A WESTERN SPAGHETTI of film nominations

A WESTERN SPAGHETTI of film award nominations

with Norman Warwick

We have employed the above title for this article after reading an article on line entitled The Good, The Bad And The Ugly of 2023 Bafta Film Academy Awards. Whilst the well-written article made an excellent point it does seem as though there is an awful lot of spaghetti on our plate that needs to be sliced and diced and twirled and rolled as we tread the fine lines between acknowledgment and revisionism, apology and appropriation, gender and genius and, as in any film we ever watch, decide what is fact and what is fiction.

Our cover photograph and here at the top of this page shows a typically rural and cared for ´picture house´hardly changed since i used to go to the flicks on a Saturday morning as a kid. The multiplex cinemas of today with their wide screens and surround sound off a very different level of experience. However, it should be remembered that whatever kind of venue a film is shown in, the quality of the film itself, its lighting, its camera work, its scripting, its direction and its acting are constant. Hebden Bridge Picture House and a similar venue only a few miles away in Todmorden in the UK attract audiences who actually want to watch the film, rather than pop corn, who are far more interested in the integral character of the film rather than the packaging it is wrapped in. What audience is held in mind, I wonder, when the Oscar nominations and Bafta short lists are decided upon. And who should be lobbying, audiences or production companies.?

Jacob Oller and Anna McKibbin, writing in the excellent Paste on line magazine on 24th January must actually like spaghetti, because they served it up for us and made a damned good try of untangling it all.

The journalists suggested that As we head backwards one or more steps for every step taken forward, we’ve got some of the same issues we’ve always got with the Oscars. For every excellent nomination, every interesting piece of recognition, there’s the predictable nonsense that conned its way in. There are the games played in the highly specialized categories of Original Song, and of the short films. There are the odd gambles made when deciding which acting award to seek. It’s certainly not a bad year, however. Some of the top-grossing movies (that of course found some awards) are actually pretty good, and some of the more niche choices made by the Academy will steer aspiring cinephiles and middlebrow consensus-takers alike into more adventurous waters.

Readers were the offered the good, bad and ugly takeaways from 2023’s Oscar nominations:

The Good

Women Are Talking

Sarah Polley (left) started her directorial career with Away We Go, the story of a couple floundering in the face of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. It is a remarkably adept love story, one that understands how time can both bind a couple together and unravel them. The film earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay and Women Talking will see her return to the ceremony for the same nomination, but this time the film will also be up for Best Picture. On the surface, Women Talking appears to be straight awards bait, featuring a star-studded cast and based on a hit book. But it is really a film charting the threads that spin out from meaningful conversations, invested in the ways we implicate and free one another from our inherited trauma, lending heft to the distinctly un-cinematic act of listening. It has been largely shut out from other awards bodies, so it is a pleasant surprise to see it acknowledged by the Oscars.

All the First-Time Acting Nominees

Of the 20 actors nominated this year, 16 of them have never been nominated before. The Academy is often (rightly) accused of navel-gazing, coating the evening in a glitzy sheen by celebrating the already established. Now, it’s not like Michelle Yeoh or Ke Huy Quan or Brendan Fraser are industry newcomers whose careers have been waiting for a boost from this “very local” awards body, but a nomination for actors like these two can function as a nod of acknowledgement. It is equally exciting to see actors like Stephanie Hsu and Paul Mescal (right) , who both deliver entrancingly self-possessed, startlingly honest performances that disguise their relative newness to the industry.

International Films Find Experimental, Exciting Quality

While many thought that Decision To Leave would ride a splashy, sexy wave to more nominations, or that RRR would be put forward at all for the nomination (it wasn’t), the crop of nominees from around the world are strong. EO’s brilliantly surreal story of a donkey’s wandering journey is a thoughtful, evocative feast. Argentina, 1985 is a gripping, winning historical reckoning. All Quiet On The Western Front, (left) which showed up in plenty of other categories (perhaps because it had Netflix behind it), is a far more complicated and upsetting war movie than you might expect—taking a different tack than previous adaptations of the same story, while preserving much of the abject sadness at the heart of any good story of large-scale loss.

The Bad

Necessary Criticism of Hollywood’s Ugly History

While Babylon (right) earned nominations for its technical departments, the film was largely shut out of Best Picture. The three-hour epic is a grimy retelling of Hollywood’s journey from silent film to talkies in the late 1920s and early 1930s. It is unflinchingly critical of the system which churns out stars only to offer them up as tabloid fodder once they have served their purpose, operating as a horror film in the final third as each character faces the gaping abyss of waning stardom. Similarly, Nope exemplified how Hollywood consistently capitalizes on spectacle, regardless of the bodily cost. Jordan Peele crafted a story around the people maimed in the process of cutting together easy narratives. By comparison, Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans and Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis, both great films that revel in the glamor of movie making, received considerable love. As usual, the Academy struggles to take account of its world’s own torrid history in any meaningful way.

Where Is The Woman King?

Gina Prince-Bythewood returns every few years to deliver a bombastic masterpiece. The Woman King was this year’s. Flawlessly executed action, shot to capture every brutal corner of hand-to-hand combat, this film is the kind of thrilling spectacle that lands on the Academy’s lap every decade or so, worthy of its attention and accolades. Yet unlike its counterparts that have come before (Titanic, The Lord of the Rings), The Woman King was entirely shut out from this year’s Oscar race. Is it because of its rightful criticism of colonialism? Its wholehearted embrace of matriarchy? The color of its warriors? Regardless of the reason, the Oscars’ disinterest in this crowd-pleaser will backfire in the long run.

RRR Deserved More than a Splashy Song Nod

Yes, the “Naatu Naatu” scene in the balls-out Tollywood actioner RRR is a show-stopping delight. We wrote as much last year in our appreciation for the best movies of the year. But let’s also remind ourselves that RRR is one of the best movies of the year. With a sprawling runtime wrangled well by two stellar performances and a director operating at the height of his blockbuster powers, all the things that made the epic into a crossover hit can’t be distilled into a single good dance sequence.

The Ugly

The Conversation around Andrea Riseborough and to Leslie

The internet has been abuzz with flack for a copy-pasted campaign for one of the year’s best performances: Andrea Riseborough (right) in To Leslie. While it’s a little embarrassing to see the same exact phrasing be repeated across the social media accounts of A-list actors, it’s not like Netflix isn’t shelling out tons of cash to send swag to sway voters. Studios pay for billboards, mailers, huge print ads, TV commercials—all designed to give the best-financed films a nice visibility boost in the run-up to the awards. To Leslie, a microbudget drama that our Aurora Amidon said had one of the best performances of the year back in October, is getting by on goodwill and high-profile pals. This isn’t a problem. Kicking a little movie, a deserving actress, and a stellar performance out of some kind of misunderstanding towards awards campaigning is a problem. Meme all you want, but maybe adjust your target towards the big, dumb, pricey films getting pushed into screenplay nominations (cough, Top Gun: Maverick, cough).

cover photo


The primary source for this piece  is an article written by Jacob Oller and Anna McKibbin, writing in the excellent Paste on line magazine on 24th January

Images employed have been taken from on line sites only where  categorised as  images free to use.

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Today´s article was collated by Norman Warwick, a weekly columnist with Lanzarote Information and owner and editor of this daily blog at Sidetracks And Detours.

Norman has also been a long serving broadcaster, co-presenting the weekly all across the arts programme on Crescent Community Radio for many years with Steve, and his own show on Sherwood Community Radio. He has been a regular guest on BBC Radio Manchester, BBC Radio Lancashire, BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio 4.

As a published author and poet he was a founder member of Lendanear Music, with Colin Lever and Just Poets with Pam McKee, Touchstones Creative Writing Group (where he was creative writing facilitator for a number of years) with Val Chadwick and all across the arts with Robin Parker.

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