This year’s Oscar edition comes with a new look, though I would add that this will be more in form rather than substance. For the first time in thirty years the awards ceremony (to be held on Sunday, February 24, in Los Angeles) will not have a host or hostess–apparently, they all graciously declined the invitation after all the criticism, disappointments, gaffes and controversies of the previous years. The awards will simply be announced and assigned one after the other, the only interruption coming for the commercial breaks. On this, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences stumbled already, by announcing that two major categories of the craft and the art of cinema: cinematography and film editing, were to be awarded during the commercials breaks. No comment needed. Of course, there’s been an outcry, an official protest letter signed by film directors, cinematographers and film editors–the hottest of the moment–and the thing went back pretty quickly.
Other news is that the nomination for best picture and other categories can also go to a foreign film. And in fact, this year among the nominations for the best picture we find Roma by Alfonso Cuaron, and honestly, how could that be otherwise? Speaking of which, even more, news: Roma is the first film produced by Netflix to be nominated for an Oscar for best picture (but also The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, by the Coen brothers, has a nomination for best adapted screenplay).
Last but not least, the Academy continues on its path of the apparent renewal that it started a few years ago. After the 2015 Oscars, controversy and protest were rife, with accusations flying that among the nominees and winners there were too many men–too white and too old. As a result, it was decided that it was time for an update or kind of, and thus we now see more inclusion, specifically of women, young people and African Americans. Indeed, this year we can see this reflected in the nominations, but let’s not fool ourselves, we’re still talking about one of the most conservative and politicized institutions in the field of cinema and entertainment in general. I won’t even mention the word “art” here, even if occasionally some films with extraordinary artistic qualities do peep out among the nominations.
It remains to be seen if those walking the red carpet this year will be as politically aware and conscious as they were last year, when in the throes of the #MeToo movement, we saw a parade of actresses in more or less succinct black dresses, giving more or less important live statements. But this revealed, in my opinion, how the #MeToo has quickly become a melting pot that risks conflating legitimate accusations and essential statements with their opposite, in an industry in which machismo and its abuses (and not just the sexual kind) represent the long-established power structure–present basically from the birth of cinema–with what is mere entertainment or just an opportunity for some media exposure. But that’s another story.
So, those in the know, in society and in fashion, expect a red carpet that is restrained but not as politicized as last year, a red carpet that shyly returns to be a red carpet, as it was “invented” in the Nineties by that great show woman, Joan Rivers.
In fact, the red carpet was not always like this: in the Fifties and Sixties it was nothing more than a quick runway. Then over time it acquired some glam but it really became the red carpet only in 1995 when Joan Rivers, together with her daughter Vanessa–with their Red Carpet Special–created an event that has deeply transformed the very idea of “red carpet”, making it an entertainment in and of itself, meaningful not only in terms of fashion but also as self-affirmation for the movie stars and as political statement for the spectacle of the Oscars tout court.
Rivers, an experienced actress, producer, comedian, anchorwoman, and writer, added a crucial element to the red carpet: the competition. “Who are you wearing?”, she would ask the movie stars as they strolled by, and this is the question that made the fashion designer central to the spectacle. What’s more, the commentary on the dress itself became essential, both the judgment about the choice that had been made and purely on an aesthetic level. The red carpet event became much, much, more than a quick walk past the flashing cameras. It may seem trivial, but this was a real revolution in the Oscars ceremony. However, starting from last year, with the #MeToo movement, perhaps we have been witnessing another real change in the significance of the red carpet. From now on, the question of gender may predominate. Maybe it will not happen right away, but this could be the next political affirmation of the most famous runway in the world.
Just a little sidebar with an interesting tidbit of information, (and assuming that the editors of The New Yorker have done their work well): it was Aeschylus who, in his tragedy, Agamemnon, in 458 B.C. first spoke of a “red carpet”– or better– of a crimson carpet. To check the accuracy of this factoid, however, all we have to do is to read or re-read Agamemnon.
While we wait for the upcoming 91st Oscars Award ceremony, and just to indulge ourselves, let’s speculate on some of the possible outcomes and make a few predictions. So, this year, the Oscar goes to…
On the official Oscars website, you can find all the nominations.
Now, just for fun, I will suggest who, in the major categories, could win and who, according to my personal opinion, should win. Also who, again according to my personal opinion, should have been among the nominations but was totally ignored by the Academy (there would be many).
Bohemian Rhapsody could win based upon the Academy, the film industry (read: Hollywood) and the audience:
Roma should win. This is only my personal opinion but solidly motivated
The Rider should have been nominated but was ignored by the Academy:
Could win: Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman)
Should win: Alfonso Cuaron (Roma)
Missing: Lynne Ramsey (A Beautiful Day – You Were Never Really Here)
Actress in a leading role:
Could win: Glenn Close (The Wife)
Should win: Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Missing: Eva Melander (Border)
Actor in a leading role:
Could win: Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)
Should win: Christian Bale (Vice)
Missing: Ethan Hawke (First Reformed)
Actress in a supporting role:
Could win: Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Should win: Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Missing: Margot Robbie (Mary Queen of Scots)
Actor in a supporting role:
Could win: Mahershala Ali (Green Book)
Should win: Richard E. Grant (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Missing: Brian Tyree Henry (If Beale Street Could Talk)
Writing (Original screenplay):
Could win: Brian Hayes Currie, Peter Farrelly, Nick Vallelonga (Green Book)
Should win: Paul Schrader (First Reformed)
Missing: Chloé Zhao (The Rider)
Writing (Adapted screenplay):
Should win: Joel & Ethan Coen (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs)
Missing: Lynne Ramsay (A Beautiful Day – You Were Never Really Here)
Could win: Lukasz Zal (Cold War)
Should win: Alfono Cuaron (Roma)
Missing: Brandon Trost (Can You Ever Forgive Me?)
Could win: Hank Corwin (Vice)
Should win: Hank Corwin (Vice)
Missing: Lisa Zeno Churgin (The Old Man and the Gun)
Foreign language film:
Could win: Cold War
Should win:Free Solo
Missing: Monrovia, Indiana
We’ll see what happens on February 24, confirmations and surprises… Personally, I’m disappointed by an Oscars ceremony without a host or hostess. I would have loved to have a John Oliver to present the Oscars ceremony with his smart and irreverent sarcasm, or of course Tina Fey, or even the irresistible Alec Baldwin as Donald Trump (more true-to-life than the original) to recall distant memories of Greek tragedies. Satire is more appropriate today than it has ever been before.