film wasn't just a matter of replicating, but rather of interpreting and rendering--you got it--iconic.  Like I said, not all knockoffs are created equal. 


Denis Villeneuve, Arrival

I deeply love this man's work (well, okay, I had some story issues with Prisoners, but man, oh man, Sicario!  And I can hardly contain myself for Blade Runner 2049).  Yeah, I know, Chazelle's gonna win for La La Land, and he did an excellent job. At least it won't be Mel....


O. J.: Made in America

7+ riveting hours. The rise and fall of an American icon. And no glove is going to fit over latex, guys.


Joe Walker, Arrival

A story described as being "free of narrative," plus all those flashes. Gorgeously fluid.



It wasn't nominated, you say? Quel dommage! That means the I-thought-it-would-never-end Toni Erdmann will probably win. Not that Maren Ade's film is without merit--it's just 40 minutes too long until that last brilliant scene. It's like a film struggling to have a climax, whereas Elle is one confounding orgasm of a sequence after another--punctured with comic zingers.


Mica Levi, Jackie

"Micachu" also scored Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin.  She's only 29, so you'll be hearing a lot more from her. That intro to Jackie in the theater (shame on you if you watched it on DVD) made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Click here to jog your memory.


"City of Stars," La La Land

Catchy tune from composer Justin Hurwitz (who, incidentally, was Damien Chazelle's roommate at Harvard. Just sayin'--that was a good career move. I recall being stuck with a college roommate who hardly ever spoke and would sit facing me in lotus position doing TM). But I you sense I'm sort of...meh about this song?  Yeah, well, I'm afraid this is the best the category has to offer this year, IMHO, even though I do love Justin Timberlake--just not crazy about his music.


Patrice Vermette, Arrival

I guess you can probably tell by now that I really, really like this film. Seriously, though, wasn't this tunnel dope? It was inspired by artist James Turrell, whose light installation was admired in different places by both Vermette and director Villeneuve, described here. (I saw it at LACMA, where you put on slippers and, 3 or 4 people at a time, entered a room to be enveloped by slowly morphing soundless light. It was the closest to heaven I'm likely to ever experience.) 


Beats me; I didn't see any of the flicks nominated.  The Visual Effects Society chose Jungle Book over Rogue One.  But since I love Tilda Swinton, here's a pic from Doctor Strange:


War films tend to be highly regarded in these categories (Saving Private Ryan and Apocalypse Now are considered among the finest examples of these crafts; I was particularly impressed with Paul Ottoson's sound design for Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty). So, Hacksaw Ridge may have an edge in this category, but to be honest, none of this year's films' sound design blew me away (although I did appreciate what I read of the sound editor and mixer of La La Land  creating car horns in the precise key for the opening traffic number, which you can read about here). My choice is to give you the iconic image below instead (yeah, I know there's also currently a Trump take-off meme). F***k this guy's Corbusier chair.


I didn't seen any of the films nominated. I would have chosen Tom Ford's Nocturnal Animals (The Society of Makeup and Hairstyling artists did)Aging Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal 10 or 15 years was beautifully and subtly done (with the help of lighting, natch). And Laura Linney with the bleeding lipstick lines as the mother-you-inevitably-turn-into was brilliantly rendered:


Eric Heisserer, Arrival

If you've ever tried to read Ted Chiang's sci-fi classic Story of Your Life, the basis for Arrival, you'll understand what a feat Heisserer's adaptation is. He won the WGA award for it.


Kenneth Lonergan, Manchester by the Sea

Lonergan, right, also directed his screenplay. I thought Taylor Sheridan's Hell or High Water was also a gem of a script, but Manchester has more gravitas and resonates in ways that haunt long after viewing it.



La La Land is poised to win, and I found it charmingly engaging, blah, blah, blah. But Arrival's a smart, emotionally sophisticated film that inverts thriller expectations to give us a thoughtful, moving, spiritual, and meticulously crafted work.  It will be a sci-fi classic. (SPOILER ALERT! The studio execs wanted the daughter to get all better in the end--but the producers thankfully prevailed. Phew.)


I didn't catch any of them, but here are the categories:

Documentary Short

In 1965, a frat boy found himself on a subway in a strange city....

Animated Short

The cat short is darling, don't you think?

Live Action Short

Who can resist the double feature of Chuck and iconic denim cutoffs?

Okay, now go fill out out your own damn ballot.  I've got a martini to drink....

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1 comment:

  1. I have finally seen both Whiplash and La La Land, and loved them both. The former is unbelievably intense and may well be the best teacher-student movie ever made. La La Land, with all deference, is even more accomplished in that it advances the art of movie musicals. The best way I can describe it is that the camera dances; it participates in the choreography. The many, many homages in the film are therefore highly fitting. But as you have said, you're not a fan of musicals. I wouldn't be either if they were all like Le Miz or Rent. But Chazelle has reinvented the form for us.