Behind the doors of club Oscar


Behind the doors of club Oscar

It's going to be a long night of cautious humour and fake smiles. PIETER VAN DER LUGT looks at the usual brawls before Oscar night and how the Academy's process works.

IF you want to blow away your last illusions about the glory of the Oscars with one search, see what you find with “brutally honest ballots”. 

It was started by Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter in 2015. After Oscar night, he asked five members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to speak anonymously about who received their votes. His idea became a fad and now everyone is doing it.

The comments are funny (“if Cate Blanchett opens a door, she gets an Academy Award nomination”) until they are not. Some of the voters think seriously about their choices but most of them talk pure bullshit.

One man chose The Whale because he thought the whale carcass on the poster looked cool. Another only watched the nominated animation that his children also wanted to see.

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Most of them only do a documentary if the subject excites them and almost no one goes to any trouble with the short films. And when in doubt, vote for a friend.

An estimated 20% of the 10,500 Academy members are non-American, 81% are white and 67% are male. Statistically, that means up to half could be narrow-minded Republican climate denialists. No wonder women and different combinations of diversity struggle so much to get their hands on the golden bald man.

That said, this year there is a bit more representation. And what is not decline may be progress.

It’s Taylor Swift…

The road to membership of Club Oscar starts when two members back you. A committee then decides whether you have done enough in the movie world in the previous five or 10 years (it varies for sections). If you have, the doors swing open.

It doesn't explain what Taylor Swift is doing there, but she's an enigma anyway.

Movies qualify if they have shown in at least one of six key cities for a week. There is also a requirement for diversity but the bar is not very high.

If a streaming service wants to present a picture, it must open in a cinema and online on the same day.

Members nominate people in their field — directors do directors, actors do actors — but everyone can suggest a best movie.

Then everyone votes for all the prizes. This changes the dynamic and may explain something like best picture not also winning best director.

Anatomy of a Fall

Controversy is good advertising and this year's Oscar drama started early in France. The committee that chooses the French entry decided on The Taste of Things, a typical food and love drama with Juliette Binoche. Good, apparently, but nothing new.

What it didn't pick was Anatomy of a Fall. Was this movie, with its trilingualism, not French enough? Did it bother them that a foreigner plays the lead role?

Anyway, the country of the Lumières last won the Oscar for Best Foreign Picture in 1993. And so it will remain until at least next year.

Barbie got eight nominations, but not for best director and best actress, and a cloud of objection descended on the world.

You could say Greta Gerwig's production (and her script) made a plastic doll with a lot of ideological baggage alive and relatively topical. The same goes for Margot Robbie. She had to work harder than it looks, say her co-stars.

Bradley Cooper wore a rubber nose in Maestro to look more like Leonard Bernstein. Ironically, he still looked like himself and made a lot of people mad. The man is so naive, he didn't expect the criticism and says he cried with gratitude when the surviving Bernsteins assured him they were okay with the prosthetic.

The man who started his movie career with the unacclaimed The Hangover has been nominated 12 times and hasn't won anything yet. After the squabbles he probably won't cross the finish line first this year either.

The Bhagavad Gita played a guest role in Oppenheimer and it upset many Hindus. Oppenheimer translates a piece of it for his lover on the job. Sacred knowledge or not, it feels rather banal. Besides, “I have become Death" is probably the most unerotic thing you can say between the sheets.

Special moments

Judging by host Jimmy Kimmel's painfully cautious trailer for Sunday night's spectacle, it's going to be a long night of cautious humour, fake smiles and the usual FTP designer clothes.

Will Smith has been denied entry, so there will be no slaps. Taylor Swift will surely be there and the camera will inevitably follow her like a lapdog.

Actual highlights that could happen: Lily Gladstone may become the first native American to win the award for best actress. Time becomes a factor with veterans, so Martin Scorsese, 81, may get best director. He passed Steven Spielberg with his 10th nomination for directing. The Killers Of the Flower Moon isn't his best movie (or what do you think?) but he is a sentimental favourite.

Time is also running out for John Williams, 92, whose soundtrack for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny could win. He is the only person who has been nominated for an Oscar in seven consecutive decades. His first of five winners was Valley of the Dolls in 1968.

In animation, the legendary Japanese Hayao Miyazaki, 83, retires with The Boy and the Heron. Last movie, he says. Spirited Away was awarded in 2001 but that's little recognition for a man who helped make animation something more than children's fun.

Last year, 19 million people in 200 countries watched the Oscar broadcast. Others did not. Javier Bardem says in Spain the broadcasting time is too bad. Instead, he and his wife, Penelope Cruz, get up the next day to find out who won.

That might be the wise option.

* I could neatly close with a quote by the movie fan and philosopher Gilles Deleuze, but I haven't read him yet. His film books all cost R1 ,000 or more. Bugger him.

♦ VWB ♦

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