Sex­ual al­le­ga­tions haunt awards sea­son as Hol­ly­wood de­cides who de­serves what

Regina Leader-Post - - MOVIES - JAKE COYLE

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. 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.

Kevin Spacey

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