Hollywood's big night had a Asian flavor to it this year. While there was still cries of lack of diversity and no women directors, a foreign language film with subtitles took home Best Director and Best Picture. Not only did most of America not see Parasite, but even the most ardent moviegoer likely couldn't tell you what it was about.
The ABC telecast was without a host for the second year in a row. While this was theoretically done to keep the show moving and reduce controversy, it also meant you didn't always know what was going on, or who was performing. Janelle Monae opened the show with a great dance number, but was never introduced. Steve Martin and Chris Rock then did a monologue. Each had hosted before, leading Martin to say this was “like a demotion.” The two also mentioned that in the first Oscars in 1929, there were no black nominees. Rock said, “this year, we got one.” “Amazing growth,” Martin added.
For a little while there, the Oscars turned into the Grammys. While nominated songs have always been featured, they seemed more in the spotlight this year. Into the Unknown, from Frozen 2, was sung in multiple languages, which was really cool, and we also got to see great performances from Randy Newman and Elton John. For some reason, however, just under two hours into the three-and-a-half hour show, they introduced a segment intended to show the importance of what a song means to a film, and vice versa. It's true, but it was really done as an introduction for Eminem, who performed Lose Yourself from the 2002 film 8 Mile. There were several crowd reaction shots of people singing along, but others seemed puzzled. Los Angeles Times pop music critic Mikael Wood wrote that Idina Menzel “looked frightened”, Martin Scorcese “looked glazed”, and Billie Eilish “looked like she was wondering who'd invited her science teacher.” Lose Yourself won Best Song in 2003, but Eminem wasn't there to accept the award. Reportedly, the performance was such a surprise that the theater was on lockdown during rehearsal. The only question is, Why?
Eilish sang Yesterday for the 'In Memoriam' segment late in the show, but the names of the people who died this past year did not include several people that should have been listed. The biggest uproar was over the omission of Luke Perry, who actually was in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which was nominated for Best Picture. Cameron Boyce, who died in July at the age of 20, was also snubbed, as was Tim Conway and others. Orson Bean, who died over the weekend, was not included. Kirk Douglas, who passed away at 103 years of age on Wednesday, was.
Was it just me out loud, or was there a collective groan in the room when Joaquin Phoenix won for Best Actor.? Every time he wins, he says something weird, and even though he was trying to be gracious and congratulatory when he mentioned the other nominees, it still made you feel uncomfortable... Speaking of uncomfortable, Brad Pitt won the first award of the night for Supporting Actor and immediately went political. “They told me I only have 45 seconds up here,” Pitt said, “which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week.” He then took almost two minutes for his thank yous... You had to love Bong Joon Ho, who wrote and directed Parasite. While most of his speeches were in Korean and translated by an interpreter, he would open with “great honor”, and closed, in English, about how he was going to be drinking after the show was over. There was no Lifetime Achievement Award this year, and Jane Fonda presented Best Picture.
Whether it was the lack of a host, unfamiliar films, some unusual production, political speeches from actors, or just plain boredom, viewers stayed away in droves. The show drew a reported 23.6 million viewers—a twenty percent drop from last year, and according to Variety, the lowest audience ever recorded. Parasite, by the way, is listed by Wikipedia as a dark comedy, which “follows the members of a poor family who scheme to become employed by a wealthy family by infiltrating their household and posing as unrelated, highly qualified individuals.” It's not as long as the Oscars, and hopefully will be re-released.
Post script: Best presenters—Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Farrell for cinematography. Their bit was that it was the cinematographer who made the meals and drove them to the set. Rebel Wilson and James Corden, from the box office disaster Cats, pawing at the microphone stand was pretty funny... I have that same exact jacket that Diane Keaton wore when she presented with Keanu Reeves for Best Screenplay. Mine is a Sears Craftsman that I spent $20 for a couple of decades ago. Taking a second look, her coat is a little longer than mine. She must have paid at least fifty... Laura Dern and I are close to the same age. How come it doesn't look like it?... It was such a disappointment not to see Cameron Boyce's name or picture. He was known as a Disney star, but was in several films, and at such a young age. I've written before that I am related to Cameron, and know what a blow his death was to his parents and sister.
Sports: Two weeks ago, before the death of Kobe Bryant, I was going to write about how the week before the Super Bowl should be used to showcase other sports. This weekend's lineup would have been perfect. College basketball had Michigan-Michigan State, Duke-North Carolina, UCLA-Arizona, and Gonzaga-Saint Mary's. Golf was going on at Pebble Beach, and there was even the debut of the XFL. Move all of those events back two weeks next year.