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FilmScene leaders weigh in on Oscar hopefuls
Who will win? Who should win? Tune in Sunday to find out
The Slap may have been the most memorable moment from the 2022 Academy Awards. You know Jimmy Kimmel will talk about it when he returns for his third time hosting tonight’s cinematic celebration. The broadcast begins at 7 p.m. Iowa time on ABC-TV and various streaming services.
What will happen this year? Who will win? Who should win?
For their take on this year’s nominees, The Gazette turned to FilmScene’s co-founder and executive director Andrew Sherburne, 43, himself a filmmaker, and programming director Ben Delgado, 35, both of Iowa City.
They have shown most of the Best Picture nominees on FilmScene’s downtown Iowa City screens. They also have hosted filmmaker dialogues, most recently two March 1 sessions with University of Iowa Playwrights Workshop graduate Samuel D. Hunter, screenwriter for “The Whale,” which captured a Best Actor nomination for Brendan Fraser, a Best Supporting Actress nomination for Hong Chau, and a nod for the makeup and hairstyling team.
And on Oscar night, FilmScene, 404 E. College St. in The Chauncey, will stage its free Blue Carpet Bash, beginning at 5:30 p.m. The extravaganza features prizes, giveaways and voting ballots, as well as snacks and movie-inspired beverages for purchase. Dress up or dress down — all are welcome, Sherburne and Delgado said.
The colleagues spoke with The Gazette by phone from Columbia, Mo., where they were attending the recent True/False documentary film festival.
Q: What trends are you seeing in the nominations this year, either continuing new trends or opening some new doors?
Sherburne: There seems to be a little extra conversation and excitement about some of the films that really brought audiences back to the theaters this year.
Looking at the Best Picture nominees, the fact that “Avatar” and “Top Gun” are in there, alongside “Everything Everywhere” and “Elvis.” These are films really made for a big screen, were made to highlight a big picture. I think the industry was really happy to see people coming back to the movies for those films.
Q: How have the trends evolved over the years? Are you seeing more DEI inclusions, more women directors, because that was a big (grievance) forever, that there's just no women represented among the nominees for some of the major movie making categories.
Delgado: That's still an issue. There are no women nominated for director, so it continues to be an issue. It's fits and starts in terms of how there's improvements to representation within the Academy. And I think part of it is due to a widening of the Academy. There are more members, and there are more diverse members who are voting on this. So that helps, but it's a slow process, really.
Q: Are we seeing more people of color being nominated for various efforts, whether on screen or behind the scenes?
Delgado: Similarly, it's kind of a slow process. There aren't many Black creators nominated this year. A lot more Asian and Asian American folks, which is great. Again, it's just certain segments, and it's not a blanket representation of the filmmaking world. So we’re making slow progress in that area.
Q: What movies rise to the top for you, as far as Best Picture goes? What do you think will win, and what would you like to see win?
Delgado: It looks like “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is trending to be the winner. It's great and I wouldn't mind that winning.
There are some other films in here that I also enjoyed, like “The Fabelmans” and “The Banshees of Inisherin.” I like both of those, but those are more traditional Oscar-winner types of films. Maybe this year, that's not what the Academy voted for in that category.
Q: How about you, Andrew?
Sherburne: I agree with Ben. I think “Everything Everywhere All at Once” has been picking up steam and I think that will certainly be the audience favorite at FilmScene’s Blue Carpet Bash Oscars party. There's always one film every year that everyone's rooting for, and I think that'll be that film this year.
It's a fun film. It's now our highest grossing film ever at FilmScene in our 10-year history, so that's kind of a fun note. So it's gonna have a lot of fans on Oscar night cheering for it.
It is encouraging to see a film like that rise to the top because it's so unique and original, and reinforces that Hollywood needs to continue investing in films that take chances and are original visions. That's nice to see.
Q: What about Best Actor and Actress? I think they still call them that.
Sherburne: Right, they're still Best Actor and Actress. We’ve still got a long way to go before they get rid of those gendered nominations. Actor’s probably a race between Brendan Fraser (“The Whale”) and Austin Butler (“Elvis”), but Colin Farrell (“The Banshees of Inisherin”) is awesome. That's a list that has a lot of great performances.
In Best Actress, it’s (between) Cate Blanchett (“Tar”) or Michelle Yeoh (“Everything Everywhere All at Once”).
Q: The other one I'd like your opinion on, since you're a filmmaker as well, is cinematography.
Sherburne: “All Quiet on the Western Front,” maybe. You've got Roger Deakins (“Empire of Light”), who is just a beloved figure in that world. You've got Mandy Walker for “Elvis,” who would be the first female cinematographer. So there’s some interesting things happening in that in that category.
Q: Going into this season, I just felt like everybody's going to expect Austin Butler to win, because biopics do really well. That's been proven. And then Brendan Fraser comes along and wins the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Award, whereas Austin won the Golden Globe. So do you foresee any kind of upsets? Or what do you think would constitute an upset?
Delgado: There certainly could be some upsets. Always hard to call, obviously, but in the acting one … there's potential to split the vote, and I could see even Bill Nighy (“Living”) coming out of nowhere — a veteran of the industry winning in that category.
Q: What kind of backlash from the slap do you think we’ll see this year?
Sherburne: They've beefed up security — they really don't want that to happen again. Of course people were gonna talk about it — it was such a crazy moment last year. Obviously, Will Smith is going to have to live with that for a while. But I think otherwise, most of us have moved on at this point. Jimmy Kimmel will probably drop a joke or two about it.
Q: How about some of the Iowa ties you're aware of in this slate of nominations?
Sherburne: We've got Joe Russo, as part of the Russo brothers tandem, is one of the producers of “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” and Joe's a University of Iowa graduate.
We've got Samuel Hunter as a screenwriter on “The Whale,” although he didn't get nominated. There's a good argument to be made that he should have been, over some of the nominees in that category.
We've got “Top Gun,” directed by an Iowan (Marshalltown native Joseph Kosinski) and Peter Craig, the screenwriter, who also wrote “The Batman,” is a University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop graduate.
And then you’ve got some others.
“Fire of Love,” which is up for best documentary. Erin Casper is a University of Iowa graduate, and she was a writer and editor of that film. We hosted her (at FilmScene) and we'll be cheering for that one. …
And then there's some other tangential connections — probably more than I'm even aware of, but I know that “The Martha Mitchell Effect,” which is up for Best Documentary Short, was produced by Beth Levison who last directed and produced “Storm Lake.” And then Danai Gurira, one of the stars of “Black Panther,” was born in Grinnell.
There's so many Iowans working behind the scenes in the Hollywood industry. I'm sure there's more than that.
Q: Since the pandemic … what's bringing people through your doors?
Delgado: What we've seen is that people are coming out to more one-off events, more specialties that they can't do themselves at home. For example, Sam Hunter in person, we saw those (audiences) because people can't get that in their homes. Also, the additional things — we're doing a Lebowski bowling party. So the events are really the things that are drawing the biggest crowds.
And then there's just the bigger films … those films that you want to be a part of, that you want to know what everyone's talking about.
Sherburne: The only thing I'd add, is a huge part of that is the audience itself. We all crave human connection coming out of the pandemic, when we had so little of it. So that's a big part of it, too. These are communal experiences that people really gravitate toward.
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