Last year’s Oscar night ended with an oops for all-time: “And the winner isn’t…”
This Sunday’s Oscar ceremony promises to be a night when tidal waves opposing social injustice crash upon the shores of Hollywood – a statement that will go beyond black dresses.
The Hollywood tsunami has been building for some time.
In 2014, when less than six percent of the Academy members were black, moviemakers and moviegoers joined the black-lives matter movement, igniting the Oscars-so-White protest.
In 2016, actresses, in increasing numbers, told the Tinsel Town patriarchs that their time was up, as the MeToo movement caught fire in L.A. -- and then spread across the globe.
Both movements have engulfed both Hollywood in general and the Academy of Arts and Sciences in particular.
Responding to the criticism, the Academy has issued invitations to younger professionals, to women, to minorities and to other voiceless groups.
Black membership has risen to 13 percent in 2017, with 30 percent of the most recent invitees being people of color, reports Variety.
Variety also reports that the new entering class is 39 percent female, helping raise overall gender imbalance from 25 percent female in 2015 to 28 females in 2018.
That change is insufficient, but encouraging. “Shame is a helluva motivator,” tweeted “Selma” director Ava DuVerney.
The membership is also getting younger. The Academy has enacted rules to remove voting privileges from inactive seniors – clear-cutting some dead wood from the Academy forest.
Predictably, these overdue changes are coloring the Academy Awards.
In 2017 “Moonlighting,” a saga about a gay black man, edged out a much paler tale about “La La Land.” Who can forget “and the winner isn’t…” That was so entertaining, it almost seemed scripted. I wonder…
In 2016 Hollywood shined an uncomfortable spotlight on Catholic scandals, giving “Spotlight” the victory over the more conventional Hollywood tale, “Revenant.”
Incisive movies about race, class and gender are being rewarded on Oscar night as the Oscars-so-white and MeToo voters coalesce into a voting force.
This year the Best Picture fight has come down to a showdown between a loud woman with attitude (“Three Billboards”) and a mute woman with an open mind (“Shape of Water”).
Academy insiders who track Oscar voting trends have noted that “Three Billboards” has caught fire in February while “Shape of Water” has slipped. The race was seen as a virtual toss-up where the final days of voting (which ended Feb. 27) likely decided the winner.
Oscar history favors “Shape of Water” since director Guillermo Del Toro was nominated for Best Director while “Billboards” director Martin McDonagh was not.
But the social riptide in “Billboards” seems to favor Frances McDormand as the embodiment of 2018 female power. Weinstein’s baby-making days would have ended quickly if he ever donned a bathrobe around Frances.
For that reason, I’m daring to believe that “Three Billboards,” my top film of 2017, will also earn the Academy’s top Oscar. Fair warning, however, Oscar poolers: I’ve been wrong two straight years – bet only Monopoly money.
Best Director will be won by Guillermo Del Toro in a reptilic landslide for the poetry-in-aquatic-motion of “Shape of Water.”
Best Supporting Actor favors Sam Rockwell as the racist cop in “Billboards” who seeks redemption. Some critics believe that a “recovering racist” sends a dangerous cultural message, leaving the door open for Willem Dafoe’s fine work in “The Florida Project.” (Oscar pools are often won by the one who picks The Big Upset.)
The original screenplay Oscar will be won by a sensitive portrayal of gay love, “Call Me by Your Name.” Adapted screenplay will be won by either writer Martin McDonagh for “Three Billboards” or by Jordan Peele, who wrote “Get Out,” a horror film that rose above the genre to shine a light on racism in the suburbs. The race is a dead heat. I lean to “Billboards,” but am tempted to call this race a tie.
McDormand is the overwhelming favorite for Best Actress, with Saorise Ronan and Sally Hawkins as appealing longshots. Another ferocious femme, Alison Janney, is destined to win Best Supporting Actress for her Mommie Dearest triple axel. If she hurts her knee and can’t skate, another nasty mom is set to win the gold: Laurie Metcalf as Lady Bird’s unsympathetic mother.
Best actor will be won on the beaches by a more traditional performance, Gary Oldman as Churchill in “Darkest Hour.”
Beyond the top eight awards, the big technical winners will be “Shape of Water” (score, production design) and by “Dunkirk” (sound, sound mixing, editing.) For the record, in a less-politicized earlier year, “Dunkirk” might well have won Best Picture. “Blade Runner” should win Visual Effects and Cinematography.
By the way, both “Blade Runner” and “Baby Driver” are going to finish second in a whole lot of technical categories on Sunday, but won’t hear their names read very often. Oscar life isn’t fair.
Pixar’s “Coco” will win both Best Animated Film and Best Song. “Remember Me” was written by the same “Frozen” team that gave us “Let it Go” (which college girls still sing enthusiastically.)
Finally, in the year of Women Rising, who can vote against “A Fantastic Woman,” a tale of a transgender relationship from Chile, for Best Foreign Film! It’s a lock.
I’ve researched all the categories in some detail, and here’s my best guesses.
Win your pool and send me a box of Parrot chocolate (a Helena treasure of the chocolate kind) as a small thank you. Enter quickly: Pool deadlines are likely Friday at 4 p.m.