Tag Archives: Mank

Chadwick Boseman Loses Best Actor At 93rd Academy Awards

I’m gonna say it: this is the worst Oscar ceremony I’ve seen in a long time. I’m not just talking about the winners and nominees, which are so random and lopsided that a literal pandemic could not have made them worse if it tried. I’m talking about the ceremony itself, which was so poorly produced it felt more like we were watching the Golden Globes. Yes, I am actually comparing the Academy Awards to the Golden Globes. It more than deserves the comparison.

So many things were lacking in this year’s ceremony. For one thing, none of the categories had previews for the nominees that were being honored. That’s fine for the acting or directing categories if you want to save time (indeed, the Academy straight up skipped over them in the 2017 ceremony). But even the technical categories were overlooked. Visual Effects didn’t show any of layering effects, Sound didn’t show any snippets of their sound engineers working in the studio, Cinematography and Film Editing showed no sequences demonstrating their craft, and even Makeup and Costuming skipped over showing stills of the nominees’ phenomenal work. It’s frustrating that when the crew is constantly overshadowed by the actors headlining their craft, the Academy has the perfect opportunity to show them off, and then they just… don’t. I’m used to the Academy snubbing one or two films in the Best Picture category out of pure snobbery. I’m not as used to them snubbing filmmakers’ work outright just for the sake of saving time.

The telecast also screwed up with something they should especially never mess up at any Oscar ceremony: the In Memoriam segment. In previous years, the Academy may have had some slip-ups, from the choice of a musician to omitting people from the segment altogether. This year though, they did the most disrespectful thing they could have done: they quickly glossed through everyone in the montage, as if they were on a strict time limit and they couldn’t go past it. We lost a lot of amazing artists in 2020, not just with Chadwick Boseman, but also with Ennio Morricone, Kirk Douglas, Christopher Plummer, Sean Connery, Ian Holm, Max Von Sydow, Olivia de Havilland, and so, so many others. And how did the Academy choose to honor them? By timing their tributes to the music. This resulted in many artists being passed over briskly with every beat, while others were stayed on longer due to the swelling of the music.

I understand due to how late this year’s ceremony was held that more people were included in the segment. 2020 was a terrible year, after all, and we all lost much from the year. But you honor these artists the best by giving them the time they deserve on the screen: not by giving each one barely a second and moving on. It was a rude, pitiful, and disrespectful tribute to the artists, and quite frankly, the Academy would have been better off if they just cut it from the ceremony entirely and just release a YouTube video separately. At least then you could spend as much time on each person for however long as you want without interfering with the telecast. This presentation was just pathetic, and I can’t help but feel for the families that lost so much this year and deserved so much better of an effort from the Academy.

But as per usual, the worst part of the ceremony comes with the winners, and the Academy keeps up that tradition even with this year’s ceremony. With a year as bad as 2020, you think it would be impossible for the Academy to choose some of the least deserving winners imaginable. But you’ve gotta hand it to the Academy: even a pandemic couldn’t stop them from making some of the worst decisions imaginable for the 93rd Academy Awards.

Best Picture: Nomadland predictably won Best Picture this year, which officially makes it the most boring Best Picture winner this decade (I know, the decade has only started. Give the Academy time). It’s no shocker that Nomadland won Best Picture. After all, it was sweeping Best Picture awards left and right all season long, so it’s no surprise that it won the biggest award on Oscar night as well.

What is surprising is which order Best Picture was presented. In previous ceremonies, the Academy presents Best Picture last to cap off the evening and end the ceremony with a bang. This year Best Picture was presented third to last, right behind Best Actress and Best Actor. I can only assume the Academy did this because they predicted who was going to win in the remaining categories, which they were embarrassingly wrong about. Either way, it makes for a very weird placement and a very strange way to wrap up the ceremony.

For now, I’ll say congratulations to Nomadland for its Best Picture win. Nearly all of the Best Picture nominees were more deserving, but hey, who am I to rob Frances McDormand of yet another Oscar?

Best Director: Chloe Zhao won Best Director for Nomadland, making her the second woman to win in this category and the first woman of color to win the Oscar ever. That’s about the biggest accomplishment to come out of this movie, because as I already said, it is a snooze fest from start to finish. Regardless, the movie does have some sweet, sincere moments in it, and I especially liked how she brought in real-life nomads into the film’s narrative. As far as uniqueness goes, that’s about everything that makes Nomadland special though, and I would have much rather the Oscar have gone to Emerald Fennell for Promising Young Woman or Lee Isaac Chung for Minari. Either way, congratulations to Mrs. Zhao. I look forward to watching Eternals later this year. Aaron Sorkin was still snubbed in this category for The Trial of the Chicago 7 regardless.

Best Actor: This is the biggest upset of the night and it easily ruined the whole ceremony for me, especially since this category concluded the telecast. Despite giving a career-best performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and winning over the hearts of fans and critics alike, the late Chadwick Boseman lost Best Actor to Anthony Hopkins for his role as an elderly man battling Alzheimer’s in The Father.

I have so many problems with this that I don’t even know where to start. First of all, with Chadwick sweeping the majority of awards season from the Golden Globes to the SAG Awards, it seemed like Chadwick pretty much had this win in the bag. And why wouldn’t he? He gave a great performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and outshined even the titular character on that project. His character was crass, headstrong, confident, cocky, smooth, sassy, pained, and tragic all at the same time. Few actors possess all of those characteristics, let alone in one performance. He was very much the driving force of that film and deserved all of the praise that he received.

Compare that to Anthony Hopkins in The Father, which barely generated much conversation or impact until it was nominated for awards. I have not seen The Father thanks to its overpriced rental of $20, but judging from what I have seen, the film tackles heavy themes regarding losing your memory, your grip with reality, and in a way, a part of yourself. It’s for sure a challenging topic and performance to take on, but no more challenging than say, a metal drummer losing his hearing, a drunken screenwriter taking on the media moguls of Hollywood, and a struggling immigrant trying to provide for his family.

What I’m saying is that amongst all of the nominees, Chadwick’s performance in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom felt unique and stood out amongst his fellow nominees. Hopkins in The Father, in comparison, felt like an honorary mention that rarely elevated to the influence of his peers. The fact he couldn’t even tune in to accept his Oscar remotely makes his win even more awkward.

I’ve heard some commentators remark that fans are more motivated by Chadwick’s tragic passing than they are the merits of his performance for the award, but I genuinely don’t think that’s the case. Before Ma Rainey, I thought Riz Ahmed was the clear standout for Sound of Metal and thought that Chadwick was getting the sympathy vote. Then I watched Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and was completely blown away. He immediately sold himself as this overly ambitious musician with dreams of reaching the top, only to be roadblocked by white America around every corner. He made the movie, and after watching it, Chadwick became my only favorite to win the Oscar.

Consider also, that Hopkins has already won a Best Acting Oscar in 1992 for Silence of the Lambs. Meanwhile, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was Chadwick’s first and only nomination. It feels like he deserved stronger consideration for the award, especially since this was his last performance before he died. And before some of you come at me with “bUt tHaT wAs hIS FIrSt nOminAtiOnnn,” Anthony Hopkins’ first Oscar win also came with his first nomination for Silence of the Lambs. It isn’t unprecedented for that to happen, and a stronger case definitely should have been made for Chadwick.

I could be wrong, of course, and I very well may feel differently after I watch The Father later this year. Until then, this snub feels like if Heath Ledger’s Oscar for playing the Joker in The Dark Knight went to someone else: and that really, really stings.

Best Actress: I got this one wrong as well, but I was already on uncertain grounds with a four-way deadlock between Carey Mulligan, Frances McDormand, Viola Davis, and Andra Day. McDormand ended up securing the win for Nomadland, made an awkward remark about including karaoke machines in the ceremony, and then left the stage right after howling like a wolf. Again, I feel like her performance in Nomadland was more muted and less expressive than some of her more memorable performances, especially in comparison with her 2018 Oscar win for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Compared to her fellow nominees that crafted a very vivid presence in their respective films, her performance in Nomadland feels more transparent, like a surrogate for audiences to channel themselves into.

Regardless she now has three acting Oscars under her belt, tying her with Meryl Streep herself. She should feel honored just for that comparison. Hopefully the Academy doesn’t decide to nominate her even further into the future, otherwise good ol’ Meryl might get jealous.

Best Supporting Actor: Even though he was literally the lead in the movie, Daniel Kaluuya won Best Supporting Actor for playing Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah. Again, I have no idea how he won Best Supporting Actor for a role that was very much non-supporting when Chadwick literally went home with nothing. Was the Academy somehow convinced that Levee Green was a supporting character and should have been nominated in this category instead? If that was the case, why wasn’t Kaluuya nominated for Best Actor? Would he have lost to Anthony Hopkins for The Father anyway? Does anyone even care enough to examine the Academy’s weird justifications anymore?

Either way, congrats to Kaluuya for his much-deserved Oscar win. It was nice to see him on stage accepting the award, as well as interacting with his old Get Out co-star Lil Rel Howery. And his message of unity in his acceptance speech was especially uplifting and powerful. He deserved an Oscar for that speech alone.

Best Supporting Actress: Yuh-Jung Youn has been called the Meryl Streep of South Korea, so is it really that surprising that she won Best Supporting Actress for Minari? She was just as playful and endearing as her character was in that movie, and her fun little poke at presenter Brad Pitt was especially amusing.

Best Animated Feature: As expected, Soul won Best Animated Feature, marking it as Pete Docter’s third Oscar win and 11th Oscar win for the Pixar team as a whole. Much congratulations for everyone involved with that phenomenal film. Personally I felt Onward was just a bit better, but it’s a win for Pixar either way. At this point, the Academy should just preemptively award the Pixar nominee every year before the ceremony and call it a day.

Best Documentary Feature: In a particularly tight race, My Octopus Teacher beat out its competition to win the Best Documentary Oscar this year. I personally feel for the Collective team since they’ve lost twice this year in both the documentary and international film category, but My Octopus Teacher has a very interesting subject and a unique way that it approaches it. I look forward to watching it in a few weeks, right after trying to understand why Time has so many viewers riled up.

Best International Feature: Thomas Vinterberg won for Another Round, and he gave a very powerful tribute to his late daughter during his acceptance speech. Congratulations to him for his much-deserved win. I’m glad he got to experience this honor in her memory, and I hope he continues to make movies that inspire him as much as this film has.

Best Original Screenplay: As expected, Emerald Fennell won Best Original Screenplay for her wickedly clever and smart portrayal of a woman fighting sexism in Promising Young Woman. I still feel a stronger pull for Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 and would not have been upset at all if he had won this award instead of her. Regardless I am glad both of the nominated female directors this year got to walk home with a prize, especially since women are very often overlooked in the writing categories. So much congratulations to Mrs. Fennell. She very much deserved to win this one over her male peers.

Best Adapted Screenplay: In the night’s first surprise twist, The Father beat out Nomadland for Best Adapted Screenplay. I was fine with this win because 1) The Father seems centered on a very strong emotional foundation, and 2) The awards circuit seemed annoyingly obsessed with Nomadland, so any opportunity where it can be overlooked I’m mostly fine with it. I’m just glad the Oscar didn’t go to Borat Subsequent Moviefilm. Can you imagine how annoying it would have been circumventing nine screenwriters onto that blasted stage? I barely have the patience for even two of them, so thank God we didn’t have to suffer through that social distancing nightmare.

Best Film Editing: The underdog Sound of Metal prevailed over the likes of its stronger nominees in The Trial of the Chicago 7 and Promising Young Woman. While I preferred those titles over the winner, Sound of Metal does have a solid assembly of its shots and paints a vivid and somber picture of a man losing a big piece of his life. That’s a hard thing to capture and tell, and Mikkel Nielsen does a great job getting us to sympathize with this character. Plus, he took away this Oscar from the likes of Nomadland and The Father. That’s good enough for me.

On another note, Harrison Ford presented this category with a very funny story about how critics initially reacted to a screening of Blade Runner. I could take Harrison’s annoyed scowl hosting the entire ceremony and that would be enough to keep me tuned in for the whole night.

Best Cinematography: Of all of the nominees for Best Cinematography, the biggest contenders were also the two most boring nominees out of the whole pack: and Mank cliched it from Nomadland, barely.

As much as I love Nomadland getting overlooked in one category after another, cinematography is one I will disagree with and am actually very frustrated about it losing. For one thing, the best thing about Nomadland was easily its cinematography, capturing life on the road and these vast, wide, open shots of the landscapes the nomads get to see and experience. As dull, long, and overbearing as that film is, it is also visually beautiful and does a great job capturing the nomads’ perspectives. It was amazing camerawork, and Joshua James Richards easily outshined his fellow nominees.

Compare that to Erik Messerschmidt, who won the Oscar for essentially copying Gregg Toland’s canted cinematography from Citizen Kane in Mank. I find so many issues with his win, especially since his cinematography is 1) Redundant 2) Plagiarized 3) Contrived and 4) very underwhelming. His work on Mank was nowhere near as striking or memorable as The Trial of the Chicago 7, Judas and the Black Messiah, News of the World, and especially not as much as Nomadland. At the very least, Erik Messerschmidt does not deserve the Best Cinematography Oscar over David Fincher’s frequent collaborator Jeff Cronenweth, who has been nominated for Best Cinematography on Fincher’s last three projects and has not won once. A pity that creative and captivating cinematographers are getting egged to the side while Orson Welles knock offs are going home with the gold. But that’s Hollywood for you, I guess.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom won Best Makeup and Hairstyling. Hey, if Chadwick wasn’t going to win the Oscar, Ma Rainey deserved to win something, right?

Best Costume Design: Again, Ma Rainey won. I have a tough time deciding whether she or Emma. deserved to win. Either way, it’s funny to see Pinocchio trending in these categories after people realized a live-action remake came out last year. Was the pandemic really that bad, to where viewers genuinely did not realize a Pinocchio movie came out in 2020? Or is that just the result of bad marketing? Either way, congrats to Ma Rainey for the costume win, though I much would have preferred the Oscar gone to Chadwick.

Best Production Design: As previously expected, Mank won for production design, and it was the only Oscar it deserved to win out of the whole night. Next.

Best Musical Score: I was genuinely nervous for a minute when Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ names were read, as I was worried that Mank was going to win yet another very undeserved Oscar. Then the Academy read Jon Batiste’s name too, and I was instantly relieved when I realized Soul won instead. Congrats to all three of these amazing composers. They definitely deserved it for the amazing, refreshing sounds they provided not just for the film, but for our hearts.

Best Original Song: In yet another tight category, H.E.R.’s “Fight For You” won against One Night In Miami’s Leslie Odom Jr. for Judas and the Black Messiah. I was split 50/50 under this category and preferred “Speak Now’s” quietly soulful vibe, but if it wasn’t going to win, “Fight For You” was definitely my second favorite pick. Congrats to her either way. With her recent wins at the Grammys, H.E.R. has been having a great, great year.

Best Sound: Sound of Metal won the newly-named Best Sound Award. Duh. It was kind of a given it was going to win since the word “sound” is literally in its title. Either way, congrats to the amazing sound design team. They did a brilliant job capturing what the deaf experience was like for Ruben Stone.

Best Visual Effects: As already expected, Tenet won Best Visual Effects. Congratulations to Christopher Nolan’s visual effects team for the much-deserved win. Good luck explaining the plot to anybody though.

And as per usual, I lost in all of the short categories this year save for If Anything Happens I Love You’s win for Best Animated Short. That leaves my final tally for 16 out of 23 categories predicted correctly this year. Good for me I guess, but it doesn’t take away from the pain of Chadwick’s Best Actor loss. I will never let the Academy live that one down, ever. I cannot imagine what snub could possibly be worse this decade, but the Academy has outdone me before. Let’s give them time to see how else they can infuriate me for 2022.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going back to watching Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Some of us appreciate icons when we see them.

– David Dunn

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Mank-ing The Oscars Work

Holy crow, it’s finally here: the 93rd Academy Award nominations are out. For the longest time, I questioned whether we were even going to have an Academy Awards ceremony this year due to, you know, a global pandemic going on. And even though the ceremony was delayed by two months, the nominations still came out a few weeks shy of when the actual ceremony is normally held. Hey, if we get through this pandemic and host the Oscars during its regular schedule year after year, I will never complain about the Academy Awards ever again. Except for its snubs: those will never be overlooked even if we’re in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. 

The first Best Picture nominee leading the pack with 10 nominations is David Fincher’s drama Mank, which tells the true story of screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz and his writing of the 1941 classic Citizen Kane. No surprise there as not only has Mank been the leading contender for the Golden Globes, the Satellite Awards, and the Critics Choice Awards, but it’s also related to Citizen-freaking-Kane. If David Fincher directed a drama about the toilet scrubber working on set of The Godfather, the Academy would give it 12 nominations just for the association alone. But I am happy for David Fincher as this is the first year where one of his movies has received the most nominations at the Academy Awards. Will it lead to a gold statuette? Possibly, but it really could go either way on Oscar night. There have been ceremonies where the most-nominated picture swept at the Oscars (The Shape of Water and Birdman in 2018 and 2015) to winning literally nothing (American Hustle in 2014). 

What follows is a very interesting predicament, and something I personally have not seen at the Academy Awards since… well, ever. The next six Best Picture nominees all have six nominations each. Yes, dear reader: six Best Picture nominees with six nominations each. That’s been unheard of at the Academy Awards for quite some time. Usually there’s one or two other favorites that has seven or eight nominations apiece, then the other three or four nominees share the rest of the nominations. This year, most of the Best Picture nominees are on unusually equal footing, which makes this year’s Oscars more difficult to predict compared to previous ceremonies. 

One of the early leaders in contention at the moment is Nomadland, an Indie drama darling directed by Chloe Zhao and starring Frances McDormand as a widow traveling the land after her husband died. I recently reviewed the movie on my buddy Andy Branca’s show “The Critics Corner,” and we both felt a bit underwhelmed by the movie’s slow, groggy, and overbearing pace. However, I do feel like the movie’s subject of grief and isolation resonates well with many people, especially in a year as terrible as 2020. Plus, the camerawork by Joshua Richards is gorgeous and for sure a contender in the Oscar’s cinematography category. Everything else, from director to actress to film editing to adapted screenplay, is up in the air. But personally, I’m shocked the movie wasn’t nominated for a best sound editing Oscar for those vivid sound effects of McDormand pooping in her van. Those sounds were very convincing. 

Another contender is the Aaron Sorkin-directed historical drama Trial of the Chicago 7, which tells the true story of seven anti-Vietnam War protestors charged with incitement to riot at the 1968 Democratic Convention. The movie is a brilliant, funny, affectionate, and eerily relevant movie for the times we live in and a great look back at one of our most contentious moments in American history. But I’ll be honest: I was expecting it to get nominated in several more categories than what it was nominated for here. Besides Best Picture, Trial of the Chicago 7 was nominated for Best Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Film Editing, Original Song with Celeste Waite’s “Hear My Voice,” and Best Supporting Actor for Sacha Baron Cohen. Personally I think it could have also gone for Best Production and Costume Design, and Sorkin was definitely snubbed in the Best Director category, especially with Another Round’s Thomas Vinterberg nominated despite not also being nominated for Best Picture. 

Funny enough, Trial of the Chicago 7 isn’t the only Best Picture nominee to feature Black Panther leader Fred Hampton: he’s also the subject of Shaka King’s shocking biographical epic Judas and the Black Messiah. What’s surprising about this movie isn’t the fact that it it has six nominations, including Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Original Song for H.E.R.’s “Fight For You.” What’s surprising is two of its nominations come in the same category, with leads Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield both being nominated in the supporting actor category. Why does the Academy keep doing this? Five years ago, Dev Patel was given a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Lion despite playing the freaking lead. Now Judas and the Black Messiah is given the same treatment for not one, but two of its leads. Is that just the Academy’s prerogative during a pandemic: to screw with the audience? Either way, Kaluuya and Stanfield’s chances for winning probably stand better here than in the Best Actor category, where they would have had to gone up against the likes of Gary Oldman, Anthony Hopkins, and the late Chadwick Boseman. Still, it’s frustrating to see the Academy shortchange actor’s performances and label them as “supporting” roles when they’re literally the heart and soul of a movie. 

Other indie darlings recognized with six nominations apiece include the amnesiac The Father, the tender and sweet Minari, and the progressive banger Sound of Metal. I’m happy to see Riz Ahmed get a much-deserved Best Actor nomination for Sound of Metal, as well as his supporting co-star Paul Raci, and am even happier to see it even elevated for Best Picture consideration. I also love seeing the Korean cast and crew of Minari recognized in these same categories and not in the Best International Film category, something the Golden Globes famously screwed up in its past ceremony. It’s also nice to see The Father nominated in so many categories despite being such an under-the-radar sleeper hit. 

The other surprise comes in Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman, not because it’s nominated, but because of how many times it is nominated. Besides Best Picture, Promising Young Woman is also nominated for Best Actress with Carey Mulligan, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Screenplay and Director for Emerald Fennell. That last nomination is especially exciting, because the Academy Awards has been historically biased towards female nominees in the director category. Greta Gerwin wasn’t even nominated for Best Director last year for Little Women, and the last time a woman won Best Director was 2010 with Kathryn Bigelow and The Hurt Locker. Alongside Chloe Zhao, this is the first year where two women are being considered in the Best Director category. Even if neither of them win, congratulations are owed to them both, and we can only hope the preverbal glass ceiling will continue to break from here. 

Unsurprisingly, the Oscars still managed to squeeze out a few snubs despite how few films they had to consider thanks to the pandemic. Da 5 Bloods, for instance, was overlooked in all of the acting categories, and even the technical categories too like cinematography and editing. The Outpost was equally overlooked at this year’s ceremony, and Caleb Landry Jones was straight up robbed for supporting actor. So too was Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson in The Devil All The Time, though with how gritty and queasy that film is, I’m not too surprised that Academy voters decided to distance themselves from it. The most maddening snub, to me, is Leigh Whannell’s remake of the horror icon The Invisible Man. Visuals effects, cinematography, production design, Elisabeth Moss’ horrified performance: you couldn’t find room for The Invisible Man in any of its categories? Really? 

Regardless, I’m excited that the Oscars aren’t just happening this year, but they’re happening with a (mostly) stacked pool of nominees. It says something about the film industry that it endures a financially devastating event as massive as the coronavirus pandemic, yet it’s able to  continue to produce amazing storytelling and performances despite all of the adversities it faced in 2020. Here’s to the Academy Awards finally arriving in 2021, and here’s to me continuing to bag on them. 

– David Dunn

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