With a week to go till the Academy Awards, I’ve seen all eight Best Picture nominees as part of my annual Oscar Quest. I’ve only written about five of them so far and have some catch-up to do. Usually the AMPAS voters love at least one film I’d rather not see, but I’m relieved to report the 2015 lineup gave me the best Oscar Quest I’ve had in over a decade. Early on, I’d gotten the impression that if any nominee would annoy me more than the rest, it would be Alejandro González Iñárritu’s next film stunt The Revenant. I decided to see it anyway and form my own opinions, whether justified or flawed.
“Tonight we honor Hollywood’s best and whitest…”
Thus did Neil Patrick Harris kick off the 87th Academy Awards, whose twenty acting nominations failed to impress any onlookers who favor a multicultural viewpoint on everyday life. Much has already been said about this disconcerting coincidence over the past month-plus, but the show’s producers, no doubt in tandem with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, went all-out in assembling a team of celebrity presenters positioned a bit more broadly across the racial spectrum. Big names announcing or handing out awards included Oprah Winfrey, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o (a lock regardless of controversy thanks to last year’s 12 Years a Slave win), Jennifer Lopez, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kerri Washington, Viola Davis, Zoe Saldana, Dwayne Johnson, Terrance Howard, Octavia Spencer, Kevin Hart, Eddie Murphy, and AMPAS President Cheryl Boone Isaacs (another lock by virtue of her position).
Their compensation efforts were noticed. And to be fair, not everyone who took home a statue tonight was white. There are other interesting categories besides acting.
Two weeks ago we drove to the other side of the city to see Birdman in the only art-film theater in Indianapolis. I’m annoyed that it later opened more widely and is now showing at two theaters much closer to home, but there’s no use crying over wasted gas. Ever since then I’ve been struggling to translate my reaction into words that capture my enthusiastic response without being mere labels. There’s a scene about that, and it’s been bugging me ever since.
If you know the movie only from its elliptical ads, you’ll quickly learn Birdman is not slapstick superhero spoof. This isn’t Condorman or Superhero Movie with better effects and a more famous cast. Satire is one of the film’s numerous modes, but costumed metahumans and the summer action blockbusters they inhabit are just a couple of the many subjects facing the scrutiny of director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Babel), who’s more interested in deeper goals than in brainstorming cheap Batman jokes.