At times like these, the Academy Awards feel somewhat frivolous. It’s possible that some likely winners — The Salesman, Mahershala Ali, The White Helmets, OJ: Made In America, and even Zootopia — will have a political charge. We can certainly expect at least a few winners at the podium to speak out against the GOP’s onslaught of intolerance. Still, the main narrative of this Sunday’s Oscars telecast is shaping up to be about escaping these horrors rather than confronting them. I’m finding it difficult to celebrate that.
But this was no ordinary year.
Where to begin, when we speak of 2016? Most years, I just pick my favorite films, and that’s it. But this year, it felt important to really think about these choices, and what they expressed about my feelings this year. That’s not to say I picked a bunch of films I didn’t like as much just because they were “important.” Not at all. But I also know that when I look back at what cinema offered in 2016 many years from now — provided we’re still all in one piece by then — I do want it to reflect the turmoil, the despair, and the utter, unspeakable horrors inflicted upon so many of us over the course of the last year.
So, uhh, no. La La Land will not be my pick for Movie of the Year.
“The threat is nearly invisible in ordinary ways. It is a crisis of confidence. It is a crisis that strikes at the very heart and soul and spirit of our national will. We can see this crisis in the growing doubt about the meaning of our own lives and in the loss of a unity of purpose for our nation. The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.”
We’re getting further and further into the 21st century, but a number of the year’s best dramas have been rooted firmly in the century before. One of them is even named after last century.
“Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, Choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players, and electrical tin can openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol and dental insurance. Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisure wear and matching luggage. Choose a three piece suite on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked-up brats you have spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life… but why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life: I chose something else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?”
In the movies, if not so much in life, 2016 has turned out to be a very good year for the ladies. While the Best Actor race is suffering from a dearth of truly exciting performances in 2016, the Best Actress race is stacked. You could fill the Best Actress category twice before you come across five male performances that have the fire and finesse displayed by the women this year. The clear frontrunners are Natalie Portman in Jackie and Emma Stone in La La Land, with Annette Bening’s work in 20th Century Women also expected to pick up a nod. That leaves two slots open to a wide swath of women, from Amy Adams in Arrival to Ruth Negga in Loving — both deserving, though perhaps not showy enough to stand out this year.
Do you like scary movies?
What’s your favorite scary movie?