The second annual Oscars guide for people who don't watch the Oscars (or movies)

With all of the turmoil, anger and insanity that we face on a daily basis as citizens of the world, it’s comforting to know that we can put our differences aside and come together to enjoy the spectacle of fabulously wealthy, vainglorious celebrities sniffing each other’s flatulence for three hours and grandstanding on the issues of the moment while tangibly doing nothing to change the circumstances for the rest of us. 


Oh, wait. There’s no host? The movies suck? The film snobs are upset about commercial breaks? Well, then, I stand corrected. If we can’t unite around the Oscars, there truly is no hope left. Anyway, here are the Best Picture nominees—the only other category I care about this year is Best Song: I hope “The Shallow” and “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings” from the underrated Coen Brothers/Netflix collaboration “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” both win. Let’s get to it. 


BlacKkKlansman- The controversy that played out 30 years ago between Spike Lee’s third movie, his inarguable masterpiece “Do the Right Thing,” and a lesser, more popular film (“Driving Miss Daisy”) that actually won the Oscar for Best Picture explains perfectly why “BlackKklansman” is doomed to suffer a similar fate (Full disclosure: I haven’t watched it yet. I’ve been meaning to). 


“Do the Right Thing,” a searing indictment of race and class discrimination at a pizza parlor in an ethnically diverse Brooklyn neighborhood, lost out to “Miss Daisy,” a schmaltzy tale of a friendly black driver and a nice old white lady who form a special bond—the parallels to this year’s “Green Book” are painfully obvious. 


“BlackKklansman,” which tells the story of the first African-American cop on the Colorado Springs force (Denzel Washington’s son) and how he infiltrated the KKK (Eric Foreman from “That 70s Show” plays David Duke), has taken heat for allegedly glossing over real-life aspects of Ron Stallworth’s career—like his participation in the FBI’s COINTELPRO initiative—and due to its focus on a black police officer in the age of Black Lives Matter (as a leading black female Democratic presidential candidate desperately tries to run away from her past in law enforcement), it feels like a film without a target demographic. 


Pair that with the fact that fellow director Boots Riley, whose biting social satire “Sorry to Bother You” wasn’t nominated for some reason (its politics, probably), is one of “BlackKklansman’s” fiercest critics, and this one feels dead on arrival. I’d still like to see it, though. 


Black Panther- In the spirit of honesty, I must admit that I’m staunchly biased against superhero movies and firmly believe they’re the scourge of a vapid and decaying popular culture that’s fundamentally incapable of producing anything original or interesting. Now that we’ve got that out of the way, I’ll try to be as objective as possible.


As for the movie itself, “Black Panther” is undeniably visually stunning, and it isn’t your average Marvel romp: from the beginning, it feels culturally important. Most of the performances (I did find Chadwick Boseman to be a bit dull as the title character)—from Lupita N’Yongo, Daniel Kaluuya, Danai Gurira and Forrest Whitaker as the good guys to a jacked Andy Serkis (previously known for playing Gollum in “Lord of the Rings”), Martin Freeman and Michael B. Jordan as the bad guys—are electric.


But the premise of a deus ex machina fantasy surrounding the precious metal vibranium and its ability to fix everything/create worldwide black prosperity—especially in light of the current situation in Venezuela, the world’s most oil rich nation—is the kind of overly simplistic plot device that makes this genre such a bore 95 percent of the time.


Truth be told, I do believe that “Black Panther” has an outside chance—although I’d still place its odds behind “Roma,” “A Star is Born” and probably “Green Book.” It would be a nod to audiences (it brought in $1.347 billion at the box office), and it would show that the Academy is slowly but surely adapting to the modern era after the failed rollout of the “Best Popular Film” category. So basically, expect the voters to go in exactly the opposite direction. “The Shape of Water,” anyone? 


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