— Posted by Alyssa
As the face of the Academy Awards, Chris Rock was taxed with navigating a ship that was in murky water. Good thing he had Girl Scout cookies to feed to the insatiable sharks. As the charismatic spokesperson of the 88th Academy Awards, Rock delivers with mostly good jokes that address the race controversy without demeaning those who were nominated. Here are some moments worthy of reflection:
That Moment Where We Were All Like “Whaaaat?!?”
Mark Rylance wins the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor—Not to take anything away from Rylance’s quiet, but affecting performance as a Soviet spy, but Tom Hardy was just incredible as Fitzgerald in The Revenant. And then there was Rocky himself who puts his days of sparring behind him to turn in a performance that was equal parts nostalgic and dignified. It seems difficult to award just one, but I suppose that’s the nature of the beast we know as the gold statuette.
I Guess We Can’t Accept Everybody?
The one low moment of the show that can’t be swept under the rug was a joke involving three Asian kids who represented the “accountants” from PricewaterhouseCoopers. For all the moments where Hollywood heavyweights were preaching the values of respecting each other and the world, this joke seemed counterproductive and pointless.
The Oscars Became a Death Race
Mad Max: Fury Road steamrolled over the competition with a total of six Oscars. The high-octane film is like a shot of adrenaline to the heart. It is seriously on overdrive for the entire two hours. George Miller’s apocalyptic vision swept almost all of the technical categories
Good for You Moment
The underseen, but well-received Ex Machina starring Best Supporting Actress winner Alicia Vikander received justified acknowledgment when it won for Achievement in Visual Effects. It was nice to see an under-the-radar film go home with a prize.
— Posted by Alyssa
Director: Alejandro González Iñárritu
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Domhnall Gleeson, Will Poulter
Beautiful cinematography and excellent direction juxtaposed with a harrowing tale of the resilience of the human spirit makes for one of the most immersive and impressive experiences a viewer can have at a place with hard chairs and sticky floors. You’ll feel transported to the cutthroat time of fur-trapping and civil cultural unrest in Alejandro Iñárritu’s The Revenant.
Hugh Glass (DiCaprio, at his absolute finest) is an expert hunter who is part of a company of fur-trappers on a dangerous expedition. They must navigate the unforgiving terrain and violent natives in order to gather the fur. These pelts are more than just lavish garb worn by the haughty upper-class and whose existence is responsible for outraging PETA. Rather, the stakes are high in that these pelts are a way of life that ensures survival. After a brutal raid by a native tribe leaves many of Glass’s company dead, the survivors are forced to move their pelts and take shelter. This leads to a new, uncharted location that only Glass knows well. However, his familiarity with the land does not save him from its unpredictability. While out hunting, Glass gets viciously mutilated by a giant bear. His near-death experience causes him to become a liability to his company’s goals of moving their pelts and finding shelter. The Captain (Gleeson) is forced to make a tough decision and leaves Glass in the care of a wily and blunt man named Fitzgerald (Hardy, amazing in this role) who is just as unpredictable and threatening as any other predator. Meanwhile, Glass’s half-native son Hawk is also left behind with Fitzgerald alongside another youngster from the company named Bridger (Poulter). Tensions get high leading to disaster and ultimately leaving Glass for dead. He is forced into a position that tests his spirit, resourcefulness, and perseverance.
The 1820s was a brutal time where America was still polishing its ideals, and the country laid claim to endless expanses of land. This is the world of a united nation following the Louisiana Purchase. Bearing (no pun intended) this in mind, the hardships Glass must endure are justifiable. Life as a frontiersman is nowhere near luxurious. The screenplay’s sharp writing favors no particular side of the battle throughout Glass’s distressful journey as he seeks revenge. The natives, the English, the French, the predatory animals that inhabit the land, there is no clear antagonist. It is a cutthroat world where revenge is a constant presence. Iñárritu brilliantly allows the land to open up to Glass and to us in an authentic, surreal manner. It is rare that a film feels so transformative, relatable, and thrilling.
— Posted by Alyssa
Sometimes we figuratively create barriers around ourselves. However, it’s another thing entirely to see literal walls forcing imprisonment. It’s extraordinary to see how human adaptability and strength can make a small world seem huge. That is precisely how it feels inside Room, an infectious, beautifully-crafted marvel that shows the resilience of human nature and the value of being able to journey outside of the box.
Joy (an astounding Larson) has been trapped inside a suburban garden shed since the age of 17 when she was abducted by a predatory, seemingly normal man who goes by Old Nick. Joy shares this backstory with her son Jack (Tremblay, a force to be reckoned with) when he is five years old. Joy gave birth to Jack after being in captivity for two years. Her son is a ray of light in Joy’s otherwise soul-crushing existence. He personifies Room and makes it a place that he shares with his mother. It is the only world he knows. Even though Jacob is happy inside of Room, Joy shares with him all that exists outside of their walls. She tells him that part of the world he sees on TV is actually real. Jack, knowing only the walls that surround him, is naturally skeptical of this “imaginary” world. However, Joy is able to convince him of its existence. The outside world offers a reality where he no longer only has to have gifts on Sunday, and he can have a room that isn’t inside of a wardrobe. In order to escape, Joy has to devise a risky scheme that temporarily separates her from her son. This scheme proves worth it when Joy and Jack are able to receive the help they need. Joy believes that she will find happiness in her escape. However, the psychological damage caused by Room proves to take a toll on Joy’s joy. The walls also exist inside of her head. Now she’s caught in a crossroads. She needs to learn how to be a mother outside of the shed and allow her son to have a life away from her. He needs separation from his mother in order to grow into the bigger space that he is now afforded.
As much as this is a suspenseful, gripping film, it also has interesting commentary on motherhood, childhood, adulthood, and the nature of growing within the walls of all three. We are confined to our roles in all three states of being once we cross certain thresholds. How are Joy and Jack supposed to function when their growth was literally confined? In the hands of lesser performers and writers, this could have easily been an exploitative film for those who are hypnotized by the evening news. But thanks to the transformative performances and convincing chemistry of Larson and Tremblay, as well as the sharp writing by Room’s novelist Emma Donoghue, Room is a profound, gripping character study that will resonate with its viewers.
— Posted by Alyssa
The recent controversy surrounding this year’s Academy Awards has sparked understandable debate. After all, this is 2016. Aren’t we passed this?
I don’t think anyone wants things to just change. To clarify, we don’t want to see a plethora of diverse nominees next year because the Academy is operating under the pretension that they don’t want a target on their backs. In other words, a wide-range of performers will be nominated just to quiet the hoopla. That would be like putting a band-aid on a bullet hole. There is a deep-seated, underlying issue that needs to be addressed. This issue exists not just in the Academy, but in the larger social world. All of this controversy stems from one problem—we are still segregating certain people from other people. It may not be segregation in a blatant and obvious way, but it’s still segregation. I don’t think people want things to just change. Rather, I think everyone wants change. A change in mentality, a change in the existential social order, and overall, a change in the way that we see each other. That’s what we want.
Keeping this in mind, let’s address another way that the Academy is keeping people separate from people—the separate nominations for “Best Actress” versus “Best Actor” and “Best Supporting Actress” from “Best Supporting Actor”. Why can’t there just be a “Best Performer?”
Now I know this will increase competition among the performers, but who cares? Let me reiterate—it’s 2016. We live in a world where a woman can undoubtedly outperform a man, within any respective field. It boils down to skill set, personality, and who you know. Whether you have a penis or a vagina is beside the point.
The domino to start with is the Academy Awards. This is the film business; people who are in the public eye. Tip this domino over, bring necessary change to its structure, and other institutions responsible for shaping our culture will likely follow. If we can have up to 10 Best Picture nominees, then we can have 10 performers in a “Best Performer” category. And while we’re at it, if an individual warrants the accolade, we can have 10 performers of diverse ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, and gender identifications be nominated for Best Performer. Movies have the power to bring about social change. I think its time that the business definitively proves it.