Oscar Ovation

I like the Super Bowl as much as any guy, but as a film buff, the biggest annual TV event for me is another mid-winter tradition – the Academy Awards. Long before I ever knew I’d make a livelihood out of watching and writing about film, I loved the glamour and drama of Oscar night.

I’m old enough to recall when “streaking” was all the rage, and a foolhardy soul dared to flash across the Academy Awards stage behind David Niven, who responded by quipping about the fellow’s “shortcomings.” And when the University of Michigan played Indiana for college basketball’s national championship on the same night as The Oscars; when one of the awards was to be announced, presenter/hoops fan Elliott Gould broke the silence after “And the winner is …” by interjecting, “Indiana, 86-68.” That was a great night for One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (which won Best Picture that evening in 1976) – not so much for the Wolverines.

The Oscars aren’t as fun to predict as they were circa ’76 – the awards season is so micro-analyzed in horse-race fashion (sort of like each presidential election) that there aren’t very many surprises. What I do enjoy in my current post is showing films that go on to be nominated – somehow verifying the collective taste of the Flint Institute of Arts – or showing a movie that I know will produce an audience pick-me-up because it’s received Oscar attention.

We have a couple of examples of the latter at the FIA this month. If you missed the dark comedy Birdman when it played commercially for a spell in the area, don’t fret: it’s scheduled for the museum’s Friends of Modern Art film series February 13-15. Playing a washed-up movie superhero seeking to reclaim showbiz glory, Michael Keaton deservedly earned his first Oscar nomination. Academy voters gave the film nine nominations, among them Best Picture, Direction (Alejandro González Iñárritu), and Supporting Actor and Actress (Edward Norton and Emma Stone).

Former Detroiter J.K. Simmons emerged from the Oscar balloting as the odds-on-favorite to win Best Supporting Actor for his fearsome performance as a jazz maestro-turned-drum teacher in Whiplash, slated for FIA booking February 20-22. Miles Teller (from Divergent, The Spectacular Now) plays Simmons’ talented pupil in a ferocious drama from young writer-director Damien Chazelle, who was himself nominated for his script.

February’s two other FOMA series selections may not be up for golden statuettes, but they’re no less worthy. Dear White People, playing February 6-8, is a social satire about African-American students at an Ivy League-type college. And The Skeleton Twins, coming February 27-March 1, co-stars former Saturday Night Live notables Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader as twins reunited after a long spell apart.

All FOMA series screenings are at 7:30pm Fridays and Saturdays and 2pm Sundays. Tickets, available at the door, are $6 general admission, $5 for FIA members, and $4 for FOMA members. For more details, visit flintarts.org. ♦


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