The story of making CODA, and writer-director Siân Heder’s quest to get it right; why CODA‘s upset Oscar win is also a win for Sundance; everyone please calm down please. All in today’s Movie News Rundown.
The Slap: We won’t add to the endless takes about this essentially sad moment. If you’d like a just-the-facts explanation of what happened, here it is. Oh, and as a quick aside, here’s a list of the Oscar winners.
All About CODA: The film seemed to some Oscar viewers to come out of nowhere. It didn’t. The film about a child of deaf parents (CODA) who wants to sing, but feels tied to their fishing business, is a remake of a French film, and is the product of intense research and commitment by writer-director Siân Heder. We talked with her last year about her determination to portray a Deaf family as accurately and fully as she could. She also won the trust of people in the Gloucester, Massachusetts fishing community to make sure she got their stories right, too. Her Oscar win for Best Adapted Screenplay and CODA‘s win for Best Picture are a great testament to the importance of research, especially when you tell stories about communities you don’t belong to.
Emila Jones: Check out Margeaux Sippell’s terrific recent profile of CODA star Emilia Jones, who earned the role by learning American Sign Language and to sing her heart out.
Troy Kotsur: For me, his win for Best Supporting Actor was the highlight of the night — the award presentation was beautiful, from beginning to end.
Sundance: CODA‘s win is a huge win for the Sundance Film Festival, because it was the first film to premiere at Sundance and go on to win Best Picture. SiânHeder is very much a Sundance success story — her previous film Tallulah, a family comedy-drama, premiered there in 2016, and helped get her the job of remaking the 2014 French film La Famille Bélier. That remake became, you guessed it, CODA. I remember watching CODA in Los Angeles, during peak COVID, during 2021’s virtual Sundance, and being thrilled to see something so uplifting, that also earns every emotional moment. It dominated in Sundance’s awards that year, and Apple bought it for $25 million.
Maybe One Thing Though, About the Slap? It would be a shame if this goes down in history as Chris Rock’s most famous joke, because he’s one of the all-time best, and it’s one of his all-time worst. Maybe the salutes to Pulp Fiction and White Men Can’t Jump hypnotized him into believing we were in the ’90s, when a G.I. Jane joke made a lick of sense.
Another Thing About Siân Heder: Her research obsession didn’t start with CODA. She told us that when she was a writer for the prison dramedy Orange Is the New Black, she went so deep she learned how to make a toilet bomb.
Any Non-Oscar Stuff This Weekend? Yeah! The missus and I went to the very fun Boston Underground Film Festival at a theater — Cambridge’s The Brattle — that feels truly underground. Not just because of the esoteric movie posters and playbills on the walls, but because you descend a staircase off Harvard Square to get in, and then look out at the world aboveground. The festival is very smoothly run, impeccably curated, and totally unpretentious. We saw Hypochondriac, the impressive feature debut of Addison Heimann, starring Zach Villa, who is also going places.
So, Was It the Craziest Thing That’s Ever Happened at the Oscars? If you care about awards, I still think the Moonlight/La La Land mess-up of 2017 was worse, because so much had to go wrong for that to go wrong. One thing I found intriguing about The Slap is that I always assumed Oscar comedians cleared their jokes in advance with the other people in the Famous People Club™ and that clearly doesn’t seem to have been the case here.
What Is G.I Jane, Anyway: For our younger readers, it was a ’90s Demi Moore “issue” movie (see also A Few Good Men, Disclosure) in which she played a female solider who enlists in an elite unit where all the odds are against her. Her hair is very short in it. Ridley Scott directs, and you can kind of see him trying things out here that he would use again in 2001’s Black Hawk Down. I can’t remember if I’ve seen G.I. Jane or just saw the trailer and though, okay, got it. The film received not-great reviews and did just OK at the box office, which makes it all the weirder that anyone is still talking about.
Main Image: Emila Jones signing in CODA.