The 2022 Oscars gave us a celebration for those who hate movies
Chris Rock’s “G.I. Jane, “and everything that followed made headlines for the Oscars. But Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes’s Ridley Scott’s second film, The Strange Slap in the Last Duel, told more about the Oscars – and what’s wrong with Hollywood.
The show has seemed a bit unfocused in recent episodes, with hastily edited clips jam-packed with random anniversaries from the pre-show awards – random anniversary pieces in the middle (was anyone really dying to commemorate “White Man Can’t Jump?”). Leaving the Lifetime Achievement Award for pre-show has long been controversial. But this year the beloved actor Samuel L. Refusing to allow Jackson to speak was particularly troubling.
While apologizing to the three extreme sports stars with limited ties to Hollywood for presenting the James Bond montage – Tony Hawk, a regular in the “Jacques” series, it’s worth asking if the show’s hosts understand why people love movies. And why would you hype the world’s first live performance of the amazing smash hit “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from “Encanto” with just an unnecessary, cacophonous remix?
Alyssa Rosenberg: Oscar voters need to regain the trust of the audience
But this oddly negative tone was to the many films shown by the hosts. The Oscars aren’t about roasting – that’s why Ricky Gervais never jumped from the Golden Globes to the Academy Awards – and Sykes jokingly dismissed “The Power of the Dog” as the most acclaimed film of the night. She said, “I’ve seen that movie three times, and I’m halfway there.”
If it is the worst. Later, Hall and Sykes grabbed the DVD in a paper sleeve. “We didn’t want anyone to go home empty-handed tonight, because we thought you were all winners, even if you weren’t,” Hall said. “It’s something, I have a movie here that no one has seen. Not even a director. This is a screener for The Last Dual. Never seen! ”
The audience laughed out loud and it was only fitting that they should react. Not only the Oscars but the identity crisis at the center of entertainment on the big screen is a bit of a summary. Once upon a time, a movie like “The Last Duel” was a valid award-season contestant and potentially a big hit for the audience.
It features big stars (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) and young audience favorites (Adam Driver and Jodi Kamar). It has large action set pieces that play well on the big screen. The titular duel, in which two-thirds of the main characters fight to resolve a rape charge, is the most provocative, tumultuous sequence in recent memory. The film’s treatment of sexual violence is thematic, but not exactly predictable. And it has a genealogy, with Scott winning box office and Oscar gold with the same “Gladiator”, while Damon and Affleck have re-worked for their first screenplay after Oscar winner “Good Will Hunting”.
But, as Ross Dowton noted in a lengthy essay for the New York Times last week, “The Last Duel” has fallen out of favor with audiences because of its backwardness in the national discourse.
“What movies did in American culture, 20 years ago, is basically unimaginable today,” Douthat writes. “There’s no way to supply cultural language to some of the hit movies, the sheer range of entertainment options and the repetitive and derivative nature of the movies that attract the most audiences.”
Multiplexes dominated by superheroes and other intellectual-property-driven tentpole franchises have no place for something as big and original and mildly challenging as “The Last Duel.” Covid-19 may have accelerated these changes, but the combination of a balloon budget and a reliance on foreign markets means that films like “The Last Duel” are still on borrowed time.