The Oscars are dry and repetitive, so here’s an alternative reality where awards are handed out for vomit scenes, dream sequences, and one-liners
Let’s be honest, the Oscars are getting stale. Every year, it’s the same old categories, the same PR-approved speeches, the same gag about Meryl Streep, the same revelation that famous people can’t read autocues, and the same red-eyed regret that you’ve stayed up all night and all you’ve got to show for it is a snarky 4am tweet about the In Memoriam segment. You start to wonder: if the highlight of your four-hour ceremony is a misplaced envelope, then surely it’s time for a revamp?
Now, Hollywood is known for its remake culture. All I’m asking for is a reboot. You can still do the antiquated thing of sticking everyone in uncomfortable outfits and pretending it’s totally normal we treat art like an elitist competition. But the awards themselves need a shake-up. Not just getting Ellen to order pizza during the telecast, but instigating new, more diverse reasons to earn that goddamn trophy. Think about it. If we flush away just a mere century of traditions, we could make this a world where Oscar bait is a synonym for fun, weird, intellectually nourishing cinema. “What, Mia Hansen-Løve’s silent four-hour sci-fi ends with a Brockhampton cameo? Ugh. Oscar bait written all over it.”
Besides, the current categories are flawed. It’s already bizarre that Best Picture and Best Director frequently go to different films, and then there’s the boring chunk in the middle where you find yourself Googling the difference between Best Sound Editing and Best Sound Mixing. It isn’t just me, either. I’m speaking for America – or at least the ones with Nielsen boxes. The recent rating figures have decreased every single year, even when Chris Rock confronted #OscarsSoWhite. So how can the Academy rescue this sinking ship – without asking James Cameron to shoot another blockbuster about a sinking ship, that is? Here are some suggestions for new Oscar categories that will actually justify struggling through Monday on two hours of sleep.
BEST VOMIT SCENE: Call Me By Your Name
1) Call Me By Your Name: Timothée Chalamet emptying his guts in Rome is, without a doubt, the height of romance. Why? Because Armie Hammer kisses him straight after, with tongues, offering full acceptance of his body. It’s more powerful than whatever Gary Oldman does as Winston Churchill, anyway.
2) Phantom Thread: Another contender for future Valentine’s Day cards is Daniel Day-Lewis, flat on his back, tender, only with Vicky Krieps to help. “Kiss me, my girl, before I’m sick.”
3) The Florida Project: Bria Vinaite’s gross-out tour de force arrives a minute after assaulting a former BFF; she retreats to the bathroom and relieves her guilt in some off-camera puking. It’s Sean Baker’s sixth movie in a row with a vomit set-piece. One more, and a lifetime achievement award beckons.
4) Lady Bird: Saoirse Ronan spends most of the film fantasising about university life in New York. But once there, she’s soon spewing from alcohol poisoning at a house party. Unlike CMBYN, her make-out session ends abruptly. Not only is New York tough, the booze contains a higher percentage.
5) How to Talk to Girls at Parties: Alex Sharp discovers a downside to intergalactic dating when he anticipates a snog from an alien played by Elle Fanning. She, instead, barfs into his mouth, which presumably counts as first base from whatever planet she’s from.
BEST FOOD MOMENT: Girls Trip
1) Girls Trip: The “Grapefruit Technique”, a sex move popularised from a YouTube tutorial, hit the mainstream via Tiffany Haddish’s hilarious demonstration on a banana at a dinner table. It’s funny and educational – you know, if you want your personal life to be extra messy and sticky.
2) Phantom Thread: Many of us are so used to rushing our bland Pret orders in the morning, it’s a marvel to observe Daniel Day-Lewis enunciating, syllable by syllable, a list of breakfast dishes as if it’s a line from Hamlet or someone reading out a will.
3) Call Me By Your Name: The peach scene. Armie Hammer may not eat it on screen, but let’s pretend he does in one of the cutaways.
4) mother!: Here’s some controversy akin to when that heavy metal band won Eurovision. The baby-eating scene is a climactic moment in an escalating nightmare. You think it won’t go there, but then it does. If you’re chewing popcorn at the time, it’s even more disorienting.
5) The Beguiled: With Phantom Thread, Lady Macbeth and The Beguiled, it’s been quite a year for poisoned mushrooms. Our pick, though, is the recipe from Coppola’s period drama, when the women plot to murder Colin Farrell. The hitch: when seasoned, the mushrooms are irresistible to the female diners, too.
BEST CALEB LANDRY JONES PERFORMANCE: Twin Peaks
1) Steven Burnett in Twin Peaks: The guy who cheats on Amanda Seyfriend and eventually wonders if he’ll “be the rhinoceros”.
2) Jeremy Armitage in Get Out: The guy who keeps asking Daniel Kaluuya about sports at the dinner table.
3) Jack Hicks in The Florida Project: The guy who we take a moment to realise is Willem Dafoe’s son.
4) JB in American Made: The guy who’s not Tom Cruise and also isn’t Domhnall Gleeson. Incidentally, did anyone actually see this film?
5) Red Welby in Three Billboards, Outside Ebbing Missouri: The guy who sells the billboard space to Frances McDormand.
BEST USE OF ARCHITECTURE TO TELL A STORY: Columbus
1) Columbus: “Architecture has the power to heal,” John Cho declares, adding, “That’s a fantasy architects like to tell themselves.” But Kogonada’s delicate drama observes a friendship that forms over a mutual appreciation of modernist buildings during a time of emotional crisis. The final shot of a suspension bridge is inexplicably moving.
2) Call Me By Your Name: “Because I thought you should know.” “Because you thought I should know?” “Because I wanted you to know.” Remember this? It’s when Elio and Oliver talk around the subject and talk around a statue. It’s a coded message – with a monument for the Battle of Piaves standing in between them.
3) The Florida Project: The final shot of Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.
4) mother!: Darren Aronofsky and production designer Philip Messina renovated a three-storey Victorian house and applied an awkwardly angled octagonal design to complement the freewheeling, dizzying story.
5) A Cure for Wellness: Gore Verbinski’s gothic horror, one of the most unfairly maligned films of the past year, unquestionably looks the part thanks to its shooting location: Hohenzollern Castle, a giant fortress that stands atop a hill, which may or may not be housing evil scientific experiments.
BEST MUSICIAN CAMEO: A Ghost Story
1) Will Oldham in A Ghost Story: Bonnie Prince Billy only pops in for five minutes, but he efficiently mansplains the entire history of the universe and delivers about 90% of the film’s entire dialogue.
2) Ad-Rock in Golden Exits: Adam Horovitz’s brief appearance in Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young was merely a warm-up for his co-lead in Alex Ross Perry’s dysfunctional relationship drama. Alongside Jason Schwartzman and Chloë Sevigny, the Beastie Boy fits in snugly as if he’s been doing it since License to Ill.
3) Patti Smith in Song to Song: It’s one of many fleeting cameos in Terrence Malick’s music festival drama that feels longer than Glastonbury itself.
4) Trent Reznor in Twin Peaks: It’s a tossup between David Bowie as a kettle, Moby for some reason playing bass, and Reznor leading “The” Nine Inch Nails. But Reznor wins, because it’s 10 minutes into Episode Eight and moments before the atom bomb drops.
5) Mariah Carey in Girls Trip: Mariah doesn’t really do much in Girls Trip. She just deserves a mention as she was cut out of Will Ferrell’s comedy The House after allegedly falling out with the director, cast and crew.
BEST DREAM SEQUENCE: On Body And Soul
1) On Body and Soul: Ildikó Enyedi’s sadly underseen fable follows two loners, both unable to communicate in the real world, who meet as deer in the same forest when they fall asleep. The best way to bond, they find, is to retreat to bed and escape the daily anxieties of the prison that is human existence.
2) Phantom Thread: Only Daniel Day-Lewis could turn an absurd scenario – a designer hallucinates that his mother has returned to his bedroom and just wants to stand there in ghostly silence – into a deeply moving declaration of affection.
3) The Red Turtle: File this alongside The Wizard of Oz and Mulholland Drive under films which may, for large portions, be a fantasy inside a character’s mind.
4) It Comes at Night: Trey Edward Shults’ slowburn arthouse horror wasn’t The Conjuring. But the son’s trailer-ready, jump-scare nightmares were, of course, used to trick mainstream audiences into purchasing tickets. But within the context of the film, the kid’s visions – his dead grandfather, a mysterious red door, Riley Keough spitting blood – do just the trick: they convey a 24-hour fear of death and the inconvenience of teenage hormonal lust.
5) Thelma: She’s drinking to soothe nerves at a house party, then she’s getting it on with a hot girl she’s been crushing on, then a snake slithers into her mouth… and oh no, it’s a horrible nightmare and wakes up in front of all her teen peers who’ll never let her get over this.
BEST ONE-LINER: Phantom Thread
1) Phantom Thread: “The tea is leaving but the interruption is staying right here with me” – Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis)
2) The Meyerowitz Stories: “I could smash every car in this parking lot and burn the hospital down, and it wouldn’t un-fuck me up” – Jean (Elizabeth Marvel)
3) Call Me By Your Name: “When you least expect it, nature has cunning ways of finding our weakest spots” – Mr Perlman (Michael Stuhlbarg)
4) Let the Sunshine In: “I’d think ‘he’s a bastard’, and I’d climax” – Isabelle (Juliette Binoche)
5) The Killing of a Sacred Deer: “Can I have your MP3 player when you’re dead? Please, please, please” – Kim (Raffey Cassidy)
BEST ARGUMENT THAT SMARTPHONES ARE NOT RUINING OUR LIVES: Ingrid Goes West
1) Ingrid Goes West: Maybe I misinterpreted the film, but Audrey Plaza would’ve been so bored without it?
2) The Florida Project: It’s how Sean Baker was able to sneak the final shot in Disney World.
3) Unsane: Ditto for Steven Soderbergh’s new iPhone-shot psychological thriller.
4) The Square: Sure, Christian’s downfall comes from tracking his stolen phone and wallet via the GPS system. But, come on, that’s pretty incredible use of technology, right?
5) Personal Shopper: Chris Rock’s new special, Tambourine, makes a major point that smartphones mean we’ve forgotten how to miss loved ones. Still, it’s sweet that Kristen Stewart believes she’s keeping in touch with a dead brother via text messages.
MOST INTRIGUING MOVIES THAT COULD HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT: Call Me By Your Name
1) Call Me By Your Name with Shia LaBeouf: The project was in development for years before Luca Guadagnino came on board. Strange to think that, had scheduling not interfered, LaBeouf would have played Oliver. Tell me you’re not curious.
2) Get Out with a darker ending: Jordan Peele’s original screenplay took a more realistic, feel-bad approach to the police car’s arrival towards the end. Out pops a cop, not Lil Rel, and Daniel Kaluuya ends up behind bars.
3) The Shape of Water in black and white: Guillermo del Toro wanted his fish-sex movie to be entirely in monochrome but knew it would negatively affect the financing. Wouldn’t have helped the god-awful dialogue, though.
4) Suburbicon directed by the Coens: George Clooney ended up directing and drastically rewriting the Coens’ original script. Which makes you wonder, what if Clooney, who’s never directed a decent film himself, had just let the brothers work it out?
5) Baby Driver with John Boyega: No offence to DJ Ansolo (who acts under the pseudonym of Ansel Elgort), but the role nearly went to the star of Attack the Block, and wouldn’t that have been so much cooler?