I’m no big fan of Academy Awards telecasts (or any awards shows, for that matter). And when I see the Red Carpet—arrrgh—I fantasize vacuuming up these fawning media greeters as they pitch empty gab and flattery to preening celebrities rolling in like bottles on an assembly line.
I generally pop in and out, paying close attention to the telecast only if I’ve seen most of the nominated films, as I have this year. The best of the mostly-elite crowd is the mysterious and intriguing “Phantom Thread” with remarkable Daniel Day-Lewis. Don’t argue, my decision stands.
The worst—a minority view—is “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” despite Oscar-nominated Frances McDormand’s transcendence as the ferociously grieving mother of a teenage girl whose unsolved murder is a festering open sore. Her protests scream out from the billboards.
Hear, hear if McDormand wins. But how did director/writer Martin McDonagh merit an Oscar nod for a script that buckles under the tonnage of its numerous improbabilities and faulty logic?
On the positive side, “Lady Bird” is very nice; some others, too. And despite its gratuitously violent ending, “The Shape of Water” with memorable Sally Hawkins is another of my favorites, along with the tenderly romantic “Call Me by Your Name.” In fact the latter’s Timothe’e Chalamet joins Day-Lewis on my lead actor pedestal.
The buzz meter, though, is tilting toward Gary Goldman in “Darkest Hour.” Now look, Oldman is a fine actor, and I wouldn’t fret terribly if he’s rewarded for screendom’s umpteenth take on Winston Churchill’s World War II years. He’s very good.
The bummer is screenwriter Anthony McCarten’s intermittent fantasizing. it’s a real hoot, for example, seeing Churchill disappear from 10 Downing Street on a whim and fast-waddle to the London underground to query train-riding commoners about war strategy. Oh, those unbowed gritty Brits. Their defiant counsel: buck up.
The problem: this lengthy sequence is fiction. An accomplished historian, Churchill himself would have found it preposterous.
Nor does the guy who wrote it claim it’s true. “It probably did not happen,” McCarten acknowledged to The Wrap. “But something like it might well have.”
Hey, close enough, so put it in.
If this underground town hall had existed, moreover, Churchill might well have quoted these commoners in a speech to his entire Cabinet. But he didn’t, because they didn’t exist. Yet the non-existent speech, with its non-existent quotes, are in the movie, too, along with other fictions that stray well beyond acceptable dramatic license.
Look around. What we need least these days, in movies or TV or elsewhere, is misinformation. We get an abundance of fakery from the Internet and the Tweeting Twit in the Oval Office, to say nothing of his echo-chambering acolytes who will do anything to please him. More than ever, this is no time for filmmakers to twist the history they portray. Do we have to paint it on a billboard?
Time to buck up.