The Academy Awards are this weekend, after which we’ll all quickly move on to the next important moment in movies (that would be waiting for “Captain Marvel” to open). Still, the Oscars ceremony (8 p.m. Sunday on ABC) will dominate the pop-culture chatter for the next few days, so it’s good to have some idea about the people and the films generating the most buzz. Here are four stories that have shaken up this year’s Oscars season — and one story that seems to never change.
Close or no cigar?
Glenn Close, nominated for “The Wife,” now has seven Oscar nods to her name, going back to 1982 — and not a single win. When “The Wife” came out, it was universally acknowledged that this would be her year. Then Lady Gaga in “A Star Is Born” and Olivia Colman in “The Favourite” made the best actress category a three-horse race. Close’s quietly powerful performance was powerful precisely because it was quiet, and the Academy tends to like a bit more showmanship. That said, Close may take home the Oscar more as a lifetime achievement award — an apology for not recognizing a career properly.
“Green Book” is a perfectly pleasant movie if you ignore the so-strong-they’re-actually-overtones White Savior undertones. It’s engaging enough, and Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali (both nominated for their work) do their best. And “Green Book” could be considered the front-runner with its three Golden Globe wins, including for best picture (musical or comedy). No, the weightless, forgettable “Green Book” doesn’t deserve to be competing for best picture alongside “BlacKkKlansman” and “Roma,” but never underestimate the power of pabulum when it comes to movie awards.
Being the best thing in a bad movie — which “Bohemian Rhapsody” is — should not get you a nomination. Rami Malek did a good job channeling Freddie Mercury, but his performance appeared shinier because everything around it was dull. Malek took home the best actor (drama) Golden Globe, so it’s possible he’ll win the best actor Oscar too, which would be wildly unfair. Not only isn’t his performance the best in this category, it’s inferior to some performances that weren’t even nominated. A part of me hopes Ethan Hawke will be lurking backstage, ready to steal the statue for his work in “First Reformed.”
On with the s---show
The runup to the Oscars has been … weird. Kevin Hart was tapped to host, then some homophobic tweets were discovered, then he didn’t apologize but then he kind of did but long story short now there’s no host at all. THEN they were going to present four awards during commercial breaks and air edited footage of the speeches before people reminded them it’s hard to make a movie without, you know, A CINEMATOGRAPHER, so they’re back in. All of this might be a good thing: It’s forced the Academy to try different approaches, which may lead to less bloated future ceremonies.
Boys will be boys
There’s been a groundswell lately of big names in Hollywood wanting to put more women in director’s chairs. Meanwhile, there isn’t a single woman nominated for the best director Oscar. Again. That wouldn’t be notable except that 2018 brought the staggeringly good, female-directed independent movies “The Rider” and “Leave No Trace” (as well as fantastic but largely ignored woman-centered films like “Eighth Grade” and “If Beale Street Could Talk”). Sure, there’s more chatter about the need for more women in filmmaking, but this year’s Oscars make it seem like it’s still all just talk.