Belfast Telegraph

Jenny Beavan brings much-needed dose of reality to La La Land

By Grace Dent

The Academy Awards may not be your thing. Perhaps you slope off to bed early, dismissing the whole hoopla as irrelevant. But the following day refuseniks are prone to wake up feeling they missed a rollicking, globally-shared bitch-a-long.

I toyed here with the cheerful, antique term "water-cooler moment". Twitter isn't anything like a water-cooler. When, for example, Sam Smith collected his best original song Oscar on Sunday evening Twitter felt more like that moment in Gremlins when evil ringleader Stripe chucked himself in a YMCA swimming pool. Newly bone-thin Smith's main crime was to announce himself - beautifully short-sightedly - as the first openly gay man to win an Oscar. Elton John and Stephen Sondheim have both won previously in his category alone.

This isn't Smith's main crime, more merely one of a plethora of niggles including the tales of his very rich parents giving up their careers to mollycoddle him.

Nevertheless, Dustin Lance Black, who scooped an Academy Award for the screenplay of Milk in 2009, was incandescent about Smith's "first gay to win an Oscar" claim and berated the singer for not knowing who he was.

But thank God for these moments, because the average Oscar-ogler has seen barely any of the films being celebrated. Oh, we meant to. We nearly saw Carol with Cate Blanchett until someone tipped us off it was an hour and 58 minutes long and about a lesbian who loses her gloves. My interest in The Revenant was certainly piqued on hearing Leonardo was to be raped by a bear.

Similarly, no one I knew seemed to truly love Mad Max: Fury Road, yet I know several people who adored and cried at the end of Fast And Furious 7. Mad Max's cast and crew left with six Oscars.

Host Chris Rock hammered his point home, lampooning the slim pickings. Rock's opening speech wasn't perhaps as funny as, say, his racial rants during Never Scared or Bigger And Blacker, but then Rock's views on the 2016 Oscars race debacle are clearly nuanced. He has, after all, been shouting about this stuff for a long time and before other stars, like Jada Pinkett Smith, became vocal.

Rock believes the Oscars are racist, but he also refuses to be told what jobs he should boycott. "Jada got mad, Jada said she's not coming," Rock laughed. "Isn't she on a TV show? Jada boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rihanna's panties. I wasn't invited."

Among the oh-so-white guest list, it was illuminating to watch Oscar-winning British costume designer Jenny Beavan walk through the hall, mainly devoid of applause, to collect her gong. It proved how stiff the boundaries of acceptability are if you're a woman aged 67 who refuses to wear a £9,000 spaghetti-strap gown.

Every woman who has attended an awards ceremony trussed up like a carnival queen and stood in bare, blistered feet in the freezing cold waiting for a taxi and holding her shoes applauded Beavan. A clip online showed men glowering in her direction as if she was an affront to their sensibilities. Beavan, who recently also won a Bafta for her talents, was an odd spectacle. Here was a woman who had clearly chosen not to starve herself for six months.

She had also not, it seemed, spent months at a pre-Oscars "rock hard abs" boot camp, or even spent January recovering from surgery so she could wear a see-through frock.

She could walk without wincing or tottering, for God's sake. The Oscars are still so white, but I took some comfort that Beavan kicked back and made the Oscars so comfy.

Belfast Telegraph


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