Hollywood's 2020 awards season
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by Julia Pierrepont III

There’s nothing like the Hollywood awards season to shine a magnifying glass on the latest trends and shifts in Hollywood’s hierarchy and dynamics.

And this year’s awards season was no exception.

ASIAN CINEMA

One interesting trend that surfaced this award season was a wider acceptance of Asian or Asian-themed movies, from South Korea’s “Parasite,” and the Chinese-American “Farewell,” to the documentary “American Factory,” and the Chinese-American short film “Baby.”

“Parasite” swept the awards this season, starting with the Cannes Film Festival Palm D’Or award, then chalking up big wins at the Golden Globes, the top SAG Award for Best Cast Ensemble, the Writers Guild of America Awards, the American Cinema Editor Awards, the British Academy of Film and Television Award, the Australian Academy of Cinema and TV Arts – International, and culminating in the never-before win of a foreign language film for a Best Picture Oscar, as well as three other Oscars that night.

Lulu Wang’s “Farewell” made a splash in the box office and won Best Feature at the LA Independent Spirit Awards as did Zhao Shuzhen for Best Supporting Female Lead. Awkwafina won Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy at the Golden Globes, but was snubbed by the Oscars.

Writer/director, Lulu Wang, told Xinhua that making a cross-cultural film was important and not as challenging as predicted. “The American crew and Chinese crew worked together so well! There were a lot of cultural differences on set but everyone made an great effort to respect those differences,” she said.

Industry insiders are predicting a wider opportunity in the future, for foreign language films in the United States, including Asian films which have sometimes been more difficult for American viewers to fully appreciate.

But, if you take media darling, “Parasite,” out of the picture, other than the LA Independent Spirit Awards which were specifically created to celebrate diversity, innovative vision and alternative voices of all races, nationalities and genders, diversity took a hard knock this year as most other award ceremonies turned a blind eye to women and people of color.

Women directors and minorities were not recognized enough at awards this year, with the Academy and the Directors Guild of America Award (DGA) passing them over entirely.

HER POWER

Two years into the Time’s Up and #MeToo women’s movements, women are still getting short shrift as directors, and minority women – and men – are getting overlooked in droves in the acting award categories.

There were a raft of female directors helming this this year’s top films, such as Lulu Wang for “Farewell,” Lorene Scafaria for “Hustlers,” Greta Gerwig for “Little Women,” Alma Har’el for “Honey Boy,” Anna Boden, co-director for “Captain Marvel,” and Jennifer Lee for “Frozen II.”

Though they all met with both critically acclaim and success at the box office, All female directors were entirely shut out of the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes and the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTAs). Only LA Independent Spirit Awards distinguished itself for nominating two female directors this season, Har’el and Scafaria.

“It’s really important that women get the recognition that they deserve for their work,” Gerwig told Xinhua Saturday. “Their careers depend on it, just as men’s do.”

“Something needs to be done to change the system,” director of “Honey Boy,” Ha’el told Xinhua. “If old white men cannot acknowledge women directors, then we need our own category.”

Minority women and men got a lot of fanfare in the press, but few-to-no nominations this year. In a throwback to #OscarSoWhite of previous years, only two persons of color were nominated for any of the top Oscar award categories, Cynthia Erivo for her top-billed performance in “Harriet” and Antonio Banderas for “Pain and Glory.”

There was immense hue and cry from fans that Jennifer Lopez was overlooked for her stellar performance in “Hustlers.”

Other prime performances by minority actors that were widely overlooked were: Zhao Shuzhen in “The Farewell,” Alfre Woodard in “Clemency,” Hong Chau in “Driveways,” Lauren Lolo Spencer in “Give Me Liberty,” Octavia Spencer in “Luce,” Jonathan Majors in “The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” and Eddie Murphy in “Dolemite Is My Name.”

STREAMING SERVICE

Another pattern to this year’s awards was the lavish bestowing of nominations on the films and television shows of the top streaming platforms, such as Netflix’s 24 Academy nominations and 34 Golden Globe noms. Amazon lagged a bit, with only one Oscar nom and 13 Golden Globes noms, while Apple TV+ got three nominations, as did Hulu.

Moreover, these steaming service helped the American audience to adopt the subtitles than before. Backstage at the Oscars, Bong Joon-ho, director of “Parasite,” amended the comment he made at the Golden Globes about subtitles being a “1-inch barrier,” telling Xinhua, “With YouTube and steaming media, foreign language won’t be much of an issue anymore …”

But member-voters were far stingier giving out actual awards to online distributors, boxing Netflix out of all but two Academy awards and two Golden Globe wins. Amazon and Hulu both had only two Golden Globe wins each and no Oscar glory this year.

“To qualify for an Academy Award, traditionally a film must be released in a theater to be considered. Some streamers are getting around that by putting them in theaters for a week or releasing them online and theatrically at the same time,” producer, Jeff Most, explained to Xinhua.

“Some voters resent that, because they feel it is undermining the motion picture industry,” he added. There is little doubt that streamers are reshaping the industry, but it remains to be seen how richly they will be rewarded for it. Enditem

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