Garry Gillard > Australasian Cinema > awards > Oscars 2017

Oscars 2017


Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)
I did not identify with the story, so did not personally enjoy the film -- but I still have to say that is an outstanding piece of cinema, and should win best film hands down.  From moment to moment it is consistently surprising and interesting.  The cinematography and editing are innovatory, and the sound is better than satisfactory.  It is an important moment in the development of American cinema.

Other Nominations for Best Picture

Arrival (Denis Villeneuve) Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival is a welcome addition to a long list of movies about alien visitors to our planet. It’s intelligent, and ventilates some striking ideas about time, and particularly about language (and, somehow, the relationship between the two). However, it suffers from the usual credibility gaps caused by the star system. Lois Lane – sorry, Amy Adams – is much too young to know as much about linguistics as her character does. And there no content at all to the ‘romantic’ relationship between her and Jeremy Renner’s character. They work together like fellow thesps on an SFX film, not at all like actors embodying their characters.

Fences (Denzel Washington) I think that Denzel Washington was so pleased and proud with the performance of the stage production of Fences in which he appeared that he wanted to fix and immortalise it in cinematic form. So he had the play filmed.
That’s bad enough, but not only is the play set in the 1950s, the film looks as though it was made in the 1950s as well. No-one was brave enough to tell the director that they don’t make films like this any more – except for this tedious example.

Hacksaw Ridge (Mel Gibson) OK, I’m naive, but I just don’t get this premise of the plot. Every day the Americans get out of bed and go attack the Japanese position again. It’s on this ridge (surprise!) and the Yanks have to climb up a rope ladder before getting into the business of human body destruction. But here’s the thing: the ladder is there every day, and the Americans are allowed to climb it completely unresisted. At the end of another day of dismemberment, they climb down it again, unpursued, knowing that it will be there again tomorrow. Why? Why don’t the Japanese cut the damned thing down, before during or after the daily incursion? Why don’t they drop stuff on the climbing GIs? Beats me.

28 October 2015, I wrote: Hacksaw Ridge is about to win Best Film in the AACTA awards for 2016. It’s a multinational production of an American story, set in Okinawa, which was filmed in Australia – perhaps because it was cheaper to do so here. What this event demonstrates, it seems to me, is that such awards have very little to do with the country in which they’re handed out, and not much to do with quality either. It’s only three years since Best Film was won by an even less appropriate film, The Great Gatsby: another echt American story, which wasn’t even shot here. And, to rub salt into the wound, Leonardo di Caprio was given the Best Actor award – an Australian award! WTF?

Australian awards should be given for Australian stories.
This has now also been nominated for the award of Best Film at the 2017 Oscars. It’s a film about war, so I’ll watch it very reluctantly – later. ...
I’ve now watched it. It’s horrible. Nothing more.

Hell or High Water (David Mackenzie) I seem always to have liked films set in Texas, perhaps starting with Hud, or maybe even Giant before that, and certainly going on with The Last Picture Show (starring Jeff Bridges). Some of us Western Australians feel we have something in common with Texas and its lifestyle. As well as all the open space, there’s red dust, gambling, men talking slowly and sometimes incomprehensibly, and guns – tho we have somewhat fewer per head. Some of us even rob banks. (I know: I’ve met one bank robber myself.) And we definitely have banks that rob us. So I thought this was fun.
Jeff Bridges’ presence was in its favour. I seem to have been watching his family all my life, starting with his Dad, Lloyd Bridges. Jeff is probably older now than Lloyd was when he retired, but he still earns whatever he gets paid.

Hidden Figures (Theodore Melfi) Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe
A film made with an Academy audience in mind, and released just in time. Many such films are biopics about people who fought for a worthy cause and triumphed over adversity. They may also add dramatic intensity (i.e. distort the truth), and often have reviewers reaching for rarely-used words like ‘mawkish’ to go in front of ‘sentimentality’.

La La Land (Damien Chazelle) La La Land suffers from the way casting works in Hollywood (as does Arrival). Ryan Gosling got the gig because he is marketable, not at all because he can sing, dance, and play the piano. (He is not as lamentably bad as Jamie Foxx in The Soloist, but it’s still painful for any musician to watch him pretending to be one.) Emma Stone is a very busy actress, but not one obviously born to dance.
The main thing wrong with this ‘musical’, however, is a simple lack of music. There’s a lot of talking (especially jazzsplaining), and a lot of development of the ‘romantic’ relationship the film doesn’t need, and not enough singing and dancing.

Lion (Garth Davis, 2015) wr. Luke Davies from Saroo Brierley autobiography A Long Way Home, prod. Emile Sherman, Iain Canning, Angie Fielder; Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman; Indian son reunited with birth mother; nominated for Best Film 2017 Oscars
I thought this was, like Australia (Baz Luhrmann, 2008), more like three films than one. The first one is a doco-like representation of life in an Indian slum; the second is an Australian melodrama with acting not good enough for a soap; and the third is a joyful tear-jerker about the reunion of a mother and son.
There's now no doubt that Dev Patel is a superior actor. Nicole Kidman may have been doing what she was directed to do, but it's not much. As for David Wenham, this is yet another in a long series of roles done on automatic pilot. HAL in 2001 gives a better performance, and he's not even alive.

Manchester By the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan) Once I’d figured out that I was supposed to focus on Casey Affleck’s character as the central figure (he’s such a non-actor), it was all plain sailing, and a pleasant journey through my favourite kind of film: a family drama. This is certainly not a great film – even the cinematography is ordinary, despite the location, and the editing is worse, and nobody really bothers to act much, and nothing happens … but it was still an enjoyable couple of hours.
Now that Affleck has won Best Actor, I suppose I need to justify my assertion above. I guess for a family drama you have to be a bit more 'real' than in, say, a thriller, where it's expected that you'll be more histrionic. So the actor has to bring more of themself to the part and be seen to inhabit it - and I guess the Academy thought that Affleck did that well.