Sexual allegations haunt awards season as Hollywood decides who deserves what
In nearly every major Academy Awards category this year there’s some trace of the sexual misconduct allegations that have swept through the movie industry.
Best supporting actor? That’s where Kevin Spacey was once considered a contender. Now he’s been scrubbed from Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World. Best animated feature? The favourite is Coco, the latest from Pixar, the animation studio co-founded by John Lasseter.
He’s currently on a “sabbatical” following his admission of inappropriate behaviour.
And even best actress is to be presented by last year’s best-actor winner, Casey Affleck. He settled two sexual harassment allegations filed against him in 2010.
The ongoing sexual harassment scandals have coloured every phase of awards season, but whether they will ultimately shape who wins is another question. The season is just getting into the swing of things, with a number of critics’ groups announcing their awards in the past week and the Golden Globe nominations coming Monday.
With so much disgrace to go around, is Hollywood still in the mood for self-congratulation?
At the same time, the movies have given plenty to celebrate. From The Florida Project to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, this year’s awards favourites are a formidable bunch, rife with timely social commentary. Many of the most celebrated filmmakers, from Greta Gerwig to Jordan Peele, are young, new voices.
The continuing fallout has made sexual harassment a commonly discussed topic on red carpets, at press junkets and on late-night shows — places that are typically reserved for more frothy banter. At an anniversary screening of the film Wag the Dog, moderator John Oliver grilled Dustin Hoffman over an earlier allegation, which has been denied by the actor, that he groped a 17-year-old on the set of 1985 TV film Death of a Salesman.
The film most perfectly poised for the post-Weinstein moment is Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards, in which Frances McDormand stars as an outraged mother out to revenge the rape and murder of her daughter.
Yet, in the early going, two lively and precise coming-of-age tales — Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name and Gerwig ’s Lady Bird — have been cleaning up the most. Tom O’Neil, the veteran awards analyst of Gold Derby, said the early love for these “little movies with a big heart,” as he called them, has forced him to re-examine his initial prediction of glory for Three Billboards.
Three Billboards won the highly predictive audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.
And many have viewed McDormand as the overwhelming bestactress favourite. But early wins have gone to Saoirse Ronan of Lady Bird, Meryl Streep of The Post and Sally Hawkins of The Shape of Water.
“It still may do very well. It’s going to do extremely well with the Golden Globe nominations about to come out,” said O’Neil. “But Three Billboards may just be too negative for these Oscar voters looking for uplifting messages.”
Lady Bird, Gerwig ’s solo directorial debut, stands apart, as one columnist wrote, for “so genuinely reflect(ing) a woman’s experience and viewpoint.”
No film captured the zeitgeist like Peele’s Get Out, a movie that cleverly rendered the realistic horrors of being black in America.
Steven Spielberg’s upcoming Pentagon Papers drama, The Post, is both a celebration of a free press meant as a rebuke to President Donald Trump, and a tale of female empowerment led by Streep’s Kay Graham. Sean Baker’s The Florida Project is a sunny fable that burrows inside the lives of the hidden homeless.
The bigger-budget wild card, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, has received a few nominations so far, including a best picture Critics’ Choice Awards nomination.
It could yet emerge as a heavyweight on the merits of its bigscreen craft.
But there’s no question that the normal rhythms of Oscar season have been upset.
Ronan Farrow, who penned The New Yorker’s Weinstein stories, was among those who in February contemplated whether #OscarsSoMale was the more fitting hashtag after several years of #OscarsSoWhite online protests. As has been noted, Oscar, himself, is male, naked and clutching only his sword.
This year may be cause for, at the least, a change of attire.