• Kevork Djansezian

    Ladies’ Night

    All Hail the Feminist Oscars

    On a night dominated by male-driven films, it was the powerful messages by a handful of Hollywood women that we’re all talking about. It’s about damned time.

    For the majority of Sunday night’s three-hour-and-45-minute Academy Awards telecast, Oscar-winning actress Octavia Spencer was being held hostage by host Neil Patrick Harris, a comedy captive in a flailing running gag about guarding a briefcase that held his Oscar predictions.

    This aggressively unfunny extended sketch was a shameful squandering of one of Hollywood’s most talented, underutilized performers—and therefore perfectly encapsulated the state of women in the film industry and the message these women passionately promoted at this year’s Oscars.

  • John Shearer/AP


    Patricia Arquette’s Badass Oscar Speech

    ‘It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America!’ the actress proclaimed.

    It was the Oscars moment that caused Meryl Streep to jump out of her seat, jab her finger in the air, and scream, “YES!” over and over again.

    The 87th annual Academy Awards had reached a critical lull in the proceedings. But the snooze-worthy broadcast was momentarily salvaged by journeywoman actress Patricia Arquette, who delivered a rousing speech upon accepting the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Boyhood.

  • Steve Granitz/WireImage

    Norma Desmond Redux

    Oscar Plastic Surgery Blowback

    Yes, Kim Novak’s face shocked us at the Oscars. But did she really deserve all the nip-and-tuck hate-tweeting?

    The Oscars are invariably remembered as much (if not more) for the speeches, snafus, and outlandish red carpet outfits as for the awards. Last year, Jennifer Lawrence’s charming tumble over her couture when accepting her Best Actress award generated maximum buzz (Anne Hathaway’s nipples came in close second). This year’s highlights included John Travolta butchering Idina Menzel’s name, Ellen Degeneres’ celebrity group selfie and 81-year-old actress Kim Novak’s face—nipped, tucked, and stiff with silicone.

    The Internet gasped in horror—or was it amusement? —when the Vertigo star took the stage with Matthew McConaughey to present the award for Best Animated Feature to Disney’s Frozen (an unfortunate coincidence, generating countless rudimentary puns on social media). A sampling of tweets, including several from well-known figures in the entertainment and media industries: Comedian Nick Youssef joked that “Kim Novak was just safely transported back to the Hollywood Wax Museum”; Chelsea Lately writer Fortune Feimster quipped, “I’m assuming Kim Novak was representing the movie ‘Mask’”; Huffington Post editorial director Howard Fineman broadened the mockery: “#AcademyAward for worst plastic surgery: tie between Kim Novak and Goldie Hawn.”

  • The Daily Beast

    Blind Optimism

    2014 Oscars, For the Win

    Everyone loves to complain about the Oscars telecast. But with Ellen as host, an exciting roster of performers, and fun nominees, this year’s show might actually not be that bad!

    Is there anything we look forward to and dread as much as the Academy Awards? That we love as equally as we despise? That we find so hallowed and important, but also so asinine and silly?

    The Academy Awards is this crazy thing. We spend the better portion of an entire year, each year, building up to it, placing a weight normally reserved for the first democratic elections of a formerly war-torn nation on whether Naomi Watts will be able to sneak into the Best Actress race. A tad ridiculous? Sure. But it’s a reverence that’s placed on the Oscars in exponential amounts each year, all building up to a tower of outsized expectations so high that it has no other possible fate but to topple over, burying us all in rubble of disappointment.

  • Cast member Lupita Nyong'o poses at a special screening of "12 Years a Slave" at the Directors Guild of America in Los Angeles, California October 14, 2013. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)


    Oscar’s Dazzling Newcomer

    Lupita Nyong’o was plucked from obscurity and is now the frontrunner to win an Oscar for her riveting turn in 12 Years A Slave. The actress opens up about her wild ride.

    Who is she?

    That was the question on my (and everyone else’s) mind after taking in the first public screening of 12 Years A Slave at last year’s Telluride Film Festival. Yes, Steve McQueen’s gripping film chronicling the real-life odyssey of Solomon Northup, a free man duped into bondage, shackled, and then shipped to the antebellum South, boasted a courageous, dignified turn by Chiwetel Ejiofor in the title role (an actor who’s been brilliant since Dirty Pretty Things and has finally received a role worthy of his immense talent), a ferocious one by Michael Fassbender as a diabolical slave owner/false prophet, and even a deus ex machina courtesy of a Jesus-like Brad Pitt. But it was the character of Patsey, the prized cotton picker—and chronically abused scapegoat—of Fassbender’s bête noire that audiences couldn’t shake. It’s a performance imbued with anguish and fortitude; a delicate balancing act that might prove elusive to the most seasoned of actresses, let alone a novice. And yet there she was, this unknown force of nature, commanding the screen.

  • Jemal Countess/Getty

    And The Oscar Goes To

    Why I Don't Watch the Oscars

    The nominees and winners aren’t where we should be looking for diversity.

    This past year proved to be a powerhouse one for narratives of people of color at the movies. We watched black directors, actresses, and actors deliver exceptional work not only in 12 Years A Slave, but Fruitvale Station, The Butler, and Mandela: A Long Walk To Freedom. Any of these films fit the "Oscar-worthy” bill, and sure enough almost all gathered some Oscar buzz in the months preceding last week’s nominations. But if Saturday night’s SAG Awards provide any predictions for Oscar hopefuls, American Hustle could take top honors, upsetting 12 Years A Slave. Even with Lupita Nyong’o graciously accepting the award for Best Actress, the night ended once again with an all white cast and production crew taking home the equivalent to best picture.
    Out of the 120 films that received a best picture nomination in past two decades, only 17 featured nonwhite protagonists. So when this year’s contenders were announced, I released a sigh of relief at the Academy’s recognition of nonwhite talent in Hollywood: 12 Years A Slave leads in number of Oscar nods, Lupita Nyong’o stands in the same category as Jennifer Lawrence, two people of color—Alfonso Cuarón and Steve McQueen—compete in the Best Director category. 
    But I wouldn't applaud this year’s nominations just yet. There were gaping holes in the Oscar snubs—Oprah for her role in The Butler and Blue is The Warmest Color Best Foreign Language Film. Particularly surprising was the omission of Fruitvale Station, an impeccable film on the murder of young African American by San Francisco police that incited riots on racial violence in the Bay Area. Although this might be “the black year in Hollywood” in the Academy, there’s only so much room for recognition for racially insightful movies. 
    But why we would expect diversity from the Academy in the first place? Look at the numbers: last year the Los Angeles Times compiled a damning report on the Academy's voting base—94% of the Academy's members were white, 76% male. In an effort to reform, the Academy inducted an unprecedented 432 new voting members this year. Good, right? Except even with the new inductees, the voter base is now "only" 93% white. There wasn't even a statistically significant change in the gender ratio. 
    Frankly, I wasn’t particularly surprised by this year’s nominations. To me the real problem isn’t who is and is not nominated, but that we still look to the Academy for validation of how far we’ve come in terms of diversity. But I don't expect much from a voting pool that is 93% white. Don’t tune into the Oscars if you don’t care about the opinions of a group of mostly old, white, men. 
    This isn't to say that the Oscars are a (completely) irrelevant parade of white males patting each other in the back. For the producers, directors, and actors in each film, winning an Oscar translates to a very real economic pay off in future opportunities (hence the reinforced whiteness of the winners) and pay. And it isn't to say that recognition by the Academy is inherently bad; I will be thrilled for Nyong’o if she wins an Oscar (Lawrence, too). But I do think the incredulity around these types of institutional affirmations wholly misses the point. The fact that nominating people of color is exceptional at all points to the larger systemic inequalities within and throughout the movie industry. The Oscars are merely the symptom.

  • Michelle Obama at the Oscars on Sunday. (Kevin Winter/Getty)


    Iran Covers Up Michelle Obama

    In her Best Picture presentation.

    Maybe Iran was just channeling its anger that Argo won Best Picture. Iranian state news Photoshopped sleeves onto Michelle Obama in images of the first lady at Sunday night’s Oscars. Farsi, Iran’s semi-official news agency that is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, wanted the first lady’s dress to conform to the country’s restrictions on showing female skin in the media. Iranian women shown on state television must be wearing a hijab, although foreign women who are not traveling to the country are allowed to be shown without the hijab but must comply with other restrictions. Given the amount of skin shown on television throughout the world, this is not the first time Iranian media have used Photoshop to make images comply with the rules.

    Read it at Guardian
  • The Invisible War


    Oscar’s Military Rape Documentary

    Alyssa Rosenberg talks to ‘The Invisible War’ director Kirby Dick about the rape epidemic in the military.

    Much of the attention this Oscar season has gone to the rich and unpredictable Best Picture category, but the most interesting race may actually be happening down the ballot between a murderer’s row of politically charged documentaries. Five Broken Cameras, Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi’s look at Palestinians coping with the arrival of militant Israeli settlers in their West Bank community, faces off with The Gatekeepers, Dror Moreh, Philippa Kowarsky, and Estelle Fialon’s unprecedented examination of Israeli security agency Shin Bet. David France’s searing chronicle of AIDS activism, How to Survive a Plague, is in the mix, as is Kirby Dick’s present-day cri de coeur against sexual assault in the military, The Invisible War. In this company, the much-loved music biopic Searching for Sugarman, a hit at last year’s Sundance Film Festival is practically a ray of sunshine.

    “They’re all excellent films,” Dick said, considering the films that are going up against his searing condemnation of the sexual-assault epidemic in the military for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards on February 24. “It was an amazing year this year for documentaries. But this is the film that—if it does get an Academy Award—it will motivate Congress, it will motivate the [Defense Department], it will motivate the military to make even more changes. There will be a direct result from this winning the award and the reduction of rape. That will happen.”