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KPBS Midday Edition

Politics And The Academy Awards

Preparations continued Wednesday, February 22, 2017 for the 89th Oscars® for outstanding film achievements of 2016 which will be presented on Sunday, February 26, 2017 at the Dolby Theatre and televised live by the ABC Television Network.
Robert Gladden / ©A.M.P.A.S.
Preparations continued Wednesday, February 22, 2017 for the 89th Oscars® for outstanding film achievements of 2016 which will be presented on Sunday, February 26, 2017 at the Dolby Theatre and televised live by the ABC Television Network.

Film critics discuss controversies at the Oscars and assess this year's nominees

Politics And The Academy Awards
Politics And The Academy Awards GUESTS: Yazdi Pithavala, Moviewallas film critic and podcaster Beth Accomando, KPBS arts reporter

This is KPBS make it edition. Maureen Cavanaugh. Two Academy voters feel melancholy for voting for the Manchester by the Sea or do they feel in the need of a happy fairytale like Lala land. We will find out which of the nine best picture nominees and the best actor and other awards. This Sunday it will be the 80 night and at -- annual Academy awards. We have arts reporter Beth Accomando and Yazdi Pithavala, Moviewallas film critic and podcaster . Welcome to both of you. Last year the Oscars became more political than it probably wanted to be with critics creating that hashtag OSCAR so white. Has the Academy rebounded from this and proven there are more diverse than we thought? They have on a certain level. This is a diverse pool of acting nominees. More diverse than in the past. There is a total of six people of color then zero last year. On that level they have made a change. Where have they not made a change? I think in the technical categories. Maybe there is still a lack of diversity. Otherwise this year was amazing in terms of how much diversity there was. A different kind of politics not hashtag OSCAR so white but a different kind may also arise at this year's awards. Hollywood celebrities have taken the opportunity to use these award shows as a platform for voicing their opposition to the current Trump administration. How much of that do you expect from this year's host or potential winners? I expect a fair bit. The host this year is Jimmy Kimmel and he is not that angry young man I think he will slip in some commentary. The current administration has gone on record to say the biggest enemy right now is the media. I think for the biggest night in media at least in cinema presenters will take the opportunity to provide push back to that. This is not the first time Beth that Oscars went political. Way back in 1978 -- tell us about that. Vanessa Redgrave had the most controversial acceptance speeches when she went for Julia. I salute you and pay tribute to you and I think you should be proud that in the last few weeks you have stood firm and you have refused to be intimidated by the threats of a small bunch of hoodlums whose behavior is an insult to the statue of Jews all over the world and to their great and her own record of struggle against fashion and man depression. That was Vanessa Redgrave in 1978. People were very upset about that. She was pro-Palestine so that created a stir. Let me expand. Do you find these moments printable? I do that they are necessary. This has been a long point of contention whether celebrities use this as a platform to provide personal opinions. The fact that 40 years after the Vanessa Redgrave speech we are still talking about it tells us that is a milestone and represents how the nation was. I think considering how incredibly polarize the nation is right now, it makes sense for people to speak up and document how we feel today. Let's get onto the nominations. Which film do you think has the edge? Have to give it to Lala land. Hollywood is in love after money is in love with itself. Lala land is about that. Let's hear from La La Land. I got a call back. For what? For a TV show. The dangerous minds? That's incredible. I feel like I said negative stuff about it before. I got the blitz. Never seen it. That's from La La Land. Do you think La La Land will win? I don't think it deserves to win. I think the director showed he can make a contemporary musical and knows how to shoot one. It was not a great movie. There are a few great films along the nominees. What is your favorite? La La Land as well. Do you want La La Land? No. Just to be clear I think the movie has its charms. It's a movie with many faults. Considering this movie starred about Eve and Titanic for the most number of single nominations ever received by movie that seems like too much adulation. Which movie would you prefer? I would say either Manchester by the Sea or hell or high water. Beth? Hell or high water. What about four actors and actor? I would like to see Casey Affleck in Manchester by the Sea. I think his stock has fallen. My personal favorite it would be [ Indiscernible ]. Emma Stone is probably likely to invest actress. I think Denville has a strong chance. He's done so many good films and he directed fences. That gives him a little added cachet. What kind of surprises to think we may see? I would be surprised if something like moonlight snuck in to the best picture race. There's been a back lash that La La Land has won so much complains. It's beloved by critics. I think moonlight is a chance that has a chance of sneaking in. Giving La La Land a bunch of awards even though they've had more diversity in the nominations would be reaffirming that Oscar is so white. I've been speaking with Beth Accomando and Yazdi Pithavala, Moviewallas film critic and podcaster . Thank you both so much. Thank you.

The 89th annual Academy Awards are this Sunday and politics of one sort or another are likely to be on display as are the most diverse group of acting nominees.

Last year, the Oscars became more political then it probably wanted to be with critics creating the hashtag #OscarSoWhite. As a result, the nominations in the acting categories has gone from zero people of color being nominated last year to a record setting seven this year in the four acting categories.

This year Denzel Washington ("Fences") and Ruth Negga ("Loving") received Best Acting in a Lead Role nominations while Mahershala Ali ("Moonlight"), Dev Patel ("Lion"), Naomie Harris ("Moonlight"), Viola Davis ("Fences") and Octavia Spencer ("Hidden Figures") received nods in the supporting category.

That is a progress of sorts, although placing Davis in the supporting category seems an acknowledgement by the film's studio that she wouldn't have a chance in the Best Actress category where Emma Stone ("La La Land") looks to be the favorite.

But a different kind of politics may also arise at this year’s awards if the Golden Globes and Meryl Streep are any indication. Hollywood celebrities have taken the opportunity to use recent awards shows as a platform for voicing their criticism of the current Trump Administration.

Oscars, though, are no strangers to politics. One of the more memorable moments occurred in 1978 when Vanessa Redgrave won best supporting actress for "Julia" and used her acceptance speech to condemn the "Zionist hoodlums" that had been campaigning against her because of her pro-Palestinian views. Paddy Chayefsky took his time at the podium to reprimand Redgrave for using the Oscars as a platform for her personal politics.

The Oscars have been host to other instances of politics — Marlon Brando sending up Sacheen Littlefeather to reject his Oscar for "The Godfather" and Peter Davis and Bert Schneider winning Best Documentary for "Hearts and Minds" — and to winners who chose not to make a political statement such as when the outspoken Jane Fonda avoided controversy by keeping her speech to essentially just a thank you.

This year, the films themselves speak to many social issues from interracial marriage ("Loving") to a young man coming to terms with his gay identity ("Moonlight") to shining a light on the African-American women who helped NASA send a man into space in the 1960s ("Hidden Figures").

But despite all the diversity Oscar is trying to serve up in its nominees and presenters, "La La Land," with its white leads, has already tied a record for the most nominations for any film ("Titanic" and "All About Eve" are the only other films with 14 nominations) and is likely to take home the top prizes. Because there is one thing that you can always count on in Hollywood and that is that Hollywood loves films about itself and "La La Land" serves up a loving musical pastiche to the city of dreams.

Check out Beth Accomando's best and worst of 2016 at Cinema Junkie, and Yazdi Pithavala's picks at Moviewallas.

Here is a complete list of nominees and a printable ballot for any Oscar pools.