The Oscar train continues this evening! Tonight we are taking a look at the biggest controversies of 2016. These should be fun, right?
A good story! A24's Meteoric Rise to Dominance
Hey! Let's start of this list with something positive, shall we? Have you heard of A24? If not, allow me to educate you. The studio released its first film in 2013, and rapidly (and I mean RAPIDLY) rose to become the best studio in Hollywood. It's probably still too early to see just how big of a cultural impact this studio is having on the business and on us the viewers, but there's no denying that this studio just dominates every genre they decide to experiment with. They have amassed more perfect scores on my blog than any other studio, including 2014's Locke, 2015's Ex Machina and Room, and 2016's Moonlight. Not to mention their other films, which include films like 2013's The Bling Ring, Spring Breakers, and The Spectacular Now; 2014's Under the Skin, Tusk, and A Most Violent Year; 2015's Amy, Mississippi Grind, The End of the Tour, and Mojave; and 2016's The Witch, The Lobster, Swiss Army Man, American Honey, and 20th Century Women. Heard of any of those? I wish I could claim to know their secrets to success, but I don't. I just know at this point when I see A24's logo pop up before a film, I can rest assured knowing I'm in for something good. You should definitely take the time to become familiar with this studio, because if there's one thing that's for sure with them it's that they will continue making great films in the years to come.
5) The Death of the Divergent Series
Hey, remember when Divergent was a thing? I do. I even reviewed it, and thought that it wasn't terrible, at least. I reviewed its sequel too, Insurgent, though I did comment that it was significantly worse than the original. Turns out I wasn't the only one who noticed this. Turns out its distributor, Lionsgate, wasn't a big fan of the series either, or at least the money they lost on 2015's Insurgent or 2016's Allegiant. So much so that the final film in the franchise, Ascendant, is currently totally up in the air. Just a few days ago star Shailene Woodley announced that she would back out of the project if it became a direct-to-TV film, but the distributor doesn't want to turn it into a theatrical release. While I'm sure someone will blink and this film will be made, The Divergent Series is both a controversy because it embraced some of the most sinister aspects of movie-making, (most notably the wretched idea of splitting the final book of a series into two movies) and also a positive story because it shows what happens when people speak with their wallets. 2016's Allegiant TANKED at the box office, grossing a measly $66 million domestically after the first two films made $150 mil and $130 mil respectively. While I'm sure a lot of that had to do with the fact that Insurgent was awful, I'd like to think part of that was because people were frustrated with the idea of two-part finales and wanted to stay home and stream the movie instead. Hopefully in the future distributors will think twice before making two-part finales and look to The Divergent Series as exhibit A for why they shouldn't do it. I'm just sad that people like Shailene Woodley, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, and (holy crap did a lot of big names join on just for Allegiant-WTF?) Jeff Daniels, Octavia Spencer, and Naomi Watts. Jeez-Louise.
4) The Lackluster Summer Blockbusters
Ya, you knew this one was coming. The summer of 2016 was undoubtedly the weakest summer blockbuster season since I've started Enter the Movies. Sure, every year there are some big-time flops-it's the nature of the movie business-but never did they come so consistently! After Captain America: Civil War got us off to a good start, things went all downhill with the likes of X-Men: Apocalypse, Now You See Me: The Second Act, Independence Day: Resurgence, Jason Bourne, War Dogs, Suicide Squad, and even Star Trek: Beyond. Every single one of those films scored a 5 or below on this blog minus Star Trek, which did a bit better at a resounding 5.5. Pretty much the only things I liked over the summer were the animated features as well as Ghostbusters. (more on that in a minute) Usually there's at LEAST one or two big budget action flicks that I like that come out over the summer, but that didn't happen in 2016. It didn't help Hollywood's bottom line either-because there was no superstar film like Jurassic World to eat up a billion dollar payday, Hollywood put up some pretty mediocre summer box office figures.
So why did this happen? I think the primary blame can be laid on the table of sequels and remakes. That's pretty much all we got this summer, with only a few films in the early days of the season being original IPs. We did get the batshit crazy Hardcore Henry, and one of them, The Nice Guys, was one of my favorite films of the year, but unfortunately original IPs were hard to come by as the summer progressed. And when they did come by they were disasters like freaking Ward Dogs. But films like Independence Day and Jason Bourne were clear and obvious examples of cash-grabbing triumphing creativity, and those films suffered in the process. Hopefully 2017's summer blockbuster season is better, with films like The Fate of the Furious and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 stepping up to the plate. Oh, and I cannot deny that I am STOKED to see Captain Underpants. Freaking loved those books.
Alright, everyone. Let's remember that this happened. And let's remember that I LOVED this movie. So screw all of y'all haters out there. Look. I'm not going to deny the marketing campaign for this film sucked. Because it did. The marketing campaign for Ghostbusters was TERRIBLE. But I was rolling when I saw this film, and so was the rest of the theater. We were laughing our guts out! It features one of my favorite moments of 2016, it features a FANtastic cast that includes great chemistry between McCarthy and Wiig with a BRILLIANT performance from Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones being freaking awesome.....what more could you want? Oh, and as you sit here and shake your head at me, remember what happened to Leslie Jones after this film was released? Do you remember THAT? Ya. We f***ed up, America. What happened to Jones after this film dropped was deplorable, and was yet another reminder that racism is alive and well in this country today. But, at the end of the day, way too many people saw the idea of an all-female Ghostbusters cast and immediately said OH NO THIS MOVIE IS GOING TO SUCK. And went into it gunning for the film. Many may try and pick on and highlight individual things that they didn't like to deflect from the sex of the leads. YES, the villain was lackluster. But for crying out loud....stop saying the villain here sucked while you call every recent Marvel movie awesome! Literally, LITERALLY the only decent villain in the official MCU is Loki, and yet I don't hear any of you consistently complaining about lackluster villains there!
So yes, I believe many people, whether they want to admit it or not, were turned off by the simple notion that an all-female Ghostbusters crew was going to be the thing. I won't admit I was one of them. But I also admit that I was wrong, and if you went into the film with an open mind you would've been convinced as well. This film is EASILY the most underrated film of 2016, and was a highlight for me in an otherwise totally lackluster summer blockbuster season that I talked about earlier. It's just a damn shame that too many of us were gunning for it going into it because of its casting choices.
2) False Advertising
Ahhhhh. I've been looking forward to this. Let's talk about false advertising! Ok so have you heard of the idea of reshoots? I'm sure you have-they're by no means a new concept in Hollywood. Almost every film experiences them to some extent or another, but there were two films this year that crossed a line. Because in my opinion, there is a line between reshoots and false advertising, and both Live By Night and Rogue One crossed it. More so Rogue One, but this next paragraph I'm gonna talk about Live By Night so feel free to skip it because I know no one cares about Live By Night and everyone cares about Rogue One.
So first off, what did Live By Night do that was so egregious? It cut out a major character! Scott Eastwood was initially going to portray Ben Affleck's brother in this film, but then his entire character was left on the cutting room floor. To me this is a major middle finger to Eastwood, and because his character is mentioned multiple times throughout the film it leads to an even more incoherent mess because we the viewers are wondering, "Who is this guy?" and "Why is he being mentioned so often?" I mean it's one thing to cut out a minor character, even a minor character played by a high-profile actor, if it doesn't fit in with your creative vision for the story. It's another thing to cut out a major character and still mention him and tease his reveal for an entire film and then never actually have him show up.
Theeeeen there's Rogue One. This is the main reason this controversy is on this list. Why don't you do me a favor. Go and watch the trailers real quick, will you? What are some of the coolest moments of those trailers? Is it the rebels charging head-on at an AT-AT? Or maybe bloodied Felicity Jones taking on a TIE-figher? Or how about that badass shot of Ben Mendelsohn that I used in this post? Well, hope you're not too attached to those clips, because NONE OF THEM ARE IN THE MOVIE. Look. I have no problems with reshoots. I have no problem with a clip or two making a trailer that doesn't make the final cut of a film. Both of these things happen all the time. But there is no doubt in my mind that the marketing team behind Rogue One made shots that were eventually cut from the movie altogether centerpieces of the marketing campaign, and that's what I have issues with. Seriously. Go watch that first trailer again. What is the coolest moment of the entire trailer? The rebels charging at an AT-AT, right? I know I was waiting for that moment the entire film and was quite upset when it never came.
I hope this is a one-off in marketing-after all these ultimately cut shots were definitely expensive to produce-but it could lead to an alarming new trend of false advertising in crappier movies. Maybe someone douchebag like Adam Sandler will look at this and say, "Hey! Let's manufacture awesome clips just for the trailers to get people interested in our movie!" and try and go further down the path of false advertising to get butts in seats. So, while I am willing to forgive Rogue One for its false advertising by saying that it was accidental, but I'm warning you, Hollywood. Don't make this into a trend.
1) The Double Standard of Hollywood
Ah, let's talk about the double standard of Hollywood, shall we? This year we saw two very similar situations play out in two very different ways. One, The Birth of a Nation, was completely trashed after it was discovered that its producer/writer/director/star, Nate Parker, was accused of sexual assault several years ago. The other, Manchester by the Sea, saw its leading star Casey Affleck get nominated (and be currently favored to win, mind you) a Best Actor nomination in spite of allegations that are eerily similar to those against Nate Parker. One of these things is not like the others.....
Let's start with The Birth of a Nation. I was initially very excited to see this film. It made big splashes at Sundance and was purchased by a distributor for a record-setting contract in the wake of #OscarsSoWhite 2.0, and was immediately marketed as the big film of 2016 about African Americans that was finally going to end the controversy of a very pale Oscar nominee class. Well, a few weeks before the film's official release, allegations against Parker rose and led to a (very deserving, mind you) uproar over the film. There were boycotts, empty critics and awards consideration screenings, and overall the film went from anticipated to hated almost overnight and ultimately tanked at the box office, and Fox Searchlight Pictures found themselves struggling to even make back their contract money they gave the film at the start of the year. This controversy has likely torpedoed Nate Parker's career as well. Meanwhile, in Casey Affleck's world....
When the allegations made against Casey Affleck rose shortly before the release of Manchester by the Sea, the response was VERY different. The accusers (there are multiple) were immediately shined in a negative light, as many dismissed their allegations as wanting to get their "fifteen minutes of fame" in light of Affleck's most successful performance. Critics and the Academy to this point have made no real comment about it, other than continuing to give Affleck dozens of awards for the performance, and currently he's the favorite to win the Oscar for Best Actor. Despite the controversy gaining a bit of momentum around the Golden Globes, it has had little to no effect whatsoever on Affleck's career, and he seems all too content to keep it that way.
So, before I provide my two cents on the issue, I will point out one difference that some may consider worth noting. It doesn't change anything in my book, (what they both did and are accused of is disgusting, and should be investigated further) but it is something that should be mentioned: Nate Parker's accuser killed herself a few years ago, primarily over the incident. This is an absolute tragedy, however it does not change my mind personally about this issue. To me the primary+ reason Nate Parker was crucified and Casey Affleck was glorified is because.....you guessed it.....systemic racism. Neither of these cases to me are worse than the other-both sets of accusations depict pretty disgusting images of the accused-and it my belief that they should both be treated equally. Both Parker and Affleck should have been immediately pulled from any sort of awards consideration until the completion of a thorough investigation. Now, that may seem a bit asinine to some, but let's put it in perspective: our current system when it comes to sexual assault allows for one man to be crucified while another can walk home with the most coveted award in acting. Does that seem reasonable to you? I am open to suggestions, everyone. Ultimately, though, this controversy will once again rear its ugly head for one final laugh if Casey Affleck walks home with an Oscar. Roman Polanski needs some company, right? Right.....?
https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BMTQ1NDk3NDExN15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODM4NjU5NzE@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_.jpg (Independence Day: Resurgence)
https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BMjE3MzA4Nzk3NV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjAxMTc1ODE@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,744_AL_.jpg (Rogue One)
https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/M/MV5BNTQwMTMwNjIzM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTQ1MDMyMDI@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,946_AL_.jpg (The Birth of a Nation)
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