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Buzz: It’s A Man’s Word

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I Written by Rehna

“People go to see films that have a buzz around them,” said Meryl Streep.

We all listened intently, our fingers poised to record the pearls of wisdom that would fall from the mouth of a movie goddess, the most nominated actress in Oscar history, the woman who has become a byword for excellence.

At this point, you might be expecting me to say that our expectations were dashed. That Meryl dropped a clanger and we were all disappointed. No, our eager fingers were not deprived of something noteworthy to write. We all jotted down what came next from La Streep because it was genuinely interesting.

“Well, I wanted to see how that buzz is created, ” she continued. ” So, I went deep into the Rotten Tomatoes website. I looked at who was contributing the reviews. 168 women. Not bad, I thought. Until I saw there were 760 from men.”

Ms Streep paused to let the ratio sink in.

“So,” she added, perhaps unnecessarily, “the tomatometer is slanted to one taste – that of men. People accept this as received wisdom. And films liked by men get the buzz.”

Streep was speaking at LFF 2015 at the press conference for her film Suffragette. After some initial hype, that solid ‘women’s film’ with strong performances from the likes of Carey Mulligan, Anne-Marie Duff, Helena Bonham-Carter and Streep herself, fizzled out early both at the box office and during awards season.

It had no buzz.

I was reminded of Streep’s words today when I read a powerful piece by Shannon Plumb, the film maker wife of acclaimed director Derek Cianfrance. I can’t recommend strongly enough that every film fan read this heartfelt and insightful account of what it’s like to put your heart and soul into a movie only to see it dismissed by a jaded critic who has long forgotten that the silver screen was meant to be a world of magic, an antidote to our real lives.

The article can be found at www.thetalkhouse.com and is entitled The Man in the Ring.

It paints Cianfrance as the bloodied fighter taking cheap jabs from hacks who have either lost all sense of wonder and romance or wilfully dismiss anything with real emotion as a ‘chick flick’ unworthy of their serious attention. I reviewed Cianfrance’s The Light between Oceans For Movie Marker

In the review I gently mock the gender split in the reaction to the sadder parts of the film but I also note the thunderous, five minute ovation both sexes gave it at the end.

Ms Plumb says she wept openly at the appreciation her husband’s labour of love received but in a video I made of the ovation she wasn’t the only one with tear stained cheeks. The ovation merely allowed the built up emotion to flow. It was the beauty and romance of the film that had brought on the emotion in the first place. And isn’t that the purpose of film? To write large and beautifully on screen the hopes, fears, dreams, feelings we often try to hide in life?

Naturally, Ms Plumb is loyal to her husband. She worries that the early, grumpy reviews probably knocked a couple of million off the U.S. opening weekend Box Office. (Hopefully the film will fare better in Europe where the reviews have been very good – so good that after reading one in the Evening Standard, my brother declared he’d like to see the film). But she also makes a wider point.

‘The Romance genre is in danger of becoming extinct,’ she warns. Do these critics who wave aside a film as a ‘weepy chick flick’ think only ‘chicks’ have feelings, she asks.
She makes a plea to critics to not ‘veto the viewing’ of such films with these kind of dismissive words. She describes the cinema as the ‘last sanctuary for vulnerability’ – something to which even the most macho are not immune.

So, how do we help create ‘buzz’ for films that tell human stories? After all, they are the films that we remember, long after we’ve erased the CGI of Transformers 536 from our mind. It’s the moments of human connection in a film that stay with us yet the films that provide those moments are not the ones being feverishly discussed on forums. They often fail at the box office and only slowly gain a following in the years that follow their release after people catch them on DVD or late night television.

Suggestions:

1. Well, more female critics would help. Men and women do often have different tastes. Not better or worse. Not more important or less important. Just different. And they should openly embrace those tastes without fear of not being seen as a ‘proper’ critic.

2. More targeted marketing for groups who might particularly enjoy a film rather than a generic ‘ we haven’t really thought about how to sell this movie because it’s about feelings and that’s girly and scary, so here’s a trailer and make of it what you will’.

The Light between Oceans is actually a good example here. It’s about motherhood, yes but it’s also about a soldier emotionally wounded in war, now afraid of his own feelings. It’s about the boys own job of lighthouse keeping. It’s a love story. It’s about moral dilemmas – good people doing bad things. In short it’s far from ‘just’ a ‘weepy.’

3. More and better use of social media. Hire people to look after this aspect of promotion.women are as active on social media as men.

4. Clever use of multi media forums and tie ins. Just as children’s films team with food outlets and toy manufacturers, why can’t films like TLBO spark debates in women’s magazines and newspapers, do deals with clothing companies and tourist boards.
Instead of token gestures like a female Ghostbusters, if women are to be a valued market, they need to be as well catered for as the Marvel and DC fans.

5. Advertise in small, quiet towns where the cinema is the only real form of entertainment, especially for families , not just in busy cities where people have more options.

Raise the awareness in every way possible.

Create a buzz!

And once there is ‘buzz’ for a ‘women’s film’, the male audience will show up too. Stoned eyed and hard of heart, maybe, determined not to cry but they will turn up because, hey, a good film is a good film.

Oscars 2018

THE BURDEN OF OSCAR: POLITICS AND FILM.

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2017 was not overly kind to Hollywood. A drop in cinema audiences. Dismal summer box office. Increasing competition from the rise of Netflix and compelling television shows. Decreasing ratings for movie awards shows. Justice League.
And please, nobody even mention Harvey Weinstein or Kevin Spacey.

In short it all went a bit Pete Tong for La La Land last year.
In fact the La La Land /Moonlight mix up at the Oscars in February now seems a rare bright spot in the 2017 tinsel town calendar. Reading out the wrong best picture winner? Light relief! Oh, how we can laugh now at a ‘wrong envelope mishap’ in the wake of #metoo and #sheknew

So, where and when did the rot start?
I’d suggest November 2016. On 8th November to be precise. Hollywood was tux and gown ready to celebrate the presidential victory of the woman whose campaign many A listers had funded to the tune of millions. However, 60 million Americans had a different plan. Enter the Donald!
The rest is outrage history.

Hollywood has since used Twitter, late night chat shows the press and most of all, awards shows to bash Trump……….and by association the 60 million who voted for him. 60 million potential movie fans.

Some love the political content of awards shows. Some are infuriated by it. But for many the politics has just got old really quickly. All they want from their movie and tv stars is entertainment. Yet the one industry that has the power to bring polarised communities together isn’t managing it. Nor does the entertainment media help.

The dumbest question on the movie red carpet in 2017 was one that was repeated the most, earnestly each time as if it was something unbelievably profound: what do you think will Trump voters make of your film?
Alexander Payne when asked it at the Venice film festival was one of the few who refused to be baited. He said he hoped that he made films for everybody. Unfortunately for him, his film Downsizing didn’t exactly please everybody but at least he recognised that his role is as a filmmaker not political campaigner. Similarly, while other stars have lost fans due to their relentless political tirades, Frances McDormand has been gaining them by being funny, entertaining and making it clear that her politics are her private business. But Payne and McDormand are rare. Too many stars and filmmakers take the media bait or can’t resist lecturing the world on the cause du jour when it isn’t the time and place to do so.

That is the issue. There is a time and place to make earnest speeches, to berate, to demand change, to highlight injustice. The Oscars podium isn’t it.

I’ve been lucky enough to go to the Oscars. It was a terrific experience. It was everything I’d imagined the Oscars to be; glamorous, fun, starry and an escape from the norm. The dresses were colourful and gorgeous. The jokes were funny. Everyone was out to party!
Was it frivolous, unreal and superficial. Yep. And it was all the more wonderful for that because I’d come to the event from conducting a 15 day case in the High court about a paedophile ring. So I know about the real world, thank you. And so do the millions who watch the Oscars on television around the world. The Oscars is their escape from the real world, as it was mine.

Yes, the Oscars has always been political to a degree; Marlon Brando sending a Native American woman to collect his Oscar for The Godfather, Michael Moore leading the charge against President Bush and the Iraq war, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon highlighting Haiti and many more issues. But those were moments in a lengthy ceremony. The rest of the show remained light and fun. The atmosphere overall wasn’t somber, even funereal. In the last 3-4 years the politics has completely overshadowed the films and the film stars.

The Oscars now seems to be first about race, sexuality, political affiliation, hashtag movements with the actual work second.

The #oscarssowhite in 2016 campaign was the first year that I can remember when a cause dominated the coverage, pushing the films and actors in contention for the awards out of the limelight. But it has continued. Last year the subject was President Trump. This year it’s #metoo and #TimesUp.
Around Oscar time I get asked 3 main questions: which of the nominated films do I recommend? Who do I think will win? Who had the best dress?

The first suggests that being nominated/winning really does help a film’s box office. And since the Oscars is essentially an industry event at which the film business shows off its wares, that’s a good thing. The second shows that humans are a competitive lot at heart. It’s why we love sport. No one truly likes ‘participation prizes’. We want there to be a ‘best’ so we can endlessly argue about it for evermore afterwards.
And yes, the third question is every bit as legitimate as the first two. Hollywood is the epitome of glamour. Fashion is big business that employs many people. The Oscars brings the two together on a world stage. And yes, women get asked about their dresses because it’s what many people tune in to see. The men’s tuxedos are the same each year. They aren’t the draw.
Funnily, the questions that don’t crop up are ‘what does Chris Hemsworth think about Brexit’ or ‘ What are Rebel Wilson’s views on the fiscal crisis’.
Maybe, just maybe, people don’t really care.

As I write this, some media outlets are reporting that Jennifer Lawrence and Jodie Foster will present the best actress award this year instead of Casey Affleck. He withdrew recently from the tradition of the previous best actor winner presenting the new best actress winner with her gong, most likely, because he didn’t want or need the media coverage that would have dogged him in respect of allegations of sexual misconduct which were subject to an agreement between him and two women. None of the trio are legally allowed to speak publicly about the agreement. No one outside their respective close circles and legal advisers knows what the terms of the agreement were. Affleck could have agreed terms because he’s guilty as hell and didn’t want a court trial to prove it. The women could have been lying through their teeth and didn’t want a court trial to prove it.

Or, you know, the truth could lie somewhere in the middle. As it often does. Point is, we will never know.

That, of course didn’t stop hysterical speculation last year on social media of what Casey Affleck was ‘definitely, absolutely, 100% guilty of” – because – wait for it- he always plays creepy guys on screen! And it wouldn’t have stopped it this year, specially in the wake of #metoo. So Affleck stepped aside.

If it’s true that Lawrence and Foster will replace him, has the Academy really thought it through? What’s the message here:

That it takes two women to replace one man?

That there are no men left in Hollywood who can even safely present a woman with an award?

That only women can present an award to a woman because gender segregation is where we’re at in 2018??!!

See, this is what happens when you add politics to the mix. You may think you’re doing something right but it can come out all wrong.

On Oscar night on Sunday, armed police and security guards will protect stars who will go on stage and speak passionately against guns. Actresses who cheered and gave standing ovations to convicted child rapist Roman Polanski will now speak passionately against sexual predators. The list is endless of hypocrisies Hollywood can be called out for, so the wise thing to do might be to leave politics outside the door and, you know, entertain on the biggest night of the glamour industry.

However, I’m not betting on it.

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Awards

#Oscars90 2018 Academy Award Winners

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Best Picture: THE SHAPE OF WATER

Best Director: Guillermo Del Toro (The Shape of Water)

Best Actor: Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour)

Best Actress: Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Best Supporting Actor: Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Best Supporting Actress: Allison Janney (I,Tonya)

Best Original Screenplay: Get Out 

Best Adapted Screenplay: Call Me By Your Name

Best Cinematography: Blade Runner 2049

Best Costume Design: Phantom Thread

Best Hair and Make-Up: Darkest Hour

Best Documentary: Icarus

Best Original Score: The Shape Of Water

Best Original Song: Remember Me from Coco

Best Editing: Dunkirk

Best Visual Effects: Blade Runner 2049

Best Animated Film: Coco

Best Live Action Short: The Silent Child

Best Animated Short: Dear Basketball

Best Documentary Short: Heaven is a Traffic Jam

Best Sound Editing: Dunkirk

Best Sound Mixing: Dunkirk

Best Production Design: The Shape Of Water

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Oscar Night 2018

2018 Academy Awards – Our Predictions

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Best Picture

Call Me By Your Name
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Get Out
Lady Bird
Phantom Thread
The Post
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Darryl’s Prediction: GET OUT

Luke’s Prediction: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Best Director

Christopher Nolan – Dunkirk
Jordan Peele – Get Out
Greta Gerwig – Lady Bird
Paul Thomas Anderson – Phantom Thread
Guillermo del Toro – The Shape of Water

Darryl’s Prediction: GUILLERMO DEL TORO (The Shape Of Water)

Luke’s Prediction: GUILLERMO DEL TORO (The Shape Of Water)

Best Actress in a Leading Role

Sally Hawkins – The Shape of Water
Frances McDormand – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie – I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan – Lady Bird
Meryl Streep – The Post

Darryl’s Prediction: FRANCES MCDORMAND (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Luke’s Prediction: FRANCES MCDORMAND (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Best Actor in a Leading Role

Timothée Chalamet – Call Me by Your Name
Daniel Day-Lewis – Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya – Get Out
Gary Oldman – Darkest Hour
Denzel Washington – Roman J. Israel, Esq

Darryl’s Prediction: TIMOTHEE CHALAMET (Call Me By Your Name)

Luke’s Prediction: GARY OLDMAN (Darkest Hour)

Best Original Screenplay

The Big Sick
Get Out
Lady Bird
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Darryl’s Prediction: GET OUT

Luke’s Prediction: THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI

Best Adapted Screenplay

Call Me By Your Name
The Disaster Artist
Logan
Molly’s Game
Mudbound

Darryl’s Prediction: CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Luke’s Prediction: CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

Best Original Song

Remember Me (from Coco)
Mystery of Love (from Call Me By Your Name)
This Is Me (from The Greatest Showman)
Mighty River (from Mudbound)
Stand Up For Something (from Marshall)

Darryl’s Prediction: THIS IS ME (The Greatest Showman)

Luke’s Prediction: REMEMBER ME (Coco)

Best Supporting Actress

Mary J. Blige – Mudbound
Allison Janney – I, Tonya
Leslie Manville – Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf – Lady Bird
Octavia Spencer – The Shape of Water

Darryl’s Prediction: ALLISON JANNEY (I, Tonya)

Luke’s Prediction: ALLISON JANNEY (I, Tonya)

Best Supporting Actor

Willem Dafoe – The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Richard Jenkins – The Shape of Water
Christopher Plummer – All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Darryl’s Prediction: SAM ROCKWELL (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Luke’s Prediction: SAM ROCKWELL (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)

Best Foreign Language Film

A Fantastic Woman (Chile)
On Body and Soul (Hungary)
The Insult  (Lebanon)
Loveless  (Russia)
The Square (Sweden)

Darryl’s Prediction: A FANTASTIC WOMAN (Chile)

Luke’s Prediction: The Square (Sweden)

Cinematography

Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
Mudbound
The Shape of Water

Darryl’s Prediction: BLADE RUNNER 2049

Luke’s Prediction: BLADE RUNNER 2049

Visual Effects

Blade Runner 2049
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Kong: Skull Island
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
War for the Planet of the Apes

Darryl’s Prediction: WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

Luke’s Prediction: WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

Best Animated Feature

Loving Vincent
Coco
Ferdinand
The Breadwinner
The Boss Baby

Darryl’s Prediction: COCO

Luke’s Prediction: COCO

Best Animated Short Film

Dear Basketball
Garden Party
Lou
Negative Space
Revolting Rhymes

Darryl’s Prediction: DEAR BASKETBALL

Luke’s Prediction: Garden Party

Film Editing

Baby Driver
Dunkirk
I, Tonya
The Shape of Water
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Darryl’s Prediction: DUNKIRK

Luke’s Prediction: DUNKIRK

Makeup and Hairstyling

Darkest Hour
Victoria and Abdul
Wonder

Darryl’s Prediction: DARKEST HOUR

Luke’s Prediction: DARKEST HOUR

Best Production Design

Beauty and the Beast
Blade Runner 2049
Darkest Hour
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water

Darryl’s Prediction: THE SHAPE OF WATER

Luke’s Prediction: THE SHAPE OF WATER

Costume Design

Beauty and the Beast
Darkest Hour
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Victoria and Abdul

Darryl’s Prediction: PHANTOM THREAD

Darryl’s Prediction: THE SHAPE OF WATER

Original Score

Dunkirk
Phantom Thread
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Darryl’s Prediction: THE SHAPE OF WATER

Luke’s Prediction: DUNKIRK

Sound Mixing

Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Darryl’s Prediction: BABY DRIVER

Luke’s Prediction: BABY DRIVER

Sound Editing

Baby Driver
Blade Runner 2049
Dunkirk
The Shape of Water
Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Darryl’s Prediction: DUNKIRK

Luke’s Prediction: DUNKIRK

Best Live-Action Short

Dekalb Elementary
The 11 O’Clock
My Nephew Emmett
The Silent Child
All Of Us

Darryl’s Prediction: THE SILENT CHILD

Luke’s Prediction: THE SILENT CHILD

Best Documentary Short

Edith & Eddie
Heaven is a Traffic Jam
Heroin(e)
Knifeskills
Traffic Stop

Darryl’s Prediction: EDITH AND EDDIE

Darryl’s Prediction: HEROIN(e)

Best Documentary Feature

Faces Places
Icarus
Last Men in Aleppo
Strong Island

Darryl’s Prediction: LAST MEN IN ALEPPO

Luke’s Prediction: LAST MEN IN ALEPPO

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