Shame min­gles with self-con­grat­u­la­tion in Os­car sea­son

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - ENTERTAINMENT -

NEW YORK » 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,” his per­for­mance re­placed with one by Christo­pher Plum­mer.

Best an­i­mated fea­ture? The fa­vorite is “Coco,” the lat­est from Pixar, the an­i­ma­tion stu­dio co-founded by John Las­sater. He’s cur­rently on a “sab­bat­i­cal” fol­low­ing his ad­mis­sion of in­ap­pro­pri­ate be­hav­ior.

Best di­rec­tor? With only four women ever nom­i­nated, no cat­e­gory bet­ter il­lus­trates the in­dus­try’s in­grained gen­der equal­ity is­sues — the same sys­tem­atic im­bal­ance that made it eas­ier for Har­vey We­in­stein and oth­ers to act with such im­punity for so long.

And even best ac­tress, a cat­e­gory where you might ex­pect a moment’s re­prieve, is — if tra­di­tion holds — to be pre­sented by last year’s best-ac­tor win­ner, Casey Af­fleck. He set­tled two sex­ual harassment al­le­ga­tions filed against him in 2010.

We­in­stein, who for so long craved om­nipres­ence on Os­car night , may fi­nally get his wish. Even though the former We­in­stein Co. co-chair­man has been kicked out of the Acad­emy of Mo­tion Pic­tures Arts and Sciences and his com­pany’s name has been erased from its best Os­car shot this year (Tay­lor Sheri­dan’s “Wind River”), We­in­stein will be ubiq­ui­tous in ab­sen­tia.

The on­go­ing sex­ual harassment scandals have col­ored 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. But in this year’s Os­car race, the We­in­stein effect is al­ready play­ing an un­pre­dictable role.

With so much dis­grace to go around, is Hol­ly­wood still in the mood for self­con­grat­u­la­tion?

At last week’s Gotham Awards, the usu­ally bub­bly at­mos­phere was some­what sub­dued, or at least Nicole Kid­man thought so when she ac­cepted a life­time achieve­ment award and urged the crowd to loosen up. Joana Vi­cente, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the In­de­pen­dent Film Project, which puts on the Gothams, was one of the few to directly ad­dress the ele­phant in the room.

“This has been a tough year for our in­dus­try and for the world,” said Vin­cente. “We would like to take a moment to rec­og­nize and to honor those women and those men who have stepped for­ward.”

But 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 fa­vorites are a for­mi­da­ble bunch, rife with timely so­cial com­men­tary. Many of the most cel­e­brated film­mak­ers, from Greta Ger­wig to Jor­dan Peele, are young, giv­ing an awards sea­son once dom­i­nated by We­in­stein what many now long for: new voices.

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