How To Talk About Oscars Nominees Without Watching Them

How To Talk About Oscars Nominees Without Watching Them

This year’s Oscars-nominated films are so artsy that pretty much nobody has seen them. It’s okay. We have this cheat sheet all ready for you.
Rebecca Cusey
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Once again, with the possible exception of “The Martian,” those wacky Academy members have nominated films nearly no one has seen. Sure, if you live in Los Angeles, you may have schlepped out to see “Room,” but even there it’s not likely. Silly you, you’ve been too busy doing things like “working” and “watching the kids” and “seeing ‘Deadpool’” to take in “The Big Short.”

That’s a problem, because it will come up this weekend. What with everyone desperate to not talk about Donald Trump, the Oscars will be the only safe topic of conversation at cocktail parties for the foreseeable future. Here’s a cheat sheet to help you find some talking points.

Talk about Feminism

This is a tad tricky because you must simultaneously celebrate the strong female performances this year while lamenting the lack of strong female roles. Women headlined “Room,” “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and “Brooklyn,” and played huge roles in “Spotlight” and “The Martian.” Out of eight nominated Best Picture movies, women had great roles in five. But that’s not a win. Nope. No way. You must tsk tsk about the lack of female roles in Hollywood.

Correct talking point: “Jessica Chastain was breathtaking as the commander of the mission in ‘The Martian.’ Too bad there are no roles in Hollywood that show women can be leaders!”

Luckily, this year’s movies are just chock-full of feminism. A lot of people saw “Mad Max: Fury Road” for the awesome effects, the pounding score, the pulse-racing action. But joke’s on you, goobers, because the only acceptable reason to see this movie is for the feminism. It’s a movie so feminist a man asks a woman for directions.

That would be enough, of course, but that’s not all. The happy ending is that nobody gets to have sex, ever. No nookie. No whoopee. As nature intended, wise women live by themselves repeating wise things about seeds and stuff they heard from their mothers. Dirty, nasty men bounce around on poles and hit each other with things. Everyone is happy, and there will be no babies.

Correct talking point: “So glad this year’s movies taught us there are more important things in life than getting it on. It’s about time we moved away from that outdated way of thinking!”

Joke’s on you, goobers, because the only acceptable reason to see this movie is for the feminism.

Finally, one last note on feminism. You may be interested in seeing the dresses the stars wear, but please be aware. We must watch the red carpets to catch the brilliant nuggets of wisdom the stunning starlets shout out to the significantly less-stunning press as they glide by in the crowd, glancing past to see if anyone important is nearby. These nuggets of wisdom are priceless and the point of the entire night.

Even though the stars pick out dresses months ahead of the awards, have several fittings, starve themselves for weeks, and have a small army to perfect their hair, makeup, nails, and eyebrows, it is rude for the significantly less-stunning press to ask about their dresses. They must be asked about world peace or ISIS or something. They are more than just perfect bodies in dresses and ungodly amounts of jewelry, you know.

Correct talking point: “Wow. Jennifer Laurence’s mind really looked amazing on the red carpet tonight. She must have been practicing calculus!”

Embrace Populism

This year, we are angry. No one is sure at what, exactly, but we know we are angry and we are about ready to grab pitchforks and storm the Bastille (if we knew what the Bastille was, which we don’t because education is elitist). Translate that anger into the Oscars. When someone asks who you think will win, respond that a cabal of old establishment Hollywood should not get to dictate what is the best movie. Then pick your favorite movie of the year and fight for it past all reason. Something like this:

Correct Talking Point: “‘Jurassic World’ was far, far better than ‘The Revenant!’ The performance Indominous Rex gave was amazing! It changed my life! Down with the establishment!”

Another Correct Talking Point: “‘Furious 7’ is the only movie that is even close to good enough to win. Amazing movie. Flawless. I laughed, I cried. You have to see the deeper meaning. Jumping a supercar between high rises in Dubai not once, but twice, is a metaphor for our Middle East foreign policy. Can’t you see it? Down with the establishment!”

Plus, if you’re a “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” geek—and really, who isn’t these days?—it’s a chance to awe your listener with your encyclopedic knowledge of the Star Wars universe.

Star Wars Talking Point: “…..and that is why the Best Supporting Actor Oscar should go to the guy who played the junkyard dealer who traded scraps for rations. It’s so obvious. It’s the only choice. Down with the establishment!”

Heck, even pick movies that you loved from last year or a few years back. When someone counters that it is ineligible for the 2016 Oscars, counter with “How do you know ‘Spotlight’ is eligible? I heard it was made in Canada. It’s probably a Canadian movie. I could bring a lawsuit right now, challenging its eligibility! Ha!”

Highlight Victims

There’s been a lot of chatter this year about how, despite many fine performances by actors with pigmented skin, neither a single actor with pigmented skin nor a movie featuring actors with pigmented skin was picked for major categories. For instance, Leonardo DiCaprio is about to get an Oscar for staggering around in the snow and breathing heavy for two hours, but Idris Elba is not nominated for “Beasts of No Nation.” Seems wrong.

Pigmented Americans, however, are not the only group tragically underrepresented by Hollywood. There is a large, oppressed, overlooked crowd of Americans who are never, ever given any respect. I’m talking, of course, about Unattractive Americans. This year, the SPWCJ (Society of People Without Chiseled Jawlines) is joining forces with AAWTRT (Association of Americans Whose Thighs Rub Together) to highlight the plight of Unattractive Americans. They fight for the chance to be featured on the big screen in all their hairy-backed, overbite-ridden, honky-nosed, horrifying glory. They even have their own hashtag: #OscarsSoUnrealisticallyAttractive

Correct Talking Point: “I mean, why does the system favor beautiful people? I just want to have my daughter see people onscreen who represent her.”

Have Your Excuse Ready

Maybe you were smart and realized that while “Room” may be a transcendent story of the triumph of the human spirit, a story about holding a woman as a captive sex slave for years wasn’t likely to get you some lovin’ on date night and, because despite “Mad Max” this is still important to you, you took your wife to a nice meal and then to “Mission Impossible.” This is not something you want to admit at the cocktail party.

Correct Talking Point: “We stopped to help an Unattractive American—we believe strongly in equality for them—and we were just too late to the ‘Room’ showing. It was sold out, sadly.”

Whip Out Tom Hanks

If, despite all these talking points, you still find yourself cornered by someone insisting on knowing what you thought of “Carol,” there’s always Tom Hanks. Everybody loves Tom Hanks. His movie “Bridge of Spies,” which you did not see, is nominated for Best Picture.

But it does not matter if you did not see it, because Tom Hanks is a national treasure and we don’t have to actually see the movie to know that. He is so tremendously decent, so relentlessly kind, so representative of all that we imagine is best about ourselves, that he can head off any awkward conversation.

No-Fail Talking Point: “Hey, how about that Tom Hanks? He’s really great, right? Life is like a bowl of chocolates, right? Wilson!”

Rebecca Cusey is a movie critic based in Washington DC. She is a member of the Washington Area Film Critics Society and a voting Tomatomer Critic on Rotten Tomatoes. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey.

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