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OSCARS CAST A WIDE NET

I’ve been watching the Oscars since I was a kid and covering them since I moved to Los Angeles in 1983, so I can assure you that it’s not a cliché when people say it’s an honor just to be nominated. To be one of five (or even eight) candidates out of a year’s worth of movies is no small achievement. But in any race, someone is declared the winner. That’s why I was pleased by the outcome of this year’s Academy Awards. Green Book, Roma, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Blackkklansman, Black Panther, A Star is Born, and If Beale Street Could Talk all had cause to celebrate. Even First Man, which was otherwise forsaken, took home a well-deserved prize for its extraordinary visual effects.

With the rise of social media, what used to be called Monday-morning quarterbacking begins before the Oscar ceremony is even finished. I try my best to ignore the second-guessing and snarky chatter. It’s one more sign of negativity in a world that’s drowning in it. Besides, what’s the point? The voters have had their say.

Oscar weekend also includes the Film Independent Spirit Awards, a celebration of non-studio films that used to be held in a restaurant on La Cienega Boulevard when it started in the 1980s. My wife and I once shared a table with the likes of Ed Harris and Louis Malle. Now the ceremony fills a huge tent on the beach in Santa Monica, but despite its size the atmosphere remains casual and celebratory. Everyone is there to cheer. There’s none of the formality (or tension) that goes along with the Academy Awards and that makes it fun to attend. On Saturday, Glenn Close was named Best Actress there and laughed as her dog Pippi ran onstage and stole the show. Barry Jenkins won the Best Director award and said he felt it should have gone to one of his female counterparts—an all-too-rare show of humility at the climax of Awards Season. How can you not root for a guy like that?

The lasting effect of these awards is the attention they bring to good movies, especially those that haven’t been box-office hits. Many Oscar viewers may not be familiar with Olivia Colman, who’s given many fine performances on television and film. Perhaps her disarming acceptance speech will pique their curiosity and want to seek her out. (You might start with the British TV series Broadchurch or The Night Manager.) Anyone who loves film and hasn’t yet seen Roma owes themselves the rich emotional experience it offers.

And if you’re still debating whether or not to see Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse because you’re not a comic book fan, I encourage you to give it a try. It’s sensational. What’s more, it’s now in the pages of history as an Oscar winner.

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