Monday, 29 February 2016

Critical Week: Oscar night 2016

The Oscars were handed out on Sunday night in a brisk Hollywood ceremony hosted by Chris Rock, who gave the event an #OscarsSoWhite theme. That felt a bit much at times, because the important point was made so forcefully right at the top of the show. There was far too focus on specifically black issues, which sidelined the inequality in other ethnicities, plus gender and sexuality. The LGBT audience was insulted when Anohi wasn't invited to perform her nominated song. Even worse was the sexist parade of scantily clad women as The Weeknd performed his song. So while racism was positively addressed, there's still a long way to go before Hollywood properly confronts diversity.

At least that theme gave the ceremony its only jaw-dropping moment, when Stacey Dash appeared to wish everyone a "happy Black History Month". Mainly the show played it very, very safe, only livened up by anarchic comics like Sarah Silverman and Louis CK. And of course Sacha Baron Cohen seriously going for broke as he introduced a Best Picture nominee in character as the ridiculous Ali G. Honestly, it seems like Oscar's ratings problem is that the ceremony is completely lacking in these kind of entertainingly bonkers moments. (Why do pundits always call awkward moments the "worst" bits of the show? They're always the only thing you remember!) And the truth is that its the fast-paced parade of no-nonsense awards presenting in minor categories that makes viewers tune out. Next year, bring back Rob Lowe and Snow White.

Awards-wise there were a few surprises, with a handful of upsets including Sam Smith's win for his Spectre theme and Ex Machina's visual effects triumph. Two other deserving surprises caused me to shout out loud: Mark Rylance for Supporting Actor and Spotlight for Best Picture. My other big cheer came when the gorgeous Stutterer won for Live-Action Short. Director Ben Cleary and producer Serena Armitage came along to two events I hosted as chair of the London Critics' Circle Film Awards: our nominations announcement event in December and our ceremony in January, where they won the Short Film prize.

I watched the Academy Awards at the official Oscar London event, a live all-night telecast in a cinema with a crowd of industry people cheering on their friends. It was almost like being at the ceremony itself, even if we were watching the show from 1.30 to 5am! As always on Oscar night, I went to bed as the sun was coming up.

As for films I watched over the past week, the screening line-up included the gorgeous Foreign-Language Oscar winner Son of Saul, Sacha Baron Cohen's mixed gross-out action comedy Grimsby, the devastating Ibsen-based Aussie drama The Daughter, the oddly mannered relationship-collapse drama Like You Mean It, and the wonderful film-fan-catnip documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut.

This coming week's screenings include Gerard Butler's sequel London Has Fallen, the drone thriller Eye in the Sky, Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams in I Saw the Light, the animated sequel Kung Fu Panda 3, the period drama Marguerite and the short film collection Mexican Men.

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