Gauging Oscar's relevance 

click to enlarge PHOTO COURTESY OF UNIVERSAL PICTURES - Best picture Mahershala Ali (left) and Viggo Mortenson star in Green Book, which received a Best Picture nomination at this year's Oscars.
  • Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures
  • Best picture Mahershala Ali (left) and Viggo Mortenson star in Green Book, which received a Best Picture nomination at this year's Oscars.

The Oscar nominations came out this week.

Not everyone loves the Oscars (the term "elitist circle-jerk" is trending suddenly) but if nothing else, they give us something to talk about. And stories, specifically whose get told and when, are actually one of the great things about Hollywood's biggest night of the year.

Hollywood likes to bet on the money horse—see the proliferation of sequels, popular literary adaptations, remakes and re-imaginings of recent years. (Idea recycling is not a new concept in Tinseltown; the first Hollywood sequel was 1916's The Fall of a Nation. The first remake was 1903's The Great Train Robberysomeone remade it the next year.) The good thing about the Oscars is that they help show Hollywood what the current money horses are—i.e. what stories should they keep telling?

This is why seeing Black Panther in the race for Best Picture next to Spanish-language Roma is important. Just as Spike Lee getting his first Best Picture and Best Director nominations after 31 years of mostly outstanding films (and let the record show that Inside Job is a perfect heist flick) is important.

Or why Yalitza Aparicio's Best Actress nomination is important. Traditionally, these kinds of stories are told less frequently, or they're not taken seriously when they are told—black stories, female-driven stories, Latino stories, LGBTQ stories, Asian stories. When these sorts of films are nominated, win Oscars, and make money, the suits in Hollywood are that much more likely to put a similar story onscreen next year.

It's like Jackie Dickinson from Whistler Community Services Society keeps telling us: "Everyone in your community has a voice, but not everyone is heard."

And that goes all the way up to the Hollywood community. But this year, at the box office and the awards shows, a few more voices are being heard. There's still plenty of work to do and yes, the Oscars are definitely a bit of a circle-jerk (I don't watch them) but for now, they do still serve a purpose and I'll be the first person to spend 15 minutes reading about the winners the next morning and seeing who was best dressed (my money's on Emma Stone).

Stone, as it turns out, is up for best supporting actress for her role in The Favourite, a Best Picture nominee screening this week at the Whistler Village 8. Set in 18th-century England, Stone plays a new servant to Queen Anne, who's a bit of a wildcard even though she occupies the throne. And I'll stop right there because if you don't like period pieces, this is gonna be tough sell, even though it's almost unanimously considered one of 2018's best films (hence the nomination). Personally, I don't like period pieces.

Also screening, Green Book is another Best Picture contender. Viggo Mortenson (Eastern Promises, Captain Fantastic) plays a tough guy/hustler from the neighbourhood who gets hired as the personal chauffeur for Mahershala Ali's (Moonlight, Hidden Figures) prim, proper and genius classical pianist on a concert tour through the American Deep South.

It's like The Odd Couple meets a switcheroo Driving Miss Daisy, with a little bit of Planes, Trains and Automobiles tossed in for fun. It's an appetizing premise that benefits from the incredible chemistry of its lead actors, and the fact that director Peter Farrelly (Dumb and Dumber, Kingpin) keeps the film very focused on his characters without making too many broad "can't we all just get along?" statements about race relations in a larger context.

Nice to see Farrelly finding success with dramatic material after establishing himself (alongside brother Bobby) as one of the best comedic directors of the past 25 years (2003's Stuck On You remains the greatest conjoined-twin movie ever made).

Not a ton happening on the small screen but The Bill Murray Stories: Life Lessons from a Mythical Man is a nice uplifting watch and FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened is a really nerve-wracking doc about the infamous luxury music festival that turned into "an elephant-sized clusterf$ck" and the dangers of believing everything you see on social media.

FYRE is directed by the always brilliant Chris Smith (American Movie, Jim & Andy) and outlines how a hustler named Billy McFarland swindled thousands of people into thinking they could pay to party with supermodels at a luxurious, private-island music festival.

A solid look into ambition gone sour, this flick never really shows how McFarland suckered his team of smart, experienced people into staying aboard his fraudulent dream/sinking ship. This film could be about dangerous charisma, and it's not. (It could also be produced by McFarland himself as a sort of Plan C to make at least some bank on the scheme that landed him six years in prison. Smith has all the behind-the-scenes footage, even the most incriminating, and Fyre's ad agency is listed as a producer. Watch the last scene and you tell me...)

Both flicks are available on Netflix.


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