Monday musing : Oscars in memoriam

Call me Nostradamus lite. Some of my pre-Oscars show predictions were spot on. 

The one I got spectacularly wrong, however, was when I said that the show would be entertaining.

It wasn’t.

It was possibly the least entertaining ie worst Oscars broadcast I’ve seen and I’ve been watching them since I was a teenager. Let’s just say, a long time.

It was inevitable, perhaps. Of course, the weirdest year was always going to produce an odd Oscar ceremony. But odd would have been good. Oscars 21 was just bad and I don’t mean that in a Michael Jackson way ie ‘good.’

The red carpet was subdued to the point of taking a nap. There was barely a recognisable face on it (even without the masks) let alone an ‘A‘ list star.  There were some lovely gowns and a number of the male nominees upped their game. There were more diamonds on some of them than on the women. But even Emerald Fennell’s Brit humour and Steven Yuen’s eloquent admission that, after a year away from people he was findings interactions with press difficult, could not hide a simple fact – there was no buzz to this red carpet.

Then the show began.

This year’s ceremony was not in the shrine auditorium but at the LA Union station. The set was  ‘trendy theme cafe that never caught on and is about to go out of business’.

The 170 nominees and significant others sat around in little booths, looking like they were at a low-budget Jedi Council meeting. The ‘stage’ was a slightly raised platform. Frankly, I’ve seen more impressive efforts at school nativity plays. 

There was no opening musical number or monologue or film montage, or, indeed, any hint that this was meant to be a fun night of celebration of the magic of cinema. 

Instead, Regina King, who I generally like, strode in to the failing cafe and opened proceedings with a reference to the trial of Derek Chauvin, the police officer charged with killing George Floyd. She admitted immediately that it might ‘get people to reach for the remote control.’

It probably did. So why do it? Why start a show that is meant to give audiences respite from 24/7 divisive news stories, with a political comment? There was no context to it and she recognised that it would be a turn off for people. She must know that ratings for award shows are at their lowest ever currently but still thought it was the way to set the tone for a night of entertainment. Bizarre. 

The presentation of the awards was lacklustre throughout the evening. There was just no atmosphere. Wins were greeted with polite ripples of applause. A standing ovation for Tyler Perry (receiving the Jean Hersholt humanitarian Oscar was a damp squib) There was no orchestra to signal ‘get off you’re boring us’ to winners who were prone to droning on.

European nominees were on screen, out in the cold, freezing their behinds off, waiting to see if they had won. It all felt very ‘Eurovision song contest’. I half expected them to declare nul point for the UK entry. 

The British contingent meanwhile were at the BFI, or so we were told. We weren’t shown any part of the BFI, only the specific nominee, all dressed up with nowhere to go. There could have been 5 people surrounding Gary Oldman and Olivia Colman or 500. We will never know.

The in memoriam segment, which is usually very moving, was as crass as it could get. Angela Bassett strode forth, busting out of an inappropriate, red, bridesmaid’s dress from hell, complete with puffed sleeves.
She proceeded to overact in melodramatic fashion about people, in general, dying from a range of  causes. Then, to an upbeat version of Stevie Wonder’s ‘As’, the names whizzed past so fast we barely had time to register which great actor or filmmaker had passed in the past 12 months. The likes of Christopher Plummer, Olivia to Havilland and Ennio Morricone, 70 years in the business, got two seconds worth of ‘respect’ to a dance beat. Awful.

By contrast, almost 10 minutes was spent on a pointless quiz about whether various songs by black artists had been nominated for or had won an Oscar.

The order in which the awards were presented was just incomprehensible.
Best director, a big award, was shoved somewhere in the middle of the slew of technical awards you use for a quick toilet break.

But the decision to put the biggest award, Best Picture, before best lead actress and actor was so absurd as to be a self inflicted head wound.

Best picture is the award that gets the whole team up on stage, celebrating. It’s like the big number at the end of a pop concert that gets the crowd dancing in the aisles. It’s the one that everything is building up towards. It’s the one that gets people sitting at home totting up their score sheets, noting ‘well film X just got best actor and director but film Y got cinematography and editing so best picture could go either way, unless film Z with best actress and screenplay comes in and snatches it.’
In short waiting for the big award is meant to be exciting and a moment of tension at the end of a 4 hour marathon of backslapping.

Instead, what we got was Nomadland winning best picture before the end. Cue flurry of happy activity on the small stage.

But then, Frances McDormand had to wander up again, to collect her best actress award for the same film. No wonder she gave a bonkers speech about karaoke or something. It was such an anticlimax.

And if you want to know why I keep going on about star power and how important it is for the Oscars, I give you Brad Pitt. Probably the best moment of the evening was when Youn Yuh Jung won best supporting actress and was given the trophy by Mr Pitt. The 73 year-old fluttered her eyelashes coquettishly at him and said breathlessly “Mr Pitt, finally.” 

She had watched the Oscars on television for years in South Korea and here she was in the presence of a genuine Hollywood superstar. She reacted the way people do to superstars. It made for a memorable and entertaining moment.
I tweeted that Hollywood had found its new romcom coupling right there!

In the post awards pressroom Jung was asked if she would do a film with Brad Pitt. She, sadly, noted that her English wasn’t up to par and her age was a factor.

Come on Youn Yuh, all you need is the international language of lurve. And age is just a number, girl!

The final award was for best lead actor. I predicted that 83-year-old Anthony Hopkins would become the oldest recipient of it. I also predicted that people on Twitter who had not seen his performance and had no interest in the Oscars would turn on him for it. I was right on both counts.

Boseman could have won because he gave an incendiary performance. But then Hopkins gave a career best performance. The voters preferred Hopkins. It could have been by one vote or 100. We’ll never know. And nor should we. Boseman’s performance will stand as his hugely impressive legacy. 

What was disappointing was that Anthony Hopkins was not there to receive his award. He was in Wales and although he made a nice speech the next morning, paying tribute to Chadwick Boseman, along the way, he provided nothing for the night. There wasn’t even someone from the film there to accept on his behalf to read out a short note from him. So, the whole evening just ended on an abrupt note.

 Perhaps it was a fitting end for this amateurish production.