Tag Archives: Oscars

Oscars 2014: A turning point for diversity in the industry?

Like Hostess Ellen said, either “12 Years a slave” wins or we’re all racists. 

Good thing it won. But I don’t know if we’ve really turned a corner on diversity.  Under-representation and stereotypes still exist in Hollywood.  Asians are few and far between, and Native Americans?  In these times, Johnny Depp can still play Tonto.

But my goodness, the list of winners in the top categories this year is still  impressive:

Asian American of Filipino descent: Robert Lopez, composer, Best Original Song, “Let it Go,” from “Frozen.”

Mexican American: Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity.”

African American: John Ridley, Best Screenplay adaption, “12 Years a Slave.”

Mexican Kenyan: Lupita Nyong’o, Best Supporting Actress, “12 Years a Slave.”

Brit director Steve McQueen’s brutally honest telling of the Solomon Northup story is so disturbing, it’s hard to take.

But it needed to be told finally. Doesn’t put closure on the race issue by a long-shot. Don’t talk about post-racial America after a “Best Picture” Oscar.

But I think the industry is beginning to change as far as recognizing diverse audiences.

You can’t deny the winner’s list tonight.

I pretty much predicted how it would go.

“Gravity” was such a technical marvel, but didn’t quite get out of the planetarium for me.

I loved Amy Adams but knew she wouldn’t win. “American Hustle” was good but ABSCAM isn’t Watergate.  And for New Jersey folks, it’s not even Bridgegate.

So Cate Blanchett wins as she has most of the pre-shows.

Same with Jared Leto and Matthew McConaughey in the  male actor categories.

Both of them gave great speeches.

I thought Leto’s mention of Ukraine and Venezuela, and AIDS victims brought things a little closer to reality. And McConaughey’s mention of God, was “all right, all right.”

But given the diversity wins of the night, Oscar folks still like things more  tactful than I would have wanted.

Never mind, Lupita Nyong’o’s acceptance speech struck the right chord. She recognized that her success was based on the pain of the past.(A show of humility there). And then after thanking colleagues, she chose to inspire:

“When I look down at this golden statue, may it remind me and every little child that no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid. Thank you.”

This was not a night or the time to beat anyone over the head apparently. Not with Ellen playing silly, ordering pizzas and doing selfies.  It was a fun, guilt free Oscars.

And the winners were among the most I can ever remember.

Leave it to Lupita Nyong’o  to help validate the night.

 

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Just in time for Martin Luther King Weekend…”12 years a Slave”, Oscar nomination is your nudge

The PR stars are aligned for “12 years a Slave,” with its Oscar nomination for Best Picture and its nationwide run starting just in time for MLK weekend.

As I mentioned on the AALDEF blog, if you didn’t feel compelled to see the movie when it opened late last year, I don’t blame you. It’s much more graphic perhaps than it needed to be. But maybe in this day and age where it takes a shock to be noticed, we all need to see it.

The black film critic Armond White called it “torture porn.” And I tend to agree. There’s a fine line separating art and titillation when it comes to the sadistic violence we see in the film. The director Steve McQueen has made movies that come right up to the edge.  In fact, White has been very vocal about his stand and spoke out loudly while McQueen accepted a recent award from the NY film critics group. White was accused of heckling and was thrown out of the group for his behavior, not his opinion.

As much as I appreciate White’s contrary view, I still believe  “12…”  is worth seeing. Too many of us take slavery for granted as a part of our historical past. But what has been overcome shouldn’t be forgotten.

I called “12 years a Slave”  electroshock for racists in my short review on the AALDEF blog.  But who out there thinks they’re racist? So let me be more general. If you have a spec of racism in your being, from raging KKK to the sublimated, in-denial kind, seeing “12 years a Slave” will exorcise it out of you.

That’s what seeing the racism and hate on the big screen does.

As for the other nominations, I’m a big “American Hustle” fan. But compared to “12 years a Slave,” it just doesn’t get you emotionally. ABSCAM? Slavery? No comparison. The acting is good in “12…” and you definitely feel for the characters. But somewhat it seems one-dimensional compared to the complexity of cons conning cons in “American Hustle.” Amy Adams and Christian Bale are tremendous together. When the story fails to engage, you don’t mind. You just keep wanting to watch Adams and Bale. And not for Bale’s comb over. The overlooked performance in that movie, however, was by Jeremy Renner. It’s a shame his pompadour got edged out by Bradley Cooper’s perm rods.

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Some thoughts on the Golden Globes…(updated)

Ah, the good old days. I remember when the Golden Globes could barely get coverage as an award show  that appeared on over-the-air UHF channels. This is all in the day when three-networks dominated everything and cable was just a wire you could hold in your hands.

Now as a demonstration of how our celebrity culture has risen, the GGs are big, big, big. The pre-Oscar/Emmys, and much ado about pop.

I’m not exactly sure if that’s what I’d call progress.

The programs I like to watch more often than not were rewarded on Sunday. AMC’s  “Breaking Bad,”  a great show.  Moviedom’s “American Hustle,” uneven but great acting. The HBO/Liberace biopic, “Beyond the Candelabra” well, read my review here: http://aaldef.org/blog/liberace-the-queer-for-non-queers.html

But as much as I like watching Michael Douglas and Matt Damon,  and even Bryan Cranston (with or w/o hair)  I like to watch women, and all my favorites won as well. (I don’t mean to be sexist. I appreciate a good acting performance, but is it wrong to say I tend to prefer watching women?)

Robin Wright who has been underrated on Netflix’ “House of Cards,” won a Golden Globe.  So did Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, who  both lifted “American Hustle” from the pedestrian.

But the best acceptance speech of the night  had to be the salty one from  Jacqueline Bisset right at the start.

I’m surprised that some didn’t like her bit and would disagree with me. But here’s the situation. You’ve won. You beat the odds. They sat you about a two miles away from the podium because no one thought you’d win.  But you’ve won. All eyes are on you. And now you get to tell off all your detractors.

Of course, perhaps, such a situation would call for a little grace.

But what the heck, you’re an older actress who some have left for dead. You’ve got a lot of fire left, show it. Why not?  Or not.

Listen, Amy and Tina are affable lap dogs. Cool, but not real. They ran amok within the confines of convention. JBisset was trying to prove she was not just a shadow of her former self. She was a winner. And she still had what she said after a lot of “p-ss and vinegar.”

To that, I say good for her. I liked it a whole lot better than the Woody Allen bit. But then I’m a Mia Farrow fan.

http://abcnews.go.com/Entertainment/jacqueline-bisset-acceptance-speech/story?id=21507966

 

The Oscar nominations come out later this week.

I have yet to see “12 years a Slave,” so I’ve refrained from commenting on its Golden Globe win for Best Picture. But the movie that I saw more than once this year likely won’t get nominated. I was on a 20 hour plane ride to Asia and managed to watch “Frances Ha” at least 4 times on the round trip.

“FH” is all about young people in New York. In Black and White. Starring a captivating Greta Gerwig.  She was nominated for a Globe for best actress but didn’t win. That was always the thing about the Golden Globes.  You could always count on some oddball winners and nominees compared to the other award shows.

Let’s see how traditional Oscar is this year.

 

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Oscar night….Arrrggggh-oh!

UPDATE:Monday 2/25/13…1:25 p.m.PDT

Want the truth on “Argo”?

This is from the Institute for Public Accuracy, Washington, DC:

WILLIAM O. BEEMAN,

Author of The ‘Great Satan’ vs. the ‘Mad Mullahs’: How the United States and Iran Demonize Each Other, Beeman said today: “If it were a piece of fiction, I’d say that ‘Argo’ was great entertainment. But I was in Iran during the revolution and knew many of the people portrayed. A huge part of what’s depicted in the movie is fictionalized. Jimmy Carter himself acknowledged that the Canadians were responsible for 90 percent of getting the six embassy workers out. Tony Mendez [portrayed by Ben Affleck] was only in Iran for a day and a half.

“The danger of this for the American public is that it paints things as black and white with Americans and the CIA as the good guys and Iranians as bad guys out to kill any American they see. In fact, there were quite a few Americans living in Iran. The embassy workers were targeted because many of the Iranian revolutionaries were convinced that the U.S. was trying to re-install the Shah as it had done in 1953. …

“The P5 plus 1 talks start on Iran’s nuclear program tomorrow. How many Americans know that the Iranian nuclear program was started with U.S. encouragement 40 years ago?”

NIMA SHIRAZI

On Saturday, Shirazi posted the piece “Oscar Prints the Legend: Argo’s Upcoming Academy Award and the Failure of Truth,” which states: “Over the past 12 months, rarely a week — let alone a month — went by without new predictions of an ever-imminent Iranian nuclear weapon and ever-looming threats of an American or Israeli military attack. Come October 2012, into the fray marched ‘Argo,’ a decontextualized, ahistorical ‘true story’ of orientalist proportion, subjecting audiences to two hours of American victimization and bearded barbarians, culminating in popped champagne corks and rippling stars-and-stripes celebrating our heroism and triumph and their frustration and defeat. Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir aptly described the film as ‘a propaganda fable,’ explaining as others have that essentially none of its edge-of-your-seat thrills or most memorable moments ever happened. O’Hehir sums up:

The Americans never resisted the idea of playing a film crew, which is the source of much agitation in the movie. (In fact, the ‘house guests’ chose that cover story themselves, from a group of three options the CIA had prepared.) They were not almost lynched by a mob of crazy Iranians in Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, because they never went there. There was no last-minute cancellation, and then un-cancellation, of the group’s tickets by the Carter administration. (The wife of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor had personally gone to the airport and purchased tickets ahead of time, for three different outbound flights.) The group underwent no interrogation at the airport about their imaginary movie, nor were they detained at the gate while a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard telephoned their phony office back in Burbank. There was no last-second chase on the runway of Mehrabad Airport, with wild-eyed, bearded militants with Kalashnikovs trying to shoot out the tires of a Swissair jet.

“One of the actual hostages, Mark Lijek, noted that the CIA’s fake movie ‘cover story was never tested and in some ways proved irrelevant to the escape.’ The departure of the six Americans from Tehran was actually mundane and uneventful.”

UPDATE: Monday 2/25/13

Congratulations are in order to Ang Lee and “Life of Pi.” It won 4 of the key Oscars, including Best Director. But there was no one film that you can say was a runaway winner this year.

“Argo,” the Best Picture, won 3, but not Best Director. The four actor awards were distributed among four different films. And just because your name is Spielberg (“Lincoln”) or Ellison (producer of “Zero Dark Thirty”), Oscar played no favorites.

Still, most of the winners are white, and diversity remains a major problem with the Oscars, where academy voters’ median age is 62, nearly 80 percent of them are male, and over 90 percent are white.  Sounds like the old U.S. electorate, doesn’t it?

Which brings us to Ang Lee. I revere Lee and his great body of work. I was rooting for him too, but not necessarily from an Asian American perspective.  Why? Because he’s Taiwanese, a brilliant Asian in America. The movie is more internatonal than not, with Pi named after a French swimming pool. Canada brought the book and the film to life.

The distinction of being Asian or Asian American is important.

You want Asian American, then you have to be taken by the other Patel in film this year, the  Dr. Patel character in “Silver Linings Playbook.”

Though played by a Bollywood star, Anupam Kher, it’s still a depiction of an Asian American.  And what a diverse cast, with a BBF, a black best friend (Chris Tucker), a Latino/white interracial marriage (John Ortiz and Julia Stiles),  and the South Asian shrink (Kher). From that standpoint, all modern Hollywood films should be as inspired in their casting. Too bad the film didn’t win just on diversity.

As for Best Picture, I still feel “Argo” was over-rated compared to “Zero Dark Thirty.” Given both films loyalty to history, they missed out on the human side that was all over “Silver Linings Playbook.” That left the CIA films in the interesting and thrilling category, but not in the realm where the truly great films reside.

“PI” might have been imaginative with its special effects, but SLP came the closest for me this year as the movie that “hits home.”

When you see it on DVD in your living room with your family, you’ll see why.

UPDATE: 9pm Pacific:

FLOTUS surprise, but  “Argo.”  Really?

Oh, well…Hope you didn’t lose in your office pool.

>>>

Caught up with all the CIA movies just before the red carpet.

“Zero Dark Thirty” is a great film, but it plays like a dossier. Jessica Chastain is the best thing about the movie, as “Maya,” but as the film shows us, the character has no friends, no home, no family, no life. That would have helped the film immensely. Torture scene was less torturous than buildup. Key point: the torture didn’t have to happen. CIA had a lead years before any torture, but the lead  fell through the cracks. Even more interesting was the raid and how precarious the situation actually was. I’ve heard that some audiences cheered at the end, but not in my group. I kept wondering why UBL wasn’t taken alive?

Still, “ZD30” is a great movie, and much  better than “Argo,” which also over-relied on “history” to create its fiction , but in doing so, missed out on the personal aspects of the story line that would have helped the movie greatly.  In the end, I really didn’t care much if the Americans got out.

And so I think I’m sticking with my personal favorite, “Silver Linings Playbook.”

Is it that odd that a movie where pyschtropic drugs play such a big role is the “feel good movie” at the Oscars?

The film, rooted in family, home, and love, would be a worthy Best Picture winner tonight.

I’m just feeling it for SLP  tonight.

Maybe it’s the meds.

 

“Silver Linings Playbook” is my Oscar pick

I may be late to the bandwagon, but I shouldn’t be. 

Certainly, I shouldn’t be surprised that I know about Paxil, Prozac, Wellbutrin, Tofranil, Abilify, et.al without ever having taken a single pill.  It just seems that people all around me are taking them, and instead of being judgemental, I should be glad that they are.

In that sense, “Silver Linings Playbook” is the perfect mirror of dysfunction in America. And, on that level, a movie breakthrough.

In America these days, the road to happiness includes a trip to the medicine cabinet.

But the movie is also a breakthrough in the depiction of Asian Americans in Hollywood.

If they gave Oscars for that, “Silver Linings Playbook” would deserve one.

Read my post at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog

I just saw “Argo” last night, and don’t think it is as good as its Golden Globes win. ( It’s definitely a period piece. All the actors look like Dickie Smothers.)  But if SLP doesn’t win, maybe “Lincoln” will overtake them all.  Look at all the man accomplished—without psychotropic meds!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Were the Oscars really that boring? Where’s Sacheen Littlefeather when you need her?

I watched and was surprised at how unfunny the Oscars were.  I laughed at Chris Rock’s jokes. But the rest of it? Emma Stone? Painful.

Lacking in humor, lacking in real diversity (lacking in Asian Americans, oh wait there was that violinist on the commercial bridges),  lacking in importance.  Do you really care about the fancy dresses?

Read my view  on the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog:

http://aaldef.org/blog/watching-oscar-sacheen-littlefeather-we-need-you.html

Watching the Oscars and rooting for “The Descendants”

In California, but not Hollywood, watching Oscars like everyone else. But my family’s doing it up Hawaiian-style (a coconut monkey in a hula skirt, and two tiki mini-torches on the dining table) and rooting for “The Descendants.”
The film is an underdog to “The Artist.” I liked both, but my brief time on Oahu made the George Clooney film my sentimental favorite. Besides, there were real Asian Americans in that film. Clooney is my favorite for best actor as well, but the buzz on “The Artist,” and Jean Dujardin, may be a bit too hard for film and actor to overcome.
“The Artist” was fabulous too. Beyond the silent film aspect, I thought the movie was a perfect recession era film for our modern times. When Valentin gets usurped by the talkies, it’s almost analagous to the technological upheavals that have changed numerous industries today. Maybe after tonight, the movie will be more widely released and more regular folks (aside from filmsnobs) can see what all the hubub is about. You won’t find “The Artist” in most U.S 16-plexes (at least not in my neck of the woods).
It shouldn’t be seen as a film just for nostalgic film buffs.
If you’ve lived through this recession, unemployed, with an upside down mortgage, there’s a lot in this film to which you can relate.
Still, I thought “The Artist” was about 20 minutes too long.
And I thought the dog should have been nominated.
That said, the teenager in “The Desendants,” Shailene Woodley, should have been nominated too.
I also managed to get to “My Week with Marilyn.” Michelle Williams is my choice for best actress. Won’t happen. Too much Davis/Streep talk. But Williams was Marilyn.
Got to see “Tree of Life” last night. Pretty. Arty. But not Oscar-y.
Have fun watching.
I will keep drinking Mai-Tais until “The Descendants” win something. And if they don’t, I’ll switch to banana daquiris.
And by then, I’ll be just like the guy in “The Artist.”