Recently some readers have been asking why haven’t I written about Putin’s horrific war in Ukraine. In hopefully a single sentence at the bottom of this column I plan to address Vladimir, or as I call him, “Adolph.” (No peeking to the end as I may drop a surprise quiz.)
If you didn’t know already, Sunday is Oscar time at the 94th annual Academy Awards at the Dolby Theater hosted by Amy Schumer, Wanda Skyes. and Regina Hall, and broadcast on ABC at 5 p.m. (For star gazers or fashion fanatics, “Red Carpet Live!” begins at 10 a.m. )
As it happens, Santa Monica has fond memories of the Academy Awards as they were held at our Civic Auditorium from 1961-1968. Bob Hope hosted six years with Frank Sinatra and Jack Lemmon hosting one each. (In total, Hope hosted a remarkable 19 Oscars while Billy Crystal hosted 9.)
That brings me to the Academy’s drastically declining TV viewers for the past twenty years. The Oscars once touted that globally 1 billion people watched, but last year only 9.8 million Americans tuned in. My theory is the outstanding films nominated are not ones the public flocks to see as compared with Batman, zombie and horror movies.
It turns out “one billion” was a false claim with no viable attribution. Surprised? Not when you consider the first Oscars in 1929 at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel were also a brilliant public relations stunt. Instead of voting, in fifteen minutes as compared to today’s three hours, the studios presented the Academy Awards secretly promising to reward the non-winning studios with Oscars the following year.
This year, however, I am emotionally invested in the Oscars thanks to Don Margolin, a retired pilot, an occasional professional actor, and a dear friend for more decades than each of us cares to acknowledge. Primarily because of my deaf niece, Jennifer, Don enthusiastically recommend “CODA” (Child of Deaf Adults.) It stars English actress Emila Jones, who was only 17 when she played Ruby, the one hearing member of a deaf family.
In the plot, Ruby tries to balance helping her family’s struggling fishing business in Gloucester, Massachusetts and pursuing her dream of a scholarship to a renowned Boston music college. As for Jennifer, she was born deaf but with her deaf husband, David, had a hearing child, my great-nephew, Brandon, who is a CODA. For Brandon seeing much of his own life story was an emotionally powerful experience.
The heart-warming “CODA,” is nominated for “Best Picture,” “Best Supporting Actor, and “Best Adapted Screenplay” and I loved every minute. (Except I used up a box of Kleenex.)
It’s never happened that three of the four lead actors in a major motion picture are deaf in real life. In fact, producers were against it until co-star and Oscar-winner Marlee Matlin courageously threatened to walk. The truth is “CODA” is really just about a family, like so many, that face economic and emotional struggles and yet overcome them through the love they have for each other. (And that explains the Kleenex.)
“CODA” inspired me to binge watch other Oscar nominated movies which brings me to “mini reviews” for my top five. (After “CODA” to which I gave 5 stars.)
1. “House of Gucci,” Based on a stranger than fiction true story, stars Lady Gaga, Adam Driver and Al Pacino and is doing amazingly well at the box office.(Despite Batman’s not being in it.) Gaga, real name Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, was snubbed by the Oscars but did a terrific job as did co-star Driver who played her husband, Maurizio Gucci. (Spoiler alert: I dubbed Gucci “Murder Italian Style.”) ★★★★
2. “Eyes of Tammy Faye” Oscar-nominated and former Ocean Park resident, Jessica Chastain, delivers a stunning portrayal of the late televangelist Tammy Faye Baker’s rise, fall and ultimate redemption. ★★★★
3. “Belfast” Kenneth Branagh’s most autobiographical film is about a violent Northern Ireland through the eyes of a nine-year-old boy in working class Belfast. The movie is brilliant and so is Judi Dench, who, at 87, earned her 8th Oscar nomination! ★★★★
4. “The Power of the Dog” Set in 1925 Montana, depicts a domineering rancher’s cruelty when his brother brings home a new wife and her son. “Nominated for 12 Oscars, “Dog” is often riveting but, in the end, I’m not sure what it says. ★★
5. “King Richard” In an Oscar-nominated performance (that I hope he wins) Will Smith plays Richard Williams, an amateur tennis coach who sacrifices everything to help his daughters, Venus and Serena, become the greatest tennis playing siblings in history.★★★★★
And now my “one sentence” about Adolph Putin whom many describe as a war criminal and mass murderer but, for today, I will simply say, is the epitome of a bad actor.