Hello? Is anyone out there? Judging from friends' social media posts, very few people I know tuned in last night to the 93rd Academy Awards. This leads me to conclude you either a) no longer have basic cable, b) you hate awards shows, c) didn't see many or any of the nominated films, or d) don't care. (Come to think of it, I can't conclude very much, can I?) If you did not tune in, critics are calling last night's Oscars a hot mess. It wasn't that bad. Honestly? I always feel like I do after I go to the fair. I lost 4 hours of my life, I ate too much crap, and now my tummy aches a little. I am happy I got to see Glenn Close do Da Butt, though. It wasn't life changing, but here you go.
The good news? You can still watch the nominated films right in the comfort of your living room if you simply sign up for Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Starz, Disney+ . . . Hmm. . . maybe that's why people didn't see that many films. Maybe they didn't want to pay for a movie theatre in their living room. Did the pandemic make movie watching for the elite? The privileged?
That's a tragedy. Movies were once affordable. People would dip into a dark theatre and stay all day for a nickel. They'd watch the newsreels to learn about what was happening in the world; they'd watch the cartoons, listen to music played on the pipe organ, and watch a double feature. When theatres became air conditioned, the public escaped the heat and their reality to spend an afternoon or evening in the big movie houses.
For those who cannot afford to subscribe to a half-dozen or so platforms, I, like Frances McDormand, hope you will get a chance to see some of these films on the "big screen". (See her acceptance speech here.) I hope they will come around again in 2021/2022. Not only would that be more affordable (if your local theatre offers matinee discounts and you sneak in your own concessions. You'll need a jacket with deep pockets. Open the can of soda when there's loud noise in the film. Ma taught me well.), but these movies were made for the large screen. And I'm not talking your Uncle Joe's 65-inch plasma in his man cave. I'm talking BIG. So big so you can take in the stretching roads in Nomadland. So big you can take in the fields in Minari. So big that you feel like you're swimming with the Octopus in My Octopus Teacher.
There was much to care about among this year's nominated films and artists. They fill in the gaps of a missed education. I learned so much from watching The Trial of the Chicago 7, Judas and the Black Messiah, One Night in Miami, and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom about the need and the fight for Civil Rights in this country. Do they tell the true and complete story? No, of course not. That's why we have books and classes and personal testimonies. But they give me pieces I did not have before. The more pieces I have, the more complete the picture.
The Sound of Metal and Crip Camp took me into the world of those with disabilities. They introduced me to their culture -- a culture that is not less than my culture just different. They taught me more about their fight for civil rights. It's a chapter that is far too often left out of school history books. In Minari, I saw/heard a story about a Korean immigrant family that I never would have seen otherwise. I felt like a guest in their home and farm. I could see their struggles up close.
Nomadland made me understand grief in a new way, but the film also highlights how many are simply going off the grid for economic and personal reasons. What do you do when your town dries up and businesses shut down? You move away, but where to? It reminded me of a modern day Grapes of Wrath, except the folks in Nomadland didn't have a final destination in mind. They just keep moving. Until they couldn't.
(CNN Traveler) Pieces of a Woman broke my heart as it told a deeply personal story of a couple's grief. The blame, the unwarranted shame, and the terrible aftermath of losing a baby. Brave performances by Valerie Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, and Ellen Burstyn.
A Promising Young Woman made me cheer in a totally inappropriate way. It's a revenge fantasy story (but I would have written a different ending).
There are incredible performances from the entire cast of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (Viola Davis! Chadwick Boseman! Glynn Turman got overlooked in the noms but is fantastic as always), Judas and the Black Messiah has standout performances (Daniel Kaluuya won, I voted LaKeith Stanfield), as does The Sound of Metal (Riz Ahmed's eyes! Who needs dialogue when an actor has eyes like his?), Nomadland (Frances McDormand -- the most stoically expressive actor in Hollywood, and the non-actors who tore up the screen), The Father (Anthony Hopkins won best actor -- and congrats to the playwright Florian Zeller and Christopher Hampton who adapted the screenplay from Zeller's play) and Pieces of a Woman (Vanessa Kirby).
Nomadland (yes, this was my favorite) has incredible cinematography that made me want to gas up my car and go. I was delighted that Chloe Zhao won best director. I loved how she included non-actors in the film so they could tell their story. (I also loved how she wasn't referred to in the media as a "woman director" but just as a director. Progress!)
(wsj.com) Here's the list of winners from the NYT.
Among those I missed that I now want to see: Soul, My Octopus Teacher, the U.S. vs. Billie Holiday, The Collective, and Another Round.
Movies, ahhh. I'll leave the car chases and big explosions for others, but this year's films did not disappoint. They educate. They encourage empathy. I'm sorry more people did not see them. Maybe one afternoon they will pop up on your streaming platform of choice. Maybe you will click. I hope you do.
Writing challenge: One of my favorite movies as a child was Chitty, Chitty Bang Bang. I loved the whimsy of it, the music, those little kids, and Dick Van Dyke! What was your favorite movie and with whom did you see it and when?