Please, not an­other Crash land­ing

Thanks to the Golden Globes, the Os­cars buzz has shifted in a ter­ri­ble di­rec­tion Sadaf Ah­san

National Post (National Edition) - - THE CHATTER -

At one time, the Golden Globe Awards was like a lit­tle sis­ter to the Os­cars, but in the past decade the cer­e­mony has be­come more of a drunken un­cle. This is not only due to the cer­e­mony’s open bar (and re­sul­tant sloppy speeches), but also its affin­ity for award­ing fare that laugh­ably tar­gets the low­est com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor. While we can blame this largely on its in­fa­mously out-oftouch vot­ing board, which is oc­cu­pied by 90 Cal­i­for­nia-based jour­nal­ists who write for pub­li­ca­tions out­side the U.S., we must also con­sider the mo­men­tous dam­age it leaves in its wake.

At this past week­end’s Golden Globes, Bo­hemian Rhap­sody and Green Book won more awards than any other film. Let that sink in for a mo­ment.

Prior to Sun­day night’s cer­e­mony, the crit­i­cally panned Queen biopic had been awash in con­tro­versy be­cause of its han­dling — or lack thereof — of front­man Fred­die Mer­cury’s sex­u­al­ity, race and life with AIDS. When not fo­cused on the “clean­ing up” as­pect, con­ver­sa­tion about the film on so­cial me­dia tended to fo­cus on its trou­bled pro­duc­tion, which saw direc­tor Bryan Singer rarely on set amidst ru­mours of sex­ual ha­rass­ment. He was ul­ti­mately fired and re­placed.

Mean­while, Green Book, which tells the real-life story of Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen), an Ital­ian New Yorker hired to drive Don Shirley (Mahershala Ali), a black pi­anist, through the South on a con­cert tour, was re­ceiv­ing a sim­i­larly rocky re­cep­tion prior to the awards show. It pre­miered in the fall to healthy re­views, but the film was soon crit­i­cized as be­ing yet an­other white saviour film, pro­duced by white film­mak­ers no less. The death knell seemed to have been rung when Shirley’s fam­ily blasted the movie, call­ing it a “sym­phony of lies,” dis­put­ing the film’s de­pic­tion of a friendly re­la­tion­ship be­tween the pair.

Typ­i­cally, pro­duc­tion drama, a tor­rent of bad re­views and, at least in re­cent so­cial-me­dia rage-out years, ra­cial con­tro­versy is enough to sink a film en­tirely. Nev­er­the­less, Bo­hemian Rhap­sody be­came the worst-re­viewed film to re­ceive a Golden Globe for Best Drama in 33 years, and Green Book scored for Best Com­edy and Best Screen­play, beat­ing crit­i­cally-ac­claimed fron­trun­ners A Star is Born and The Favourite.

While it’s well-un­der­stood that the Globes are a cir­cus, here’s the thing: vot­ing for this year’s Os­cars be­gan the fol­low­ing day. And many of the Os­cars’s vot­ers — com­prised of over 7,000 ac­tors, pro­duc­ers, cast­ing directors, cos­tume designers, you name it — were ei­ther in that room, ready to be swayed, or watch­ing re­motely as each win­ner was an­nounced and made their speech. Be­cause of this, Hol­ly­wood trade pa­pers have as­sumed those less-de­serv­ing films have gained a new mo­men­tum thanks to their Globe wins. And just like that, the vastly su­pe­rior A Star is Born and Roma are no longer fron­trun­ners for Best Pic­ture glory.

This sce­nario calls to mind one of the worst years in awards history: 2004. De­spite Broke­back Moun­tain, Capote and A History of Vi­o­lence all be­ing re­leased that year, it was Paul Hag­gis’s Crash — which has aged so poorly it’s bor­der­line laugh­able now — that went on to pick up Best Pic­ture. (And let’s not even talk about Three 6 Mafia win­ning for Best Orig­i­nal Song.) This, de­spite Broke­back, that year’s fron­trun­ner, hav­ing walked in with the most nom­i­na­tions, and hav­ing scored a Best Direc­tor win for Ang Lee. The con­clu­sion at the time was that Hol­ly­wood just wasn’t ready to award a gay love story, in­stead opt­ing for neater, but ex­ceed­ingly tone-deaf ma­te­rial — a lot like this year’s Green Book, 2012’s The Help or 2009’s The Blind Side.

In the end, it sug­gests there re­ally isn’t any value to be found in hop­ing, year in and year out, that the Os­cars will rec­og­nize the “right” movie. That’s not what awards sea­son has ever been about, de­spite what the tro­phies might sug­gest. Will they ever hon­our the most de­serv­ing movie is a ques­tion we’ve been ask­ing for a decade and will likely con­tinue ask­ing for an­other 10 years. Still, the hope the Os­car for Best Pic­ture will ac­tu­ally go to a film that is ev­ery­thing to all peo­ple — crit­i­cally ac­claimed, beloved by au­di­ences and an artis­tic achieve­ment — lingers, no mat­ter the re­al­ity with which we’ve been con­fronted.

In its 91st year, it’s about time the Academy Awards ac­tu­ally stands for what it claims to rep­re­sent. And one fewer Crash in its history is one step closer to that goal.


Green Book

Bo­hemian Rhap­sody

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