Happy Awards Season
(and New Year!)
Well, it’s 2019 and “awards season” is upon us. Despite being a member of the first “TV. generation” (early Boomers) I love movies --- and always have. My parents were both big moviegoers as kids (during the Depression) and, even with a TV. in the house, we watched “Million Dollar Movie” on WOR-TV, Channel 9 religiously. By my teen years going to the movies (and even Drive-Ins!) was part of the social warp and woof of life (date night!). Luckily for me, Yale had two excellent “Film Societies” --- The Yale Film Society and the Yale Law School Film Society --- providing me with cheap movies and an education in film and filmmaking that was second to none. I skipped all my classes one week to spend it in the Law School Auditorium watching and listening to Fritz Lang present all his movies and explain not only his philosophy of film-making but his technical genius as well (watch Metropolis or The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse if you want to see how far ahead of his time Lang was). So, when the Awards Season rolls around, I’m a sucker for it --- even if it is a critically flawed system.
Sunday night’s Golden Globe Awards (NBC, 8 pm) kicks off two months of frenetic statuette salutes to producers, directors, actors, composers, etc. The Season culminates on February 24th with the Academy Awards presentation (NBC 8 pm). In between, the other televised programs are the Screen Actors Guild Awards (TNT, 8 pm, January 27th) and the Independent Spirit Awards on IFC February 23rd (5 pm PST) --- the drunken pre-party to the Oscars. Also of note are the February 10th (CBS, 8 pm) Grammy Awards, which are tangentially connected to Hollywood, of course (particularly because of A Star is Born this year). If you want to see a complete list of all the Awards that are given in January and February, go to the Rotten Tomatoes site for an extensive list.
So, that said, I’m going to offer my extremely subjective opinion about six of the ten Golden Globe movie nominees and will withhold any Oscar chatter until February. If you are not familiar with the Globes (the 93 members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association who vote for “excellence in the film and movie industry” wiki) they have different categories than the Oscars and separate “Best Motion Picture” into two categories: drama and comedy/musical (I’m not clear as to how films are categorized, as the Association’s guidelines seem vague on this issue). Five films are nominated in each category and, as luck would have it, I have seen three in each and will offer my capsule reviews--- as well as comments about the ones I haven’t seen!
Nominated in “Best Motion Picture --- Drama” were Black Panther, Black KKKlansman, Bohemian Rhapsody, If Beale Street Could Talk, and A Star is Born. I did not see Bohemian Rhapsody (which garnered a lot of attention for Rami Malek’s teeth) and haven’t seen Beale Street (though I intend to, having been a big fan of Moonlight). Neither is considered a serious contender compared to the other three films (though you never know how the HFPA will vote!).
Black Panther was not only a thoroughly entertaining film, it was clearly a breakthrough movie in proving that a Black cast and “black-themed” movie could be a blockbuster. That said, for me, a Marvel movie is a Marvel movie and, while I loved Black Panther, it was still a fantasy/adventure film and not my cup of tea. I loved watching it and appreciated its worldwide success --- but think it will garner ancillary awards but none of the big prizes.
Black KKKlansman was, yet again, another excellent Spike Lee Joint, with great performances from John David Washington and Adam Driver. That its subject matter was so topical was significant, too (with shots of the Charlottesville protests at the end). While I don’t think this film will garner any major awards, this (like Black Panther) is a must-see film --- and isn’t it time we recognize Spike Lee as a great American filmmaker!
A Star is Born is expected to sweep the Awards Season and, having seen it twice (something I never do!), I have to say that, while not flawless, it was impressively good. For a first time director, Bradley Cooper hits all the right notes and Lady Gaga is a revelation as the leading lady. Sam Elliott and the other supporting actors (Anthony Ramos, Andrew Dice Clay) are perfect in supporting the leads and the story. And the music works with the drama (and Cooper is pretty impressive as a singer/songwriter). If you haven’t seen this film, catch it before the Oscars (and the Grammys, I’d guess).
The films nominated in the Best Motion Picture—Musical or Comedy category are Crazy Rich Asians, The Favourite, Green Book, Mary Poppins Returns, and “Vice.” I did not see The Favourite (though I want to and it certainly looks award worthy in the trailers!) and Mary Poppins (which has garnered great notices for Emily Blunt). It seems Green Book and Vice were shuttled off to the “Comedy/Musical” category because there was a sense they deserved an award but might prevent A Star is Born from winning, so they were relegated to a category they don’t belong in!
Crazy, Rich Asians, of course, did for Asian actors (and writers, directors, producers, etc) what Black Panther did for African-Americans. And, like Black Panther, it was a breakthrough movie, showing an all –Asian cast could be an international blockbuster. And, like Black Panther, it is an enjoyable and entertaining film --- one you should see if you haven’t.
Green Book is a must-see movie. Period. (While humorous, it is not a comedy!) Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali both deserve “Best Actor” awards (though Viggo is nominated for Best Actor & Ali for Supporting Actor). Not only are their performances brilliant, the story itself is compelling and beautifully rendered. If you haven’t seen Green Book it is the one film I would recommend you see (even ahead of A Star is Born).
Vice, Adam McKay’s latest venture (he brought us The Big Short as well as an endless list of Will Ferrell vehicles ---Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Step Brothers, etc.) was the most disappointing film out of the six I saw. How it got any nominations escapes me entirely. Christian Bale is his usual self, morphing miraculously into Dick Cheney --- but that’s more like watching a dog walk on its hind legs than viewing a breathtaking performance. Amy Adams is equally good at Lynne Cheney but the superficial “Iago meets Lady Macbeth” plot, with its muddled timeline cross-cutting is more confusing than enlightening and, ultimately, there is nothing in this movie we did not already know --- and we are given absolutely zero insight into the Cheneys. Wait for this one to hit NetFlix or HBO.
So there’s a glimpse into the start of the Award Season. Tomorrow night the brilliant Sandra Oh and the amusing Andy Samberg will host the Golden Globes and Monday morning you (and I) will be reading about who the “professional critics” believe the Oscar front-runners are. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is a quixotic group who sometimes throw fast-breaking curveballs into the Oscar mix. Let’s see what they do this year!
Happy New Year!