Laundry, taxes and googly eyes: frontrunners for the Oscars

The film Everything, Everywhere All at Once received 11 Oscar nominations, making the film the frontrunner for the upcoming Academy Awards

Everything, Everywhere All at Once is the frontrunner for the 2023 Academy Awards, the film received 11 nominations, four of which in the big five categories: best picture, best director, best screenplay and best lead actress.

The 2023 ceremony marks a historic year for Asian actors, with four receiving nominations — the most in the history of the award show. Everything, Everywhere All at Once actress Michelle Yeoh received a lead actress nomination for her role as Evelyn Wang and, if she were to win the Oscar, she would be the first Asian actress to do so. 

She shared her feelings on the nomination in an interview with The New York Times. “Of course, I’m over the moon, but I feel a little sad because I know we know there have been amazing actresses from Asia that come before me, and I stand on their shoulders,” she said.

Three more Everything, Everywhere All at Once actors received nominations: Stephanie Hsu and Jamie Lee Curtis for best supporting actress and Ke Huy Quan for best supporting actor.

Yeoh shared her experience working with Quan on the Los Angeles Times’ podcast The Envelope. “Before ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ came out, there weren’t even stories like this that were told. So I am very proud of Ke. He saw the opportunity and he ran for it. But what I’m saying is: Give us more opportunities.”

The film — written and directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert —  premiered at the South by Southwest Film Festival (SXSW) on March 11, 2022 and released in the United States on April 8, 2022. 

Everything, Everywhere All at Once follows the story of Evelyn Wang, a laundromat owner, who is visited by a version of her husband Waymond Wang, played by Quan, who needs her help to save the multiverse. However, at the core of the bright colours, googly eyes and elaborate costumes is a story of love, family and acceptance.  

The languages spoken in the film switch between Mandarin, English and Cantonese. “It is very confusing when you are watching it at the beginning, but we wanted you to feel that. We wanted you to step into what is a real representation of what an Asian immigrant family would be at home,” said Yeoh on The Envelope.  

Everything, Everywhere All at Once received almost universal acclaim and is already doing well this awards season, with Yeoh and Quan having already won Golden Globes for their performances. 

Quan’s emotional acceptance speech pulled on many heartstrings, with him thanking Steven Spielberg for giving him his first role as a child actor in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He shared how he long felt it was impossible to surpass his childhood accomplishments, and thanked Kwan and Scheinert for giving him “an opportunity to try again.”

The 2023 Academy Awards, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, will air on March 12 at 8 p.m.


Cynically ranking the 2022 Oscars Best Original Song nominees

 It’s the same thing every year. The best original songs aren’t ever original and the winners never deserve their plaudits. What will the Oscars have the Twitter finger warriors mad about this year?

When springtime creeps up, one event captivates audiences like no other. It’s the talk of the town and dominates the internet — it even turns the common people who usually have no interest in films into armchair experts. The Oscars, otherwise known as a party for the most important people on Earth, is set to take place this month on March 27.

As we know, the Oscars are historically racist, historically sexist, and historically full of controversy. In 2015, the award show was embroiled in the #OscarsSoWhite controversy because of its lack of inclusivity. In 2016, all 20 of the nominated actors were white and just two years ago, no female directors were nominated for best director despite their outstanding work. I haven’t even mentioned the pay gap in the industry yet either. People are fed up and if we’re being honest, did anybody even watch last year’s event? Who won best original song? 

Gone are the days of Barbra Streisand and Lionel Richie, and in are the Gagas and H.E.R.s of the world. If this was high school, they’d probably win prom king and queen everytime. Now, I’m not saying that all of this year’s scores are terrible or even that the quality of music has regressed. That wouldn’t be fair; but the Oscars have never been about who won an award but rather, who beat who in the process.

Although the Oscars are a predominantly film-centered award show, music and film go hand in hand. I personally find this year’s best original song nominees particularly disappointing. “Be Alive” from King Richard, “Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto, “Down To Joy” from Belfast, “No Time To Die” from No Time to Die and “Somehow You Do” from Four Good Days are the songs. Here are my honest opinions on each one, ranked from least to most deserving to win in ascending order. 

5. “Somehow You Do” from Four Good Days

“Somehow You Do,” written by Diane Warren and sung by Reba McEntire, speaks about drug addiction, abandonment and the hardships of a seemingly unwinnable battle. Beautifully produced and classic in its slow acoustic progression, Warren, for whom this is her 13th Oscar nomination in this category, knocks the feel of this song out of the park: solitude and uncertainty. That being said, what the song has in vibe, it loses in an overly repetitive chorus and cheesy lyrics. It’s always best to avoid sayings a five year old can come up with. Phrases such as “When you think that the mountain’s too high / And the ocean’s too wide, you’ll never get through / Somehow you do,” are just so incredibly cheesy and unoriginal. It’s like saying that the sun is too bright or the fog is too thick. Thank you Captain Obvious. “Somehow You Do” is a song that reminds me of a new job. The first day is amazing, the first week is great and by the end of the month, you want to get the hell out of there. For a four-minute song about coping with drugs, I would have loved to hear an explosive climax. A moment of triumph, a cry in C5, a moment where we can all let out our anguish and let the music consume us. Without it, this song just doesn’t have enough to be in winning conversations.  

4. “No Time To Die” from No Time to Die

“No Time To Die” is a song many people think would’ve won last year, had the Bond movie been released on time. So it must be surprising that I have it this low. In all honesty, this isn’t a bad song. But it isn’t amazing and it isn’t something we’ve never heard before. Sorry Billie, but many of your songs kind of sound the same. Again, the vibe is immaculate and while I just hated Billie’s voice, she makes a damn good Bond song. I would have just liked for another four-minute song to have more of a climax; one carried by the vocals rather than by the sounds. A faster tempo and a more intricate bass riff would have helped too. A beautiful glimpse of that can be heard at around the 3:30 mark but that’s it. It’s incomparable to past winner “Skyfall” in my opinion. 

3.”Down to Joy” from Belfast

Belfast is a movie heavily inspired by the childhood of the director Kenneth Branagh during the times of the Troubles in Ireland. Without getting too historical, in many facets, this film and this song can be seen as an anti-war cry. The relevance is undeniable to the current political situation in Ukraine right now. Despite having a sad background, “Down to Joy” is upbeat, youthful, carefree, and bittersweet. Sadly, it is also a song I can plug into the background of about thirty different end credit sequences. It sounds like an all purpose cleanser for my face, body, hair and mouth. A jack of all trades but a master of none.  For a song about facing immense struggles, fighting for your lives, “Down to Joy” lacks what The Cranberries did when they came out with “Zombie.”  A song like that was just what the world needed. This is purely my bias but we can’t even compare the two.

2. “Dos Oruguitas” from Encanto

“Dos Oruguitas” roughly translates to “Two Caterpillars.” Listening to this song is like listening to a movie, or reading a book through hearing. Disney songs are always catchy and this song is the definition of an earworm. Singer Sebastián Yatras does an incredible job manipulating his voice. We go from anxiety and sadness to defiance and pride. This rollercoaster of a song takes some getting used to. The first listen is like “ok,” the second listen is “this is kinda good,” and after the third listen, you’re crying your eyes out. The progression, the pre-chorus are all just leading up to what in the end feels like a big hug after a tough day. If it weren’t for the first song on the list, “Dos Oruguitas” would have been my pick for number one. 

1.“Be Alive” from King Richard

King Richard is the story of Venus and Serena Williams and their father Richard Williams. From a struggling neighborhood in California, with willpower and determination, Williams single-handedly pushed and clawed his daughters to stardom. “Be Alive,” performed by Beyoncé, is an anthem for all of those who take inspiration from their story and all those struggling within their own dreams. The voice, powerful. The lyrics, powerful. The imagery, powerful. Beyoncé starts us off with a big slap in the face. Her tone and the projection of her vocals takes us on a journey like only she can. The song is perfect for when you’re in the gym working out or just in need of some acknowledgement. What I take from this song is that no matter what happens, I’m doing great. There’s somebody out there who believes in me and that all my hard work will eventually pay off. The song really lives up to its name. After listening, you really do feel so grateful to be alive. 

In the end, this list is subjective and by no way is this even an accurate attempt at projecting the eventual winners. All the artists did an amazing job and their passion really shone through. Something beautiful happens when movies and music combine and it’s a match made in heaven. 

Always take everything written here with a grain of salt. If I write a book and a hundred people read it, it’s as if I wrote one hundred different books. Everyone has a different opinion and is going to feel a different way. This goes without saying for literature, art, and especially music. Your opinions are valid. These are just mine. 


Graphic by Taylor Reddam


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What the Academy’s new eligibility standards say about Hollywood

This attempt to inspire inclusivity doesn’t strike the root of the diversity problem

On Sept. 8, 2020, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced a new series of eligibility standards for the category of Best Picture. As expected, this caused a storm of conflicting emotions.

Personally, it led me through a wave of frustrating questions.

Here’s a brief summary of the new eligibility rules: there are four standards, and a film must meet at least two to be considered. These rules won’t be imposed until 2024.

Standard A has to do with representation on-screen, meaning either one lead actor must be from an underrepresented group, OR 30 percent of the ensemble cast must be from an underrepresented group, OR the main subject matter of the film must concern an underrepresented group.

Although the Academy has a different definition of “underrepresented group” for each standard, it is generally defined as anyone from an underrepresented racial or ethnic group, women, LGBTQ+ people, and people with disabilities.

Standard B concerns creative leadership and project teams. So, at least two creative leadership positions or department heads must be minorities (director, writer, editor, casting director, costume designer, set, director, cinematographer, VFX supervisor, etc), OR six people in technical crew positions must be minorities (gaffer, first assistant director, script supervisor, etc), OR at least 30 percent of the crew must be minorities.

Standard C concerns industry access and opportunities, which requires the film’s distribution or financing company to provide paid apprenticeships and/or internships for underrepresented groups. Also, there must be training opportunities and skill development for crew members of a minority group.

Standard D concerns audience development. The film studio must have multiple in-house senior executives from underrepresented groups.

Realistically, it wouldn’t be hard for a film to reach these standards — the issue is the fact that they had to be made in the first place. According to Variety, some Academy voters, who consist of people who work within the film industry, skimmed through the rules and assumed it would be the end of their creative dreams; people felt that they were being told what to do with their art. Actor Viggo Mortensen said that he felt it was “exclusion, which is discrimination” and said that films like 1917, which is about two British soldiers during WWI, wouldn’t be eligible. Neither of these statements are true.

The Oscars is the most widely known and respected film awards ceremony, and these rules may encourage major studios to produce films that are more inclusive to women, people of colour, disabled, and LGBTQ+ people, on and off-screen. However, it only highlights Hollywood’s failures even more.

In the last few days, a year-old video of Viola Davis came to my attention, where she expressed her frustration with “inclusion riders,” which is a term in a filmmaker’s contract that requires a specific level of diversity in the cast and crew. Davis says, “I don’t want to be a part of any piece of paper that has to force people to see me,” explaining that if you’re not putting minorities in positions of power while also having an inclusion rider, then all of the minorities will continue to be sidelined.

“You’re saying ‘accept the bone,’” she continues. “Why is there a resistance to inclusion and diversity?”

Even though this video is a year old, Davis is absolutely right. Why can’t major studios support films that are authentic and good, that also happen to be inclusive? Why were they so resistant to the idea, that other organizations had to set new policies?

I believe that these new rules, although made with good intent, are only a quick fix that don’t solve the root issue of systemic racism, sexism, homophobia and ableism present in Hollywood. We might be getting more representation, sure, but there won’t be any real change until minorities have the chance to be in positions of power, such as presidents of major studios. It also reduces POC, the LGBTQ+ community and disabled people to a checklist, numbers on an inclusion standard form rather than creative, strong individuals who are wanted.

This brings us back to Davis’ question: why is there a resistance to inclusion and diversity?

The likely answer is that those in positions of power wouldn’t benefit from it. Presidents of large corporations only benefit from inclusion when it makes them money. Why do you think Disney made 17 Marvel films before they made Black Panther?

The Academy has no control over what movies are made, but they do have control over which movies are praised at their awards show, which ultimately garners that film more views and more money. Audiences have been fighting for representation, but Hollywood isn’t changing fast enough, so the Academy implemented rules to encourage that change.

This is only the first step, and this won’t magically make Hollywood care about women, POC, the LGBTQ+ community, nor disabled people. I believe they came from a good place, but it doesn’t feel good to be reduced to a checkmark on a list in some executive’s hands. Are minorities only in Hollywood to meet a quota, or do you really want us to be there?


Graphic  by @the.beta.lab


What BTS’s “Dynamite” says about the American Music Industry

Will the success of these global superstars help bring change to a fundamentally xenophobic industry?

After seven years in the music industry, Bangtan Sonyeondan (better known as BTS) have undoubtedly become one of the biggest boy bands in the world, national treasures in South Korea, and a real threat to the historic dominance of English language music in the world’s biggest music market: the United States.

BTS have the Twitter account with the most engagement. They’re the first group since The Beatles to have three Billboard No. 1 albums within the span of a year. In 2019, Time named BTS among the 100 most influential people in the world, and they have one of the best-selling albums of 2020 globally. They have won the most Daesangs in history (a grand prize presented by the Mnet Asian Music Awards, a major award show in Asia). Despite these accomplishments, their literal ARMY of fans, and their undeniable talent, the group has still struggled to gain recognition and respect in America. That might be changing. 

After having already released a Korean and a Japanese album, collaborations with Korean singers Younha and IU and with American singers Lauv and MAX, a song by member V (Kim Taehyung) for Itaewon Class, a song on SoundCloud by member Jungkook (Jeon Jungkook), and a surprise solo mixtape by member SUGA (Min Yoongi) under the alias Agust D, all in 2020, the group released their single “Dynamite” in August.

The music video for the disco-pop infused “Dynamite” broke the YouTube record for biggest video premiere and the most views in 24 hours with 101.1 million views, while the song itself is the fastest to achieve number one on iTunes in 100 countries. It also had the biggest digital sales week for a song since 2017’s “Look What You Made Me Do” by Taylor Swift, and debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 — an  achievement that makes them the first Korean artists to achieve this feat, and the first Asian musicians to do so since Japanese singer Kyu Sakamoto’s “Sukiyaki” in 1963.

It’s an incredible moment in BTS’s career; a breakthrough for them into a market which has historically been very averse to non-English music. The catch is that BTS sang “Dynamite” entirely in English, a first for the group who have been credited with helping to spread the Korean language and culture through their music, which is why they became the youngest ever recipients of the Hwarang Order of Cultural Merit from the President of South Korea in 2018.

Before “Dynamite,” the highest a BTS song had ever charted on Billboard was at number four with the lead single from Map of the Soul 7, “ON.” What made the difference this time is that American radio played “Dynamite.” The Hot 100 factors in not only physical and digital sales and streams, but also radio play. Up until “Dynamite,” American radio had largely refused to play the group’s music.

In an article entitled, “Radio, Why Won’t You Play BTS?” for NowThis News, writers Brian Patrick Byrne and Ahir Gopaldas found that BTS had only been played 83,000 times in the past year in the United States, in comparison to Harry Styles who received three times those spins, Taylor Swift who got 18 times that number, and Post Malone who got 27 times that number.

When complaints are made, DJs and radio stations claim American audiences don’t like non-English music, which is simply not true. Map of the Soul 7 was the best-selling album of 2020 in the United States until it was recently beaten by Taylor Swift’s Folklore. Furthermore,  BTS had easily sold out venues like the Staples Center, Rose Bowl, and Citi Field.

When it was announced that BTS would be releasing an English single, fans were interested to see what radio stations would do. If they didn’t play a successful English-language song it would be clear the reason was simply that a Korean group sang it. On the other hand, if they did play the track, it would be clear that the reason prior hits like “Boy with Luv” and “DNA” were ignored was that they were in Korean. As it turns out, radio did the latter.

American award shows also have a bad rap when it comes to BTS, or K-pop and POC in general, but we’ll get to that. When it comes to award shows they tend to only be nominated for categories like “Top Social Artist”  — minor categories not related to their music — so shows can pretend to be diverse and inclusive without having to actually award the group for their talent.

BTS is used to being snubbed but some cases are a little more difficult for award shows to justify. At the 2020 VMAs, BTS was not nominated for “Best Quarantine Performance,” despite setting a Guinness world record for the largest audience for a paid virtual concert with 756,000 viewers for their Bang Bang Con: The Live Concert.

At the 2020 Billboard Music Awards, the group was not nominated for “Top Touring Artist,” despite ranking number three in Billboard’s own year-end chart for Top 40 Tours. The BBMA nominations instead included the number one, two, four, five, and six tours of the year. Maybe someone just needs to teach Billboard how to count.

You could argue that BTS’s music isn’t good enough to be nominated but you’d be wrong, according to critics. 2019’s Map of the Soul: Persona had an average score of 74/100 on Metacritic, while 2020 Grammy nominees Lil Nas X and Ed Sheeran received scores of 57/100.

You could also argue that these awards are meant for American artists, but you’d be wrong again. At the 2020 VMAs, nominees in major categories included The Weeknd, Justin Bieber, Ed Sheeran, Coldplay, The 1975, Harry Styles, and Dua Lipa, who are all Canadian or European. Yet none of them were put in a World or British or Euro category because they all sing in English. When the Beatles got three number one albums in a year they won three Grammys, when BTS did the same they couldn’t even get a nomination.

This leads to another issue when it comes to not only BTS but also K-pop and POC artists at American award shows: racialized categories. In 2019, BTS’s “Boy with Luv” and Blackpink’s “Kill this Love” music videos both broke the record for the most viewed video in 24 hours on YouTube, but they were simply put in the K-pop category at the VMAs, and excluded from Video of the Year. Another nominee in the 2019 Best K-pop category was Monsta X’s “WHO DO U LOVE,” a song sung entirely in English, meaning the nomination was based on ethnicity. Though artists like BTS and Blackpink aren’t exclusively nominated in the racialized K-pop category (both were nominated for best group at the 2019 VMAs), what the “K-pop” category does is help segregate Korean artists and exclude them from major categories.

It says that what they do is different, and implies that this “kind of music” is lesser than. To even lump all K-pop artists together in one category has racist undertones  — there is no sound specific to K-pop. It’s actually known for its incredible diversity and experimentation, but the category implies that it all sounds the same because it’s sung in Korean.

T.O.P. of the K-pop group BIGBANG made a pointed jab in an interview with The Washington Post when he said, “You don’t divide pop music by who’s doing it. We don’t say, for instance, ‘white pop’ when white people make music.”

What these award shows are doing with K-pop, however, is far from new. They’ve been doing it to Black people for decades. Black artists — when nominated at all — have historically been nominated in categories like R&B and hip hop. These genres were unquestionably created by Black people, and have real characteristics. The existence of these categories is not the issue. The issue is that award shows have relegated Black artists to these categories in place of major ones, regardless of the actual genre of the music they make.

For some perspective, Beyoncé is the most Grammy-nominated woman of all time but most of her wins are in racialized categories. Though nominated three times for album of the year she has lost to Adele, Beck, and Taylor Swift.

So winning in categories like “Best K-pop” or “Best R&B” has become a sort of second-place trophy. In 2020 Tyler, the Creator won a Grammy for Best Rap Album but criticized the Grammys for placing “guys that look like me” in rap and urban categories, calling the categorization of his music as rap “a backhanded compliment.”  

A 1999 piece in the New York Times about world music written by ex-Talking Heads frontman David Byrne feels very relevant to how K-pop, R&B, hip hop, and rap are treated:

“In my experience, the term world music is a way of dismissing artists or their music as irrelevant to one’s own life. It’s a way of relegating this ‘thing’ into the realm of something exotic and therefore cute, weird but safe, because exotica is beautiful but irrelevant; they are, by definition, not like us. Maybe that’s why I hate the term. It groups everything and anything that isn’t ‘us’ into ‘them.’ This grouping is a convenient way of not seeing a band or artist as a creative individual, albeit from a culture somewhat different from that seen on American television. It’s a label for anything at all that is not sung in English or anything that doesn’t fit into the Anglo-Western pop universe this year.”

How BTS is treated is not the exception, it’s representative of an industry built on racism and xenophobia. They have been subjected to both microaggressions and outright racism both to their faces in interviews and in how the media talks about them. Complimenting leader and rapper RM (Kim Namjoon)’s English, asking them if they’re surprised about their success in America, being infantilized, interviewers not learning their names or doing research, focusing on the white people who work with them, comparing them to white people, etc.

These incidents dwell on BTS’s otherness, diminish and discredit their talent. It implies that someone from a non-English speaking country is less intelligent and deserving, and that to be successful a white person needs to be involved.

This language can also flirt with the racist trope that all Asians look alike — during their second appearance on Ellen, the host made BTS introduce themselves again because they had changed their hair. In a segment on Australia’s Channel 9, comedian Jimmy Carr said, “When I first heard something Korean had exploded in America, I got worried, so I guess it could have been worse, but not much worse.” In that same segment, the hosts called their names (half of which are their real ethnic names) “gangster,” suggested that they should get rid of four members, and joked that the group spoke about hair products during their speech at the UN.

BTS have only recently begun to speak out on the racism and xenophobia they have experienced in America. Weverse Magazine (created by the entertainment company that manages BTS) recently highlighted an incident earlier this year on The Howard Stern Show where, days after BTS visited the station, staff member Sal Governale said, “There’s no way those guys don’t have coronavirus.” In a recent interview with Reuters RM said, “Since we’re like aliens to the music industry for America so (sic) we don’t know if there’s a place for us or not.” It’s also incredibly heartwarming to see the group support the fight for Black Lives Matter, making a million dollar donation to the cause (which was matched by fans), and making a statement, cementing their status as socially conscious global artists.

“Dynamite” seems to be changing the tides for BTS in the American music industry: they’re getting radio play, proper media coverage, and being asked about their music rather than their favourite colour in interviews. The success of “Dynamite” is bittersweet for fans. It’s deserved of course, but it’s unfortunate that the group had to sing in English to finally get what they deserve in America, and it exposes the industry’s xenophobia.

To someone unfamiliar with BTS it might seem like they’ve finally caved after years of being asked to make music in English or like they’re selling out to please the western music industry. However, lyricism has been important to members of BTS since their debut in 2013, particularly with rappers RM, SUGA, and J-Hope (Jung Hoseok), who have songwriting credits for most of the 145+ songs in their discography. BTS is also known in K-pop for their lyrical content, which is generally deeper and more clever than the general public in America knows.

From criticizing the rigid school system in Korea, societal expectations placed on young people and generational disparities, to discussing mental health, grief, growing up, self-love, and references to analytical psychology, German literature, Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer, the legend of the Pied Piper, the novels of Haruki Murakami, The Little Prince, Greek mythology, and the Japanese cartoon superhero Anpanman, BTS sing about it all.

“Dynamite” has a simple generic message of positivity which is the exception in their discography  — as is the fact that none of the members have songwriting credits for it  — so it’s a shame that the general public will continue to believe the group just makes generic happy pop music. At a press conference for “Dynamite,” RM said, “It doesn’t have an overarching macro-level message. Sometimes, simpler messages really get across.”

Language is an important part of identity and art, something English speakers often forget because our language and culture is everywhere. So despite RM’s fluency in English, part of his artistry, and the artistry of the other members, lies in the Korean language with which they create wordplay and poetry that just wouldn’t translate into English, and that is part of the beauty of it. And yet “Dynamite” was completely in English.

After hearing the demo, which was written by David Stewart and Jessica Agombar, the group thought it was perfect as it was, and thought singing in English would be a nice challenge. While doing promotions for the single, BTS have made it clear that they will continue recording music primarily in Korean, that singing “Dynamite” in English was an exception. Thus with the anticipated release of yet another BTS album before the end of 2020, it will be very interesting to see how it is handled in the United States after “Dynamite’s” triumph.

Though it’s important to criticize the industry, we also need to change our perspective that you need to “make it” in America in order to be a successful and important artist — that perspective is deeply western-centric. BTS doesn’t need a Grammy, they have already proven their talent in countless ways throughout their career and been recognized for it by fans, the UN, the South Korean government, and Asian award shows. However, they have repeatedly expressed their desire to perform a solo stage at the Grammys (the group performed “Old Town Road” alongside Lil Nas X in 2020) and to be nominated for and win a Grammy, so their fans are trying to make it happen for them.

Bong Joon-ho’s Best Picture win at the 2020 Oscars for Parasite, and the Recording Academy’s effort to diversify their membership (who vote for the Grammys) by inviting BTS and the CEO of their label to join, are signs of positive change. Not just for recognition and respect for BTS in the west or even for Korean artists, but for all non-English, non-western art. The industry can’t keep the doors closed to non-English music much longer; the world is becoming much too globalized, and fans can easily spot its cop outs and performative diversity. The industry might think that BTS have started playing by their rules, but it’ll be in a tough spot when they drop a Korean album in the next few months, which, like anything BTS touches will inevitably be successful. I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled to see what the industry does with BTS in the future.

Graphic by Taylor Reddam


What the Oscars diversity issue says about Hollywood and its moviegoers

So, you’ve likely heard the news about the Oscars.

There were no female directors nominated and only one person of colour was named for an acting category. The thing is, I’m less angry about the nominations themselves, and more frustrated at what this perpetuates about films and their relation to women and people of colour (POC). There was no lack of films starring and directed by women and POC this year, but it wouldn’t seem that way based on Oscar nominations alone.

The issue in Hollywood is that white men are seen as the standard. A male director is just a director, but a female director is a female director. A movie starring a mostly-male cast is simply just a movie. A movie with a mostly-female cast is suddenly a female film. This creates a distinct separation between films helmed by women and films helmed by men. When a director or movie has the adjective “female” in front of it, it somehow loses credibility in the eyes of many male moviegoers and Academy voters. When it comes to characters on screen, white, male characters are considered to be more relatable than films about other groups of people; thus the nearly all-white acting nominees at the Oscars this year.

People want to be represented in the stories they consume, and are naturally drawn to those stories. The nominations by the Academy definitely reflects this, considering in 2018 the Academy was only 31 percent female and 16 percent non-white. Perhaps voters don’t connect to certain films, so they don’t interact with them. Moreover, according to Variety, one Academy member noted that there is “a bias even in what people choose to watch,” and later said that if nothing is done about this, then “we’re awarding awards to the best performance within films that Academy members are predisposed to watching, not the best acting performance in a given year.”

Hollywood could easily change and diversify the films it produces and the Academy could change the films in recognizes as prestigious, but they don’t.

When everything is taken into account, it seems as though there’s no real consideration for films about and by women and POCs—like movies that aren’t helmed by white men don’t matter as much. We’re taught to value the lives and struggles of white men while disregarding the lives and struggles of minorities. I’m not saying that the Academy should just give out awards to a film just as long as it is directed by a woman or POC. Artistic merit still matters. I’m saying they need to give those films a fighting chance, that they should be open to the stories of people that are different than they are.

A film doesn’t necessarily have to pass the Bechdel test to be a good movie, and most of the Best Picture nominees prove this since most of the films don’t pass but are still great films. But, I can still watch a film like 1917 or Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, connect to its characters, be emotionally invested in them and the picture regardless of the fact that the leads are white men. By that token, white men can then get themselves to the theatre to see films about women and POC and feel something for those characters. I’ve been able to find small ways to see myself in these roles all my life, so they can do it too.

We may not be Academy members, but we can choose which films to give our money to. Go and support films led by women. Go support films led and directed by people of colour. It’s not difficult, it’s just a matter of empathy. 


Collage by Laurence BD

Student Life

Oscars (still) so white (and male)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is trying to save itself from another #OscarsSoWhite fiasco that’s been plaguing the award show since 2015.

That year, April Reign tweeted out the infamous hashtag after the Academy Awards nominations failed to include people of colour in the Best Actor and Best Actress categories. Granted, Mexican director Alejandro González Iñárritu won Best Director, but that didn’t make up for the exclusion of other minorities in the biggest categories.

Fast-forward to the 2020 Academy Award nominations: people of colour are nominated, but their inclusion feels more like tokenism than genuine inclusivity.

The Best Actress category includes Scarlett Johansson, Saoirse Ronan, Charlize Theron, Renée Zellweger. Finally, Cynthia Erivo is the only person of colour on the list and, ever so coincidentally, she played Harriet Tubman, a slave. This wouldn’t be such a cause for concern if the movie was, well, good. The movie received mixed reviews and was far from a box office smash, yet the Academy decided Erivo’s performance was Oscar-worthy. It wasn’t––it was simply fine.

Erivo’s inclusion in the category isn’t worth rioting over considering she did do a decent job. The problem lies in who the Academy chose to include versus who was excluded. Sure Charlize Theron and Renée Zellweger are fine actresses, but their performances in their respective movies (Bombshell and Judy) aren’t notable.

Instead, nominations could have gone to Awkwafina, who knocked her performance out of the park in The Farewell or Lupita Nyong’o with her performance in Us, where she took on two polar opposite roles in the same film. Neither actress is white: Awkwafina is Chinese-Korean-American and Lupita Nyong’o is Kenyan, and born in Mexico.

Like every year, a powerful performance will be forgotten. With limited selections, it makes sense that someone we thought was deserving of a nomination would get snubbed—that’s the business. However, this year, Awkwafina and Nyong’o’s exclusion doesn’t seem to be about talent and merit.

Obviously, the Oscars shouldn’t be about forcing inclusion to please non-whites. Quality should be the driving factor as to who is or isn’t nominated. But when movies like Harriet, Richard Jewell and Bombshell take up precious nominations, at what point do we ask ourselves whether the Academy is actually choosing good movies or if they’re making choices to please simple moviegoers?

Stephen King tweeted an ideal scenario where films should be judged on their quality and that diversity should not be a factor when the films are being vetted for award shows. He’s right to a certain extent that art should be judged on quality. However, watch Bombshell and The Farewell, and tell me that the former was the better movie. I’ll wait.

The Oscars exist as a vehicle for white male art to take the forefront; and when you have powerful white males defending that stance, it makes this whole situation that much worse.

With every step forward the Academy takes, it seems they also always take two steps back. Moonlight, a film that follows the life of a gay Black man growing up in the U.S., took home the award for Best Picture in 2018. Mahershala Ali and Regina King won Oscars for their performances in Green Book and If Beale Street Could Talk in 2019. After the 2020 nominations, it seems more plausible that those wins were just crowd-pleasers to shut the #OscarsSoWhite crew up.

It’s no secret the biggest film award show in the U.S. favours white films. In February 2019, Indiewire ran a story showing that less than 200 Black people—out of almost 10,000 slots—were nominated across all categories since its inception. For context: four Black men won Best Actor in a Leading Role; one Black actress won Best Actress in a Leading Role; five Black men won Best Actor in a Supporting Role; eight Black women took home awards for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Not a single Black director won Best Director, out of only six nominations.

Racism isn’t the only problem the Oscars face. There is blatant sexism in certain categories like Best Director, in which only one woman has ever won: Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker in 2009. This year, Greta Gerwig was snubbed after directing Little Women, one of the year’s finest films that required the utmost care to make.

Conversely, the Oscars did do something right this year by adding the Korean sleeper hit of the year, Parasite. Never has a Korean film or director been nominated for Best Picture or Best Director respectively and given the outstanding reception of the film; it would have been criminal to exclude it from the award show.

Unfortunately, that alone does not make up for the rest. Women and people of colour have always been overlooked at film award shows. Even when we try to make things better, things stay the same.



Graphic by @sundaeghost


Our predictions for Best Picture

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and Phantom Thread are this year’s frontrunners

The time has come to catch last-minute screenings and fill out your Oscar ballots before the Academy Awards air on Sunday, March 4.

This year’s competition for Best Picture is stacked with nine nominees. While the Oscars and awards season in general tend to be racked with controversy, this year’s scandal has less to do with the nominees and more to do with the treatment of women and minorities in the film industry, culminating in the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements.

The Academy can pat themselves on the back for acting on said controversy early this year. Firstly, by not inviting alleged sex offenders to attend the show and, secondly, by nominating one woman and one person of colour in the Best Director category. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean they will do due diligence when it comes to selecting this year’s Best Picture winner.

There is a certain type of film that gets awarded Best Picture every year, and while it isn’t always easy to define what type that is, it makes it simpler to narrow down which films won’t win. This is why the beloved Lady Bird and important Get Out are among those that can be ruled out of the competition this year. Despite their nominations and support from general audiences, they don’t quite fit the mold of a typical Best Picture.

Here’s a breakdown of the nominated films most likely to win.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Every year there seems to be at least one film in the Best Picture category that doesn’t resonate with general audiences—at least not right away. This year, that film is Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. The film follows Mildred Hayes (played by Frances McDormand) who, frustrated with the stalled investigation into her daughter’s murder, paints three billboards in order to get the sheriff’s attention. While met with mixed reviews from critics, the film has swept the Best Picture category at every awards show so far, and it will likely earn the same recognition at the Oscars next week. But does it necessarily deserve to? Three Billboards certainly tells a haunting story about humanity and family, and it’s rich with powerful performances by veteran actors, which is right up the Academy’s alley, making it most likely to bring home the golden statue.

The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro is a director known for making emotionally charged and visually beautiful films, and he handles the strange premise of The Shape of Water with a special tenderness. The film is set during the Cold War in 1962 and sees a lonely, mute cleaning lady (played by Sally Hawkins) form a special bond with a top-secret science experiment—a creature that is part fish, part human. While it hasn’t received as much backing as Three Billboards, del Toro’s film is a favourite among film critics. He is poised to take home the award for Best Director, so that could mean his film will receive the same honour.

Phantom Thread

If there is a dark horse in this race, it’s Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread. The simplistic, yet luring and imaginative tale of romance might just succeed in overtaking previously mentioned frontrunners for the win, but it could also get lost in the shuffle. Set in 1950s London, the film follows acclaimed fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock (played by Daniel Day-Lewis) as he meets and falls in love with Alma (played by Vicky Krieps), a young waitress. As Alma takes on the role of muse, assistant and somewhat of a mother figure, the imbalance in their relationship becomes more perturbed and, eventually, takes a toll on her. In Phantom Thread, Day-Lewis is at his most vulnerable, while newcomer Krieps holds her own against an acting legend. This is Anderson’s best work to date, and while it’s unclear if it will take home Best Picture (even though it absolutely should), you can count on it winning Best Costume Design.


Christopher Nolan’s war drama is exactly the kind of film you’d expect to see in the Best Picture category. Dunkirk tells the story of the evacuation of Allied soldiers from Belgium, Britain, Canada and France, who were cut off and surrounded by the German army during World War II. The film is overwhelming in its quiet, subtle beauty and features many breathtaking moments with little dialogue. It should win based on cinematography alone, and it has picked up awards for editing and sound. While there is a slight chance the Academy will surprise us by awarding Dunkirk a win for its visual elements, it seems unlikely against livelier, more Oscar-friendly counterparts.

Call Me By Your Name

Sadly, the film that captured many hearts when it premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival has lost momentum leading up to the Oscars, despite being the favourite to win for many months. It’s unfortunate, because the film is a major accomplishment for director Luca Guadagnino and lead actors Timothée Chalamet and Armie Hammer. Set in northern Italy during the 1980s, the film follows 17-year-old Elio (Chalamet) as he spends his summer falling in love with 20-something Oliver (Hammer). The romance unfolds with the crushing honesty that comes with first love, and Guadagnino makes sure to include everything from the sexuality to the awkwardness. Slated to become a cult-classic among teens and lovers of romance dramas, it doesn’t seem as though Call Me By Your Name will be bringing home any major awards this year, and that’s a shame.


The irrelevance of the best picture winner

Not winning a Best Picture at The Oscars is inconsequential in the long run

Last week’s Oscar ceremony proved to one of the most eventful in the Academy’s history. The night was a collection of great TV moments, including Auli’i Cravalho from Disney’s Moana being hit over the head by a backup dancer’s prop during her performance, and Denzel Washington marrying two tourists.

It was one of the rare award ceremonies that managed to keep my attention throughout its three-hour runtime. However, the broadcast ended abruptly after one of the greatest mistakes ever made at the Oscars: the wrong movie was called as the winner of Best Picture—the most prestigious honour in the cinematic industry.

The Best Picture winner is always one which creates friction and frustration amongst movie enthusiasts and the public. Often, more culturally-relevant films are snubbed, with the award going to a forgettable and generic film which will be forgotten in a couple of years, such as last year when Spotlight won instead of Mad Max: Fury Road. Several of the most popular and revered directors in cinematic history, such as Quentin Tarantino, Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick have never won a Best Picture award.

The Best Picture winner is selected by a voting system including all the members of the Academy, composed of over 6,000 individuals. The membership status is obtained by invitation or by winning an Academy Award. Therefore, any previous actor or director who won an Oscar during their career is eligible to vote for the Best Picture winner. Hence, the system can quickly become biased as the members can cast their votes for their friends and colleagues. Moreover, cinema is a subjective topic, making the result open for discussion and debate.

In order to win the Best Picture award, a film must be able to reach a larger audience, and must appeal to the majority of the Academy’s members. This explains how movies which tend to push the boundaries of cinema, or are targeted at a niche audience are not likely to win an award at the ceremony. Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest thriller, Neon Demon, whose cinematography mirrors La La Land’s in terms of precision and astonishing shots, did not get nominated for any category. A reason for this might be because it dealt with sensitive and shocking topics, such as cannibalism, pedophilia and necrophilia, therefore narrowing its mass appeal. There is also a tendency to avoid mainstream releases like superhero movies—they are often overlooked by the Academy’s members due to their escapist and sometimes childish nature.

Even though the mix-up which occurred during the announcement of this year’s Best Picture category was an entertaining moment, the outcome does not truly matter in the long term. Both Moonlight and La La Land were incredible films that equally deserved the award. But what makes a film stand the test of time is not necessarily the number of awards it brings in, but the impact it has on the collective consciousness of the audience.


Oscars predictions: Who will bring home the gold?

The Concordian’s film critic-in-residence gives his two cents about the upcoming Academy Awards

If you’re like me, there are few things you find as enjoyable as indulging in the entirely pointless, but enormously thrilling game of predicting the Oscars. The nominations aren’t as hard to predict, but only one can win in each category, so you either get it right or you don’t. Nervous? Just think of the eternal glory and bragging rights you will get with every correct guess. So let’s take a brief look at the main categories.

Best Picture

The big winner of the night hasn’t been this easy to predict in years—it can only be La La Land. The picture got a historic 14 nominations, which means that, if a different film were to win, it could be the biggest snub in Oscar history. Just like nothing could sink James Cameron’s Titanic, Damien Chazelle’s musical masterpiece is simply unstoppable. For all other categories in which La La Land is the nominee, it can safely be expected to win.

Best Director

Although there have been splits between Best Picture and Best Director in the last few years, the incredible support for La La Land could guarantee its success in both categories. That would make Chazelle the youngest Oscar-winning director ever—and he completely deserves the honour.

Best Actor in a Leading Role

This is one category La La Land is unlikely to win. The ongoing race is between Casey Affleck for Manchester by the Sea and Denzel Washington for Fences. The younger Affleck brother is the current frontrunner for his moving, subtle performance as a man consumed by guilt and internal anguish. But should the Academy go with Washington, he would join a very small club of three-time acting Oscar winners.

Best Actress in a Leading Role

And now back aboard the La La Land train. The competition in this category is absolutely staggering—heavyweight Annette Benning couldn’t even manage a nomination—but Emma Stone, being the emotional anchor of her film, is expected to win. You might also want to watch out for Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy in Jackie —it’s the type of role the Academy usually adores.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

After two years of noted absence, African-American actors are back in the Oscar race, dominating the supporting categories. Mahershala Ali is the favourite here, for a memorable part in the wonderful Moonlight. While it’s easy to root for this likeable performer, it’s okay to hope the Academy gives due consideration to Jeff Bridges as a sheriff in Hell or High Water, and even more so to Michael Shannon as another, more sinister sheriff in the underrated Nocturnal Animals.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

This Oscar belongs to Viola Davis already. She came close to winning for brilliant roles in 2008’s Doubt and 2011’s The Help, and the third time’s going to be the charm. She outdid herself in Fences, consistently stealing scenes and proving herself to be one of the finest talents of our time.

Best Original Screenplay

For a long time, it seemed like Manchester by the Sea was a sure winner here—musicals don’t win in the screenplay categories, we were told—but La La Land has emerged as the alternative. Here’s to the musical that could.

Best Adapted Screenplay

If there’s one film to even remotely challenge La La Land in the Best Picture race, it’s Moonlight. The movie, after all, comes as a powerful response to the call for diversity that has challenged the Academy in recent years. While its odds of winning in most categories are all but hopeless, the three-part story of a gay African-American young man making his way through life, which is adapted from an unpublished play, deserves to be celebrated for its unique and insightful screenplay.


Swept under the red carpet

When it comes to scandals and sexual assaults, mum’s the word at the Academy Awards

Awards season is well underway, but critics and fans alike are already predicting who will take home the golden statuettes in February when the 2017 Academy Awards airs.

From Damien Chazelle’s La La Land to Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, the films and performances being considered for Oscar nominations this year are quite diverse. However, the controversies surrounding some of the potential nominees are being ignored by the Academy, as well as the media.

The Oscars are not new to scandal—just last year, the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite dominated social media platforms after the Academy neglected to nominate any actors of colour, prompting many to boycott the show. This year’s debacle? Two potential nominees have been accused of sex crimes and no one seems to be talking about them.

Casey Affleck—brother of Ben Affleck and frontrunner for the Best Actor award for his role in Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Seahas two separate sexual harassment allegations against him, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

In addition to Affleck, director of the critically-acclaimed drama The Birth of a Nation, Nate Parker and his longtime co-writer Jean McGianni Celestin were accused of rape back in 1999. According to entertainment website Vulture, Parker was acquitted of all charges, while Celestin was sentenced to two to four years in prison. He ended up only serving a little over a year, according to Vulture. Last summer, entertainment magazine Variety was the first to report on the allegations, just as they started promoting their film, which features—SPOILER ALERT—a scene in which a female character is raped.

Critics and moviegoers are questioning how they can watch the film knowing the director has been accused of rape and frankly, so am I.

If news of these allegations seems shocking, you’ll be sad to learn that the ignorance of sex crime allegations against male actors has been going on in Hollywood for decades.

According to the New York Times, in 1992 actress Mia Farrow, who was then married to revered director Woody Allen, alleged that their daughter, Dylan, told her she had been sexually assaulted by Allen. That same year, it was revealed that Allen was in a relationship with his step-daughter, Soon-Yi Previn, who was just 19 at the time. They married several years later.

The claims haven’t hurt Allen’s career, though—at 81, he has written and directed nearly 100 films and has worked with some of the best actors in Hollywood.

Last month, a 2013 interview with The Hollywood Reporter with director Bernardo Bertolucci resurfaced in which he confirmed that the use of a butter stick in the rape scene in his film Last Tango in Paris, starring Marlon Brando and Maria Schneider was not consensual. Schneider, who was a teenager at the time, was not made aware of the fact that Brando would be using a stick of butter to simulate the rape, and Bertolucci admitted in the interview that he conspired with Brando to keep that information from her, saying: “I wanted her to react as a girl, not as an actress. I wanted her to react humiliated.”

In a 2007 interview with the Daily Mail, Schneider said she “felt a little raped” after filming the scene and did not receive apologies from her director or her co-star.

Schneider went on to work steadily until her death from cancer in 2011, but she certainly did not have the same career as her co-star Brando, who won his second Best Actor award for his work in The Godfather the year after they filmed Last Tango in Paris.

While Schneider did not reveal her true feelings regarding the rape scene until 2007, Brando has been accused of sexual assault by several other women, including actress Jackie Collins, who said Brando pursued a relationship with her when she was still a teenager, according to The Telegraph.

The allegations against Affleck, Allen and Brando speak to a greater issue. When a man—predominantly a white man—is accused or convicted of a sex crime, he can still get work. He can still be on the cover of magazines, he can still be on every late-night talk show. He can still be a movie star. He can still be elected President of the United States.

Parker, on the other hand, has not been able to escape the backlash and it has affected his film’s box-office success. Not only are his chances of winning an Oscar now slim to none, The Hollywood Reporter predicted that the film will lose an estimated $10 million for its production company, Fox Searchlight.

Meanwhile, Manchester by the Sea is not poised to lose any money due to the allegations against its main star.

But let’s be blunt—Manchester by the Sea, a film that has been described as an “all-American family drama,” is much more appealing to audiences than Parker’s film, a historical account of slavery and racism in America, written and directed by an African-American director.

There may not be an #OscarsSoWhite hashtag this year and #OscarsSoFullOfMenAccusedOfSexCrimes might be too long for Twitter’s word limit, but it is important, as the consumer, to be conscious of where your money goes.

Your dollars speak volumes. Use them wisely.


Another year, another round of predictions

He got them all right last year—how will Elijah fare in 2015?

Graphic Jenny Kwan

Well, folks, another year has gone by, and despite the Doomsday Clock being at its closest to midnight since 1984, we are still here. A lot has changed since February 2014, but some things remain the same. Isn’t that a reassurance, to know exactly what you’ll be doing at a given time, every year? I know what I’ll be doing on February 22nd 2015 – like millions of others around the globe, I will be tuning in to the 87th Academy Awards ceremony.


Last year, I wrote: “The truth is that the Academy is undergoing a period of serious transition. In only a few years, we’ve seen a woman win a Best Director award, more ethnical groups represented than ever before, and people seemingly destined for a life of anonimity pulled out of their ordinary lives by well-deserved nominations.”


I stand by that, but I may have spoken too fast. This year has been, some say, too male-centric. Too white. #OscarSoWhite became a popular trend on Twitter, in apparent payback for the omission of “Selma” in the Best Director and Best Actor categories. Yes, no woman was nominated for Best Director. Yes, all Acting nominees were white. Does that mean that racism or sexism is in play?


I wouldn’t be so sure. What if a snub is just that – what if Academy members genuinely prefer one movie, or one performance, to another? Should they nominate a person solely to appease a certain community? Vote for someone solely on the basis of their ethnicity or gender? Wouldn’t that be just as bad as not nominating them in the first place? In both cases, that person would be given an unequal treatment.


The problem with art is that it is inherently subjective. Academy members found “Selma” worthy of a Best Picture and a Best Original Song nomination. They chose to reward other films in other categories. They are entitled to an opinion, and we shouldn’t try to force their hand. If anything is to be learned from this controversy, it is that perhaps not enough African-American and female filmmakers are given an opportunity to make the films they really want to make. People rallied behind “Selma” precisely because it was perhaps the only film to have been given that opportunity in the last year.


But enough polemics. Let’s get down to Oscar predictions! Read no further if you wish to avoid spoilers! Last year, they all came true.


Best Picture


There are eight films competing for the award this year, all of them worthy of consideration. When you think of the kind of films that win Oscars, you typically think of heavy historical dramas – commonly known as Oscar bait. But sometimes, you’re in for a surprise. The two front-runners are unlikely candidates, notable for their bold artistic choices: Richard Linklater’s Boyhood and Alejandro G. Iñarittu’s Birdman.


Boyhood is a tender look at the life of a young boy and his family. Admirably, it was filmed over 12 years – a first for a fiction film, and possibly a last. When it was first rumoured to be a major Oscar contestant, the idea seemed absurd – Oscar voters love big, important stories, but Boyhood is a collection of mostly passive and seemingly unimportant moments in a child’s life, as he grows up and his worldview is shaped. Yet, Boyhood was the best-reviewed film of 2014 and is the likeliest to become the next Best Picture winner.


Birdman is a very different beast. A carefully scripted and choreographed explosion of emotions, both repressed and expressed on screen. A jazzy, dreamy caricature of show business. A strange and deeply confounding film, it is made to look like a single, continuous shot, as we follow an aging movie star’s descent into hell and back. It is, in my humble opinion, the most deserving of the two, but it may prove too much for the Academy voters. I feel they might prefer the calm, contemplative Boyhood to such a relentless, furious roller-coaster.


Best Director


The showdown between Boyhood and Birdman continues in this category. It could be the third consecutive year when the Best Director award doesn’t go to the Best Picture winner. It has become a trend to reward the most visually ambitious nominee for its visionary directing and this year, it is Iñarritu’s Birdman that fits the description. Filmed in very long, audaciously constructed shots that require uninterrupted acting and movement, it envelops you, and watching it, you feel like you’ve landed on the stage of a play. An exceptionally well-directed play, I might add.


Best Actor in a Leading Role


Much like his character in Birdman, ex-superhero Michael Keaton has made a glorious comeback after a decade of near-oblivion. His character is seen battling family and career issues, as well as a perfidious alter ego who attempts to lead him astray, back on the path of commercial moviedom. There are several references to Keaton’s own life throughout the film, but he claims this is the character he could least identify with, out of any he has played. It is a challenging role, and Keaton gave it his all. He deserves to win.


Best Actress in a Leading Role


There is little doubt as to what name will come out of that particular envelope : Julianne Moore, sometimes called “the Meryl Streep of not winning Oscars”. Nominated 4 times before, hers is a classic case of overdue. Her performance in Still Alice as an Alzheimer’s-afflicted linguist is as stellar as you’d expect. She hits all the right notes, showing the changes her character goes through with subtlety and flair.


In a perfect world, however, it is Rosamund Pike who would get the gold for her sensational breakthrough performance in Gone Girl. Rivaling every great psycho in the history of film, her character is terrifying because she is deeply unknowable. What is she really thinking? How far can she go? The movie opens and closes with the same shot of her, and by the end we understand more about her, but overall she remains a mystery. It is hard to say more without spoiling anything; if you haven’t seen Gone Girl yet, you absolutely should.


Best Actor in a Supporting Role


There can be no doubt – J.K. Simmons will win. He has always been good, for example as Spider-Man’s scene-stealing editor in Sam Raimi’s franchise, but in Whiplash, he is simply too good to ignore. This is an award often given for villainous performances, and Simmons’ character is a masterclass in cruelty and emotional abuse. As a teacher in a prestigious music conservatory, he is a shapeshifter, sometimes deceivingly flattering, at other times a violent despot – all in the name of art. Simmons is chilling and unforgettable as he commands the screen with an iron hand. If this isn’t an Oscar-worthy performance, I don’t know what is.


Best Actress in a Supporting Role


The first name that comes to mind is Patricia Arquette. Unlikely that she would be considered an Oscar frontrunner in 2015, but she can thank Boyhood for that. She was still a popular star in 2002 when filming started, but soon after that she began to take years off in between films and eventually focused on television. Now, fast-forward to 2015, and she is once again on everyone’s lips. In many ways, watching Boyhood is like opening a time capsule – her performance is one of the many good things we found inside.

Best Original Screenplay

The Grand Budapest Hotel is one of the year’s best-written films. Hard to say whether it is original—what is these days?—and it was admittedly inspired by Stefan Zweig’s works, but it is insanely clever and deeply rewarding. It has the usual traits of a Wes Anderson screenplay: bright characters, witty dialogue, and an engrossing and hilariously complicated story. But it also covers new and surprisingly dark territory: shoot-outs, gruesome murders and mutilations, and dead cats. All of that portrayed with Anderson’s trademark childlike innocence. It is also immensely tender in recounting a love story and a friendship, as well as Anderson’s love for an era, a writing style, and a time lost. The key to the film is in this line, “To be frank, I think his world had vanished long before he ever entered it—but, I will say: he certainly sustained the illusion with a marvellous grace!”

Another possible winner is Birdman, which is also well-written. So much happens every second that it is an action movie in terms of intensity. It makes you fall in love with movies again. It makes you marvel, laugh, spit out your popcorn in surprise, or hold very still when someone’s life is in the balance. All of this may sound like a given but how often does that happen to you anymore? How often do you feel that there are no boundaries to what could happen on the screen? When was the last time you truly felt a film’s heartbeat? The Grand Budapest Hotel deserves to win, but if Birdman does, I’m sure there will be no hard feelings.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Now let’s come back to the most Oscar-ish movie on the list—The Imitation Game. I call it that for two reasons. First, it follows a formula made popular by past Oscar winner A Beautiful Mind: real-life eccentric mathematician deals with personal problems and espionage, real or imagined. Second, it is an “important issue” movie, showing a true story of persecution. It is fairly well-written, but perhaps too traditional in its storytelling. It brings up interesting questions, but doesn’t know how to deal with them because the screenwriter is limited by Hollywood conventions. Yet the movie will probably win, because it is undeniably a story that needed to be told.

The one that should win, but perhaps won’t, is Whiplash. It is competing in the Adapted Screenplay category because it is based on a short film made by the director in order to get financing, but apart from that, it is wholly original. An intricate psychological drama, or a musical thriller, it explores the pursuit of greatness. As a student, what sacrifices are you willing to make? As a teacher, should you be allowed to do just about anything it takes to unlock a student’s potential? We never get to know the characters very well and there’s no need to, because the moral dilemmas posed by the movie are universal, as is the battle of wills at its core. Whiplash is written with gusto, and its final sequence is all-time great material.

Let’s not forget to congratulate our fellow Canadians and Montrealers nominated for Oscars this year! In animation, Dean DeBlois from Aylmer, Quebec, nominated for directing How to Train Your Dragon 2; Graham Annable from Ontario, nominated for co-directing The Boxtrolls; Torill Kove, who was born in Norway but has lived in Montreal since 1982, a Concordia graduate, nominated for her short animated film Me and My Moulton; in visual effects, Cameron Waldbauer and Nicolas Aithadi from the Vancouver area, nominated for X-Men: Days of Future Past and Guardians of the Galaxy, respectively; in production design, Dennis Gassner from Vancouver, nominated for Into the Woods and presently hard at work on the new James Bond film; in sound mixing, Craig Mann from Ontario, nominated for his electrifying work on Whiplash.

Another year in movies is now officially past us. As always, there were casualties—Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and many others. It seems impossible to imagine the movies without them but, somehow, things will go on. Let them never be over.

Take a look back at the best of 2014 in film by tuning in to the 87th Oscars ceremony, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris!


Society’s love affair with the Academy Awards

The Oscars aren’t just glitz and glam: they’re validating

Awards season is upon us, and you know what that means: we will mercilessly judge well-dressed strangers while sitting in our pajamas with a bag of chips.

Celebrities make it easy to be cynical. They’re practically living advertisements for the clothes and jewelry designers loan them for the night, and many of us are aware of this. Why then, do we love to watch the Oscars? Is it the glamour of fame and fortune, or a critical interest in filmmaking? Perhaps for some, but I think most of us are watching for a reason that goes a bit deeper: validation.

Did your favourite movie even get nominated? Is The Lego Movie being snubbed for casting too many yellow plastic people? Will Benedict Cumberbatch become too mainstream if he wins? I too am wrestling with these questions, and we won’t have a solid answer until the Academy hands out its awards.

But wait—aren’t all value judgments subjective? Sure, that’s what your professors may have told you, but when I observe people around me I see very few shrugging their shoulders in apathy. I see people making arguments to support their positions.

I see people craving authoritative objectivity: external validation.

It’s not enough to like a movie and enjoy it, we want to know that we enjoyed it because it was good. I’ll admit that the human desire for objectivity is a big topic to unpack, but all I want to do is provide a springboard for reflection. Why do you watch the Oscars? Before you proudly declare that you don’t watch the Oscars because they’re commercialized bilge let me tell you that you’re doing the same thing when you read IndieWire, or when talking Sundance over beers with your film friends. We all do it, no shame here.

Despite our time’s love affair with ‘the self’, individualism has its limits: I cannot congratulate or love myself. Of course I could, but if given the choice I’d choose external validation every time. Why? Because it’s objective to me. Being congratulated means I’ve accomplished something, being loved means I’m lovely, and when a film is nominated for Best Picture I can safely assume that it is very good.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with me—in fact, I can poke holes in my own argument. Take my favourite movie of the year as an example: Calvary, an Irish movie directed by John Michael McDonagh and starring Brendan Gleeson. It’s not even nominated—for anything! Does that mean it’s not good? I’d be the first to say “I don’t think so!” but I’m still indignant about the lack of Oscar recognition for this great film.

Therein lies my conclusion.

If objectivity is a fiction I certainly don’t live like it doesn’t exist, and chances are neither do you. While it’s obvious not everyone agrees with my pick for Best Picture, I believe it deserves more than a pile of zero recognition. I want the validation that The Oscars gives, not only for myself, but also for you. Why? Because we’re all attracted to the best and greatest.

That’s why we love watching The Oscars.

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