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Four Cents - Rob & Ricki and Oscar, Part Three: Oscar Commentary

Ricki - Concerning The Oscars: I like an art-house film as much as the next guy, but I've gotta admit, if some hip local tastemaker type tells me they just saw "A lovely Iranian documentary about a Pashti single mother who supports her family by raising pygmy Dalmatians in war-torn Syria, rendered in Farsi with French subtitles," I am likely to call "bullshit" on that picture simply because I know said tastemaker did not enjoy "Caddyshack."  (They never like Get Your Wings-era Aerosmith either.)  To me, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Science's slavish devotion to La La Land is exactly the kind of misguided elitism that got Donald Trump elected President of the United States.  (Let's face facts, folks, Meryl Streep can badmouth Trump on T.V. award shows all she wants, but Gary & Kelly in Middletown, Ohio and Terry & Melissa out in the suburbs of Iowa - all of whom LOVED the new Star Wars movie and Bad Moms - still get one vote apiece in the national elections, the same as Meryl Streep and Michael Moore.) 

La La Land is essentially a movie ABOUT making a movie.  As such, it's exactly the kind of picture that the Oscars would rhapsodize over: "OH!, the storytelling, OH!, the cinematography, OH! the lush dancing-in-the-stars numbers with Emma & Ryan."  If Colin Gawel recorded a double-CD set ABOUT making a CD, I would probably like it, but I wouldn't expect Colin to try to foist it on the public-at-large, and I don't think HE would even want to.

As I said in my section of our Top Ten Movies blog, I enjoyed La La Land, but if there had been even one or two more quality movies out this year (and I kinda expect Arrival and/or Hell Or High Water to be those movies, once I have time to catch them) "LLL" would not have even made my Top Ten.

I can think of NOT ONE REASON that Captain America: Civil War did not get at least a Best Picture nomination from the Oscars.  Oh wait, yes I can: because it's a "comic book movie" and regular people might have liked it.  And ENJOYED it.  As much as I appreciated Manchester By The Sea and Moonlight and as much as I found them oddly simultaneously depressing AND uplifting,  I can't really say I enjoyed them.  And what I wouldn't have given for at least one COMEDY to get an Oscar nod, but God forbid we have a laugh while raising our crystal brandy snifters to Damien Chazelle's directorial prowess in La La Land.

Oooops, over to you, Rob, my cardiac pacemaker is signaling me that I'm becoming over-stimulated....... 

Rob - At the risk of short-circuiting your system, Ricki, La La Land isn’t about making movies. He’s a jazz musician. Sure, she goes on auditions, but you don’t see her on set. However, it is about people trying live their dream in Los Angeles, Hollywood’s hometown. And like The Artist before it, it’s a style that is rarely made anymore, reminding the voters of what it was like before, before the magic was gone. You want a populist voting system? You want to make movies great again? I give you La. La. Land.

The members of the Academy are busy folks. They can’t make it to the theater to see everything. The studios mail screeners of their movies for the members to watch in the comfort of their homes, as well as run “for you consideration” campaigns for individual categories. To me, this creates a rigged system. How likely are these voters going to look outside of what they are given and directed to look for? Good luck getting your movie recognized if it is released before September. I’m guessing Hail, Caesar! (released 2/5/2016) was nominated for production design because it was 1) a period picture and 2) about Hollywood.

The Academy made changes last year to ensure the voting body will become more diverse. I think this year’s nominations reflect those changes a little. Oscar nominees gets more attention from the studios. Their options for making more movies widen. If the new kids play their cards right, careers are made. The Oscars is how many people learn about some of these movies. Some folks will watch a movie just because it was nominated for an Oscar. Getting movies from a more diverse pool of storytellers is good for us all. Movies from women, gay and non-white filmmakers not only provide a different perspective but will inspire others like them, by showing there is a place for them on the movie theater screen.

In the end, it’s the Academy’s party. They will nominate whatever they want. They tend to lean toward more serious subjects, more “important” issues, flashier performances and Meryl Streep. Maybe one day movies with explosions will be recognized for more than how those explosions sound.

Four Cents will continue next week on Pencilstorm with an Oscars installment of Buggy Eyes and a Big Butt on Tuesday and Rob & Ricki's Oscars picks on Thursday.  Stay tuned.