Monday, April 26, 2021

Anthony Hopkins deservedly wins and Nomadland nabs Top Oscar Honors!


Producers, Best Actress, and Best Director winners for Nomadland.

The 93rd Oscars telecast started off pretty nice and at a fast pace, but it fumbled at the point where out of the blue, Best Director and Best Picture were presented way too early and having a negative effect on the final moments of the broadcast. Wise Oscar pundits correctly predicted that Chloé Zhao would win Director and her Nomadland would win Best Picture, but to have these categories announced during the middle of the show was very odd, and we soon realized that Actor/Actress was being saved for last. This was manipulative on the producer's part, lead by Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh, who following the lead of the media hype machine pushing for a Chadwick Boseman Best Actor win, and for ratings bait to keep viewers tuned in for the entirety of the program. 

Emerald Fennell Writer/Director won Best Original Screenplay

But before we get to that category, there were a lot of expected wins and pleasant surprise wins of a very diverse group of deserving talent. The first Oscar award went to Director/Writer Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman, which sadly was the only Oscar the film would win out of its five nominations. A well deserved win to start off this hybrid pandemic broadcast ceremony. It's bittersweet that a lot of firsts are still being accomplished as of Sunday evening, but they occurred none the less. Namely in hair and makeup, two black women (Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson) won in this category for the very first time for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.

Youn, Kaluuya, and Zhao are Oscar winners.
Three faces and names we wouldn't have seen in 2015.

Additionally, and as expected, the first Korean woman won an Oscar in the Supporting category, Yuh-Jung Youn for Minari. Her acceptance speech was very sweet and funny and humble. We have not seen the last of her. However, her win meant that Glenn Close lost her 8th nomination to a first time nominee to boot. Daniel Kaluuya won for Judas and the Black Messiah as expected, he really had no competition. I want to bite my tongue in the fatigue of seeing black talent relegated to the supporting category and winning there regularly without much drama post #OscarsSoWhite outrage starting in 2015. But I'll leave that for the reader to make their own assessment. 

And lastly, the second to last category announced was the Best Actress and to my complete shock and frustration, Carey Mulligan lost to Francis McDormand who won her 3rd Best Actress Oscar, after recently winning in 2017 for Three Billboards. Francis is cool, I really like her and she did an outstanding job in Nomadland, but I thought and hoped the voters would be bold and vote for Carey, or, throw a curveball and honor Audra Day, who would have only been the second black woman to win the Best Actress Oscar. But alas, the Oscar voters played it safe, and gave Nomadland Actress, Picture, and Director. They had to. It's odd for the Best Picture to only win Best Director, especially since it shockingly lost Cinematography, and to a lesser extent, Adapted Screenplay which rightfully went to The Father.

The Father and Anthony Hopkins are Oscar winners.

And speaking of The Father, it wound up winning two Oscars for screenplay, and Best Actor for Anthony Hopkins. Now this is where I'm going to give my most honest opinion of what lead to what actually happened. Traditionally the Oscar telecast save Best Picture for last to close the show, but this year, because of the media hype for the late actor Chadwick Boseman, the producers decided to save Best Actor for last. All through the nearly 3 hour telecast, which was very diverse, had a very visible presence of notable black talent as interviewers, presenters, emcees/DJ, etc., giving the audience the impression that months and months long build up in believing that Boseman was going to get his posthumous Best Actor Oscar. 

The major flub in the Oscar presentation was putting too much faith in the HYPE behind the belief that Boseman was going to win, and not taking into consideration that an 83 year old thespian was NOT going to be awake at 4:30 am GMT in Wales just in case he wins.

I truly wonder if most fans of Chadwick and Oscar viewers actually saw The Father because if they did, they must genuinely understand that Chadwick never was guaranteed the Oscar because Anthony's performance was next NEXT level. It was truly a master class in acting, and at his ripe age of 83, this is most likely his final win, his second which comes 29 years after he won in 1992 for The Silence of the Lambs. Anthony has been nominated 5 other times, and won several BAFTA awards and other honors, but an actor of his caliber, only had 1 Oscar win in his acting career that spans longer than I've been alive in my 54 years on this planet. And people have to keep in mind that Anthony was nominated last year for The Two Popes, so he was still on Oscar voter's radar from his exceptional work last year. 

Like millions of other fans around the world, I was absolutely shocked and sadden to tears to learn of Chadwick's sudden passing last summer. I watched Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and he deserved to be nominated for his performance, and his wins from the Golden Globes, Critic's Choice Awards and SAG is testament to the excellence of his work in what would be his final film. And those honors will go down in history as Chadwick being the Best Actor. But the Oscars, and most important to note, the BAFTA foretold us the winner of the Oscar, so people had two weeks to mentally prepare for Anthony Hopkins to possibly win the Oscar. 

The major flub in the Oscar presentation was putting too much faith in the HYPE behind the belief that Boseman was going to win, and not taking into consideration that an 83 year old thespian was NOT going to be awake at 4:30 am GMT in Wales just in case he wins. So the top two possible winners were not going to be present at the event. Surely if Boseman won, his widow or someone from Ma Rainey would have accepted on his behalf and gave a thoughtful memoriam to him in his honor. But that was not meant to be. Although Anthony has a home in Malibu, he chose to fly back to his home country of Wales in late March and I speculate that he did not think he was going to win, so why bother with all the fake glitz and glam under pandemic conditions to sit in an audience in LA and watch a dead man win an award? Can you blame him for staying home? I don't. So, when last year's Best Actor winner, Joaquin Phoenix quickly presented the final award of the night for Best Actor, he read the names, there were no preview clips which was very odd, and then he announced Anthony as the winner and said that the academy would accept the award in his honor as he was not present. But his co-star, Olivia Colman was in the audience in London and she was there to accept on Anthony's behalf, but then the show just went into the credits,  and then a commercial. What the hell? It's like the producers said, 'Oh fuck!', and then closed the shit down after Boseman did not win.

The media and the studio behind Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, milked Chadwick Boseman's death for awards profit. I don't like writing this, but that's my assessment of what I saw. They ran with the history of posthumous actors winning Oscars of James Dean, Peter Finch and Heath Ledger and felt confident that Boseman would join this exclusive club. BAFTA and Spirit Award losses didn't come into their equation and headlines leading up to the Oscar broadcast continued the media mantra that Boseman was favored to win. Even when he lost, the click bait headlines media makes it seem as though Hopkins is at fault for winning because he was the "shocking winner", with a hint of discounting his incredible work in The Father! Shame on them! When Anthony woke up this Monday morning, he posted on his IG a video acceptance speech thanking the voters because he didn't think he would win (sadly, believing the hype for Boseman as well), and then taking a moment to honor Boseman in his video. What a gentlemen, and I'm glad Sir Anthony Hopkins won. 

I thought the production of the show was really nice, but I did miss the much larger in person audience that would have been at The Dolby. I feel that having the European nominees be up at 1am GMT was unfair and stressful, but this was a one time thing and I think that especially for the winners, it was worth it. I look forward to next year's Oscars as a lot of films that were moved from 2020 and pushed into 2021 will make the 94th Oscars a really competitive and exciting show.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

The 93rd Oscar Predictions

The 93rd Oscars to be held on April 25th

With all my film reviews being posted on my new Letterboxd page, this blog has been thirsty for updates. Due to the ongoing pandemic, there were NO in-person film screenings and Q&As, to write articles to post here at ToZ. So, I'm just going to post my Oscar predictions because today, Tuesday, was the final day for AMPAS voting. Like years past, I pride myself in seeing all the performances so I believe I have a legitimate voice to share in the prognosticating of the awards. Unlike the professionals who get paid really well to live and breathe Oscar talk, and are friendly with voters and other awards journalists, I like that my perspective is not influenced by the need to maintain any form of industry credibility in being as close to 100% accurate about how the Oscar voters will vote. I was told long ago that my selections were too emotional to be a real player in the prediction game. I agree to a point, but then my argument is that the well-known Oscar journalists and prognosticators are emotional about their selections too... or, OR, they are influenced by their association with the actual voters in the business which helps them have a higher batting average in their predictions.

 Even with a pandemic that closed 80% of the theaters in the country, there were a lot of very good films released on streaming and VOD that are in contention. I thought it was going to be a dull year, and I even thought it might be best for the Oscars to postpone the awards season. But instead, they pushed it back by a whole two months to give time for films to play in some theaters as movie houses began to slowly open up again late last year. Of all the Oscar-nominated films, I only saw two in the theater: Promising Young Woman, and The Father. Coincidentally, those are the two films I'm really rooting for too. So, here are my predictions in select categories:

Anthony Hopkins in The Father

Best Actor: Anthony Hopkins, The Father. Due to the sad and untimely death of Chadwick Boseman, he has a lot of sentimental love to honor him for his wonderful performance in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Anthony was devastatingly brilliant as an elderly gentleman slowly losing his memory due to dementia. Hopkins won the BAFTA, and in the past seven years, the actor who won the BAFTA for Actor, won the Oscar. I'm feeling 90% sure of this win.

Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman

Best Actress: Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman. I drove to Tempe, AZ on Christmas day to spend the weekend in a city that had open theaters. I was floored by the script of PYW, and I loved Carey's performance as a troubled woman obsessed with avenging her friend who was gang-raped and later killed herself. This story really connected with me, and Carey's multi-layered performance has won accolades in the critics' circles and she won the Critics' Choice Award. If Carey wins the Indie Spirit Award later this week (Update 4.22.21: Carey won the Spirit Award!!!), this strengthens her chances to win the Oscar. But the industry loves Nomadland and I can see them giving Frances McDormand her 3rd Best Actress Oscar. I'm emotional for this category, and I believe Carey deserves to win, but male voters may be turned off by this film, which would be typical. Carey's chances to win are about 60%.

Daniel Kaluuya in Judas and the Black Messiah

Best Supporting Actor: Daniel Kaluuya, hands down will easily win for Judas and the Black Messiah. I watched this film and was really moved by how Briton Daniel brought the life of Fred Hampton to the masses. This is an important story about the chairman of the Black Panthers that most people sadly are not familiar with. Daniel will win with 100% certainty. If Carey wins along with Anthony, three British people will win the top acting awards.

Yuh-Jung Youn in Minari

Best Supporting Actress: Yuh-Jung Youn for Minari. The perfect supporting actress performance in years. This is not the usual category fraud shenanighans, Yuh-Jung is a straight-up supporting role that is the life of this wonderful film. She's a scene-stealer without trying too hard, and she's just a lovely and funny character. Youn will be the first Korean actor to win an Oscar, and it's a well-deserved honor. She will win with 100% certainty. (Note: I feel terrible for Glenn Close in being nominated for the 8th time only to lose to a first-time nominee in a Supporting category. It's really cruel. She should never have been nominated for Hillbilly Elegy, even if it's just out of respect.)

The other primary categories:

Best Film: Nomadland

Best Director: Chloé Zhao

Adapted Screenplay: The Father

Original Screenplay: Promising Young Woman (threat: Trial of the Chicago 7)

It'll be very interesting to see the Oscars this Sunday night. The British will host the British/European nominees in London due to Covid-19, and only the nominees will be allowed into the venues for the show. Well, let's just hope that by next March, the Oscars will be back to hosting their regular program.