The Oscars are back again and looking a bit more colourful than usual this year. The awards season’s glitziest bash has been tarnished recently by the diversity row, with zero nominations for non-white actors over the past two years.
The Oscars have always been a pretty pale, conservative affair, but the backlash against #OscarsSoWhite was so great that the Academy actually decided to do something about it – with apparently instantaneous results. Now for the first time there is a black actor nominated in every acting category, and a record equalling seven non-white actors nominated overall.
Time will tell whether this is a direct result of the Academy’s attempts to diversify, or a coincidental spike in really strong work by black artists too good for the voters to ignore. However, after a year largely defined by intolerance and bigotry you have to take the positives as you find them, and the added diversity has really freshened up this year’s Oscar race.
The bad news is that the Oscar contenders are a bit thin on the ground on Brno’s screens at time of writing, so hopefully more will find their way onto schedules in the coming weeks. I like to catch at least all of the Best Picture nominations before the big day (26th February), and I’d hate to be tempted by illicit means of viewing the full roster.
Here’s what is showing at the moment:
La La Land (Damien Chazelle)
Damien Chazelle’s exuberant modern musical has racked up a record equalling fourteen nominations, tying with All About Eve and Titanic. It’s a pretty solid favourite for Best Picture, with Chazelle hot after Whiplash and two very likeable young(ish) leads – Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone – who’ve been at the top of their game for quite a few years now. What’s more, for a film that has achieved such popular and critical success there hasn’t been too much of a backlash against it – even the trolls seem to appreciate a bit of escapism in these dark days and have largely stayed under their bridge.
Showing at: Kino Scala Feb. 1, 4, 5, 8; Kino Art Feb. 6, 14; Olympia Feb 1.
Moonlight (Barry Jenkins)
One of my pet hates in movies is when we start off with the main character as a kid, then skip forward ten or fifteen years to them as an adult – and the actor they’ve got playing the grown up version looks absolutely nothing like the child. Richard Linklater tackled that issue recently by just taking a very, very long time to make Boyhood and use the same person all the way through. This presented its own problems, because Ellar Coltrane was a far better actor as a child than as an adolescent.
Barry Jenkins has three different actors playing the same role in his tender, luminous coming-of-age saga Moonlight, and it’s remarkable how convincing they are. Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes play Chiron at different stages of his life – they should really share a Best Actor nomination between them. Chiron’s a quiet kid with a crackhead mother and troubles with the school bully, as well as having to come to terms with his own sexuality. It’s a real slow burn, but those with patience will be rewarded by a film of rare insight and compassion. Beautiful, and I can’t wait to see it again.
Showing at: Kino Scala Feb 5; Kino Art Feb. 23, 26.
Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan)
It’s been a funny old year for the Affleck brothers. Big brother Batfleck received generally positive notes for his older, grimmer Dark Knight, but otherwise trudged through two superhero stinkers, Batman vs Superman and Suicide Squad. Then there was The Accountant, and discovering that gangster hats didn’t suit him in Live by Night. Younger sibling Casey rode out sexual harassment allegations to come out shining as the favourite for Best Actor in Manchester by the Sea. He plays a quiet janitor who is unexpectedly named guardian of his nephew after his brother’s death. I’m summoning up the courage to see it because I cry at pretty much anything, and it’s received widespread acclaim as a deeply moving and honest account of the grieving process.
Showing at: Kino Scala Feb. 3, 5; Kino Art Feb. 2, 4, 11, 13, 15, 21.
Jackie (Pablo Larraín)
Natalie Portman is up again for Best Actress, looking to add to the award she picked up for her hysterical performance in the wildly overrated Black Swan. This looks a far more substantial role for her talents, an intense character study following Jacqueline Kennedy after the assassination of JFK. It’s always interesting to see America through the fresh eyes of a foreigner, so it’ll be fascinating to see what slant Chilean director Pablo Larraín brings. Those who saw Under the Skin a few years back will probably remember Mica Levi’s strikingly modern, discordant score – she’s up for Best Original Score here, so I’m excited to see what her undoubtedly original talent will add to the usually stuffy biopic genre.
Showing at: Kino Scala Feb. 2, 4, 7; Kino Art Feb. 2, 5, 9, 11, 20.
Silence (Martin Scorsese)
Martin Scorsese has been working on his passion project for the past twenty six years, and whispers have it that it’s his best film since Goodfellas. Some cynics might say that’s not hard, because it’s been a patchy quarter-century for the legendary director. The austere title and subject matter – two missionaries travel to Japan to find their mentor and peddle Catholicism to the locals – has hardly had audiences clamouring for tickets. That’s perhaps reflected at the Oscars, where it has only received one nomination for cinematography. From the trailers it looks absolutely sumptuous, and film buffs should leap at the chance to see any new work from a genuine American master on the big screen.
Showing at: Kino Art Feb. 17, 20, 25.
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