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May 24, 2017

Filmmaker admits awards are political

When The Hollywood Reporter asked producer Janine Jackowski if she was disappointed that Toni Erdmann didn’t win the foreign language Oscar, she said no. She expected it, when she heard the news of “Trump’s travel ban.”

“Two hours later I talked to Maren and we both said, ‘It’s gone.’ We knew the Academy would want to send a signal with the Iranian film. Up to that point, Toni Erdmann was one of the favorites.”

But, it may seem to some that even Toni Erdmann’s nomination was political.  It is being sold as a comedy about relationships, but other selling point is that it is by a female director and has the new “f” rating.  There are other political aspects mentioned by critics

the reason I like the film… you can read it on one level as a political satire about Europe, about globalisation, about the way businesses can be depersonalising.”

As you can see, he later talks about the comedy, and how he funny he found the film. And all kinds of non-political compliments are given such as “exactly the right timing,” “very natural.”

I personally would cut the film to two hours.  If I edited it, it would be a rated 12 movie.  The scene that makes it 15 is completely unnecessary and got no laughs at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre.  The only reaction was one couple leaving the cinema, but they returned later.  This wasn’t Pulp Fiction or Apocalypse Now, and I don’t feel the in-your-face gratuity of that one scene really fit the subject matter.

More popular European films almost never get awards.  I suppose critics like different films than audiences sometimes because they have different experiences with cinema.  If you only see films once a month, and you haven’t seen old movies, rehashes of classic jokes might seem fresh, over-worn camera moves might seem innovative.

Sadly, American audiences won’t get to see the original in mainstream cinemas.  Instead, they’ll be served with a remake that is likely to concentrate on the lewd bits and whitewash all the difficult issues that makes Toni Erddman a mostly enjoyable picture.

But, I think if you look at the awards over the past twenty years, you’ll often see films that critics weren’t too hot on that get the nomination.  You’ll see a pattern of which political issues matter to Hollywood at which time.  (Normally, however, the most political films don’t get the win.)

However, it could be worse.  They could be making a musical of The Graduate.  The best thing about The Graduate, as directed by Mike Nichols in 1967,  was the expert camera positioning.  From the very first scene it’s what you don’t see that lets you understand the characters.  To turn that into a musical is like adapting a pantomime that relies on sweets and interaction for the screen.