In what has become a politically charged awards ceremony emblematic of the liberal Hollywood elite, it’s no surprise that a poker flick lost out at the 2018 Academy Awards, no less to a movie based on a budding romance between two men that addresses cultural issues at the heart of many political debates.
Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut “Molly’s Game” — about the life of Molly Bloom, a former athlete who operated a high-stakes celebrity poker game in Hollywood and New York City before getting busted by the Feds — was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.
But poker’s best chance to win an Oscar lost to James Ivory’s “Call Me by Your Name” at Sunday night’s 90th annual Oscars.
“Call Me by Your Name” was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor (Timothee Chalamet), and Best Original Song (“Mystery of Love”).
A nervous Ivory, a long-time screenwriter, showed why he’s more skilled with a pen than a microphone, reading his acceptance speech directly off a sheet of paper, making minimal eye contact with the audience.
Poker Gets No Respect
“Molly’s Game” featured minimal card play, and Sorkin has even said he doesn’t consider it a “poker movie.” But let’s get real, “Lucky You” and “Runner Runner” not withstanding, it’s the closest thing to a poker movie since “Rounders” in 1998.
Much like “Molly’s Game,” “Rounders” didn’t get much love from the Hollywood big wigs even with its star-studded cast led by Academy Award-winning actor Matt Damon.
But unlike “Molly’s Game,” “Rounders” wasn’t even nominated for an Academy Award.
Professional movie critics may contend “Call Me by Your Name” is superior to “Molly’s Game,” but the moviegoing public might disagree.
According to movie review website Rotten Tomatoes, “Molly’s Game” received an 85 percent favorability rating, a smidge below “Call Me by Your Name’s” 86 percent score.
The 237 movie critics mostly agreed with the regular audience, giving it an 82 percent favorability rating. But those who are paid to critique movies were far more impressed with “Call Me by Your Name,” giving it a 96 percent approval score.
Jennifer Tilly’s Vote
Poker may not get much respect from Hollywood, although many of these performers love to play this great game, but there is one poker player who has a small say in which movies and entertainers win.
Jennifer Tilly, a high-stakes cash game player and actress, has an Academy Award vote.
“Mailed my Oscar ballot off yesterday. I hope I did it right. I just voted on merit. I didn’t have time to research which nominee was a minority or a good person,” Tilly explained in a Twitter post on February 27.
Tilly, who has been in a long-term relationship with fellow poker pro Phil Laak, was nominated in 1995 for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in “Bullets Over Broadway.”
The half-Chinese poker-playing entertainer, along with her sister Meg Tilly, is one of just 13 Asians in history to be nominated for an Academy Award.
For some reason, Hollywood doesn’t have a thing for poker or Asians. That’s two strikes on Jennifer Tilly’s count.