2017 Does Not Pass the Bechdel Test

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Having seen many of the movies likely to be nominated for an Oscar, I can say that a particularly discouraging trend is how few of them would pass the so-called Bechdel Test. For those not aware, the test has three criteria:

  1. The movie has to have at least two women in it,
  2. who talk to each other,
  3. about something besides a man.

A few weeks ago, I saw a screening of “I, Tonya” and, besides great Margot Robbie and Allison Janney performances, one thing that struck me is how easily it passes the Bechdel Test. Tonya and her mother speak about many things (especially Tonya’s figure skating career). How disappointing, then, that so many of the movies I’ve seen recently fail this test. Here are just some examples off the top of my head:

  1. “The Post” – Meryl Streep does have two scenes with her daughter (played by blog favorite Alison Brie) in which they discuss personal troubles. The scenes last a total of about 90 seconds, but this is actually pretty close to a pass.
  2. “Downsizing” – Hong Chau (who is wonderful in the movie) only speaks to men, as does Kristen Wiig, the only other notable female character.
  3. “The Last Jedi” – Rey only speaks to Leia at the end (about Luke), Leia speaks to Holdo (but only about Poe), and Rose only speaks to Poe and Finn.
  4. “Call Me By Your Name” – Elio’s mother only speaks to Elio and his father, or to other female characters about food preparation.
  5. “The Disaster Artist” – literally everyone speaks either to or about Tommy.
  6. “3 Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” – Frances McDormand’s character does not interact with other women except her ex-husband’s girlfriend (and they only speak about her ex).

Now, not every movie fails – “Lady Bird,” which I just saw today, has some great scenes between female characters (though boys/men often are topics of discussion). But in a world in which Hollywood has been exposed as a place of rampant sexism, misogyny, and harassment, I hope that more movies will be made that emphasize many great, strong, female roles.

De Niro v. Hoffman: Battle of the Best

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As my family is wont to do, this past weekend we got into a discussion about who the greater actor is, Dustin Hoffman or Robert De Niro. My parents were adamant that Hoffman is superior, while my brother and I were steadfast that you’ve gotta go with Bob, end of story. My argument essentially boiled down to two main factors: De Niro’s peak was better than Hoffman’s, and his longevity (before schlock like “Rocky and Bullwinkle”) surpassed Hoffman’s.

One of my favorite baseball writers, Jay Jaffe, developed a score system called JAWS. Very simply (perhaps inelegantly) put, JAWS looks at a baseball player’s career WAR (Wins Above Replacement), as well as his peak seven seasons. What Jaffe is interested in is the player’s total career, as well as the standout seasons that made the player great. While I’m not a statistician or well-versed in sabermetrics, I’m going to (very loosely) apply his methodology to, again, show, that De Niro surpasses Hoffman. Now, I know that some people may choose Rotten Tomatoes scores, Oscar nominations, and the like to award “points” to each actor, and deduct said “points” for box-office flops or just bad performances. This is my blog. I’m not coming up with a fancy system. I’m just coming up with proof to show I’m right, by comparing the two actors’ IMDB resumes. Without further ado, De Niro v. Hoffman Continue reading

Oscar Picks 2015

My reaction to the Lego snub

My reaction to the Lego snub

As I do every year, I try to make my Oscar picks as soon as the nominations are out, so that I’m not biased by any campaigning. In recent years, that’s gotten more difficult as more and more awards shows have become televised, and clear-cut front runners become locks earlier and earlier. That said, here’s who I expect to win. Also, please note that the fact that “The Lego Movie” was snubbed from the Best Animated Feature category makes me question why I will even bother watching this award show. (For the record, I also think “Gone Girl” deserved many more nominations, including Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, and I would have loved “Skeleton Twins” or “Obvious Child” to have gotten a screenplay nomination). Continue reading

Oscar Picks 2014

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Every year, the Oscar nominations come out early one January morning. Pundits talk about who got snubbed, which movies got the most nominations, etc. People spend weeks reading tea leaves and seeing which nominees best schmooze the voters. About a week before the ceremony, you start to see articles giving odds on who will win. And that’s just not how I work.

Rather, I like to see the nominations, take a few hours to digest everything, and that make my picks that day. As I recently reminded my family via email, this strategy tends to pay off in my prognostication: I’m not sure a lot of people thought that Adrien Brody would win Best Actor for his work in “The Pianist” the morning the nominations were read. Also, as soon as I read about Baffleck’s snub last year for Best Director, I knew “Argo” would get all kinds of sympathy votes and ultimately would win best picture. Now, let’s be honest: my picks aren’t always right, but I’d say they’re more right than wrong. And, anyway, at least I can say these were my own views, rather than having been affected by any number of pundits over the next few weeks. One other note: I’ve seen a large amount of these movies (12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Wolf of Wall Street, Nebraska, Gravity, Captain Phillips, Her, Dallas Buyers Club), and even a few that ultimately weren’t nominated (Prisoners, All Is Lost, Inside Llewyn Davis), so I feel like I’m making these picks with confidence.

So: let’s break down the 2014 Oscar race by category. My choices and explanations are in bold: Continue reading