OSCAR 2022

Oscar 2022 is upon us (Sunday, March 27th to be exact) and even though I’ll be watching, it will be done with less enthusiasm than in years past. Because the Academy is always doing things to improve ratings, especially among younger viewers, they are constantly changing things that in my opinion are NOT for the better. It’s been stated that several awards will not be aired this year, such as Best Film Editing, in the interest of time and glamour quality. What a stupid idea! It was bad enough when they decided to not air the Life Achievement Awards a few years back, opting instead for a montage of it as a separate event. How the hell are people going to know the important contributions of the individuals awarded for their work if it’s not aired? Geez, don’t get me started!
   As I said, I will be watching Oscar 2022, but the greatest misgiving I have are the films that are up for the major awards.  It seems to me the choices each succeeding year get more and more lackluster.

Back in the day, say when Lee Marvin won his Oscar (smooth segue, doncha think?) the films and the performances were worthy and memorable. Oh, speaking of Lee Marvin, the night he won was full of surprises as you can read here. But I digress.
 Here’s my issue with the current crop of nominees. Granted I have not seen the majority of them but of the ones I have seen….
Nightmare Alley: Was very much looking forward to this remake as I love the original and the art direction looked superb in the trailers. Finally watched it the other other night and was sadly disappointed. Why? The supporting cast was excellent but lead actor Bradley Cooper was woefully miscast. Where’s the charm he should exhibit when playing the high-class mentalist in the classy nightclubs? He registered zero or any charisma, even as a carny. Sad but true.
Licorice Pizza: Also was looking forward to this one as I truly enjoy the work of director P.T. Anderson. What an amazing disappointment! Again, the lead actor, Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s son, Cooper Hoffman cannot act, period. The plot had enough gaping holes in it you could drive a truck through them (how the hell does an underage teen get enough seed money to start 3 different business enterprises?!?). Bradley Cooper was infinitely better in his glorified cameo than in Nightmare Alley but the best scene he had, running amok in the gas station as shown in the trailer, was cut from the final film! Oh, please!!
West Side Story: Unlike a lot of other film purists, I was actually looking forward to this one as well, but once again, was soundly disappointed. Could not tell the Sharks from the Jets; the friendship between Tony & Riff was non-existent; the songs seemed out-of-place among the new story threads; Tony & Maria had no chemistry whatsoever. Saving grace? Rita Moreno given the song “There’s a Place For Us” in a touching and poignant rendition. Was she even nominated? Of course not.
The Power of The Dog: Due to the previous awards shows, this one is considered this year’s front runner. No, I haven not seen it…yet. I probably will eventually but it’s not something I’m excited about per se, despite the presence of Benedict Cumberbatch. Why? As several others have said, it just seems like pure Oscar bait.
Okay, so where does that leave us? Sadly, even more disappointed than before. You know why? The single best film I saw last year, and I do mean best, is not eligible to be nominated for Best Picture based on Academy rules. Look, if foreign language films can now be nominated, and animated films can too, why not documentaries? They are some of the best films made every year! If they did allow it, Summer of Soul would win in a walk! Yeah, it’s just that damn good! So much for Oscar 2022.

– Dwayne Epstein

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Benedict Cumberbatch, the hotter than hot British-born actor known for playing everything from Sherlock Holmes to Doctor Strange to Alan Turing, may seem an odd choice for this blog concerning all things Lee Marvin. However, a recent project of his makes him a very good choice indeed.  
   The film is called The Power of the Dog (2021), directed by Oscar-winner, Jane Campion and costars Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons opening in this country on December 1st. Internationally, it has already won several major film festivals awards, which makes it destined to be an Oscar contender next year. The Oscar contention is with good reason as Jane Campion is an extraordinary director and this is her first major film in many years. If you’ve ever seen the excellent The Piano (1993) then you’ll know what I’m talking about.  
   The premise of The Power of the Dog is another good reason for its Oscar buzz. In 1925 Montana (although filmed in New Zealand) rancher brothers Cumberbatch and Plemons encounter widow Dunst and her young son played by Kodi Smit-McPhee. Dunst is courted by Plemons and they eventually marry. When Dunst and her son move in the sparks fly, but not necessarily in a good way. Apparently, macho Cumberbatch enjoys teasing and bullying Dunst’s son in front of his cowboy buddies, which builds to an apparently inevitable yet shocking conclusion.

Benedict Cumberbatch as he appears in THE POWER OF THE DOG.

   Two distinct aspect of the film makes it a worthy entry here. First, I don’t believe Cumberbatch as ever made a western, nor looked so grizzled on film. In doing so, it certainly puts him in Lee Marvin country. Matter of fact, it strengthens my earlier assertion about him playing Marvin in a possible biopic

Lee Marvin as Liberty Valance & Edmond O'Brien as Dutton Peabody.

Lee Marvin brandishes his quirt, a.k.a. Liberty’s whip, as Shinbone Star editor Dutton Peabody (Edmond O’Brien) dramatically awaits Valance’s next move.

    The second aspect has to do with something Lee Marvin had previously stated in his Playboy interview, which you can read here. When I wrote Lee Marvin Point Blank I decided to include an appendix of films Marvin could have made had he lived longer. The Power of the Dog can be added to the list. As one recent film critic perceptively observed, “Cumberbatch summons Lee Marvin’s brash magnetic voice in creating a cowboy who’s know-it-all yet deeply confused.”  
Based on the way Cumberbatch plays the character (not unlike Liberty Valance seen above), and looking as grizzled as a modern day Monte Walsh (1970), the case can be made for a Lee Marvin biopic….starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
– Dwayne Epstein

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