It's Oscar season, and movie fans are abuzz. Will La La Land, with 14 nominations and a horrible title, win Best Picture? Or will it go to the bland but 'important' Moonlight? I have to be honest - I sort of don't care.
Unlike most people, I actually make a point of seeing as many of the nominated films as possible. This year's nine Best Picture nominees make for a very dull bunch. Arrival is perplexing. Fences is torture to sit through. (I dare you to watch the whole thing.) Hacksaw Ridge is mostly killing and shooting. Hell or High Water is gorgeous, the best looking movie of the year, but in the end, it's just another shoot'em up. Hidden Figures tells an interesting story, but it's too precious by half. Those scenes of Taraji running to the bathroom in high heels were ridiculous, even if they were true. The leads in La La Land had nice chemistry, but the production numbers often looked like Super Bowl commercials. Lion is life-affirming, if you can stomach life-affirming (although the little boy in the movie is fantastic). Manchester by the Sea is lots of sadness and mumbling, and Moonlight is as slight and remote as a Canadian movie. (A movie about gay men who just hug at the end? Bullshit.) May I also draw attention to the newest horrible trend of showing footage of the real people whose lives were just depicted onscreen during the end credits. Lion, Hidden Figures, and Hacksaw Ridge all committed this crime. Gauche.
Okay, bitch, you are probably asking yourself. Just what did I like? In an earlier column, I sang the praises of the criminally overlooked Birth of A Nation, derailed by an ancient sex scandal. I also liked Sully, but mostly because I adore plane crashes. There was also a brilliant indie that came out earlier last year, called The Witch, one of the most beautiful and terrifying horror films I've ever seen.
But the one that floored me was Ang Lee's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk. It's about a group of young soldiers, in their early 20s, who saw battle in Iraq, then come back to the States to be hailed as heroes in the most vulgar, unappreciative way. There is a scene, the best of the year, where Billy and his troop appear at the Super Bowl. They march out with Destiny's Child and stand there while fireworks blast, Beyonce sings, marching bands march, and almost no one cheering has any idea what these boys have been through. We cut back to the mission in Iraq in which Billy stabs an Iraqi soldier in the throat and watches him bleed out. At that moment, this sweet young hick has lost his innocence and his humanity. And for this he's hailed as a hero. It's the most emotionally devastating scene of the year, and it had me in tears. Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk may have the clunkiest title of any movie this year, but audiences could benefit from movies like Birth of A Nation and Billy Lynn, yet neither made a dent with the Academy. #oscarssoshitty.