Oscar night 2017: Black actors get their due
If you tune in to Hollywood’s big night this year, you’ll find that “the Oscars are not so white,” said Andrea Mandell in USA Today. That’ll represent a welcome shift from 2015 and 2016, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences didn’t nominate a single actor of color. Critics launched the Twitter campaign #OscarsSoWhite, and the complaints spurred the academy to shed older voters and admit more women and nonwhite members. Results came quickly. Though viewers of the Feb. 26 broadcast may note “a glaring lack of Hispanic or Asian nominees,” this year’s list of contenders is the most diverse in a decade, with a record six black actors up for lead or supporting honors. There’s even a chance that Moonlight or Hidden Figures, two movies focused on black life, could upset the musical La La Land and nab Best Picture.
Despite the progress made on recognizing nonwhite talent in the industry, “little has changed for women,” said Nicole Sperling in Entertainment Weekly. For the seventh straight year, no female directors were nominated. And though nine of the 30 producers contending in the Best Picture category are women, 80 percent of the nominees in all nonacting categories are men. Whoever wins Sunday night, dissent is certain to remain a major part of the event, said Julie Hinds in the Detroit Free Press. Given how many stars have already used their awards-season victories to slam the politics of the Trump presidency, one potential viewer in the White House has to be expecting quite a few winners to mention him in their acceptance speeches. “If Trump and the Oscars could agree on anything, it might be that winners have certain prerogatives.”
My Life as a Zucchini
Directed by Claude Barras
A parentless boy puts down roots.
Orphans always make great protagonists, and “if there’s anything right with this world,” this stop-action marvel of a movie “will be remembered as a great entry in the orphan canon,” said Stephanie Zacharek in Time. Its hero is a shy boy who insists on being called Zucchini. When he’s sent to a group home, he must endure a bully’s attentions and sort out how to handle a first crush, and each scene is “so warm, so alive, that we forget we’re watching cartoon figures.” A French-Swiss production now contending for two Oscars, Zucchini is “never afraid to be cute, but more importantly, it’s committed to being real,” said Peter Debruge in Variety. We eventually learn that Zucchini accidentally killed his mother during one of her drunken rages, and that his friend witnessed her parents’ murder-suicide. “This is not the stuff of which kids’ movies are typically made,” but the screenplay “deals frankly with the facts of life in a way that neither condescends to nor scars younger audiences.” If the movie has a weakness, it’s that the visuals don’t demand a cinema, said Boyd van Hoeij in The Hollywood Reporter. Even on a home screen, it’s a “vividly realized, finger-on-the-pulse” look at youthful growing pains, and how to get past them.
A Cure for Wellness
Directed by Gore Verbinski
A gothic Swiss spa turns into a trap.
“I don’t usually spend much time thinking about eels, but A Cure for Wellness gave me no choice,” said A.O. Scott in The New York Times. When an ambitious young Wall Streeter is sent to a Swiss wellness center to retrieve his firm’s CEO, dark secrets begin piling up almost instantly, beginning with the eels that slither up from an aquifer into the spa’s toilets and bathtubs. Made by the director of The Ring, A Cure for Wellness attains “an exuberant gothic creepiness,” though two-plus hours “may be more of this kind of fun than a body can stand.” And maybe I’m missing something, “but aren’t good horror films supposed to be scary fun?” asked Joe Morgenstern in The Wall Street Journal. Slow to the point of ponderousness, Wellness leaves you with no one and nothing to care about—“unless you’re into dental torment, octogenarian nude scenes, or steampunk instruments of outlandish torture.” I watched the last half hour “with my hands clasped over my slightly agape mouth,” said Alissa Wilkinson in Vox.com. Walking out of the theater, you will surely want to turn to a friend and say, “What the hell did we just see?