The 89th Academy Awards is less than a week away, and the Quad went out to ask the BU community what their pick is for “Best Picture.” Some went further to voice their views on the social significance of this year’s movies.
This year’s nominees for Best Picture are “Arrival,” “Fences,” “Hacksaw Ridge,” “Hell or High Water,” “Hidden Figures,” “La La Land,” “Lion,” “Manchester By The Sea,” and “Moonlight.” See all nominees here.
“La La Land” racked up 14 nominations – tying the record held by “All About Eve” and “Titanic” – in categories such as Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Music Score, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, and Best Sound Mixing. The movie deals with the conflict of whether a “once-in-a lifetime” love is more important than the dancing spotlight.
“There’s something very compelling about a story of two people who are trying to follow their dreams but don’t have a clear picture of where they want to go in their personal lives and how they want to accomplish their goals,” said Jasper Primack (CAS ’19), speaking of “La La Land.” “I think it speaks to everyone regardless of political affiliation [however], there’s a soft spot in my heart for ‘Deadpool.'”
Primack added that compared to last year’s boycott Oscar’s movement, nominations of movies like “Hidden Figures” and “Fences” is admirable, as there’s a larger focus on actors of color this year. He said it reflects the growing consciousness of the achievements that people of color need to be recognized in society.
Since 2015, a perceived problem with the Oscars was the lack of diversity among nominees, particularly in the categories involving Best Actor and Actress, which generated a trending hashtag on social media: #OscarsSoWhite. However, this year there has been improvements in the Best Actor/Actress categories. Denzel Washington has been nominated for the Oscars seven times in his career, winning one for “Training Day.”
Not everyone who predicts “La La Land” will win particularly rooted for the film.
“I think “La La Land” is going to win; I don’t want it to win,” said Marc Weinberg, a screenwriting professor in the College of Communication. “I didn’t get a good sense of, particularly the female protagonist [Mia, Emma Stone’s character], and it gets by on the choreography.”
Weinberg said he would rather see either “Lion” or “Moonlight” win the award because they were better films in terms of execution.
“Lion” is about a five-year-old Indian boy who gets lost on the streets of Calcutta, thousands of kilometers from home during which time he survives many challenges before being adopted by a couple in Australia. Twenty-five years later, he sets out to find his lost family. “Moonlight” chronicles the life of a young black man from childhood to adulthood as he struggles to find his place in the world while growing up in a rough neighborhood of Miami.
Weinberg continued to say Hollywood is not racist, it’s business. The box office numbers for films with minority actors do well here, but not overseas, he said. It’s an indication of how the rest of the world would be perceived as racist/biased, but not as much here.
“Just look at diversity in films now. That certainly wasn’t the case [before],” Weinberg said.
He added that “Hidden Figures” is one example showcasing diversity in films. It is a story about brilliant African-American women working at NASA who served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in history: the launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit.
However, Weinberg said when he worked in Hollywood, there was a general understanding in the industry that if you cast people of color in the leads, you would have a harder time selling the script. They would cast people of color in supporting roles, but didn’t make them the leads because “America won’t support those films.”
According to UCLA’s 2015 Hollywood Diversity Report, diversity sells. America’s increasingly varied audiences prefer different content created with the input of an assortment of talent. More than half the moviegoers in 2013 were minorities. Also, several of the 2013 films with majority-minority casts were more mainstream-oriented like “Fast and Furious” and “Fruitvale Station.”
Gabrielle Michel (COM ’19) also agrees that movies seem to be featuring more characters of diverse background. She said that it is most noticeable in the actor/actress and Best Picture nominations.
Michel supports Denzel Washington’s nomination for “Fences.”
“His performance was incredible,” Michel said. “Also, the Academy is likely looking to make a political statement in at least one of the categories after the attention they’ve gotten for lack of diversity.”
Not every one has the time to see every film that gets released. But, the ones that people watch stick with them throughout the year.
Matthew Doherty (COM ’19) is a fan of “Manchester by the Sea,” a story of a man who loses his only sibling and has to raise his nephew and whose return to the past re-opens an unspeakable tragedy. The film received six nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (Kenneth Lonergan), Best Actor (Casey Affleck), Best Supporting Actor (Lucas Hedges), Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams), and Best Original Screenplay (Lonergan).
“The scenes were amazing. It was very well put together and had you at the edge of your seat,” Doherty said.
On the other hand, Charlotte Howell, Assistant Professor in Media and Television Studies, said she was “pleasantly” surprised by the nomination of “Arrival” because it is science fiction without shying away from the unreality of the genre. She said the movie was subtle but still used the science fiction genre to present a reflection of humanity that could only happen in science fiction: “the encounter with the unknown emphasizes the heart of humanity.”
While there seems to be a general feel as to how this part of the show will pan out, there is never telling who will walk away with the golden statue.
Photo via pexels.com.