Culture Clips: The Golden Man Edition

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Hollywood measures success in two ways: One, the amount of money it rakes in; and two, the number of Oscars its movies take home. And while 2018’s biggest financial winners have long been in the books (hint: pretty much everything that has a Stan Lee cameo in it would qualify), we’re a step closer to knowing what the entertainment industry considers art.

Yes, that’s right. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences unveiled its annual roster of Oscar nominees yesterday morning, and in some respects, things went according to plan. The Favourite proved true to its name, collecting a tidy 10 nominations, including one for Best Picture and three for its three main players (Olivia Colman for Best Actress, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone for Best Supporting Actress). A Star Is Born didn’t clean up as much as some expected (no nod for Bradley Cooper as Best Director, for instance), but it still banked eight noms. As expected, Black Panther became the first superhero film to ever be nominated for Best Picture. All told it gathered in seven nominations with its retractable claws.

Then, of course, we must talk about the success of Roma. And while its success was expected, it certainly shows how the film industry is changing.

For years, Netflix has been pounding at Oscar’s door, demanding admittance. For years, Oscar’s barred its entry, largely shunning Best Picture hopefuls such as Beasts of No Nation and Mudbound. This year, Netflix changed its release strategy (giving some of its most promising award-bait flicks traditional in-theaters releases); joined the MPAA; and released an extraordinarily artsy, deeply personal film from Gravity director Alfonso Cuarón. Oscar acknowledged it in a big way, showering a Favourite-tying 10 nominations on the black-and-white drama. Another Netflix flick, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, earned three noms. Times, they are a-changing.

Also surprising: The Academy’s collective love for both the Freddy Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody and the scorching political screed Vice. Critics greeted both with a collective meh: Bohemian Rhapsody sits with a 62% “freshness” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Vice barely better at 64%. (For comparison’s sake, Paddington 2 and the criminally overlooked Leave No Trace both snagged a perfect 100% freshness rating on the site.) No matter: Both Bohemian and Vice collected Best Picture nominations, and Vice earned a whopping eight nominations total. Perhaps Vox’s summation of Vice’s success is telling: “Say what you will about the Oscars: They enjoy self-congratulatory liberal agitprop!”

And that reflects, perhaps, a wider message that the Oscars sent to moviegoers: Socio-political messages are perhaps the most surefire path to Oscar glory. Writing for Variety, Owen Glieberman says that the (relative) failure of A Star Is Born and the success of movies such as Vice, BlacKkKlansman (which earned a Best Picture nomination) and even Black Panther offer evidence of  Hollywood’s desire to not just teach, but preach. “The Message of the Oscar Nominations: You’d Better Have a Social Message,” proclaims his headline.

(But setting aside whatever agendas Hollywood may have in its nominations, we should also note that this year’s crop of Best Picture nominees was as populist as it’s been in years. Three of them—Black Panther, A Star Is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody—earned more than $200 million at the box office.)

Who will set the table to hand out all these awards? Who knows? The Oscar telecast still doesn’t have a host, and some are A-OK with that.

Perhaps they could check in with Facebook, which knows lots about each and every one of us and might have a good idea who’d be a fun Oscar host. That said, some folks have sounded an alarm over the “10 Year Challenge” cruising around the network these days, which may allow Facebook and other parties to mine personal data. “It presented Facebook with a terrified opportunity to learn, to train their systems to better recognize small changes” in users’ faces, New York University professor Amy Webb told CBS News. (Facebook has since distanced itself from the challenge.)

But back to Netflix, because let’s be honest: It’s hard to get away from it. It completely upended the television industry. It’s making huge inroads in the movie biz. It’s the way more than a few of you spend most of your evenings. But this entertainment giant does have a huge-and-growing rival: Fortnite. And don’t blame it on just those playing the game. Blame those who watch people play the game.

“We compete with (and lose to) Fortnite more than HBO,” Netflix admitted to its shareholders in a recent letter. “there are thousands of competitors in this highly fragmented market vying to entertain consumers.” Given that increased competition, it’s probably no surprise that the streaming company also announced that it’s raising its prices, even as competitor Hulu lowers its subscription cost.(Oh, and the service is prepping for more competition in the “traditional” streaming space quite soon, too. And personally, I’ll be more interested to watch this titanic battle royale over the coming months than a Fortnite match.)

Finally, let’s close this edition of Culture Clips with another look at some awards, shall we? Right after the Oscars unveils its picks for the best movies of the year, the Razzies roll out what it thinks are the worst. Among the leading contenders: Holmes & Watson, Winchester, The Happytime Murders and Gotti, a John Travolta travesty apparently so bad that Plugged In didn’t even review it.

Trust me: Given the number of bad movies I saw last year, that’s saying something.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Rocketshipper More than 1 year ago

guess since we're all doing top 10s, I'll join in too.   my list:

1. Isle of Dogs

2. Ralph Breaks the Internet

3. Searching

4. Gotham by Gaslight

5. Night is Short, Walk on Girl

6. Game Night

7. Tully

8. Welcome to Marwen

9. I Can Only Imagine

10. Halloween

Chuck Anziulewicz More than 1 year ago
I was very pleased to see Viggo Mortensen get a Best Actor nomination for his performance in "Green Book." He absolutely nailed it.

But I was disappointed that Toni Collette was snubbed for a Best Actress nomination for her emotionally punishing performance in "Hereditary." But then again, it was a horror movie, and a very polarizing one at that.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hereditary was one of the best horror films I have ever seen.
i was very disappointed with the occult undertones though.
-David the Clown
Chuck Anziulewicz More than 1 year ago
If I believed in all that occult mumbio-jumbo, I don't think I would have slept very well the night after I saw "Hereditary." But sometimes you just have to accept a movie on its own terms.
Veronica Pyle More than 1 year ago
I honestly don't understand the appeal of Fortnite. Aren't you just doing the same thing over and over again? Drop down, collect loot, kill each other? I don't know, since I haven't played it, but it looks like it would get boring really fast. Maybe it's just because I'm not into shooters. Oh well.

Glad to see Black Panther getting love! I personally liked Infinity War more, I think, but it was still great.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I'm utterly gobsmacked at the fact that the horrible looking Christopher Robin got a nomination for Best Visual Effects. I get that they were going for a true stuffed animal like look to the characters, but their colors were so faded and worn out that they just looked awful to me. CGI characters like Peter Rabbit and Paddington looked way better to me, and frankly the visuals in The Crimes of Grindewald were some of the best I had ever seen, so it's a real shock to me that the latest Fantastic Beasts movie didn't get a nod for visual effects, but the ugly-looking Christopher Robin did. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

That’s how I felt about Aquaman and Solo: A Star Wars Story!

Aquaman might be the most beautiful movie that I’ve ever seen, whereas Solo, well, what did it have to offer that we haven’t seen already?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I do agree that FB should have got in instead of CR. I can't remember, did Aquaman get nominated for Best Special Effects? If not it should have!

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
Anonymous More than 1 year ago

I'm thrilled that my favorite movie last year Bohemian Rhapsody got some love from the Academy, as well as the excellent Mary Poppins Returns and Incredibles 2. The other films I've either never heard of or don't want to see them period, but at least 3 of my favorites got some Oscar love which I'm happy about.

And by the way here are my top ten movies from last year:

1. Bohemian Rhapsody

2. Won't You Be My Neighbor?

3. God's Not Dead 3

4. Unbroken: Path to Redemption

5. The 15:17 to Paris

6. Fantastic Beasts and The Crimes of Grindewald

7. Incredibles 2

8. Mary Poppins Returns

9. Paddington 2

10. Peter Rabbit


Honorable mentions go to Hotel Transylvania 3, Show Dogs, Dog Days, Overboard, and Disney Channel's Romeo & Juliet-esque Zombies. 

[removed] More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago

Sorry I'm not a comic book fan if that's what you mean but Black Panther, Aquaman, The Avengers, Ant Man, and all the rest don't really interest me in the least. And if you think the glorious Bohemian Rhapsody or utterly wonderful 15-17 to Paris are awful movies then I'm sorry for you. Also I apologize for loving kids movies and of course Christian films, but I always have and I always will. I also saw I Can Only Imagine this year but outside of some nice concert performances it felt kind of weak to me, not nearly as thought-provoking or emotionally rewarding as the Unbroken sequel or God's Not Dead 3 was.

Miss Priss More than 1 year ago
As the arbiter of good taste for everyone, thank you for that opinion. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Glad to know I'm not the only one in the world who enjoyed the 15 17 to Paris ;)
That was the most powerful Christian movie this year... Christian movies need to be more like that and less like the awful (sorry) God's not Dead movies .

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

I liked the 15:17 to Paris, even though it did feel less like a movie and more like a TV special on Fox.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I can understand that, but I did not get that message at all. The reason I liked it was that God's hand was all over that story, and He clearly put those three men in the situation they were in to save lives, and the movie recognizes that.

Regarding the fact that they went to that club... They did go there in real life and I didn't feel it was portrayed positively or negatively. It was just part of the story. Did I wish they didn't do that? Absolutely. But they did and it was part of their journey, one that ultimately gives God the glory.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For me the 15-17 to Paris showed more than anything what ordinary men can do in extraordinary situations. All three men in the story had their setbacks growing up, but yet when it came right down to it they all rose to the occasion and became true heroes in every sense of the word. It's the fact that bravery and heroism shone brightly throughout that made me love the movie as much as I did. Plus I've been a fan of Clint Eastwood's movies since True Crime and especially since Million Dollar Baby, and while some of his movies I thought weren't up to snuff (Jersey Boys and American Sniper being his worst by far), more often than not his movies tend to be brilliant pieces of art that really touch me. Films like Letters from Iwo Jima, Hereafter, Gran Torino, Sully, even the underappreciated J. Edgar are all absolutely fantastic films of which the 15-17 to Paris is undoubtedly one of those too.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I forgot about Fantastic Beasts!! Editing my previous post...

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
So Fortnite and Netflix are now competitors... What else is new?

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

No, social messages do not make a good movie; Great characters and a compelling story do.

I know I really shouldn’t care about the Oscars anymore, but I will say that I’m happy to see Black Panther getting nominated for Best Picture. And out of all the movies it’s competing against, I would argue that it ought to win. Not because it was filled with social messages (because it wasn’t), but because the acting, story, action and soundtrack were some of the best a movie has had to offer in the past few years.

Speaking about the acting, Black Panther should have earned a few more nominations for its performances, ESPECIALLY Michael Jordan as Kilmonger.

Anyways, my favorite movies of 2018 were:

1. Avengers: Infinity War
2. Aquaman
3. Black Panther
4. Mission: Impossible - Fallout
5. Ready Player One

Honorable mentions:
I Can Only Imagine
A Quiet Place
Incredibles II
Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My Favorites were:

1. Avengers: Infinity War
2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
3. Ant-Man and the Wasp
4. A Quiet Place
5. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald
6. Aquaman
7. Black Panther

(Edited: I had forgotten about FB. Black Panther was 5)

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My favorites were Death of Stalin and Game Night. I didn't watch too many movies last year
-David The Clown

Edit: And also Hereditary, American Animals, and Upgrade.

Question; IS ANYONE ELSE SUPER EXCITED FOR THE LEGO MOVIE 2?!?!?!?
IT IS GONNA BE EPIC!!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
YASSSSS!!!! I remember going and seeing 1 for my B-day!

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hahah! Yeah! We saw the first one on my dad's birthday!!
I was almost 13 at the time lol! Seems like ages ago!
-David the Clown
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Yes! I’m so excited! It’s my third most anticipated movie of the year!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
@some-guy

I have seen dozens of mainstream, R rated comedies. And I can honestly say that The Lego Movie is the best comedy I have ever seen.
its one of the few movies I watch that I still laugh just as hard to as the first time I saw it. 


-David the Clown
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My favorite comedy film of all time will forever be Liar Liar, singlehandedly the funniest movie I've ever seen in my life. Other hilarious films that I also enjoy quite a lot are the two Mr. Bean movies, The Odd Couple with Walter Matthau, Ace Ventura, most of the American Pie films, all 3 Austin Powers, and the first Home Alone film. I admit that not all of those are the most kid-friendly, but those movies make me laugh the hardest time after time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Oh yes! Home Alone is my favorite 'Christmas' movie! And one of my favorite movies!

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
For some reason I wasn't sold on Black Panther. It felt extremely predictable and wasn't very original IMO. A Quiet Place was my favorite movie of 2018
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I agree that's why it's at the bottom of my 5. Aquaman is probably better I just haven't come to grips with that yet lol.

Posted By A-Non-Mouse
[removed] More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Posted by First Comment Guy

Give me an example of a social message in Black Panther, because I sure didn’t pick up on any.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
@First comment guy

Lol! I didn't get it at first
-David the Clown