Tag Archives: Oscars

2017 Oscars Recap: Pandemonium

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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.

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The Oscars: Better Safe Than Sorry

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The Big Picture

Hosting the Oscars is a thankless job.  This year the Academy Awards Powers That Be concluded that benign is better than belligerent.  So they asked Ellen to host.  I think they made the right call.   Here’s why.

The Host

Ellen is amiable, good-natured, and universally beloved.  She turned the Academy Awards into a giant version of her talk show by mixing with the A-listers in the front row, most of whom gamely played along.   It was a bit forced, (Handing out pizzas!  Tweeting selfies!) but it was also sort of fun, certainly better than listening to Seth MacFarlane sing “We Saw Your Boobs.”

The Speeches

Although it is obnoxious to “play out” overly long speeches, it is also obnoxious to force the audience to listen to, well, overly long speeches.  I kept thinking the ceremony should have been shorter.  There was no opening production number, the introductions to the Academy Award nominees for Best Pictures were done in batches, and there wasn’t even a lifetime achievement montage.  Despite this, the ceremony dragged and ended at midnight ET, as usual.  All the actors who won had prepared speeches, thank goodness.  Cate Blanchett’s rocked – good for her for taking on the studios’ “earth is flat” belief that women-driven films don’t make money.  Catching Fire was the top-grossing movie of the year, people!  (Hooray for J-Law!)  And Darlene Love of 20 Feet From Stardom brought down the house when she sang – hooray for backup singers!   Lupita Nyong’o looked amazing, and her speech was perfect.  Really.  See for yourself.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fluQ6iyy85g.

The Production Numbers

Speaking of singing, the production numbers were surprisingly good.  Loved “Happy” – a joyous, fun, well choreographed number that made me happy by just watching it.  The Wizard of Oz tribute in which Pink sang “Over the Rainbow” was beautifully done.  And Idina Menzel’s performance of “Let it Go” was stirring and strong.

The Clothes

Every year, Charlize Theron kills it.  Although she would look good wearing a paper bag, her dress was no paper bag.  She gets my vote for best dressed.  Nearly all the dresses were good.  Sandra Bullock, Naomi Watts, Cate Blanchett, Amy Adams and Kate Hudson looked great.   Although Anna Kendrick’s see-through red and mesh waist panel didn’t work, points to her for taking a risk.  Nowadays dresses are safe and stylist-approved.

How To Improve the Ceremony

There are many ways to improve the Oscars, but I will focus on two.  The first is to shorten the ceremony by paring the number of categories given out during the telecast.  Given that technical people comprise a considerable chunk of the Academy’s 6,000 voters, that is not going to happen.  The biggest problem with the Academy Awards is that there are no surprises anymore.  I correctly predicted 20 out of 24 nominations.  I am not an insider, just your basic movie fan who reads Entertainment Weekly.   The Oscars are easy to handicap because they air after all the other awards shows.  Want to spice up the Oscars?  Televise them in January, before the Golden Globes, SAGs, et. al.  Be the leader, not the laggard.   I don’t think this will happen anytime soon since the Academy and the movie industry in general is notoriously risk-averse.

So How Were the Oscars This Year?

With a likeable host, stylist-approved fashions, and predictable winners, the Oscars were, in a word, safe.  We saw a couple of moments of genuine emotion amidst the long slog to Best Picture.  There was nothing risky, nothing edgy; it was pleasant, albeit all very careful.  Over and out, until next year!