The Shape of Best Picture

Academy AwardsThe Shape of Water took home the Best Picture Oscar® and was the perfect choice in reflecting the media’s interpretation of who we as a country have become. The picture presented the LGBTQ community in a positive light and as the new norm of society, even though it makes up less than 2% of the population. The story also focused those with a liberal we/they political mindset to a new enemy and quickly divided the audience.

The antagonist, or the uber bad guy in The Shape of Water, was a white, Christian man who required his wife to submit and loved shooting guns. The proxy antagonist was a white, male business owner who, after being propositioned by a homosexual, refused to serve the man going forward. Both men were put into the light of being extremely evil.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was snubbed, in the name of politics, even though it was a better choice. That’s not to give my stamp of approval for it, as I’d prefer a couple films that weren’t nominated due to its lack of politics.

In Three Billboards, the protagonist treated everyone the same and demonstrated unity. No dispensation was required of any people group, as everyone in the film was equal. The protagonist and antagonist had a profound respect for each other. While neither backed off of their heated position, they treated each other with a commendable amount of dignity. They shared laughs and tears, and made sure each one’s opinion was clear and respected, regardless of the conflict between them.

Some say the large increase in Academy members included people that haven’t mastered their craft, but are politically far left, making a difference in the award outcome. While minorities were limited in the past and the pendulum swinging wide will help balance the industry, many members are now voting based on politics for the sake of balance, rather than on art.

I watched all nine movies nominated for Best Picture and disagree with the outcome. While The Shape of Water was brilliantly made, the story was working overtime with its heavy-handed political agenda—destroying the very art it was creating. Three Billboards respected the audience and provided a unique look at political issues that are worth considering by both sides.

Last week I was at a conference with numerous filmmakers and television producers. I had a chance to talk with many of them and watched seven film premieres. Most of the pictures took the we/they approach of an overt, in-your-face presentation. But one film, which brought me to tears, demonstrated a respect for the audience and stirred everyone in the room with what I’ll call “the right way” to present inclusion. I’ll share more about that film in a future post.

This year’s Best Picture is a perfect selection if the award is to represent the political climate in our nation. Many filmmakers have jumped on the bandwagon of overt content to further the phenomenon of dividing our culture with the we/they mentality—a sad commentary.

Art, when done without an overt and disrespectful agenda, helps the nation look at important issues, while uniting both sides in the name of healthy progress.

Unfortunately, The Shape of Water did not respect the audience and elevated the LGBTQ community as the new norm, which in of itself might help the pendulum swing to a healthier place, unless the lack of respect neutralizes the effort. Three Billboards shared the same valuable message without alienating or disrespecting its audience.

I’m a firm believer that films should artistically stir change through exploration, not politics. And, the award for Best Picture should be given to the best crafted film, not to the one with an in-your-face political agenda. So, call me old fashioned, because the trend is not likely to change until filmmakers that believe in the intrinsic value of storytelling get funded.

Copyright © 2018 by CJ Powers

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The Answer is “Solemates” by Bryce Dallas Howard

SolematesYoung filmmakers often ask me how they can create a short film that will win festival awards. Having been a festival judge and an award winner, my answer always reflects the two elements that I’ve seen in all successful short films: some form of character development and a plotline that has a beginning, middle and end.

At that point, the filmmaker scoffs and makes a film that lacks character development and is missing a beginning, middle or end. And no, they don’t win awards, but they do wonder why others didn’t see their genius.

I’m not the only one who struggles with today’s young filmmakers. Steven Spielberg says of the new filmmakers, “People have forgotten how to tell a story. Stories don’t have a middle or an end any more. They usually have a beginning that never stops beginning.”

Bryce Dallas HowardBryce Dallas Howard (Terminator Salvation, The Help, Jurrasic World) was raised in a motion picture family with her dad being Ron Howard (The Andy Griffth Show, Happy Days, American Graffiti, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, etc.). She not only has a great list of acting credits, but she is an accomplished director herself.

Her latest short film, “Solemates,” has a beginning, middle and end, and also develops a sense of character – All done from the perspective of the soles of the character’s shoes. If new filmmakers would watch short films like “Solemates” and see that it has the answers about how to make shorts, far more first time films would start making sense.

Here is Canon’s trailer: Solemates.