Chapel Hill becomes Hollywood Hills in Academy Awards preview


The UNC General Alumni Association hosted the Oscars Preview Night with film experts Scott Myers (left) and Dana Coen of UNC's writing for the stage and screen program in order to explore this year in film.

On Tuesday night, Chapel Hill became Hollywood Hills. 

The UNC Program in the Humanities and the General Alumni Association hosted “A 2016 Oscars Preview: 'A Carolina Blue Carpet' Event.” 

Writing for the screen and stage professors Dana Coen and Scott Myers discussed this year’s nominees, snubs and opinions of the awards for the third year in a row. But this was the first year the event was held at the Varsity Theatre. 

“People were really interested in the event in the past, but we wanted to make it a bigger deal,” said Rachel Schaevitz, a postdoctoral fellow in the public humanities. “So we came up with this blue carpet idea at the Varsity, and it all came together from there.” 

Coen and Myers started off the night talking about how people remember events like Jennifer Lawrence tripping up the stairs and John Travolta flubbing Idina Menzel’s name better than they remember who won Best Picture five years ago.

“No matter what your position on the Oscars are, you have to acknowledge that the show has become an event unto itself,” Coen said.

Coen and Myers addressed the #OscarsSoWhite controversy early on, expelling how in a pool of more than 6,000 voters, 94 percent are white. 

“The #OscarsSoWhite movement shows that there’s never been as much heat on this topic as there has been this year,” Myers said. "I really think this is the tipping point of something changing."

Sexism and ageism in Hollywood were also discussed.

“Diversity is a large and complex issue,” Coen said. “It’s a top-down problem, and it’s evolving slowly.”

The two also looked at current trends in filmmaking. The most notable trend discussed was the emergence of streaming services like Netflix, which released the critically acclaimed “Beasts of No Nation” in 2015. 

“The Oscars board is a very conservative group that didn’t know what to make of a Netflix film being a potential nominee,” said Myers. “In two to three years, this won’t be the case.”

Myers said he thought “Beasts of No Nation” was one of the best films of the year and was snubbed by the Oscars.

Out of the eight films nominated for Best Picture, Coen’s favorite was “The Big Short,” a film about corruption on Wall Street, starring Brad Pitt and Ryan Gosling. 

“It was my favorite film of the year — it was frightening, human and very entertaining,” Coen said.

Myers said the corruption seen in the film’s characters made him extremely angry, which is one of the things Coen said made the film so great.

“A good story gets under your skin. It makes you want to act — and this film does just that," he said.

Myers’ choice for Best Picture was "Mad Max: Fury Road," a film that audience members were excited to discuss. 

“Nothing released in 2015 comes close to this in terms of both spectacle and story. This is a feminist western,” Myers said.

He said Marvel and DC superhero franchise writers could learn how to combine action with gripping character development from the writers of "Mad Max: Fury Road." He also said he views the movie as a game-changer for how studios view films with female leads.

“This is the kind of movie that makes suits uncomfortable,” Myers said. “Conventional wisdom says women leads can’t open movies, and this film presents the opportunity to change perspectives.”

Guests voted for their choice for Carolina Best Picture before the discussion — a title that was awarded at the end of the night.

“Spotlight,” a film based on the true story of the Boston Globe’s investigation of child abuse in the Catholic Church, won the Carolina Best Picture. 

“’Spotlight’ addressed such an important issue in a way that really stuck with people. This is going to win best original screenplay,” Myers said.

Schaevitz said she believes Myers and Coen’s discussion with the audience made the night a success.

“It was great to have a couple different opinions on the films. I thought it was a great event, and I had a lot of fun.”


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