Actors, directors, producers and other American movie industry stars gather Sunday in Los Angeles for the yearly Academy Awards. It is Hollywood's biggest night. An Oscar win can push forward a career like almost nothing else. We brought VOA film reporter Penelope Poulou into the Learning English studio to discuss this year's nominees for best picture and other Oscar-related issues.
CW: So right now, Penelope, The Favourite and Roma seem to be in the lead for the Oscar for best picture. The Favourite is a darkly humorous film set in the 18th century court of Queen Anne. Roma is also a look back, though not as far, it concerns the story of a housekeeper and the family she works for and lives with in Mexico in the 1970s.
What are your thoughts about these movies films? Maybe start with my favorite: The Favourite, a female-centered film.
PP: It got 10 Oscar nominations in all the right categories, all actresses have been nominated, costumes, direction, cinematography, all the right categories. Yorgos Lanthimos, he's a Greek director. He's very well known for incredibly original and witty stories that are dystopian. But they are dystopian not in a sci-fi kind of way, they are internally dystopian.
CW: It surprised me for a period piece. I tend to think of them as pretty and this was not a pretty time and it captured that.
PP: The human absurdity and ugliness, sometimes!
CW: And Roma, it also got 10 nominations?
PP: Roma is definitely another incredible movie, fantastic cinematography, direction, you name it...the storyline again from the perspective of a woman. But what is has going against it is that it's foreign language, and I don't know the Academy voters, if they are going to relate to that. Plus, the film has been nominated in the category for foreign film so maybe they will feel they have a alternative there to give it the Oscar for that but not for best picture.
CW: There is considerable African-American representation in the movies up for best picture this year.
PP:Three films that open up a conversation about race. BlacKkKlansman by Spike Lee. Many feel that Spike Lee is way overdue (for winning an Oscar).
Then we have The Green Book which, to me, it is the most beautiful film of all in terms of its ensemble cast and how moving it is and how beautiful the arc is, accompanied by beautiful music, very eclectic music.
But many say that the film may lose the Oscar because they feel that the film whitewashed the segregation era.
And finally, Black Panther, which I personally feel that it although it is a superhero flick and usually we don't see superhero flicks getting an Oscar, it made history -- grossing over $700 million domestically, over a billion dollars internationally, brought out the conversation about African and African American identity -- tremendous impact. So I kind of feel that, maybe this time around, maybe we should change it up and give it to a superhero flick.
CW: Now, there also the more traditional Hollywood films, like A Star is Born.
Very well done film. It didn't exactly take me in. I felt that the character development wasn't that great...but the singing was fantastic.
And then we have Bohemian Rhapsody which everybody says that the main actor Rami Malek is going to get the Oscar (for lead actor) because he was phenomenal.
And finally we have Vice which was a good film but I am not so sure it is in the category of others.
CW: And it is about a living, former vice-president, Dick Cheney, who served with Bush, with George W. Bush. It doesn't really present a very appealing image of Cheney. It's a very different movie from the rest, I think.
PP: There are movies for all kinds of tastes, and political positions, and color and creed this year, and I think what makes it so difficult to say, 'OK, this will be it.'
CW: The other big question is about the Academy Awards as a product itself. The latest talk about the event is kind of negative. Especially on the recent issue of hosts, and not having a host this year. And, of course, the old issues that it's long and not funny. What's going on with the Academy?
PP: I think the Academy is struggling for years now to define itself and it is at a crossroads. They need to find a model that can retain the grandeur of Hollywood, but at the same time become more inclusive, become more fast- paced, become a little bit more modern in their jokes and transitions. They are also hurt because the viewership has gone down significantly over the years. And I think they are panicking as a result.
They're not succeeding, I know.
CW: I just like seeing all the clothes at the Oscars.
PP: Thank God for the dresses!
CW: Right. Thanks for coming in, Penelope. It was fun.
PP: Well, it's been always great talking with you.
Words in This Story
category - n. a group of people or things that are similar in some way
cinematography - n. a group of people or things that are similar in some way
costume - n. the clothes that are worn by someone (such as an actor) who is trying to look like a different person or thing
dystopian - adj. referring to an imaginary place where people are unhappy and usually afraid because they are not treated fairly
ensemble cast - n. a group of people or things that make up a complete unit (such as a musical group, a group of actors or dancers, or a set of clothes)
flick - n. a movie
impact - n. a powerful or major influence or effect
grandeur - n. a great and impressive quality
panic - v. a state or feeling of extreme fear that makes someone unable to act or think normally