Every year we take part in the Oscar Challenge. It is something that we started doing for the 2017 Oscars and then it was only for the Best Picture nominations. Both of us are avid movie lovers, but our tastes are somewhat divergent. Matthew is a lover of comedy, science fiction and fantasy. I prefer human dramas, art films and crime thrillers.
Matthew will protest that there is more overlap than it appears. He will emphasise that he is willing to watch just about anything. And that is the real difference. I am not willing to waste my one precious life on movies that are rubbish and not to my liking.
We have no idea which one of us suggested the Oscar Challenge but the motivation initially was to watch so-called “good” movies we may not typically watch of our own accord. There could be no squabbling, we just had to watch them then decide which one we thought would win.
Obviously just watching the Best Picture nominees became too easy so we expanded the list over time to include Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress. Now it was a real challenge. There is often some overlap between the categories. This year, not so much. We had 17 movies to watch before the awards!
Some, like Dune and Don’t Look Up we had already watched before the nominees were announced on 8 February 2022. Well, only 15 to go over 7 odd weeks. Easy peasy!
More Challenge than Oscar
This year it felt like a lot more Challenge than Oscar. Few of the nominated films were under two hours long, Drive my Car being almost three hours. Some, like Tick, tick, boom! we had to watch over three consecutive nights. It was not one of our favourites. As a result we were nearing the 27 March and we still had a handful to get through. So we sucked it up and waded through The Tragedy of Macbeth, Denzel was great, the filming intriguing, but Shakespeare, again? And Macbeth? Bubble, bubble toil and trouble indeed!
We wondered why we had to watch another remake of West Side Story. Yes, beautifully directed, but the same songs, the same dances, the same damn awful tragedy. Do we not have enough tragedy in our lives already?
The Lost Daughter just depressed us. Clearly we were nearing the end of our rope at this stage. Tired of sadness, despair and stories of hurt, damaged people. Finally we came to the very last one we had to get through: Spencer. Kristen Stewart did a superb job playing Diana but it was not a light story nor a joyful film. Tragedy was surrounding us.
So much for Chantal’s one precious life! We got through them, we watched them all and as we fell asleep on the eve of 27 March, we held thumbs for our preferred choices:
- Power of the Dog (Best Picture)
- Jane Campion for Power of the Dog (Best Director)
- Jessica Chastain as Tammy Faye in The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Best Actress)
- Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil in The Power of the Dog (Best Actor)
We got two out of the four. We really didn’t think that CODA was Best Picture material, as heart warming as it was and Will Smith, well we really liked him as Richard Williams but was he better than Benedict? Better than Denzel? Mmmmm… We were not so sure. It seemed more like Will Smith acting as… Will Smith. But everybody was raving about his performance and he is Will Smith and he does command some power in Hollywood, albeit typically loud and brash.
The flaw cracks open
Maybe that is why we don’t rate him. He is too arrogant, too egotistical, too funny. And yet, he’s not funny, he is flawed. As we all are. But we do not proclaim, as he did in his memoir, Will, that his story is about how he learnt to master his own emotions. The flaw cracked wide open at the ceremony. He was hooked (triggered) by Chris Rock or by Jada’s look. He was incapable of managing his feelings, whatever they were, embarrassment, outrage, anger, distaste.
After his embarrassing display of aggression along with his weak reasons for his behaviour at the ceremony, he is well and truly off our Christmas card list. However, the response to his behaviour has in and of itself been revealing. He was protected, supported and coddled by fellow actors on the night. While there was shock at the time and a public outcry, he has, so far, like the favourite son, got away with the equivalent of celebrity murder.
Robbed of her agency and power
He robbed his not unpowerful wife of her agency. Yes, she is not well, but she could have turned the joke around and embraced the GI Jane remark as a reflection of her power and ability to fight the disease. What would that have done for women everywhere who have lost their hair to cancer, autoimmune or other disorders? That would have been a powerful response. Instead we get one chest beating man slapping another. So sad. So pathetic. So typical.
This very public display of how not to be an adult reaffirmed our commitment to drive home the necessity for all of us to build our emotional fitness. To heal the hurts, to attend to the triggers and hooks and find peace in ourselves.
It also emphasised how necessary boundaries are for everyone. With no boundaries or consequence for his actions, Will will continue to get away with bigger, brasher, louder, more distasteful behaviour. And others may model his behaviour too. What if the next time the comedian on stage is a woman? Or someone with a disability? Or poor? Or gay? Or a child? Or……oh wait, doesn’t this actually happen all the time?
The work is ongoing
It’s perhaps fitting and inevitable that the very challenging Oscar Challenge of 2022 finished with yet another challenge, the one at the awards ceremony. It’s a reminder that the work of healing and growing is ongoing.
Parallel Mothers, a Spanish movie where Penelope Cruz was nominated as Best Actress, is a reminder of how violence unchecked ultimately destroys society. It shows, too, how taking responsibility, facing the painful truth and together with forgiveness, tolerance, kindness and connectedness we can heal.
And we are all for more healing.
Until next time.
About the author
5th Place offers specialised psychological services in the form of coaching and therapy for immediate relief from stress, anxiety, & other mental health challenges. It works fast, deep and quick. For individuals and groups, children, teens and adults.