LESSON #1: FAITHLESS HOLLYWOOD FORGIVES BAD PEOPLE— How’s this for irony? The frighteningly devout and conservative Catholic who was ostracized from liberal Hollywood for anti-Semitic hate got himself and his gaudy, violent, and cheesy war film nominated over the most respected legend in the game who completed a passion project expressing, get this, frighteningly devout Christian beliefs. That’s what’s going on when Mel Gibson and “Hacksaw Ridge” are recognized with Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Best Director ahead of Martin Scorsese and “Silence.” Break out the SMH memes.
LESSON #2: I’M NOT SAYING THERE’S A DOUBLE STANDARD, BUT THERE MIGHT BE A DOUBLE STANDARD— While we’re on the topic of labeling “bad people,” the more Casey Affleck is showered with awards and frontrunner praise as the eventual Best Actor Oscar winner, the more his past allegations of sexual harassment and verbal abuse aren’t going away. Piggybacking from the fickle forgiveness of Lesson #1, when Brie Larson reads Affleck’s name to come and accept his Oscar, the cheers are going to drown out the boos and shade. I’ll be the one to ask it. Where is that same blind forgiveness for Nate Parker? I’ll grant the criminal charges were different, but his transgressions are ancient and the man was acquitted a long time ago. However, Affleck is looking at a place in history while Parker is going to have a hard time finding work. Either forgive them both or hate them both. Don’t create a double standard.
LESSON #3: AMY ADAMS IS BECOMING THE AMERICAN KATE WINSLET–Kate Winslet was nominated for an Oscar five times before winning on her sixth try in 2009 for “The Reader.” She was 34 years old at the time. Parallel to her, Amy Adams has been nominated five times and should have received her sixth nomination this week for “Arrival” (hell, even a seventh double nomination with “Nocturnal Animals”). What if I told you Amy Adams is a year older than Kate Winslet? She is. Amy turns 43 this year and still waits. She doesn’t deserve to be reach the casting death cliff of women 50+ without an Oscar. I don’t know what the woman has to do more.
LESSON #4: THE PUSH FOR DIVERSITY AT THE OSCARS IS NOT OVER— It’s wonderful to see 35% of the acting nominations (seven total) go to performers of diversity. Two of those, Mahershala Ali and Viola Davis, are near locks to win. “Moonlight” filmmaker Barry Jenkins hit the trifecta as a nominee for Best Picture, Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay and Joi McMillion, one of his editors, became the first minority woman ever to be nominated in that category. For one year, the #OscarsSoWhite pitchforks can be put away, but the playing field is still far from level. Diversity doesn’t just mean black. There is still a enormous dearth of Asian, Latino, Indian, and LGBT actors and actresses that are never recognized or even in positions for awards contention. Only two female directors (Sofia Coppola and Kathryn Bigelow) have been nominated for Best Director in the 16 years of this young century. Advocate for and improve diversity further after this good year.
LESSON #5: M. NIGHT SHYMALAN IS A CHEATER— In full disclosure, I’ve avoided M. Night Shyamalan’s films since “The Last Airbender.” I’ve been done and I’m in the camp of not buying the comeback fires that were kindled by “The Visit” last year and spiked with gasoline this week by “Split” and its box office success. To me, he’s still a one-trick pony where the “third act twist” is his only creative move. He’ll meander unevenly through two hours and then dazzle you for five minutes at the end. To me, that’s not enough anymore because it’s overused. Now, he can’t even make an original twist anymore, as evident by the stinger of “Split.” For more spoilers and more detail of similar feelings, check out this editorial piece from Mike Vanderbilt of Daily Grindhouse. He nails it.
DON SHANAHAN is a Chicago-based film critic writing on his website Every Movie Has a Lesson. He is also one of the founders and directors of the Chicago Independent Film Critics Circle. As an elementary educator by day, Don writes his movie reviews with life lessons in mind, from the serious to the farcical. As a contributor here on Feelin’ Film, he’s going to expand those lessons to current movie news and trends. Find “Every Movie Has a Lesson” on Facebook, Twitter, Medium, and Creators Media.