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Politics And The Oscars
By: Marcus Perriello | Our Voice Contributor
In the age of Trump, conventional decorum and political correctness have gone out the window. In the process, so too has the conventional wisdom embedded in the season of The Academy Awards. For years, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has played a critical role, as it were, in informing audiences of the issues that exist within society, albeit in reference. Movies have played one of the most important parts in American culture over the last century, exhibiting a wide array of viewpoints, scenarios, political and social issues, environmental issues, some even proving to be a prelude to what was once thought to be impossible! It’s also no secret that The Oscars are an event of prestige and recognition in the film industry…and that they also carry with them a heavy hand that is mired in the realm of domestic and international politics. Like political campaigns, Awards season generates countless filmmakers, actors, writers etc. showcasing their work from the previous year in an effort to win over voters so they can be the one(s) to reach that pinnacle of recognition in their industry: The Academy Award – sort of like politicians vying for a given public office.
Issues that are being discussed in politics often have a noticeable impact on which films get recognized during Awards season. Back in 1976, no one expected the little film that could, ‘Rocky’, to win Best Picture. But it did. In 1977, at a time when films were traditionally more sombre, gritty and focused on the image of the Antihero, ‘Star Wars’ took the nation (and the world) by storm, becoming the first Science Fiction film in Oscar history to be nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay all at once. But because of the anti-fantasy climate within the Academy at that time, against the hopes of audiences, the voters snubbed ‘Star Wars’ in favor of Woody Allen’s ‘Annie Hall.’
There is also an observable parallel between Hollywood and the Military Industrial Complex, as is evident by The Academy’s fervent love of the War genre. Throughout Oscar history, War films have tended to fair extremely well. ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’, ‘Patton’, ‘Platoon’, ‘Born on the Fourth of July’, ‘Schindler’s List’, ‘Braveheart’, ‘The English Patient’, ‘Saving Private Ryan’, ‘Life Is Beautiful’, ‘Black Hawk Down’, ‘The Pianist’, ‘The Hurt Locker’, ‘Zero Dark Thirty’, ‘Bridge of Spies’, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’, ‘Dunkirk.’ The Academy is not shy about its love of the Military Industrial Complex. Though all these films are great works of cinema, it shows a peculiar (even troubling) bias for an industry that to the rest of the world is the most dangerous and immoral industry to ever exist.
It is rumored that Washington has had a hand or two in some of The Academy’s Award-Winning decisions in recent years. There was speculation that without Washington’s influence – namely that of the CIA – ‘Argo’ might not have won Best Picture. The Hollywood-Washington dynamic was also on display with the Best Picture win for ’12 Years A Slave’, which was deserved, but also a symbol of Hollywood’s desire to show the rest of the world that it wasn’t racist. For 2015, ‘Spotlight’ took the top prize, which was a story about The Boston Globe’s top investigative team uncovering the sex abuse taking place within the ranks of the Catholic archdiocese. Here’s where it REALLY gets obvious: For 2016, when Damien Chazelle’s masterpiece, ‘La La Land’, looked to have Best Picture in the bag, out of nowhere comes ‘Moonlight’; the LGBTQ film about a Gay Black male and his life growing up on the rough streets of Miami. This was the first LGBTQ film to win Best Picture, and another example of how The Oscars and politics are inextricably linked.
Last year, at the 2018 Academy Awards (for the 2017 film roster), there was the Beauty-and-the-Beast-ish fairy tale, ‘The Shape of Water.’ Not only an unusual film, beautifully crafted and acted, but also a film that yielded the third Mexican-born filmmaker to win the Oscar for Best Director in 5 years. It is my opinion that this was both a matter of timing, as well as the result of the political fodder in the era of Trump. I think this year will be no different. There are more foreign language films represented in major categories than at any other time in recent Oscar history. A Superhero blockbuster has finally gotten some serious Oscar recognition, as ‘Black Panther’ becomes the first Marvel/Superhero film to be nominated for Best Picture. That said, I do believe this year will be a major political statement to the Trump Administration and his band of loyal sycophants. Here’s how I see this year’s Oscar ceremony playing out:
BEST PICTURE: BlacKkKlansman
BEST ACTOR: Christian Bale – Vice / Rami Malek – Bohemian Rhapsody
BEST ACTRESS: Glenn Close – The Wife
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Mahershala Ali – Green Book
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Regina King – If Beale Street Could Talk
BEST DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cauron – Roma / Spike Lee – BlacKkKlansman
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: BlacKkKlansman
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Green Book
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE: Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse
BEST ANIMATED SHORT: Late Afternoon
BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: RBG
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT: Period, End of Sentence.
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FEATURE: Roma (Mexico)
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT: Mother
BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: Cold War / Roma / A Star Is Born
BEST COSTUME DESIGN: The Favourite
BEST FILM EDITING: BlacKkKlansman
BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING: Vice
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE: Black Panther
BEST ORIGINAL SONG: “Shallow” – A Star Is Born
BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN: Black Panther
BEST SOUND EDITING: Black Panther
BEST SOUND MIXING: Bohemian Rhapsody
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS: Avengers: Infinity War
Given all that’s happened these past couple of years, it stands to reason that in order to best stick it to Trump and what he’s come to represent, the awarding of Best Picture to ‘BlacKkKlansman’ would be a real slap in the face to racism and bigotry in America, and I’m sure that the vast majority of Americans would agree with such a statement, as the film has received many notes of critical and audience acclaim.
Similarly, ‘Black Panther’ was the most popular film of 2018 and would also send a statement if it were to win the big prize. But this is just one a long line of Marvel movies, with many more to come, and there is not yet that critical element that is needed to push a superhero film into th winner’s circle. Right now, ‘Black Panther’s nomination is its own reward, and it will likely have to settle for a few technical awards.
Best Actor is one that I find to be more interesting than usual, this year. Christian Bale and Rami Malek both turned in stellar performances; but one is a portrayal of one of the most despised politicians in America, while the other is a recreation of one of the most beloved Rock musicians of the 20th century. On its face alone, it would seem Rami Malek has the inside track. But Christian Bale’s transformation is astonishing and the Academy loves to see actors who truly BECOME their characters. This will be a horse race to the finish! Best Director is another one to watch out for. Alfonso Cauron is a phenomenal director and he has been racking up awards left and right for his outstanding work on ‘Roma.’ But Cauron has already won 2 Oscars (both for ‘Gravity’) for Directing and Film Editing. Spike Lee has yet to be formally recognized by The Academy, and no African-American director has won in that category yet. Either way, one of these two winning makes a political statement and will be worth keeping an eye on come Oscar Night.