Category: oscars

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?


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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?


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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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Some Thoughts on the 2017 Oscars

It’s too bad for Jimmy Kimmel, really. Up until that gigantic blunder at the end of the show, I thought the production had gone quite well. Kimmel had kept things interesting and entertaining. The speeches had been fine. The winners were spread around a fair bit, so it didn’t feel like any one show was dominating too much. People didn’t clap in the middle of the In Memoriam segment.

Sure, the Moana singer got hit in the head with a flag, but that’s life, right? I was really enjoying myself, and I thought it was one of the better shows in recent memory.

And then they announced the wrong Best Picture winner. Not that it was Warren Beatty or Faye Dunaway’s fault. As I’ve read up on the fiasco, it came down to there being multiple envelopes for each category (up to three, from what I’ve read). So Beatty was handed the Best Actress envelope. He didn’t read the outside of it (who would?), and so he was quite surprised when he opened it and saw Emma Stone had just won for La La Land. He gave it a funny look. Faye, thinking he was being a dink, then just read what was printed in big letters. La La Land.

Cue the music and the acceptance speeches. But seriously, Price Waterhouse (the accountants who run the voting), you had so many avenues to fix this. I blame you. Step one, make sure the right envelope is given out. Step two, make sure to have someone on hand to rush in and correct mistakes before the speeches are being made. You’re right there on the side of the stage. You telling me you can’t beat an entire group of people walking up from the audience? Have a mechanism in place to make sure this doesn’t happen. I felt very bad for La La Land and Moonlight.

I also felt like Kimmel’s response was pretty poor. He tried to make it into a big joke. It wasn’t a joke. It wasn’t the time for laughing about it. Apologize on behalf of the show, let the new winners make their speech, and apologize once again, then move on to the ending. Steve Harvey jokes? Nope. Not that I really blame Kimmel for trying to go for humor. He’s a comedian. It’s what he does. And in a high stress situation like that, you’ll default to your instincts.

It’ll certainly be a memorable show for years to come. No doubt about that. But don’t forget in all the focus on the last 10 minutes of the show that the first few hours were solid.

As usual, I had seen very few of the actual movies nominated. Maybe one year soon I’ll be able to get out to see more of them. My kids are getting older, so regular date nights are becoming more and more likely, right? And movies are great for that sort of thing. I’d love to be able to watch more new releases. We shall see. But even having not seen them all, I enjoy reading up about them, following the predictions, and making my picks.

For the record, I ended up in a tie for the Oscar the Grouch hat last night. (Well, one person beat out the two of us who tied, but he also didn’t attend the party. So he might kind of win in spirit I guess, but as far as getting the hat goes, you need to attend in person. I had one person fly in from England to win it one year. If she kept putting in entries from over the pond and kept winning, would she qualify for the hat every year? Nope.)

So I half won the hat. Which is good. If only I’d gone for Moonlight, I’d have thought I lost and then ended up winning, which would have been perfect.

Next year . . .

Oscar Thoughts

First, let’s get the painful bit out of the way: I didn’t win my Oscar pool, meaning that yet again, I am without the Hat. Who did win? Betsey Hyde for the SECOND YEAR IN A ROW. (Well, her son Nick tied for first as well, but we gave the tie breaker to Betsey, since Nick was attending remotely.) (And while I took a picture of the winner in the hat, it was a particularly late night, and I’ve decided to spare her the picture this year. Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age.) I tried really hard this year. And I did okay for the first bit. If George Miller had pulled off the upset, I still would have been able to come from behind, but no. They had to go and give it to the guy who won last year. Grumble grumble.


As for the event itself, I thought it had some issues here and there, but I was really surprised by how well Chris Rock did hosting. With all the controversy over the nominations and race, I wasn’t really sure they’d be able to handle that well. Rock’s opening monologue was about as perfect as you could get, in my opinion. Really uncomfortable jokes about a very real subject that matters a great deal. He managed to use humor to make us look at ourselves and our history, even getting in a few jabs at sexism while he was at it.

Then again, I also felt like the Oscars themselves didn’t handle the racism issue all that well. It became too much of a focus, where the event seemed to be trying to say it was moving past it, even as it was stuck right in the middle. The problem isn’t surface level, and a bandaid isn’t going to fix it.

Other notes on the evening:

  • Lady Gaga’s performance was pretty dang impressive, and it was quite disappointing to see Bond Theme 83 win after that. I can’t help but wonder if people hadn’t really listened or paid attention to all the songs. Call my cynical. 
  • There were quite a few pre-canned routines that just felt lame. The Star Wars schtick. Minions and Toy Story. (Though Toy Story was much worse.) Made me wonder if some of these ever actually seemed like good ideas at all.
  • The running “Thank Yous” at the bottom of the screen were a concept that might have seemed good at first, but ended up feeling like a move that put the credits in fast forward, and even then, people just talked through them. Not a fan of it, and hope it doesn’t return.
  • I was watching in Standard Definition, and man, it would be nice if they didn’t design the show to specifically exclude a significant portion of their audience. The factoids were all cut off, the names of the In Memoriam were cut off, faces were cut off. Really distracting and poorly done. Though come to think of it, can’t we just send out the standard definition signal in 16:9 ratio instead of 4:3? Maybe I don’t understand the technical limitations.
  • I was really rooting for George Miller to get Best Director, just because I think it would have been epic. Mad Max was so out there. So unique. Glad it got a ton of technical awards, but it would have been nice to have it get one or two biggies.
  • Loved seeing Ennio Morricone pick up a win. Very well deserved, and a shame that he didn’t get one long ago. The Mission is an incredible score, and got a nomination, but then lost to Herbie Hancock’s ‘Round Midnight. I haven’t seen it, but that score better be jaw droppingly awesome . . . I could do this with a ton of movies. How about The Good the Bad and the Ugly? Not even nominated! I’m not sure if the film would have been in the 39th or 40th Academy Awards slate (the movie itself didn’t garner any nominations at all), but in the 39th, Born Free won, and in the 40th, it went to Thoroughly Modern Millie. Keep that in mind when you consider how important (or out of touch) the Oscars really can be . . .
  • What was up with the Android ads? Bizarre.
  • As always, I enjoyed reading my agent’s liveblog of the event. He sees so many more of the films than I do. (He wrote two other excellent pieces on this year’s Oscars. Read them here and here.) I dream one day of being able to match him, but I don’t know if that will ever happen. It would be so nice to be able to have my own opinions of each film, instead of gleaning things from reviews and the like.

In the end, I enjoyed the evening of course. (Even if I lost the hat again.) It was a late night for the kids, but hey. It’s the Oscars.

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