DISCLAIMER: Going into the show, I am way behind on viewing a lot of the contenders. Like most people, I have not seen The Father, Minari, News of the World, Hillbilly Elegy, Another Round, and a few of the tech contenders like Midnight Sky and Mulan. I’m working on it, but these movies don’t scream SEE ME NOW so it’s easy to watch other stuff and continuously put off the 2020 contenders, which is precisely what I’ve been doing.
It’s clear by the consolidation of nominations among a dozen or so films that there wasn’t a whole lot of competition this year. A lot of the would-be contenders were pushed into 2021 due to COVID-related theater closures and post-production delays. (Hopefully this means next year’s crop of nominees is epic.) I don’t have a clear choice for who I want to win a lot of these categories. Without much of a rooting interest, it’ll be hard for to care who wins in most of the categories.
I’ve decided to stay off Twitter for the entire show, which will no doubt make me less angry as I watch.
Here are my Random Thoughts while watching the 93rd Academy Awards:
Holding the show inside Union Station in LA is definitely…different. That room they’re in appears to be tiny, yet I know they chose this venue because it allowed them to spread people out more.
Regina King did a good job with the first two categories. I thought it was smart of her to acknowledge that the audience at home doesn’t want to hear politics. Let’s hope the winners and presenters bear that in mind.
I do like the personal touch given to each nominee (though as the show went on, this became less appealing due to the things they left out because of it, like clips of nominated actors’ performances).
-I like them shooting the entire show in the 2.35:1 format, trying to present the show as a movie. That’s not how the average Joe will perceive it, but A for effort. Having Steven Soderbergh lead the producing team was a good idea.
-I also like the fact that they refused to allow Zoom calls for the remote speeches and appearances. If you couldn’t get in front of an HD satellite connection, you weren’t appearing on the show. Higher standards for the W. Looks like they assembled all the British nominees in one place, and had remote hookups in several other countries for nominees who could not attend in person but were willing to be part of the show. It’s a good move.
-I dug the first-look at Steven Spielberg‘s West Side Story, which was one of the biggest projects pushed from 2020 to 2021. In addition to COVID, the star of the film, Ansel Elgort, had a #MeToo moment that appears to have gone away. No matter what you think of this classic being remade, it’s been a passion project of Spielberg’s for a long, long time. So if he put his tryhard pants on for it, it’s worth being excited about. I’ll need to see the 1961 original before the new one comes out in December.
–Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom wins Best Makeup for, I dunno, making Viola Davis look sweaty and less attractive? No surprise. They fuck this category up all the time. Ma Rainey then wins for its costumes, which were great and Ann Roth is a genius, but it’s a bunch of guys in 20’s era suits and then Viola Davis in a fancy dress. Gone from the show so far are the bits where they would show you the makeup and the costumes as the nominees are being read. I always enjoy that stuff, and it’s a way to show the audience things they may not have thought about while watching the movie.
-Best Director getting presented in the first hour of the show?! Disgraceful. Chloe Zhao wins, as expected, for Nomadland, which will probably wind up the least memorable Best Picture winner in history. She’s only the second female Best Director winner, and the first Asian woman (but second Asian in a row after Bong Joon Ho won last year for Parasite). She gives a nice speech, though, devoid of politics. Funny how fast the trendy “STOP ASIAN HATE” social media outrage vanished once a few more police shootings took place and the George Floyd cop’s trial wrapped up.
Honest to god though, if David Fincher can’t win Director in this weak year, what hope is there for the man? Zhao is two years younger than me, which only gives me more reason for self-loathing.
I’m not happy Zhao won because I think Nomadland is a tedious movie, but it’s hard to dislike her when she speaks. She’ll be the next indie director to be sucked into the Marvel machine when Eternals opens later this year.
-Is it bad that once I saw the nominees for Live Action Short, I predicted the black guy was gonna win? Turns out he made a film about a black kid’s run-in with a cop. I haven’t seen any of those nominees, but this winner, Two Distant Strangers, is on Netflix, so I will check it out. At least it was a film made by Americans. This category is frequently dominated by foreign films. And yes, I said “foreign” not “international”, you delicate little flower.
-Best Animated Short also goes to an American film, one I have seen – the beautiful If Anything Happens I Love You, about parents coping in the aftermath of their child being the victim of a mass shooting. Also on Netflix. See it see it see it.
-Animated Feature goes to Soul, the best movie Pixar has made in at least a decade. Probably their best since Up in 2009, which was also directed by the brilliant Pete Docter. I don’t have a great desire to watch a bunch of animated movies, but I do love seeing the wide variety of animation styles represented in the nominees each year.
-I just vomited. Subway actually paid Megan Rapinoe to appear in one of their commercials. Jesus Christ. She is the definition of ignorance’s bliss, is she not?
-Seeing all these other ads for the crap ABC is putting out there just reinforces how happy I am with my decision to cut the cord on cable several years ago. Pretty much the only time I need to watch live TV now is for sports and the Oscars.
-Documentary Feature goes to My Octopus Teacher, which I’m sure is fantastic but just seems a little weird for me. I was really hoping the filmmakers would thank the octopus, but nope. It really is a crime that The Social Dilemma wasn’t nominated here. That had to be the most relevant and important documentary of the year.
-Happy to see Tenet win for Visual Effects for the brilliant practical effects done on that film. It’s the third Christopher Nolan film to win for Visual Effects, after Inception and Interstellar.
-The old lady from Minari gives a funny speech after winning Supporting Actress. One of the few winners who even attempted humor at the podium. Not many legit laughs tonight, now that I think about it. For the audience at home, this has been a mostly humorless affair, which is not a good thing.
–Halle Berry mangles Erik Messershmidt‘s name twice as he wins Cinematography for Mank. Let me also point out that this was the first time the great Dariusz Wolski (Crimson Tide, Dark City, the first 4 Pirates of the Caribbean movies, Sweeney Todd, every Ridley Scott movie since Prometheus) has been nominated. That’s criminal negligence.
-And here’s 79-year old Harrison Ford, who’s about to play Indiana Jones again for some reason. I wanna know who is looking forward to seeing 80-year old Indiana Jones doing modern action. Let me know if you’re one of these people. I want to understand. I need to understand.
–Tyler Perry receives the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. The man makes terrible movies, but he’s clearly a quality human being and a generous dude. Well-deserved. Great speech, too.
–Reznor & Ross and Jon Batiste win Original Score for Soul. A wonderful collaboration and meeting of styles. Reznor & Ross were also nominated for Mank, and this is their second win since becoming film composers full-time after The Social Network.
-A needed moment of levity as Questlove & Lil Rel play the Oscars music guessing game in the crowd, where Glenn Close OWNS her moment on the mic. That’ll be a hit on social media. I hate to be cynical (no I don’t), but the degree and ease with which Close knew about that song might make one wonder if that information wasn’t planted ahead of time. Perhaps a consolation prize for her not winning yet again?
-Best Picture isn’t the final award of the night?! Da fuq?! Now that’s unprecedented. Wow. They really thought people are that excited to see the Best Actor & Actress winners for a bunch of movies very few people have seen? Yeesh. This is a programming blunder. An even bigger blunder is giving the award to Nomadland, which will go down as the least-seen, least memorable Best Picture winner in modern times. Frances McDormand now has a Best Picture Oscar (as one of the film’s producers) to go along with her two Best Actress wins. Yippee. I don’t wanna trash the movie, because it’s good, but it makes no attempt to be entertaining in any way. It’s just not the kind of timeless film that deserves to be listed among the other greats (and not-so-greats) that have won the award in the past.
-And McDormand then wins Best Actress for the third time and gives a 20-second speech. LOL. She’s now got 4 Oscars, tying her with her husband, Joel Coen. That’s a nice trophy case.
-The show ends with Anthony Hopkins winning Best Actor, and he isn’t present in person or via satellite. Not anticlimactic at all! Clearly the intent was to end the show on an emotional note with presumptive winner Chadwick Boseman taking the award posthumously, but instead it ends with Joaquin Phoenix declaring the Academy accepts the award on Hopkins’ behalf. How the Academy can accept an award from the Academy is beyond me.
I guess Boseman’s widow was in attendance, ready to come up and give a speech. That sucks. But I understand why she’d be there. He’d won nearly every other Best Actor award this season. I’m guessing Hopkins was just better in The Father, because he’s one of the greatest actors alive. Either way, the producers took a chance making Best Actor the final award and it backfired horribly. As I saw someone say afterward, this proves definitively that the producers are not made aware of the winners in advance.
And that’s that. The Oscars in a Train Station is over. I give them credit. They did the best they could under the circumstances. It looked like a fun, different vibe if you were there despite how comatose the TV presentation was. For us at home, the whole thing was lacking any kind of personality. It’s hard to even mock it because I don’t have any good suggestions on how they could’ve done it differently given the movies they nominated and all the COVID precautions that had to be put in place. But it’s a problem that almost no attempt was made to entertain the TV audience. It felt like a private dinner being held only for the people inside that building. This show will likely have the lowest ratings in Oscar history, and I think it’s more because of the nominees, which few have seen, more than anything else. Let’s move on and have a real show again in 2022. Can we have a host next year? Please? This shit just isn’t working. And not fucking Jimmy Kimmel or some other safe lame. Go for broke and get Dave Chappelle or Bill Burr…somebody with some strong comedic intestines who won’t give a shit if Twitter disapproves of something they say. Do it.
UPDATE: As expected, this was the lowest-rated Oscars show in history. It follows the trend of every other awards show this year nosediving in the ratings. There were several issues at play behind this, but the fact remains you have to nominate movies people have seen if the ratings are that important, and you have to deliver a politics-free show, which the Academy and its members are now incapable of doing by their own design. As Joaquin Phoenix said in Joker, “You get what ya FUCKIN DESERVE!!!” [STORY]
P.S. Special shout out to the Sound of Metal crew for winning the Oscar for Sound. Well-deserved. I mention this because the primary boom operator on the film is an old friend of mine, Jeremy Eisener. Sadly, he didn’t get an Oscar himself because the awards go to people with specified job titles (supervising sound editors, sound designers, re-recording mixers, production sound mixers), but from what I understand Jeremy did a lot more on that film than his title alone would suggest. So congrats to him and his team. The sound Oscars almost always go to an effects film or a big, expensive epic. It’s a nice change of pace to have it go to a film where the creative sound choices are used entirely for the purpose of character development. I didn’t write about it during the show because I was so excited and was listening to the acceptance speech to see if they’d mention my dude.