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Thursday December 1st

'Lady Bird' or 'The Shape of Water'? Panel will discuss Oscar nominees

Dr. Rachel Schaevitz, professor of film production at UNC, and Dana Coen, director of the UNC Writing for the Screen and Stage program, are the two main speakers at the event.
Buy Photos Dr. Rachel Schaevitz, professor of film production at UNC, and Dana Coen, director of the UNC Writing for the Screen and Stage program, are the two main speakers at the event.

The Varsity Theatre will bring Hollywood to Chapel Hill with its fifth annual Oscar Preview: A “Carolina Blue Carpet Event” Tuesday night. The General Alumni Association and Carolina Public Humanities are sponsoring the event.

“We hold the event every year before the Oscars to celebrate the movies and provide a night of scholarly content for the local community that emphasizes fun,” said Max Owre, the executive director of Carolina Public Humanities, said in an email.

Owre was foundational in starting the Oscar Preview event five years ago.

“It’s both a serious review of the film industry and a bit of show in itself,” he said. “There will be a lot of commentary on film (and lots of clips), but by extension, there will also be discussions about many of the issues in society today.”

UNC faculty and film experts Dana Coen and Rachel Schaevitz will discuss and debate the nominees for Best Picture and share their opinions on films that were snubbed.

“We bring together some scholars and talk about the nominees,” Schaevitz said. “We talk about trends that we see in films in America and across the world, and changes that we see in the industry.”

Coen and Schaevitz use the Oscars as a vehicle to examine the film industry as a whole.

“The industry in general has been very newsworthy the past three years with 'Oscars so white' — and last year it was political speech-making at the awards ceremonies, and this year you’ve got sexual harassment and other issues,” Coen said. “It’s become a pretty interesting evening in terms of what can be explored.”

The panel’s discussion will center around the nominees for Best Picture.

“I love ‘The Shape of Water,’” Schaevitz said. “I think Guillermo del Toro is one of the most brilliant visual filmmakers making movies right now. I felt like the opening credits of ‘The Shape of Water’ were more beautiful than half of the movies that got made this year.”

Coen has a different pick for Best Picture.

“My Best Picture choice is ‘Lady Bird,’” Coen said. “The central reason I like ‘Lady Bird’ is because it’s a completely original film that knows what it is. It feels completely organic to its creator. Another reason I like it is because it’s the only film among the front runners that doesn’t display guns or feature violence.”

Like Coen, Schaevitz expressed frustration with the lack of originality of the films that traditionally have won Best Picture.

“The one I don’t want to win is ‘The Post,’” Schaevitz said. “It’s just so much traditional Oscar bait. I would love to see the Oscars shift like they did last year in recognizing ‘Moonlight’ instead of ‘La La Land.’ I would love to see the Academy evolve to recognize different, interesting, unique, creative films.”

Highlights of the event include a Carolina blue carpet walk, where guests can have their pictures snapped by the paparazzi on the big night, and an audience ballot for Best Picture.

“Three times out of four we’ve picked correctly,” Owre said. “Last year, ‘La La Land’ beat out ‘Moonlight’ by one vote, but that was corrected on the stage of the real thing.” 


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