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Mr Brown Rambles #3 - The Oscars Edition

Here are just a few personal thoughts about the list of nominees for the 89th annual Academy Awards ceremony I'd thought I'd share (the full list of nominees can be found here).

* Amazing What a Hashtag Can Do: It shouldn't come as a surprise that three movies - Hidden Figures, Fences & Moonlight - all centered on African-American leads which do a terrific job telling stories about the black experience in America have now been nominated for Best Picture today. All three deserved the praise and accolades they have been showered with, but let's also acknowledge that the Academy would have been slaughtered by the press and by Twitter if they went a third straight year with a lineup that was all lily white, and rightfully so. Hell, I think Twitter would be screaming bloody murder had Moonlight not made the cut for Picture, along with its writer/director Barry Jenkins if he wasn't nominated for Director.

* Oh, Amy....: I'm ecstatic to see the sci-fi drama Arrival nominated for Picture and Best Director for Dennis Villeneuve (and a big shout out to Bradford Young for being the first African-American nominated for Best Cinematography - well done!!) but how do you honor the picture without giving its heart a Best Actress nomination? Amy Adams is a big reason why the film works as well as it does, especially with its opening and closing arc centered around her and her child. It's a quiet, intelligent, and graceful performance I thought would be honored, and it only confirms what has been obvious for a while now: Adams is the new Leonardo DiCaprio: a performer who has been in one terrific role after another, but still hasn't been given her due. Maybe she can star in a movie where she wrestles with a bear....

* Great Art vs. Douchebag Artist: If an artist makes a genuine work of art, but turns out to be a morally messed up piece of work, do we celebrate the work of the artist, or are his or her transgressions too great to look past? It's question that, in the film world, seems to be a focal point of conversation whenever the likes of a Woody Allen or a Bernardo Bertolucci are brought up. With Mel Gibson's war drama Hacksaw Ridge earning six Oscar nominations including Best Picture and a surprising Best Director nod, that debate of separating the artist from his art becomes a topic brought up in certain film circles. Some will say the film he made is more than deserving of the nominations it received, while others, like this article from Screen Crush which make the case as to why Gibson's past actions (including making anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist remarks, as well as facing charges of domestic abuse & battery) act as a blight on the work he has now been awarded for. I understand that Mr. Gibson is a shitty person in his personal life and I can't blame any one person for taking the position of not wanting to award a man for his hateful actions, but I, personally, can't get on board with shaming the art because the artist is a complete douchebag. If we started rendering the art as disqualifying because of the past action of the artist for the sake of taking the moral high ground, we run the risk of going down a dangerous and slippery slope in trying to purity an industry that's littered with folks who have moral failings.

* Overkill, much, Academy?: Look, I get the mad love for Damien Chazelle's La La Land, I really do. It's a gorgeous, sweeping love letter to Hollywood's era of big-screen musicals of the 50's and 60's, to the City of Angles and to the fools who dream of making it big in Tinsel Town, and it's on my shortlist of the best films of 2016. But going through some of the categories the film was awarded just feels like it's an overkill on the love it's gotten. For example, in the Best Original Song category, they could have just gone with either "City of Stars" or "Audition (The Fools Who Dream)", nominated something like Shakira's "Try Everything" from the movie Zootopia, or Twenty-One Pilots' "Heathens" from Suicide Squad and it wouldn't have made much difference in the state of that particular race. Or in the Sound Mixing/Editing categories where La La Land was nominated for both. Again, you could have subtracted both nods, gone with Patriots Day, Rouge One or Captain America: Civil War in Sound Editing, or given another nod to Sully, or Kubo & the Two Strings for Sound Mixing, and La La Land would still have a grand total of 11-12 nominations and still be considered to having a big night come February 26th!

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