Updated: Dec 10, 2020
Mom picks the winners.
When you try and watch a movie with Mom at home she's up, then she's down. She's futzing in the kitchen. She's going potty. She's brushing her hair with a toothbrush. She's putting a bra on over her sweater and shoes on the wrong feet - she's BUSY! Even if it was The Film Most Likely to Entertain Dementia People - Money-Back Guaranteed!, with nothing but toddlers and kittens cavorting, rollicking, and squealing she'd eventually be up, talking to her "friend" in the hallway mirror and searching for a pair of panties to pull on up over her jeans. It's part of the fun of dementia (Aaaaack!), but really annoying the 100th time you've hit the pause button to coax her back to her seat. But in a movie theater she's still on board with the rules; when the lights go out, you sit and watch the screen, let your Junior Mints melt in your crotch, and ignore the sounds of your daughter shoving popcorn in her face as if it were her last meal.
So. We go to a lot of movies. They are relatively cheap entertainment (especially matinees/senior days), the theaters are warm, and we can kill an afternoon doing something we both like. Up until now, I've chosen family-friendly content (gawd love Pixar), but this year I had the time, and desire, to see all the Best Picture nominees so I decided I was gonna test Mom's taste for adult-fare and drag her with me. In doing so, I found out Mom has a wide-range of interests in adult story telling, and definite favorites, and to limit her exposure to only "safe" stories (i.e. no blood, no cussing, simplistic characters) is denying her some truly beautiful tales.
So if you are filling out your Oscar ballots at some swanky party, or just drinking cheap beer alone in your apartment and accidentally turn on the show, consider aligning your votes with Mom's picks. Given that the average age of the Academy voter is 64, you can bet she's not the only one giving a dementia-laced nod to these nominees, her preferences just ain't official.
BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Coco - Dementia Oscar!
The Boss Baby
Coco easily takes this one, although Ferdinand got a couple of chuckles out of Mom, and I was pleasantly surprised that The Boss Baby wasn't idiotic. Coco was a beautiful film and a beautiful story with a dementia character treated with love and respect. I doubt that's why Mom liked it. She responded most to the music and the bright color palette.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Richard Jenkins, The Shape of Water - Dementia Oscar!
Willem Dafoe, The Florida Project
Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Christopher Plummer, All the Money in the World
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Well, Mom had no use for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri so as far as she's concerned Woody Harrelson and Sam Rockwell can suck it (an expression she would never use but I could hear her thinking the equivalent when this movie wouldn't... "for the love of gawd end!" - her sentiment, not mine.) We didn't get to see The Florida Project or All the Money in the World so Richard Jenkins wins by process of elimination! Personally, my non-dementia vote goes to Sam Rockwell.
She's not a super fan of the f-bomb (as we found out in Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri). "I gotta get outta here" came flying LOUDLY out of her face during a particularly expletive filled scene. The violence, however, didn't seem to bother her at all.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Octavia Spencer, The Shape of Water - Dementia Oscar!
Mary J. Blige, Mudbound
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread
Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird
Mom got a kick out of Octavia Spencer's sauciness in The Shape of Water. Maybe she also connected to a character protecting her friend who, through her deafness, was out of step with the rest of the world. (I'm probably reading a little too much into Mom's reactions.) Runner up for Mom would be Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird. Perhaps somewhere inside she can still identify with loving a daughter who makes her own difficulties in the world. My hands down pick would be Lesley Manville in Phantom Thread. She gave an impeccably measured performance as an overly controlled character. It would be a long-shot with the dementia crowd; I don't think Mom even noticed.
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour - Dementia Oscar!
Daniel Day-Lewis, Phantom Thread
Daniel Kaluuya, Get Out
Denzel Washington, Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Timothée Chalamet, Call Me By Your Name
While Mom initially fell asleep during the Darkest Hour (it was super warm and cozy in the theater!), she didn't sleep for long and was wide-eyed for the remainder of the film, even turning to our friend at the end of the movie to pat and smile as if to share without words how much she enjoyed the film and confirm that our friend had too. I'm with Mom on this one. A fan of Oldman's since Sid and Nancy, he was spectacular as Churchill, and while Timothée Chalamet (my runner up) is an acting force to be reckoned with, the depth to which Oldman wielded his craft infused the entire film to every frame, every pixel.
Sally Hawkins, The Shape of Water - Dementia Oscar!
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Margot Robbie, I, Tonya
Saoirse Ronan, Lady Bird
Meryl Streep, The Post
This one's a tough call. While Mom really responded to Margot Robbie in I, Tonya (my choice for best actress), and didn't even fuss about all the cussing, Saoirse Ronan also held her attention throughout Lady Bird, even though we missed 10-minutes of crucial character resolution towards the end when Mom had to pee so badly I couldn't even pretend not to see her fidgeting in her seat. However, Mom was enthralled with The Shape of Water. Sally Hawkins, I am envious. I can't get her to pay the slightest bit of attention when I've all but thrown myself in between her and a cookie in a futile attempt to impede her slow but determined advance to the sweet treat, but you she couldn't take her eyes off of for two hours, and she doesn't even like eggs!
Shape of Water - Dementia Oscar!
Call Me By Your Name
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
While waiting in line to purchase our tickets to Shape of Water, I'm real nervous about the content. I don't know how a monster movie love story is gonna go over with Mom (is she gonna have monster nightmares tonight?), or me (I hate violence and blood). So I say to her, "Mom, if it gets scary we'll hide our eyes and hold hands, okay?" She agrees. Well! Mom is completely enchanted by this film, not a peep out of her the entire movie. When things get gruesome at the end I hide my face in Mom's shoulder and put my hand up in front of her eyes to shield her. As I watch her face through my fingers, she slowly raises her hand and pulls mine down. She watched the entire thing, while her daughter cowered in her coat collar! I think the imagery is what enchanted her the most; I doubt Mom can track a 2-hour story line. Whatever the attraction, her body language told the story of complete engagement.
All the nominees were well worth seeing, great stories told in inventive, beautiful ways. The Post was the only film that fell sort of flat. Darkest Hour is my choice for best picture, with Dunkirk being a close second, and I don't even like war movies!
My favorite moment in taking Mom to all of these films was during Phantom Thread when one of the characters on screen asks "Would you like a glass of wine?" And Mom responded out loud "Yes, please," then showed clear disappointment when no wine showed up.
I don't know how these actors and filmmakers feel about being the top pick of one lovely, but crazy, lady, but they should be honored; dementia is a tough crowd. Yet Mom was engaged, and reacted to each and every story in her own way. And I learned not to always assume I know what Mom will like, to shake it up a bit, and to keep an eye on her handful of Junior Mints, otherwise they'll be a lot of scrubbing the front of her pants when the final credits roll.