The Drunk Monkeys Film Department
2016 Oscars Discussion

Creed (Image © Warner Bros.), Chi-Raq (Image © Roadside Attractions), Ex Machina (Image © Universal Pictures), Room (Image © A 24 Films), The Revenant (Image © 20th Century Fox), Mad Max: Fury Road (Image © Warner Bros.), Oscars © AMPAS. 

Creed (Image © Warner Bros.), Chi-Raq (Image © Roadside Attractions), Ex Machina (Image © Universal Pictures), Room (Image © A 24 Films), The Revenant (Image © 20th Century Fox), Mad Max: Fury Road (Image © Warner Bros.), Oscars © AMPAS. 

Matthew Guerruckey, Editor-in-chief: Every year the Academy Award nominations are something that we get to spend equal time complaining about and applauding, but this year what we have is overshadowed by what we don’t have--namely, a single actor of color nominated in any of the acting categories. To make matters worse, this is the second straight year that only white actors have been nominated.

This highlights a problem of representation: not only are there fewer diverse films being made, or at least promoted as “Oscar-worthy”, but the Academy that decides on these nominations and the eventual winners is a staggering 94% white. It’s little wonder, then, that we seem to have this discussion every year.

And yet, black and latino actors gave some of the most memorable performances of 2015. Creed rises above its franchise movie origins because of Michael B. Jordan. Sly Stallone is very good as the aging Rocky Balboa, but his performance feels very much in line with what we’ve seen from the series before--Jordan is a different mixture of driven and vulnerable, and it’s exciting to watch. And there might not be any scene more memorable from 2015 than the sex robot dance-off in Ex Machina, yet Oscar Isaac, who gives an unpredictable performance that at once grounds the movie and keeps it ever-shifting, wasn’t nominated. Beasts of No Nation is one of the most haunting films I’ve ever seen, and Idris Elba, a bonafide movie star, and his young co-star Abraham Attah, both gave performances easily the equal of any actor nominated.

In fact, looking at the nominations, especially in the male categories, there are no surprises, no risks, nothing particularly interesting. I couldn’t remember or care about a single thing that Tom Hardy did in The Revenant five minutes after I left the theater, but Isaac and Elba’s work is career-defining stuff.

Ryan, what do you make of this controversy? And looking at this list of nominees, is there anyone that you think doesn’t belong?

Ryan Roach, Film critic: So, here’s the thing. We live in these strange times where accusations of racism are reflexive and automatic, with talk of “safe spaces”, trigger warnings, and the Twitter mobs ruining people’s careers over an insensitive joke. I think it creates a culture of fear and suspicion that hinders a free exchange of ideas. I also don’t want to return the old ways of it being completely acceptable to casually denigrate anyone who isn’t white, straight, and male. We don’t want our choices for role models being Jesse Jackson or Donald Trump. There has to be a happy medium, right? We have to keep searching for that.

As such, I’m not going to call any current Oscar voter “racist” for not voting for any people of color as nominees. I’m not going to allege any grand conspiracies that the voters, as one, decided 12 Years a Slave oughta hold’em for a few years. I’m also not going to pretend that the Oscars are some sort of colorblind meritocracy. There’s no way to be bias-free when judging art. People win awards because the movie was about an issue Hollywood approves of, or because they played a disabled person, or because they died that year, or because Harvey Weinstein bought them dinner, or because they’re old and have been around a long time and everyone loves them, or because they stood up to McCarthy, or whatever it is. It’s mostly usually not about the performance itself. So when people say “maybe no black actor was worthy this year”, like it’s some sort of empirical fact, I don’t believe them. We all have our biases. A 70 year old white lady is going to like 45 Years more than Straight Outta Compton, she just is. That doesn’t make her anymore racist than the 25 year old black guy who feels just the opposite.

So the rule change, which bars anyone from voting who hasn’t been involved in the film industry for more than 30 years is quite welcome. It will weed out the overwhelmingly white and old (though not racist) status quo, which will lead to a younger, more diverse crowd. This will not only lead to a more colorful array of nominees, but also likely a more exciting selection of movies. Could you imagine a year with Under the Skin, Snowpiercer, Chi-raq and Cabin in the Woods being the frontrunners? If I go the rest of my life with a movie as profoundly banal as The King’s Speech never winning again, it will still be too soon.

As for who would I cut? What a delightfully mean-spirited question. Let’s see...

Have yet to see The Danish Girl, as it has the stench of an afterschool special all over it. But I’ll cut Eddie Redmayne just the same. Also, Matt Damon can go science the shit out of some other awards show. I loved The Big Short, but you’re just asking for trouble if you tell Christian Bale to have a glass eye. Knowing him, be probably actually cut his eye out. Still doesn’t make that performance particularly compelling. Ditto Mark Ruffalo and his weird mumbling. Unlike you Matt, I quite liked grizzled, creepy Tom Hardy, though. For the women, I’d say cut Rachel McAdams, there’s nothing to that role, and change Vikander’s movie to Ex-Machina. (Though who are we kidding? If Jennifer Jason Leigh doesn’t win, we’re burning that mother down)!

For Best Director, Tom McCarthy has to go. Best Picture: Take out The Revenant, The Martian, and Spotlight. And also Bridge of Spies. Okay, so I haven’t seen it, but come on.

Okay, Gabe. Now that I took a cleaver to the nominees, how are you going to build them back up again? And of course, what are your views on #Oscarssowhite, and also on hashtags?

Gabriel Ricard: I’m so fucking underwhelmed with about 60-70% of this year’s Oscars. As a result, it’s hard for me to have strong feelings about most of this nonsense. Generally speaking, I just kind of treat the Oscars as a weird subsection hobby kind of thing. It’s sort of like pro wrestling. It’s silly, and it can even be fun, and god knows it’s neat when a favorite wins, but ultimately, even in the scheme of awards shows, it doesn’t mean anything.

But man, I just can’t seem to even fake a good time this year. Sure, there are a few nominees I’m pleased to see on the ballot, but overall, it’s a depressingly banal field. And although I would not go so far as to call the Oscars racist, or rather, the voting members of the Academy, the awards themselves, and the fact that we’re dealing with a stunning #Oscarssowhite situation for the second year running, does point to the concept of white supremacy in our society. At least, in terms of how that concept has been explained to me. But the Academy seems to be committed to some fairly significant rule changes, so maybe, we can start enjoying an awards show that actually feels somewhat representative of the industry.

No, I would not call the voting members of the Academy racist (although considering the Oscars a lot of black people have won, it’s clear that a decent number of those voting members are racist as fuck) but when you have women like Charlotte Rampling and Julie Delpy completely missing the point, what you have is a variation of outright racism, in the form of people who simply do not get it. They don’t see a problem. That tends to be just as destructive as the people burning crosses on the front lawn. The notion of the white default has created a dearth of diversity throughout the film industry. We’re doing better than when Hattie McDaniel couldn’t even walk through the front fucking door, but the nominees this year, as well as the fact that we still can’t cast white comic book characters with black actors, without someone shitting their pants to death, still points to the reality that we are still dealing with a limited table of minds and perspectives.

But Ryan’s right. In this age of social media mob justice, we have to try to find the middle ground now more than ever, while also realizing that in a lot of cases, certainly with the Oscars, equality is not necessarily the end-all/be-all solution. What is the solution, at least in terms of the Oscars? God, I don’t know. The rule changes seem to be a step in the right direction. When you look at the list of PoC who excelled in film this year in every category, and how pitifully those contributions are regarded at what is arguably the biggest film-centric awards show of the calendar year, it’s easy to become desperate for anything that might break things up a bit. I would love to have a field of Best Picture candidates that scare the hell out of people for all the right reasons.

And what about this year? I’m trying not to be too cynical. There are several good performances up for notice this year. With the Best Picture nominees, I liked most of them (Bridge of Spies was surprisingly good), but only two of them really knocked me on my ass (Fury Road and The Room). The rest are good, some even really good, but it’s hard for me to really get behind the notion that these are the best movies of the year. Then again, I did get to the end of 2015 feeling awfully blah about film, so maybe I just wasn’t going to be happy with the Best Picture nominees no matter what. And look, I liked The Martian, but why do people have such a huge, collective, throbbing erection for this movie?

In terms of acting nods, there are a few I’m excited about. I have to confess that I was surprised by how phenomenal Fassbender was as Steve Jobs. I’m pleased to see Bryan Cranston getting the respect he deserves, and his performance in Trumbo definitely helped to elevate a mediocre biopic (where the hell is Helen Mirren, Oscar?). I’m pretty sure I predicted before the movie even came out that Jennifer Jason Leigh would get a nomination for The Hateful Eight. I’m definitely okay with that. While I’m not being reasonable, I want Stallone to win for Creed. Rachel McAdams was astonishingly average in Spotlight, with the best performances of that film by far belonging to Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo. But whatever. The thing to remember with the #Oscarssowhite hashtag is the fact that Oscars have a long, glorious history of snobbery and snubs. People of color definitely get the worst of it, but I can promise you that if you really stop to think about it, you can come up with a decent-enough list of white people who have been either ignored, or just screwed over time and time again.

Yeah, Leo might finally win. He’s definitely the best thing about an otherwise flat Revenant. Even so, there’s a small part of me that delights in how upset people get when he doesn’t win.

The rest? It’s cool to see Rampling get a nomination for the best performance of her career. Beyond that, I just want Anomalisa to win Best Animated Feature. although I’m pretty bloody sure it won’t.

Sorry to ramble, Taras. What do you make of all this bullshit? 

Taras D. Butrej, Film Critic: You know what disappoints me the most? Something Ryan hinted at above. Some people just don’t get it. Nothing drives me crazy more than people who weigh in on a topic without at least understanding why it’s a topic in the first place.

Helen Mirren, Charlotte Rampling and Michael Caine have all voiced their opinions on the controversy and all of them were terribly, disappointingly tone deaf. Telling actors of color to ‘be patient’ or that it just ‘happened to be this way’ shows how out of touch people can be.

If these are our actors, I would not be at all surprised to find out that many voters have the same mindset.

I’ll echo everyone else's’ sentiments. The new Academy rules are a good start but they will be very slow in changing anything. Rest assured that the people who have biases--intentional or not--will fight tooth and nail to prevent changes to their beloved institution.

But screw ‘em! If I had a say in the matter I’d burn the place down. The whole concept that you have to wait your turn is absolute bull and it has led to far too many moments where someone finally won for a subpar performance, knocking out a deserving competitor, because this was their 4th, 5th, 10th nomination without a win.

I would also like to see a variable to how many films can be nominated for best film. Some years (2015 *cough cough*) just don’t have ten movies that all stand at the top. Sometimes there are just five or six films that could compete. It wouldn’t bother me if there were something put in place to make it ‘6-10’ or ‘8-12.’ They used to do just that!

But then again, the current academy would probably leave in treacle and drop the genuinely fun, innovative or interesting films. So very stupid.

But enough of my anger, let’s turn it over to someone else. Hey Scott! Do you think the Oscars did anything right this year?

Scott Waldyn, Editor-in-chief, Literary Orphans: I don’t know if I’d attribute a “right” or a “wrong” answer to the Oscars and its nominations. The Academy is beyond “right” or “wrong,” serving more as a barometer for who’s in and who’s out with regard to the politics of Hollywood and the election/voting process year after year. Leaving someone out isn’t so much of a personal dig, as nominees and award recipients often don’t match the general consensus of the movie-going public or the film community, either. Nominees have to jump through a long series of hoops to even get nominated, which must wear on the psyche of people like Charlotte Rampling who have bided their time for years in anticipation of one of those fabled Academy biscuits. Can you imagine what that’s like? Waiting for years just so you can feel validation from furiously clutching a gold statue in front of a crowd of rich people who only showed up for the free Oscar swag?

Ryan pretty much cut to the chase about The Academy and its subterranean ilk, but to reiterate, it’s really just a big game. Like voting for class president. Do you think McHenry High School star quarterback and Senior Class President Tommy O’Doyle ever went anywhere after graduation? No. But he sure as shit owned that class prez role. And he sure as shit had to do a little song and dance to own that role, too.

Though we’ll lampoon the politics of The Academy day and night, I’ll admit, the neglect of omitting persons of color from nominations has its ramifications. There’s a pay scale that comes with Oscar status. There’s exposure and a whole new doorway to bigger films, too. Shutting these people out is, arguably, keeping them down and preventing them from earning what they should earn. And that’s where we come in.

Why do we watch The Oscars, anyway? I don’t know. Why do we watch any soap opera where wealthy elites doll themselves up, so they can walk around a stage for a couple of hours and cry about their struggles? It’s entertainment. It’s our royalty. The United Kingdom has remnants of a monarchy its citizens fascinate themselves with. We have the guy who plays Iron Man. And when we feel like the guy from Iron Man doesn’t represent us, all of us, we can demand others to ascend to the throne. We can vote with our wallets, with our social media accounts, through word of mouth and on our blogs.

The Academy is an institution, and like many institutions, it needs a populace to pay attention to it for it to have validation. The rule change is part of a compromise to keep our focus, and it’s a way for them to acquiesce to our demands. We’ll see what the future has in store, but if ever The Academy steps out of line, we can always do what Paul Anka told us to do in that one “Treehouse of Horror” episode of The Simpsons. Just don’t look.

Juese, how do you feel about The Academy? Does it hold much sway, or should it go the way of the dinosaurs? Also, are there any stellar films you wished would have been on the nominees list?

Juese Cutler: The Oscardactyl (Aca-dominus Rex?) is a decrepit reminder of our past. I don't think they're racist, I think they reflect how close-minded and biased we are, all of us, at our worst, every day. They show us our problems and perpetuate them all at once.

And yet, I do think the awards are still important. I balk at the idea of kids looking up to professional athletes (some the worst people to possibly look up to) the way they did sixty years ago, but they do. Movies are just as much a part of people's lives. While a great deal of films strive to represent different point of view and reflect the population - The Academy is, and always has been, miles behind the times. As the face of Hollywood, the prestigious spotlight, the only place some people hear about many films, they need to catch the fuck up. Kids and idiots alike shouldn't see and believe a society mirror showing only cis white males doing only cis white male things. Not only is it damaging, it's just not true at all.

To the question of things missed this year, I have to first admit my own biased bubble, as I haven't seen the most prominent films in which people say People of Color deserved recognition (although I don't get screeners.) My big gripe is there being no nomination for Call Me Lucky, which, given my mood on a given day, I'll say is the best movie of 2015. The Kingsmen's Eddie Hamilton should have gotten an editing nod, and Ex Machina should've gotten more attention than just its excellent script. However, my old beefs lie with the award divisions themselves. It's a miracle if an animated movie can cross into other categories (Anomalisa cough), as with documentaries. And don't get me started on how awful it is that there's one category for foreign films, of which there's one movie to represent a year's worth of cinema output from one country?

Films are old, you guys. Like, super old, as are The Academy Awards. I'll skip the history lesson, but the first Awards began nine years after women had the right to vote in America. It's an institution with a lot of rickety leftover parts. The landscape has changed profoundly since then and the Oscars need to adapt. I want them to adapt.

Why? They need to exist for film's continued validity. I like to talk about video games needing something similar. Movies are treated with respect, and a big reason why comes from the self-congratulatory stuffy back-patting pomp bullshit that is The Oscars.

More importantly, The Academy Awards should get people excited about movies. I want them to continue, and I want to someday watch them again like I did as a kid. Scratch that - it shouldn't be for me. It should be for kids to watch, with opinions, to fanboy over the stupid musical number that referenced that cool movie they loved that was robbed a top nomination (but will probably win a technical award.) Kids of all backgrounds, in a way that represents their world.

2016 OSCAR PREDICTIONS  

Best Picture

The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Spotlight 

The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room, Spotlight 

Matthew Guerruckey

Who will win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Who should win: Room

Ryan Roach

Who will win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Who should win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Gabriel Ricard

Who will win: The Martian

Who should win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Scott Waldyn

Who will win: The Martian

Who should win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Juese Cutler

Who will win: Spotlight

Who should win: Mad Max: Fury Road

Best Actor

Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Matt Damon (The Martian), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl) 

Bryan Cranston (Trumbo), Matt Damon (The Martian), Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs), Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl) 

Matthew Guerruckey

Who will win: Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Who should win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Ryan Roach

Who will win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Who should win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Gabriel Ricard

Who will win: Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs

Who should win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Scott Waldyn

Who will win: Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl

Who should win: Belated Oscar to Vincent D’Onofrio, Men in Black

Juese Cutler

Who will win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Who should win: Leonardo DiCaprio, The Revenant

Best Actress

Cate Blancheet (Carol), Brie Larson (room), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) 

Cate Blancheet (Carol), Brie Larson (room), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn) 

Matthew Guerruckey

Who will win: Brie Larson, Room

Who should win: Brie Larson, Room

Ryan Roach

Who will win: Brie Larson, Room

Who should win: Cate Blanchett, Carol

Gabriel Ricard

Who will win: Brie Larson, Room

Who should win: Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

Scott Waldyn

Who will win: Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years

Who should win: Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road

Juese Cutler

Who will win: Cate Blanchett, Carol

Who should win: I haven’t seen any of these movies, so Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina

Actor in a Supporting Role

Christian Bale (The Big Short), Tom Hardy (The Revenant), Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Sylvester Stallone (Creed) 

Christian Bale (The Big Short), Tom Hardy (The Revenant), Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Sylvester Stallone (Creed) 

Matthew Guerruckey

Who will win: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Who should win: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Ryan Roach

Who will win: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Who should win: Jacob Tremblay, Room

Gabriel Ricard

Who will win: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Who should win: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Scott Waldyn

Who will win: Sylvester Stallone, Creed

Who should win: Nicholas Hoult, Mad Max: Fury Road

Juese Cutler

Who will win: Mark Ruffalo, Spotlight

Who should win: I haven’t seen any of these movies, so Nicholas Hoult, Mad Max: Fury Road. I’d witness that for a dollar.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Rooney Mara (Carol), Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl), Kate Winslett (Steve Jobs) 

Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight), Rooney Mara (Carol), Rachel McAdams (Spotlight), Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl), Kate Winslett (Steve Jobs) 

Matthew Guerruckey

Who will win: Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Who should win: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Ryan Roach

Who will win: Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Who should win: Rooney Mara, Carol

Gabriel Ricard

Who will win: Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Who should win: Rooney Mara, Carol

Scott Waldyn

Who will win: Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Who should win: Lupita Nyong’o, Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Juese Cutler

Who will win: Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

Who should win: Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

Directing

Adam McKay (The Big Short), George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), Alejandro González Iñárritu (The Revenant), Lenny Abrahamson (Room), Tom McCarthy (Spotlight) 

Adam McKay (The Big Short), George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road), Alejandro González Iñárritu (The Revenant), Lenny Abrahamson (Room), Tom McCarthy (Spotlight) 

Matthew Guerruckey

Who will win: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

Who should win: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

Ryan Roach

Who will win: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

Who should win: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

Gabriel Ricard

Who will win: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

Who should win: Lenny Abrahamson, Room

Scott Waldyn

Who will win: Alejandro G. Iñárritu, The Revenant

Who should win: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road

Juese Cutler

Who will win: Alejandro González Iñárritu, The Revenant

Who should win: George Miller, Mad Max: Fury Road



Join us this Sunday, February 28th as we live-tweet the Academy Awards! Follow along with the hashtag #dmmovies