Category Archives: Uncategorized

2018 Oscars Recap: Ho Hum

tiffany and maya

The Upshot

For some reason I was bored by this year’s Oscars almost before they started.  Following last year’s gonzo trainwreck of an ending, and this year’s empowering Golden Globes, fatigue may have set in.  Times Up?  Or is it Me Too?  Or Me Next?  All these causes effectively canceled each other out leaving… an award show.  And this year’s award show was, I thought, lackluster.  Jimmy Kimmel’s hosting was ok.  Not great, but not terrible.  The few bits that stood out are noted below.

The Jet Ski

OK so I am a sucker for “The Price is Right.”  I have fond childhood memories of staying home from school pretending to be sick, watching Bob Barker and his bevy of models.  My husband and I still apply “The Price Is Right Rules” when if you go over a price estimate, you lose.  So the idea to award a jet ski to the person with the shortest speech was genius.  The theme music, Helen Mirren serving as the model, the ridiculousness of the prize, the whole thing was a great, great idea.  Loved the Jet Ski.

Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph

I don’t even want to write about what they said, because I won’t do it justice.  Watch the clip.  They were, truly, hilarious.   Give these women an award show to host.

This Year’s Version of “Stars – They’re Just Like Us”

Involved various celebrities going to a nearby movie theater and handing out hot dogs and candy to moviegoers enjoying an advance screening of A Wrinkle in Time.  The whole thing had a merry zaniness to it, perhaps because of the night vision camera.  It was a good idea to thank the people who really matter most – the movie-going public.

Frances McDormand

She is a beacon of steely resolve and a force for good in the world.  She hijacked her own speech by asking all the women nominated across all the categories to stand up.  Then she made a direct plea to studio executives to meet with these women and finance their projects.  She cut straight to the heart of the matter – it’s about the money.

The Rest

The winners were fairly predictable, and it was good to see that the awards were distributed across many films.  Loved that Get Out! won for original screenplay.  Dunkirk definitely deserved the technical awards it won.  Most of the speeches were snoozeville, but a few – hello Kobe Bryant! –   were articulate and interesting.  I get that The Shape of Water was an incredibly polarizing film, having seen it with my sister-in-law who hated it, but I absolutely loved it and am glad it won.

The Movies

And I loved that this year’s crop of nominated films had more diversity than the usual.  Sure there were the historical films – Dunkirk, The Post, and The Darkest Hour, all of which are worth seeing.  But Get Out! and Ladybird were pioneering films.  My two cents on all the nominated films is below, ranked from least preferred to most preferred.  One important caveat is that one of my favorite movies of the year wasn’t nominated.  If you haven’t already, go see The Florida Project.  It is tremendous.

9. The Phantom Thread – strangely icky and precious at the same time. But I loved Lesley Manville’s performance (the sister).

8. Dunkirk – a chronological mess. Well filmed, but confusing and completely lacking in character development. All the soldiers really did look the same.

7. Call Me By Your Name – beautiful, but glacial. Way too many shots of the ripening fruit on the apricot tree. We get it.

6. The Post – enjoyable, if a bit plodding.

5. The Darkest Hour – Gary Oldman can do no wrong. Scene on the Tube is worth the price of admission.

4. Get Out! – see it, if you haven’t.

3. Three Billboards – not as brutal as I would have thought given the topic. Frances McDormand always kills it, but Sam Rockwell does as well (for those who haven’t seen it, check out The Way Way Back).

2. Ladybird – beautiful writing, beautiful acting, and funny!

1. The Shape of Water – as noted earlier this movie is not for everybody but I adored the art direction, crazy plot and genre-mashup.


You Go Girlfriend


Art and Bias

All critics are biased.  How someone reacts to a piece of art is inextricably linked to what they find funny, or sad, or poignant.  To their values.  To what makes them tick.  Systemic unconscious bias is what has resulted in an entertainment industry run by and for men, in which (mostly) male critics commend movies and TV shows directed by men and acted by men.  This is why “The Sopranos” was considered a seminal work of art while “Sex and the City” was dismissed as fluff.  When the reviews came out for “Big Little Lies,” several critics dismissed the show, which is phenomenal, as a “domestic” (code for insignificant) piece not worth of our attention.

But not last night.

My Bias

I thought about criticism and my own personal point of view and as I watched last night’s Golden Globe Awards.  For this ceremony was hands-down my favorite Awards Show of all time.  This Awards Show had me at Hello.  This Awards Show put feminism front and center in a rousing, empowering and positive way.  The night’s unabashed theme was You Go Girlfriend.  Anyone not on this playbook – Gary Oldman’s perfectly conventional acceptance speech comes to mind – was kinda tone deaf.

The Host
Seth Meyers understood from the get-go that a white, straight, male host might not have been the best choice for host this year.  His monolog was sharp, sensitive, and on-point.  And then he got out of the way.  Well done.

The Winners

Were almost all about female empowerment.  “The Handmaids Tale,” “Big Little Lies,” “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and “Ladybird,” all unabashedly feminist works, won handily.

The Speeches

When Oprah Winfrey received the Cecille B. DeMille lifetime achievement award, I cried during the entire speech and when she brought the crowd to its feet, cheering wildly.  And during Frances McDormand’s speech.  And when Allison Janney mentioned that Tonya Harding – a victim of class discrimination if there ever was one – was in the room.  And during Greta Gerwig’s speech.  And when Reese Witherspoon encouraged women to be brave, to speak out.

The Takeaway

Hollywood has been roiled.  To everyone’s complete surprise, behavior that was discreetly tolerated in the past has brought down powerful men.  Not so much in the White House, but that’s another story.

The Bigger Picture

And at least this year many people in Hollywood – Oprah in particular, but others as well – understand and called out that most women who are sexually harassed and assaulted are not movie stars.  That most women suffer without the resources to fight back.  And that, together, we have the power to effect change.  A long time devotee of Awards Shows, I have never seen a show with such a unified and empowering message.  Until last night.

2017 Oscars Recap: Pandemonium



The End.  Let’s start there, as it was the most surprising and screwed-up conclusion in Oscar history.  (For those living in a cave, here is a brief recap.)  Prior to this point, the night contains no surprises.  Virtually all the favorites win.  We arrive at Best Picture. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway present, great to see Faye Dunaway.  They announce La La Land, as expected.  The La La Land people march up there, smiles all around.  And then… it is announced that a mistake was made and Moonlight had won. No one knows how to handle it.  A moment of Oscar pandemonium ensues.  And then the Moonlight people march up there, the La La people get out of the way, and an awkward, confused acceptance speech ensues.  The end.

The Verdict.  Well this certainly upstaged virtually every other moment of the Oscars, which were, in my view, ok.  And sometimes ok is good enough.  The ceremony lacked the traditional homage to movies opening number.  Instead we got Justin Timberlake singing “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”  And, come to think of it, don’t we all love Justin Timberlake?  And don’t we all want to feel good?   Given these troubled times, isn’t it ok to have a night of froth and frippery?

The Host.  For the most part, Jimmy Kimmel set an amiable tone.  Other than the Oscars, I am never up late enough to watch late-night talk show hosts.  So this was my first experience seeing him in action.  I thought he was good.  Not great, but not terrible.  He had a nice air of confidence and appreciation that he had the gig.  And he had the grace to apologize for the Best Picture debacle.

The Good.  My favorite was the visual of candy and cookies parachuting down to the stars.  Short clips in which actors talked about their favorite movies (Charlize Theron and The Apartment, Seth Rogan and Back to the Future) and then presented with the actor from the movie (Shirley MacLaine and Michael J. Fox) were good, if a little long.  This year’s versions of Stars – They’re Just Like Us (started when Ellen DeGeneres took a selfie with the stars and ordered pizza) brought in a tour bus of tourists to hobknob with Meryl, Denzel, etc.  It, too, dragged a bit but was kinda fun.

The Bad.  Tweeting the President – can’t we just forget about the elephant in the White House?  Stars reading mean tweets about themselves.  Picking on Matt Damon the whole night long (I, for one, loved his performance in We Bought a Zoo).  I get that it was a joke, I just didn’t like the joke.

The Speeches.  I honestly don’t remember any of them other than Viola Davis who, as Jimmy Kimmel joked, should win an Emmy for her Oscar speech.  We’ll forgive her sanctimonious nod to actors:  “we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.”  Nobody’s perfect.

The Movies.  This year I saw every Best Picture nominee except Hacksaw Ridge (too violent for me).  And I honestly thought all of them were worth seeing.  Glad Moonlight won over La La Land, thought the camera work and story were exceptional, loved that a quiet low budget movie about a gay kid from the slums of Miami made it to the top of the heap. Loved the production design and imagination of La La Land, what a fun film.  Loved Hidden Figures, a well-executed, well acted feel good movie about an important and neglected topic.  Arrival is fantastic – great score, great concept, a thinking person’s Sci Fi movie. Manchester by the Sea is wonderful.  Lion has some pacing problems in the second half but the subject matter and treatment of memory stuck with me more than any of the other films.  Fences is well acted, if a little long and talky – this is usually the case when movies are made from plays.  I had never heard of Hell or High Water until I saw it last week.  It is amazing.  Great script, slow build, fantastic editing and scenery, and above all a great topic – the bank robbers vs. the robber banks.

The Upshot.  This was a tough year for the Oscars.  It was a tough year, period.  Our country is divided.  People are worried.  Last year’s #oscarsowhite controversy (which as I pointed out last year is more the fault of the studios than the Oscars themselves) seems almost quaint given today’s headlines.  And the good news about the trainwreck ending of this  year’s ceremony is that – for one night – we were distracted from more pressing concerns.  Can’t stop the feeling, indeed.

I’ll Take Diane

As my friends and family know, I am hard to beat in an Oscar poll.  The reason for this is after years and years of watching Oscar-nominated films, I’ve learned a thing or two.  Mostly that the films that get honored are big, splashy, historical dramas.  OK Lincoln didn’t win this year.  But it should have.  Mental illness is also popular.

Comedies get short shrift.  If you look at Oscar winners for Best Picture (here is the list: you have to go back to 1977 to find a comedy that won.  There were films that had elements of comedy (Shakespeare in Love, Chicago, and The Artist) but straight comedy?  The last Best Picture Winner was Annie Hall.  Which, in a somewhat circuitous fashion, brings me to the topic of this post, Diane Keaton.

Comedy Don’t Get No Respect.  What gets respect is drama.  Meryl Streep is amazing, for sure, but which performance was better – Diane Keaton in Something’s Gotta Give, or Meryl in “It’s Complicated?”  I’ll take Diane.  Herewith, I’d like to pat Diane Keaton on the back for 30+ years of great comedic performances.

Diane Keaton is a gifted comic.  She is an adorable, vulnerable, loveable klutz.  She is beautiful, relateable, and (along with Meryl) one of the few older actresses that have eschewed plastic surgery and facial fillers.  I should note here that unlike Meryl who is deft in both comedy and drama, Diane’s dramatic performances are, to be kind, a mixed bag.  Here is an example of Diane’s terrible acting from Godfather 2:

Diane Keaton started working in 1970 and has amassed 62 acting credits and counting.  She’s hilarious.  She’s prolific.  She’s a gem.  Below, my five favorite Diane Keaton movies:


  1. Something’s Gotta Give:  Diane has had a long and fruitful relationship with Nancy Myers.  Something’s Gotta Give is a completely enjoyable, satisfying romantic comedy.  We have Diane, plus Jack Nicholson, plus a surprisingly hot Keanu Reeves.  There’s also house porn.  What’s not to love?                                                   Image
  2. The First Wives Club.  Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton and Bette Midler are delightful in this comedy about spurned wives seeking revenge on their ex-husbands.  A movie that proved that an audience will pay to see Actresses of a Certain Age.  Although this has been demonstrated again and again, Hollywood studio executives always seem to forget this and greenlight big budget action movies instead.  Wait, that’s another blog post.  Image
  3. Baby Boom.  In Diane Keaton’s first pairing with Nancy Myers, she plays “Tiger Lady” JC Wiatt, a workaholic who, after inheriting a baby after a distant relative dies, buys an old farmhouse in Vermont and starts an organic babyfood company.  Sam Shepherd is adorable as her love interest, a vet.Image
  4. Annie Hall.  I saw this movie with my friend Donna several months ago in the magnificent Michigan Theater.  Little known fact – the movie was initially supposed to be about Alvy (the Woody Allen comic character) but the film editor encouraged Woody Allen to recut it and make the movie about Annie.  He did, and a classic was born.                                                                          Image
  5. Sleeper. Early Woody Allen.  Diane is a ditzy self-absorbed poet from the future who finds herself on the run with Woody Allen.  Slapstick, silly, ridiculous, laugh-out-loud funny.

So thank you Diane, for your contribution to film.  You are loved.

The Nance


Nathan Lane Show

I wanted to love The Nance.  In this period drama, Nathan Lane plays Chauncey, a gay man who is part of a burlesque company during the late 1930s.  Chauncey is a “Nance,” a prancing, preening, fawning, walking gay stereotype.  Apparently Nance-like characters performed in burlesque shows during this time, while at the same time gay activity was prohibited and punished.  Sounds like an interesting and thought-provoking topic, right?

Nathan Lane is consistently amazing.  Even a poor vehicle (Hello, The Addams family!)  shines due to his tremendous talent and luster.  He had several noteworthy TV performances this year, including Cam and Mitch’s voluble friend Pepper on Modern Family and a staid bankruptcy administrator on The Good Wife.  And indeed, Nathan Lane’s performance is tremendous.  Both when “on stage” as the over-the-top Nance and when off-stage struggling with his homosexuality, Chauncey is magnetic.

However, The Nance doesn’t quite work.  It is interesting, well staged, and mostly well acted.  Jonny Orsini plays a young man who becomes Chauncey’s lover, and his performance is ho-hum, although we are treated to a full frontal nude scene!  There is a nice sense of ensemble both on and off-stage among the actors in the burlesque company.  But the second act is weak.  When conclusions falter it can be hard to figure out why, but I blame the script, which doesn’t successfully transition to the conclusion.  The Nance is good, not great, but I’ll take a good play with Nathan Lane over a great play without him.

Rating:  *** (out of ****)