Category: oscars

Oscars: 2022 Thoughts

Another year, another Oscars. And my, but this one had some things to talk about. (And yes, beyond Will Smith deciding to Make Duels Great Again.) As usual, we turned the evening into a small party, and this year we even went for a themed event, having everyone dress up as a character from an Oscar nominated movie. (I was Guy from Free Guy, Tomas was Shrek, Denisa was Amy from Little Women, Daniela was Luisa from Encanto, and MC was Anna from Frozen.) We also had treats that were Oscar movie-themed: Devil Wears Prada’ed eggs, Chocolat covered strawberries, Grapes of Wrath, and others.

And, of course, there was the yearly competition for the Oscar the Grouch hat. (You’ll be relieved to know I defended my title, getting 17/23 right. Daniela was in second with around . . . 13? It’s a blur.) The party around the Oscars was a lot of fun, but how was the event itself? I have Thoughts:

  • First off, let’s get the MMA fighter in the middle of the room out of the way. Will Smith and Chris Rock. This was honestly shocking to watch unfold live. At first, we were all convinced it was a schtick, because there are so many of them, and so many of them are in poor taste. But then the screen froze and things went wonky, and we all headed to Twitter to find out what was going on. And even then, we kept rewatching the slap seen round the world to figure out if it was real or not. And yes, it was real. Should it have happened? Definitely not. I really worry about normalizing violence, and when an actor of Smith’s caliber decides slapping someone who insults his wife on national television is a Good Idea . . . Although then there’s the “Chris Rock making fun of someone with a legitimate medical issue,” which is clearly in less than poor taste. And then there’s the “Will Smith trying to explain why he did it, without directly addressing it, and also thanking people for his Best Actor award.” All in all, it was a big mess.
  • However, it was also one of the few really memorable moments from the evening, since other than that and a few things, the show was pretty yawn-inducing. The three hosts were almost uniformly cringey, the opening number with Beyonce was . . . boring. The show famously decided to sideline 8 (eight!) of the awards, shunting them off to brief edited snippets, inserted at random throughout the night. The argument was they would replace those “boring” awards with more interesting things, and that way the show would be able to stick to three hours. Instead, the show went over by around 40 minutes anyway, and the junk they crammed in instead just kept me thinking about how I would have preferred to see the actual awards.
  • And while I’m at it, can I just complain in particular about the We Don’t Talk about Bruno number? Because going into it, the Oscar folks were making a big deal about how they were going to perform the song live. And because I’m a big fan of the song, I was looking forward to hearing it. And then it came, and they sang the first “verse,” and then . . . turned it into a big Oscar number, with none of the original lyrics, and none of the stuff that made the original song such fun. It was terrible, with a capital T. Ugh.
  • Also, I understand the reasoning in not letting the same movie get multiple nominations for best song, but when the songs they end up picking are arguably significantly worse than many of the songs they could have had if they let Encanto double (or triple) dip . . . I wasn’t a huge fan of any of them. Maybe I’m just getting crotchety.
  • What was up with the “fan favorite” polls? Whose bright idea was that? They were clearly steamrolled by Zach Snyder acolytes. In what universe is the Flash’s whatever scene from Justice League in the same zip code as the Avengers Assemble scene? And Army of the Dead? And Minimata? Live action Cinderella? These were just a joke.
  • Some of the reunions for the presenters were interesting: The Godfather and Pulp Fiction stood out. I would have loved to see a bit more of actually digging into those some, instead of the brief time they got. (Though if they did it in the vein of James Bond’s 60th anniversary, that would be less than good. A series of clips, none of which really tied together, to the point that I kind of felt like I could have done a better job in about an hour on my iPad).
  • Seeing Liza Minelli was bittersweet. Yay Liza, but getting old stinks, folks. It was nice to see Lady Gaga look out for her.
  • Everything about CODA was a big thumbs up, however. Truly inspirational, with great acceptance speeches, and it helped make the show somewhat memorable for something other than assault.
  • The In Memoriam approach this year was . . . strange? On the one hand, I liked having people actually reminisce about some of the people we’ve lost this past year. On the other, they had a gospel choir singing and dancing, and showed the actual In Memoriam piece behind them, to the point that the focus was very much on the dancing and singing, and not on the people being honored.

Honestly, who produces these shows year after year? Because you’d think that in an industry that can make so many really good films, you’d have enough talent to cobble together a good three hour award show. Instead, the Oscars seem to be still continually searching for “what should we be?” They bemoan the lack of viewers (though Will Smith’s slap will no doubt generate far more interest in the Oscars than anything else that happened this year), but they seem to want to blame it on anything other than what’s clear to so many. Honor movies. Honor film makers. People love movies. You can even highlight some of the great movies that came out that weren’t nominated for Oscars.

Last year, I complained that all they did was hand out awards and let winners ramble on for far too long. This year, they brought a lot of the schtick back, and clearly that’s still not doing it. There’s no way I would tune in for an hour of Amy Schumer et al making lame jokes about Hollywood. So why do they assume I’m going to want to watch that in the middle of my Oscars show? In my book, everything in the show should be something worth watching. Stupid routines by presenters? Nope. Lame tributes that are poorly put together? Come on.

Just give us something watchable. Heck, you could even do a “Thirty Years Ago” segment each year, where the show looks back at 30 years ago and talks about what went on. I don’t know. There seems to be tons of great things they could focus on.

Instead . . .

But my party was fun, so there’s that. And I got to read my agent’s liveblog of the evening, which I always enjoy. (Even if there were no updates on what desserts he was eating this time, which was a bit of a letdown. Come on, Joshua! How am I supposed to enjoy delicious noms vicariously??)

Anyone out there watch the show? What did you think?


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Oscars 2021 Thoughts

I have always enjoyed watching the Oscars, but I must say that they have seemed to really struggle for the past few years. Part of it seems to stem from this sort of existential crisis they seem caught up in, questioning why they exist and what they should do about it. It’s been rightly pointed out that the Oscars have been historically very, very white to an extent that’s made the awards more than a little problematic. So I’m all for them taking steps to try and rectify that issue. However, at the same time they’ve been doing that, they’ve also been fussing around with practically every other dial they’ve got out there. Different hosts. Multiple hosts. No hosts. Focus on films. Focus on film makers. Downplay the glamor. Hype up the glamor. Be funny. Be not funny.

And meanwhile, the ratings get worse year after year, and they keep running around wondering what they’re supposed to do to stop the ratings slide.

This year’s show was . . . not good. This isn’t really because of COVID. I went into it recognizing that social distancing was going to make for a different production, and I was okay with all of that. Yay masks. Fine with a smaller crowd. But I’d also heard they were going to focus more on films, which was also great in my book. Instead, they focused heavily on providing a little snippet of information about each nominee (typically), and then let those nominees give their acceptance speeches for almost as long as they wanted, without any orchestra to play them off the stage. There was no opening to speak of. No significant number of skits or anything to really break up anything, with the exception of a trivia thing, in memoriam, and some humanitarian awards. They even had the musical numbers for best song all done in the lead up before the actual show started.

And the event still went 17 minutes longer than it was scheduled to.

Look, I understand that the Oscars are an award show. But this one focused on the awards and really skimped on the show. I can’t imagine the vast majority of people who tuned in for a bit thought it was riveting television. Certainly not Super Bowl level of entertainment. Even a bad Super Bowl game is still more engaging than what was on the Oscars last night. “Come watch over three hours of people thanking their loved ones and giving impromptu political or social justice speeches, peppered with ads!” If you love cinema and love knowing all the ins and outs of who’s doing what, then maybe this was the bee’s knees. Or if you’ve seen all the different movies and are genuinely interested in the outcomes, then this might have been more engaging. But for the average layperson? This was Snoozeville.

To me, the answer isn’t that difficult as soon as you realize what the question is. “How in the world can we make three hours of television focused on the best movies of the past year interesting for people to watch?” Well, you start by actually focusing on the movies. Show me more clips. Heck, even showing trailers for each show would be better than giving out snippets of info about each of the nominees.

“But all these movies aren’t popular with the general public!” True. So then are we harmed at all by having the evening lean into the “movies of the past year” theme, and highlight some of the more popular movies that came out then. There’s just so much to do with movies. So many movies made. So many movies to celebrate. And instead we get a procession of people making speeches that go on for too long, in areas so many people just don’t care about.

I’m not trying to say all the awards don’t matter. I love every aspect of film making, and I do keep track of who won Best Cinematography or Sound Design, and I try to check them out, because that really interests me. But I recognize I’m in the minority. Each year there’s this pull between “The Oscars are too boring and so no one is watching them” and “But the awards really matter, and it’s important we give people the chance to make acceptance speeches.” And the more I think about it, the less I think it’s possible that those two problems can be solved. Because we just saw what a show looks like when it’s all acceptance speeches and all about the film makers, and it was the first time they’ve had under 10 million viewers.

If we keep that trend up, the Oscars won’t matter at all, because no one will watch and no one will care. (It’s already heading that way as is.)

So something has to change, and I’d be totally fine with that something being “the winners come up, get their statue, and then go backstage to make their acceptance speeches, which can be watched online or on a different channel.” Obviously that’s quite extreme, and I wouldn’t say it’s the only option. But 60 seconds of mic time and then it cuts dead no matter what might also be an approach . . .

I didn’t miss the stupid schticks they’d do before they announced each winner. The fake banter between the presenters. That’s all stuff that can be moved elsewhere. I also kind of liked having the musical numbers peppered in the pre-show, just to free up some more air time. But all that air time can be filled with things other than “people talking about stuff most people don’t care about,” even if it’s stuff the people involved with really care a lot about.

Let’s put it this way: when I was growing up, the Oscars was an event. I’d stay up late for it and look forward to it each year. My kids tuned out this year about fifteen minutes in. It was just too boring. That’s a bad sign, if I’m in the “I want the Oscars to matter” crowd . . .

What did you think about the show? Did you even watch it?


Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

2020 Oscars Review

Another year, another Oscars. This time around, I’d seen most of the movies that garnered a slew of nominations. I also just barely panned the movie that won best picture, Parasite. So first, a response to that win.

Some asked me if Parasite’s win means I need to change my review of the movie. Of course I won’t. I stand by my feeling that this is an Emperor’s New Clothes sort of a win. Don’t get me wrong: I was happy to see a non-English language movie gobble up some awards, and I think that’s something that’s been a long time coming. I just wish it had happened with a movie that was better than Parasite.

As I’ve read the many good reviews of the movie, I keep seeing people say they loved it because it was “such a ride.” They had no idea what would happen next, and they just enjoyed the whirlwind twists and turns. I actually felt that was a gimmick of the movie, and not anything to write home about. There’s a fine line to walk to make a plot unpredictable but still rewarding. I mean, you could start a movie out with Mary Poppins and then have Russia nuke Cherry Tree Lane about a third of the way through, turning the rest of the movie into a Mad Max-ian rush through a horrific wasteland, as Mary tries to save Jane and Michael from child slavers. No one would see that “twist” coming, but . . . so what? The unpredictable plots I love are the ones that I kick myself for not guessing. Where the underlying hints are there for what came later, but it’s still surprising when it happens.

That wasn’t Parasite.

I personally worry that now that it’s won Best Picture, many more mainstream people will watch it, and it will become another example to them of why Oscar movies are stupid, and foreign movies are as well. Which would be a shame, because both statements are patently untrue.

But anyway. This post isn’t intended to be another critique of Parasite. There’s plenty to say about the rest of the awards ceremony. I’ll handle that as a series of bullets:

  • There was no host again this year. I know this is a new trend happening with a number of awards shows. I didn’t miss the host last year, but this year . . . I thought the show really meandered quite a bit. It’s like they didn’t want to pay for a host, but still wanted the host elements in place. Having Steve Martin and Chris Rock do a standup schtick at the beginning felt tacked on (and not very funny). The opening musical number was rushed, and then dragged, a strange feeling for a strange number. All in all, the whole evening felt like it had been thrown together by Frankenstein, and it gave it all a haphazard feeling I didn’t like.
  • The Best Song numbers were also all over the place. Elton John’s was . . . fine. I don’t think I’m going to be listening to it again. Randy Newman’s song had all of two verses, but it felt like it went on for ten. I enjoyed the Frozen II number with the multilingual Elsas, but then again, I was a linguistics major. The song from Harriet was moving and well done, but it just highlighted how weak some of the other presentations were. I know many wondered why Eminem of all people showed up, but to me, that was a stark reminder of songs that were actually good and impactful, and how far most of the others were from that standard. I thought Eminem’s surprise visit was one of the highlights of the show.
  • Overall, I got 15/24 of my picks, which is a good sign in my book. It means (to me) that the awards aren’t all going according to what people guessed would happen. (Though then again, this year I let my personal opinions of the movie sway me, which might be a reason I did worse than usual. Not sure about that one.) But all told, I like it when no one movie sweeps the show. Parasite won four awards, but that’s as close to a sweep as we got. Yay.
  • I really wish they would mute the audience when they do the In Memoriam. I’ve said it before, and I’ll continue to say it. Clapping for people who have died is tonally wrong, and I hate how it also turns into a popularity contest for those who have died the past year. (And as a side note, why in the world did Kobe Bryant get a spot in the segment? I look him up on IMDB, and he did produce a TV series, but movies? Surely this segment shouldn’t just turn into “people we liked who died this year, even if they have nothing to do with movies,” should it?) ***EDIT*** The illustrious Justin Longhurst pointed out that Bryant actually won an Oscar for an animated adaptation of his poem “Dear Basketball.” It’s totally fine to honor previous Oscar winners at the Oscars (duh), and I officially withdraw my critique.
  • I’m not a big fashionista or anything, but can we all agree that Kristen Wiig’s lasagna dress should never be repeated? I mean, I couldn’t remember who wore it last night, and all I had to do was google “lasagna dress: to find out I wasn’t along in my opinion . . .
  • Acceptance speeches were all over the place. I enjoyed Laura Dern’s quite a lot, and I liked the slew of Parasite speeches. Joaquin Phoenix’s speech was . . . unique and rambling. And a reminder that people feel impassioned about all sorts of causes.
  • We didn’t do a full blown party this time around. It was too close to Groundhog Day to really feel the need for it. But I did make brownies and buy a slew of toppings, so we had an impromptu Brownie Sundae Sunday, which went over well with the kids. I won the Oscar the Grouch hat by a mile this time. DC was closest to me with 8. Poor MC managed to somehow get none of her picks right, which I actually think takes a knack. I mean, most of the categories had 5 nominees. Just picking at random, you should get 1/5 of your selections right, which would put you around 4 or 5.
  • I dream of them actually sticking to an 11pm finish one of these years. You just can’t tell me it’s not possible to hand out 24 awards in 3 hours. I was plenty tired by the end of the show, and I just wanted it to be over.

All told, I didn’t find the night to be too compelling. Like I said, it lacked unity, and with its deconstructed nature, I started to question which things they decided to keep and if they were all really necessary. That said, I still had a nice evening. What were your thoughts?


Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve posted the entirety of my book ICHABOD in installments, and I’m now putting up chapters from PAWN OF THE DEAD, another of my unreleased books. Where else are you going to get the undead and muppets all in the same YA package? Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

The Oscars were Better without a Host

Snow kept me from the full-blown Oscars party I prefer, but we still had a family affair last night, complete with Martinellis, brownie pudding cake, and a close race for the coveted Oscar the Grouch hat. (In the end, DC and I tied, but I gave her the win, since she managed to pick best picture.) A few thoughts on the broadcast:

  • I didn’t miss a host at all. The opening number with Queen was snazzy, though Adam Lambert is no Freddie Mercury. I definitely didn’t miss the lame running gags. In a show that runs over three hours, do we really need random schticks where they bring in people off the street, or where we have a standup routine? I found myself wondering what in the world all that fluff was there for. Last night’s show was done before 11:30, which feels like a small miracle, even though it still ran over. Of course, there have been hosts I really enjoyed. I have fond memories of Billy Crystal, for example. But other hosts have just fallen flat, and it feels like years since we had one I was really happy with. A lot of it has been touch and go, so the question for me is whether the potential reward (a great host with wholly relevant, interesting additions to the ceremony) is worth the potential risk (boring, stupid routines). In the end, I would say it isn’t, judging by last night’s show.
  • It made me wonder what else could be cut. The Memoriam piece is nice, and I liked that they cut the mic to the audience, so we didn’t have applause when names and pictures showed up. (They died! Yay! Really?) Honestly, if I had one suggestion, it would be to have a host, and have that host be the one person to give out awards all evening. You ditch all the stars trotting out and doing insipid little skits before each award and just have the awards themselves. Maybe I’m too much of a purist? Anyone who wants to see who’s wearing what can see all that during the red carpet show. I think the awards themselves should be all about movies. Clips from the films and performances, music from the films, play the soundtracks of the films, etc. But maybe the audience of moviephiles is just too low.
  • Acceptance speeches: some were soapboxes (which I don’t care for, since people winning an award for acting or cinematography or whatever doesn’t really qualify them in my book for making me care what they think about politics), some were long laundry lists that just went on forever, but some were enthusiastic and heartfelt, and those are ones I really enjoy watching. I’m willing to put up with the former to have the latter.
  • As for who should have won and who did win, of all the nominees, I have only seen: Blackkklansman, Black Panther, Incredibles 2, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Bao, A Quiet Place, Infinity War, Ready Player One, and Solo. So in other words, I have no leg to stand on to say who should have won anything. I don’t believe longevity should “earn” anyone an award, and I don’t believe being snubbed in the past “earns” you a right to an award in the present.
  • That said, I would like to see more of the movies, and next year I’d be willing to put my money into it some more. In my ideal world, I’d like to sit down to watch the Oscars having seen all of the nominations, so that when I fill out my sheet, I can say what I’d like to win. That would take some effort, but I think I could do it. I’d have about a month to watch them all, or at least all the ones I could watch through streaming online somehow.
  • Having seen all the musical numbers, I really liked Shallow’s performance and the song itself. Really well done, and an integral part of the movie. The other numbers I’ve already forgotten.
  • Fashion choices were sort of all over the place. I remember liking Richard Grant’s smoking jacket look, and that dress with all the little mirrors on it was pretty cool, but the king of fashion, I am not. And I really don’t care who designed what.
  • I didn’t see any of the ads, as I started the show late and had recorded it on YouTube TV, so I just skipped them. I missed seeing them, however, and next year I’d like to start on time, honestly. It’s like skipping through the Super Bowl commercials. They’re a part of the experience.

And that sums it up for me. What did you think of the evening? Miss a host?


Like what you’ve read? Please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks to all my Patrons who support me! It only takes a minute or two, and then it’s automatic from there on out. I’ve been posting my book ICHABOD in installments, as well as chapters from UTOPIA. Check it out.

If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

How Much Do the Oscars Matter?

I watched the Oscars last night, and I enjoyed the show, as usual. (Though, sadly, I didn’t win this year’s Oscar hat. That honor went to another, though it was a nail biter, coming down to a last minute pivot from Three Billboards to Shape of Water to go big or go home.) But on Friday, I went to a great presentation at my university all about the politics of the Oscars, and the question came up multiple times: how much do the Oscars matter?

In one sense, this is a question that doesn’t really have any significance. The awards matter as much as they always have or will. I don’t hear most people asking if the Tony’s matter, for example. Mainly because while they’re an awards show watched by some, the number of people who follow musical theater closely just isn’t that large of a slice of the population. They matter to me personally, because I like to watch the show, and I occasionally go to Broadway. To the average person, however . . . not so much, I’d imagine.

Likewise, the Oscars matter to me, because I follow film fairly closely, and I’m interested to see who wins and who’s nominated each year. And we’re told the awards matter to others. The news talks a fair bit about them, and there are good discussions about inclusion and equality in the film industry because of them. Discussions I’m glad are happening.

But how much the awards really matter probably depends on the individual and the year. If you’ve seen many of the films and want your favorites to win, then the show takes on new meaning. (My agent does a wonderful liveblog each year for the Oscars, and it’s always fun to get his thoughts, since he’s actually seen most of the movies.) And obviously, the more engaged people become with the show, the more it begins to matter. I imagine it comes and goes in waves, in terms of importance. There are times when people care, and times when they just don’t.

Right now, it seems to me we’re probably entering a bit of a down trend for the Oscars importance, and for awards shows in general. The past several years, people have been looking behind the proverbial curtain of these awards, asking themselves how they’re given out, who votes for the winners, and questioning if they really represent “the best”. To me, much of that is arbitrary, because “Best” is such a relative thing. I’ve seen this happen in awards for fantasy and science fiction, as well.

And why do we have awards in the first place? To me, they’re at their best when they bring attention to works of art that might not have attention otherwise. After all, the public “votes” for their favorite films each week at the box office. If the Oscars were just a popularity contest, I wouldn’t really care about them at all. But there are many times when I watch a movie or hear about a performance through the Oscars that I would have missed otherwise. That’s a great service for me, and it’s useful to me to see what other people thought was “the best” in a particular year.

Have there been years when I think the better movie lost? Sure thing. But that’s okay, as long as you remember that the awards themselves are a product of their time just as the films are. It’s interesting to see what people of the time thought the best movie was, and sometimes “the time” means the week the vote actually happened.

I got 18/24 of my picks correct, which is a sign the Oscars went more or less according to plan. (Since I see so few of the movies ahead of time these days, I rely on The Experts when I’m filling out my picks. The more I get right, the more The Experts picked it right ahead of time.) Seeing The Shape of Water win Best Picture was the one real surprise, but even that wasn’t too surprising. It had been mentioned as one of the likeliest wins, right behind Three Billboards.

The ceremonies themselves were also pretty decent. I do wonder how lasting the various movements will prove to be. I hope they mark a permanent change, but only time will really tell. For now, it’s interesting to note most of the awards still went to white men. Some of that makes sense: they’re playing a game that’s been slanted in their favor for decades. When the examples of “what makes an Oscar worthy performance/film” are a slew of movies by white men, it shouldn’t be a big surprise when white men continue their dominance. It will take years of effort to counterbalance that, and I don’t really think it will ever be completely corrected. The history has already permanently affected the future.

I think Kimmel did a good job as a host again, in a very tricky situation. On the one hand, it’s an awards show. Many people tune in to watch awards, not to hear political speeches. On the other, with the huge #metoo movement and other current events, ignoring those completely would be a mistake, in my opinion. Product of our time. So he had to somehow balance between that, and I think he did that quite well.

I enjoyed the montages around the best acting awards and the 90th anniversary. Always interesting to see how easy it is to recognize a film based on a single one or two second clip. Really, I didn’t have too many complaints about the show, other than (as I said) it felt kind of predictable.

Next year I’d really like to watch more of the movies before the show, so I can have more of a personal stake in the game. Right now, it’s been like watching the Superbowl and not rooting for either team. The pomp and circumstance is entertaining, but you get more out of it when you really have opinions, I believe.

What did you think of the show?


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If you’d rather not sign up for Patreon, you can also support the site by clicking the MEMORY THIEF Amazon link on the right of the page. That will take you to Amazon, where you can buy my books or anything else. During that visit, a portion of your purchase will go to me. It won’t cost you anything extra.

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