A friend is boycotting the Academy Awards because his favourite film of 2015, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, didn’t make the Oscar’s Best Picture list.
The awards, he says, aren’t relevant because they ignore genre movies and in this particular case, have snubbed the most financially successful film of the year. In fact, the old canard that the Academy doesn’t honour genre movies with Best Picture nods has been shot down this year with nominations for The Martian and Mad Max: Fury Road.
The Oscar folks also gave The Force Awakens five nominations and in recent years Inception, Avatar, District 9, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Django Unchained have all earned top nods with LOTR taking home the gold.
Genre movies do just fine with the Academy. No need for C-3PO to cry little metal tears. To the Academy’s credit, not recognizing the year’s box office behemoth while giving Room, a modestly grossing movie, Best Picture, Actress, Directing and Adapted Screenplay nods, actually suggests the Academy will not be wowed by wheelbarrows of cash.
Perhaps the truth is that the Oscars, and awards shows in general, are only as relevant as you want them to be. Are they as important as the Republican debates? It’s all just show biz, so maybe. Ultimately, unless you’re an actor, a director or a shareholder in a nominated film the Oscars are probably not extremely significant to your life. I pay attention to them as a function of my job, and I enjoy them, but this year I’m on board with my friend but for different reasons.
I’m disappointed in Oscar’s failure to acknowledge diversity. For the second year in a row all 20 acting nominations went to white actors. To be clear I’m not implying the Academy is overtly racist. There are too many voters for there to be a conspiracy to keep actors of colour out of the headline categories. Have you ever gone to a restaurant with more than 10 people and tried to get everyone to agree on an appetizer for the table? It’s nearly impossible. Now imagine trying to arrange collusion between 6,000 members of the Academy. Totally hopeless.
So if it’s not a conspiracy why were stellar performances from Creed’s Michael B. Jordan, The Hateful Eight’s Samuel L. Jackson, Sicario’s Benicio Del Toro, Beasts of No Nation’s Idris Elba or any of Straight Outta Compton’s top line cast not nominated? I think it’s a combination of studio decision makers, who tend to be white, male and older coupled with the same demographic of voters at the Academy.
It’s a systemic issue being addressed by Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs’ effort to mould the Academy’s membership to be more in line with the population.
Until the Oscars represent the full width and breadth of the best in Hollywood, regardless of race or gender, they will continue to slide toward irrelevancy. My guess is that the most interesting part of this year’s ceremony won’t be who wins Best Actor but host Chris Rock’s opening monologue, which, if the movie gods prevail, will address the situation in no uncertain terms. It’s a speech I’m predicting will be just as entertaining and provocative as any of the nominees, Star Wars: The Force Awakens included.
The 1970s in Britain was a decade of unemployment, labour unrest and massive inflation. In short, a breeding ground for pissed off youth with no money, no hope and a hell of a lot of time on their hands.
The decade of discontent spilled into the music world as big, bombastic rock bands grew physically distant from their fans as they played larger and larger arena shows. People began for searching something that spoke to their anger and frustration.
Enter snarly, stripped down sounds played by guys named Rat Scabies and Johnny Rotten and women like Poly Styrene… READ THE WHOLE THING HERE!
If you can’t make it to the Toronto International Film Festival but still want to get a flavour of the films, the Reel Guys — Richard Crouse and Mark Breslin — have some movies and some memories for you. They’ve been attending the festival for years and have seen it all, from actors’ tears to classic films to medical emergencies to stars being born. It’s a wild time, but like Dr. Hunter S. Thompson said, “Buy the ticket, take the ride.”
Richard: Mark, I’ve been going to TIFF for 30 years and covering it for almost 20 so I can’t even begin to imagine how many movies I’ve seen in the 10 days after the first Thursday after Labour Day. Hundreds? Thousands? Somewhere in between, I’m sure. There have been many standouts, but my mind immediately goes to Lost in Translation. Perhaps because it’s Bill Murray Day (isn’t every day?), but I remember walking out of that theatre thinking I had just seen a star being born. Bill Murray was great, but Scarlett Johansson was memorable. She had been in things before, but that movie and TIFF made her a star that day.
Mark: Great film, Richard, but I saw it on a rainy night in Vancouver. If you want to go way, way back, I saw the gala premiere of The Big Chill at University Theatre in 1983. It was the first film that channeled baby boomer angst and it hit me hard — in a good way. So many great performances, but I still remember William Hurt and Kevin Kline. Meg Tilly has the best line when she says, “I don’t know many happy people. What are they like?”
RC: One of the things that happens at TIFF is you see movies that never open anywhere for some reason. What Doesn’t Kill You, a gritty crime drama set in South Boston starring Ethan Hawke, Mark Ruffalo and Amanda Peet, was one of those. I really liked the movie and I hosted the press conference and that’s where something really memorable, for me, happened. During the conference, I looked over and Ruffalo had his head in his hands. At first I wasn’t sure what was happening. Was he tired? Taking a break from the conversation? Asleep? Turns out the conversation and questions had made him emotional and he was crying. I didn’t expect him to break down into tears and be unable to speak, but Hawke jumped in and spoke about how Ruffalo is a committed actor who completely throws himself into his roles.
MB: There’s more to that story … Just before the press conference, for no apparent reason, I shivved Ruffalo in the left kidney, and he must have been in a lot of pain. But I know what you mean by movies that don’t open. The film immediately disappeared. Then there was the recent Lebanese movie The Attack, which was a harrowing story of a Palestinian doctor who finds out his wife is a terrorist. After the film, the director did a Q&A describing death threats he got and the tribulations he endured just to get the film made. It was almost as good as the film itself.
RC: You never know what will happen at the screenings, whether it’s a wild Q&A or the audience reaction. A few years ago the amputation sequence in Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, was so intense several members of the audience required medical attention.
MB: Sometimes the volume of movies you see yields unexpected results. I remember the Saturday night I saw Jason Reitman’s Up In The Air immediately followed by the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man. My two favourite movies of 2009, back to back!
Metro’s Reel Guys columnists Richard Crouse and Mark Breslin take a look at this year’s crop of potential crowd pleasers at the festival.
Richard: Mark, every year I look forward to covering the festival with a mix of dread and anticipation. The dread part comes from knowing how I’m going to feel once the 10 days of 18-hour shifts is finally over. The drooling anticipation part comes along with the slate of films TIFF offers up. This year the new David Cronenberg film is top of my list. In Maps to the Stars, he showcases the stupid, venal and stratospherically self-involved behaviour that goes on behind the scenes in Beverly Hills’ gated communities. The idea of debuting a jaundiced look at Hollywood at the biggest film festival in North America appeals to my rebellious side.
Mark: Can’t wait, Richard, for this or any other Cronenberg! I’m also a big fan of Jason Reitman, who consistently delivers movies that plumb the abyss of the zeitgeist. His latest, Men, Women, and Children, should be no exception. Based on one of my favourite novels by Chad Kultgen, it’s a look at how the Internet is warping families, twisting our sexuality and mediating our desires. Oh, and it’s a comedy.
RC: Mark, the sci-fi musical genre has been sadly overlooked at TIFF in past years. That changes with Bang Bang Baby, starring Jane Levy as a 1960s teenager whose dreams of rock ’n’ roll stardom are dashed when a chemical leak in her town causes mass mutations and “threatens to turn her dream into a nightmare.” Then there’s The Editor, a giallo-comedy tribute to the films of Mario Bava and Dario Argento about a one-handed film editor who becomes the prime suspect in a brutal series of murders.
MB: Sounds great, Richard! I’ll stand in line to see the new Denys Arcand film, An Eye For Beauty. Here’s a director not afraid to take a satirical look at our modern mores, but he’s never tackled a love story before. Some of it takes place in Toronto, so I’m expecting a sly gimlet-eyed view from this great Québécois director.
RC: Speaking of great Québécois directors, Jean-Marc Vallée, the Canadian Oscar nominee for Dallas Buyers Club, returns to TIFF with Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon in the story of a woman who finds an escape from her self-destructive ways on a 1,100-mile solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail. I’m also psyched about Haemoo. With a script by Snowpiercer penner Bong Joon-ho, this movie about a fishing crew smuggling illegal immigrants from China to Korea promises wild action and unexpected thrills.
MB: Richard, do you realize all our picks inadvertently turned out to be Canadian directors? I’m looking forward to Black and White by Mike Binder. It promises to be a heartfelt drama about an interracial family with issues. Binder is from Detroit but went to summer camp in Muskoka, so he qualifies as an honorary Canuck.
From Metro.ca: As a special end-of-summer gift to our readers, Metro brings you the first chapter of The Afterlife of Stars, the newest book by award-winning author Joseph Kertes. Get to know the Beck brothers, two young boys grappling with the world around them as Russian tanks roll into Budapest during the final days of the Hungarian revolution. Click to download the PDFs to start reading the first chapter of The Afterlife of Stars by Joseph Kertes HERE.
“Michael Bay is directing a remake of Casablanca” and, “It’s not you, it’s me” appear on the scroll of things that hurt my ears. Top of the list, however, is, “We’ve found a tumor.”
In mid-2013, I had a colonoscopy, a procedure so routine I thought I’d be in and out and on my way to my favourite sandwich shop by lunch. I’m a nonsmoker, moderate drinker and I watch my diet. I even eat kale — lots of it. I had no symptoms, felt fine and only went because my doctor told me I had to due to my age.
Those four simple words went on to inform the next months of my life.
The doctor, squeezing my arm, saying, “I’m sorry,” before walking away, didn’t do much to alleviate the fear that quickly overtook me.
Besides becoming a human pincushion, pumped with toxic chemicals, the mental effect of being told you have cancer lingers.
I began the journey with the usual shock, but quickly skipped ahead, past denial, to anger. I was mad that a bullet shaped tumor in my colon — a dark spot that had grown quietly and insidiously inside me for the past few years — could possibly sideline all I had worked for.
The anger stage was quickly replaced by acceptance after long talks with the ever-rosy Andrea, my long-time girlfriend, and the cadre of doctors brought in to assess me.
It was then I decided to live my life with as little disruption as possible. It was my way of saying, “Screw you, cancer. You’re not making the rules, I am.” Optimistic maybe, but I firmly believe that a good attitude is one of the keys to leading a healthy life even in the face of serious medical issues.
I’m through the treatment now and the prognosis is good. It was a long journey — a trip down a dark and twisty road. I won’t miss feeling like I’m living in someone else’s body, waking up exhausted everyday or fearing the sinister tumor that was growing in me.
Today I’m confident that the surgery — I toyed with using the nickname Semi Colon Crouse in tribute to what was left of my insides, but better sense prevailed — more tests and scans than I can count and the gallons of chemo pumped into my system was all worth it.
This is my story, but it’s not my message.
I waited until after my treatment for my cancer coming out party because I didn’t want pity. I didn’t want to be viewed differently. I just want you to know that if this could happen to me, it could happen to you. March, being Colon Cancer Awareness Month, seemed like the time to share my story.
What I want now is for you to get tested.
Colonoscopy is a big word, but it could have a huge effect on your well-being. Having one at age 50 saved my life and it could save yours. Make an appointment today. Your colon and I will thank you.
Just the facts
The National Cancer Institute of Canada (NCIC) acknowledges colorectal cancer (CRC) as the third most common cancer and the second most common cause of death from cancer for both Canadian men and women.
On average, 423 Canadians are diagnosed with CRC every week.
One in 14 men is expected to develop CRC during his lifetime and one in 27 will die of it. One in 15 women is expected to develop CRC during her lifetime and one in 31 will die of it.
175 Canadians, on average, die of this disease every week.
Anyone 50 and up should be screened regardless of family history.
On November 12, 2013, in partnership with the School of Creative Industries at Ryerson University, Metro held a free reader event at the Ted Rogers School of Management, in support of TEMP, a very exciting Metro News initiative.
TEMP is a twenty part work of serialized fiction written by Douglas Coupland that began appearing in Metro on November 4th.
The evening was hosted by Metro’s Reel Guys and In Focus columnist, Richard Crouse, and included discussion of the TEMP project, a reading of Temp by Douglas Coupland and a book signing.