Oscar Gold 2019 – Postmortem

I meant to do this yesterday, but I just did a 16-day streak of blog posts, and in the end I decided that napping was more important. Plus, it never hurts to have a few more hours to process things.

So now that the dust has settled, let’s recap the proceedings.

I’m not offended by Green Book winning Best Picture. It would not have gotten my vote, certainly, but it was a pleasant, funny, feel-good buddy comedy. As a work of pure fiction, it was a delightful distraction led by two strong performances by some of the best actors working today.

That said, I completely understand why Spike Lee and others were visibly upset when the results were read. Like I said, as a work of fiction, it’s great. As an actual attempt at verisimilitude, it’s simplistic, subpar, and borderline intellectually insulting. And while the membership of the Academy is growing more and more diverse, the movie had enough consensus support to win under the Ranked Choice system. I would absolutely love it if the voting results could be released (numbers only, no member links), just to see how it all broke down.

My step-father has a saying he likes to pull out even to this day. He says, “Ten ‘attaboys’ are negated by one ‘aww shit.'” That’s what this win feels like. Yes, Green Book was more deserving than Roma, but if I were voting, the two would have never competed unless there had been five failed ballots. And while the Academy bought itself a lot of goodwill with the awards for Black Panther and Spike Lee finally getting a win, it was arguably negated by the final end result. I personally don’t think it’s that bad, but I’m not black. I don’t understand the black experience, and I’m in no position to argue against their feelings. It’s perfectly valid to think the film whitewashes history, just as it’s perfectly valid for a civil rights hero like Congressman John Lewis to introduce the film as a nominee.

When it’s all said and done, I think Green Book will be an ultimately forgettable Best Picture winner that won’t really hold up against scrutiny or stand the test of time. And really, I’d say the same thing about every Best Picture winner this decade other than Argo12 Years a Slave, and Spotlight. But I will say this. Every year there’s a noticeable attempt to “get it right,” and I think little by little we get closer every year.

* * * * *

Now to some other notes. I get to pat myself on the po-po (parental term, never quite sure if it means back or butt, but I’ll take it) for correctly predicting 21 of 24 categories, and the three I missed were still good guesses.

  • I was certain Glenn Close was going to get her “Lifetime Achievement” Oscar because she had won everything except the BAFTA. She even brought her dog to the Independent Spirit Awards to help her accept. Even she thought it was in the bag. I’m overjoyed that Olivia Colman won, because I so wanted her to, and her acceptance speech was the most perfect, genuine speech of the entire proceedings.
  • In Original Screenplay, I was teetering between The Favourite and Green Book, and after a lot of thought, I convinced myself that there would be blowback against Nick Vallelonga and Peter Farrelly. I didn’t think it would extend to losing Best Picture, but I figured it’d cost them the Screenplay award. Obviously, I was wrong. When it won, it was the first time I felt truly confident in picking Green Book to win Best Picture.
  • Finally, in Sound Editing, I figured A Quiet Place would get the win because the sound effects were such a large part of the production, and that the voters would do everything they could to award popular films, of which A Quite Place most certainly qualifies. What I failed to realize was that Bohemian Rhapsody filled that same requirement, being a massively popular crowd favorite. Oh well.

More importantly, though, my powers of prediction paid off in a literal sense. I’ve mentioned before my love of the Laemmle chain of independent cinemas here in Los Angeles. They hold an Oscar contest every year, and I entered, because duh. Now, my entry was submitted before I had my epiphany about Black Panther taking the Design categories as a means to satisfy the film’s fans without it seeming like a token nod or pandering. As such, in that contest I picked the traditional choice, The Favourite, which cost me two more points. However, this was also before I made up my mind on a Green Book backlash, so I correctly had that winning Original Screenplay. That gave me a net total of 20, which tied me for second place. The tie-breaker was predicting the exact time of the broadcast, which was 199 minutes. I guessed 195, giving me the boost, so I took second place, and a $100 gift card to the Laemmles. They are just the best! Woohoo! And it’s appropriate, because they facilitate so many of my viewings before and during the Blitz, so my investment has paid a dividend.

* * * * *

Some notes on the ceremony itself:

  • Originally, only “Shallow” and “All the Stars” were going to be performed from the Original Song category. After easily-foreseen backlash, the Academy decided to invite all five songs to be performed, but with a 90-second time limit. That limit applied to “I’ll Fight,” “The Place Where the Lost Things Go,” and “When a Cowboy Trades His Spurs for Wings.” Kendrick Lamar and SZA didn’t even show, and Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga got to perform “Shallow” in its entirety – 3:47. I don’t like the truncating to begin with, but it’s even worse when you don’t apply the rule across the board. Yes, we all knew “Shallow” would win, and Gaga’s betrothed may want to question things after the way she and Cooper were eye-banging each other during the performance, which made for good TV, but playing favorites is never alright.
  • Trevor Noah’s Xhosa joke was hysterical once I found it out. And yes, I did not know he was lying.
  • Last year I didn’t correctly pick a single Short category. This year I got all three!
  • It was decidedly not cool to cut the microphones for winners who went over time, especially since it happened in one of the categories that was going to be relegated to ad breaks. It’s just insult to injury. These smaller categories have up to four winners. You have to let them have their moment.
  • I know the Academy and the show’s producers are always looking for ways to make the show tighter. There were two elements in this year’s show that could be easily booted in the future. One, you don’t need celebrities (especially those who are in no way connected to the film industry) introducing sizzle reels for the Best Picture nominees. Past ceremonies have done them without introduction (which saves several minutes), or have just dispensed with them altogether (less entertaining, but saves a good 10 minutes). You also don’t need elaborate entrances (Keegan Michael Key) just to introduce a song performance. You can just have the announcer say, “And now, to perform this song, please welcome Bette Midler.”
  • But of course, the main time suck is the ad breaks themselves. I know we can’t get rid of commercials altogether, but let’s acknowledge that, at best, they’re a necessary evil. And while we’re at it, let’s acknowledge that the Oscars is one of the highest rated television events of the year, at times second only to the Super Bowl. That gives ABC and the producers power. Use that power to a) demand more money for ads, and b) provide less ad time. Use your power to create bidding wars for premium time, which raises the money needed to pay for the broadcast (and more) while still prioritizing the content. At 7:30 Pacific Time, 2.5 hours into the show, all we had left to get through were four categories (Best Actor, Actress, Director, and Picture), the In Memoriam reel, and the Governor’s Awards/Sci-Tech montage. It somehow took 50 minutes to get through all that. You want to know why you can’t finish on time? It’s because you slot in ad breaks in between each of those things (including a double-length break for local ads) when you needed, at most, two.
  • Spike Lee’s reaction to winning was one of the best celebratory moments I’ve ever seen, particularly jumping into Samuel L. Jackson’s arms. His speech was also appropriate, given the content of BlacKkKlansman and really, all his joints to date. For the president to call it “racist” is laughable on its face. We live in the Upside Down.

* * * * *

Finally, let’s talk about the elephant in the room, the fact that there was no host. For the most part, I think the Academy dodged a huge bullet this time, because the last time we had no host, we got Rob Lowe dancing with Snow White. In general, the ceremony was fine without a host (and even pretty efficient through the first hour or so), though truth be told, the presenters trying to tell jokes was cringe-inducing at best (with the exception of Melissa McCarthy’s bunny puppet). I think you do need a host, but you just need to not overdo it with the skits and stand-up routines.

The Academy had a Herculean task in front of them this year, mostly because they just kept stepping in it time and again. It got so bad that I was almost at the point where I was ready to stick a fork in this whole procedure. The Academy and the decision-makers hired by ABC for the broadcast royally screwed up over the last year, mostly because they were only thinking in terms of the hard money of ad dollars instead of engaging with the movie-going public.

Now, there were steps in the right direction, like Black Panther not only winning awards, but winning awards that wouldn’t traditionally go to a film like that. Instead of a token nomination or win in Visual Effects, it instead got Design and Score wins, which legitimizes the superhero genre and shows fans that voters take the films seriously.

That’s how you engage with the audience. You don’t pander with tour bus stunts or selfies or pizzas or Guillermo del Toro carrying a six-foot party sub. You have to engage with them, and acknowledge the experience of going to the movies as an essential part of people’s lives (yet another reason why Roma – a Netflix movie – winning would have been a disaster). Ideally the industry would cut ticket prices to something more reasonable to people’s budgets, but that’s not the Academy’s responsibility. We need a host next year, and we need someone who will engage with the crowd on their terms and from their perspective.

So I’m just gonna put this out there. I should host the Oscars next year!

This is totally serious. I mean, if a guy can go on Twitter and get a bunch of retweets to get Wendy’s to give him free chicken nuggets, or any number of other stunts, why can’t I do the Academy a favor and alleviate the stress of finding a host next year? I mean, I can’t be worse than no host, and I don’t care if people are offended by jokes I made 10 years ago. If they really want to scrutinize, go ahead. I’m pretty boring online, honestly. I’ve been on Twitter for about a decade, and I’ve tweeted less than 5,000 times. The bulk of them are links to this blog, joke pitches from when @Midnight was still on the air, and commentary on Survivor and Big Brother. If I’ve ever said anything offensive, I don’t remember it, but I’ll issue whatever apologies are necessary.

But this is not a stunt to me. I would do this with dignity and gratefulness. And I truly believe this is a good idea. Anyone who reads this blog knows that I see every movie I can, good or bad. It’s literally my favorite thing in the world to do. I’m not an academic, just a fan. Years of paying attention and developing critical thought (as well as my technical experience working in television for over a decade) have trained me to look at disparate elements a little bit harder than the average movie-goer, but I evaluate and rate films, for the most part, with the mindset of a fan.

Beyond that, I’m not afraid to make jokes. I do it all the time. I’ll never be a great stand-up, but I can make people laugh. I’ll be respectful, but unafraid of pushing the envelope, because I have no professional relationships with anyone in that auditorium, nor am I likely to (though that would be a dream). I won’t be mean or nasty, but just like Trevor Noah got away with a Mel Gibson joke on Sunday, so too can I poke gentle fun at whatever Meryl Streep gets nominated for, because we’re not allowed to go consecutive years without her being up for something.

But most importantly, as a fan, as an average schmuck, I can relate to the crowd. I can gush over celebrities. I can appreciate the moment as if I was winning an Oscar myself. Like I said earlier, I loved Olivia Colman’s speech, and one of the best lines was, “To any little girl watching this on tele, (squee) you never know!” It’s that pure, unadulterated joy that we live for while watching the Oscars. It’s the realization of every childhood Hollywood dream. So why not extend that to the hosting duties?

So yeah, for once I’m just going to shamelessly shill. Tweet, retweet, like, share, nag the Academy, do all the social media things. Let’s see if we can make this happen. Even if me hosting is a complete train wreck, it would at least be memorable, right?

Thanks to everyone for taking the journey with me through this year’s Blitz. Regular coverage continues unabated with a slew of new movies in the coming weeks, so keep it locked here, and as long as you keep reading, I’ll keep writing, and I’ll always keep watching!

Join the conversation in the comments below! What were your thoughts on the Oscars? What was the biggest surprise or upset? How did you do in your Oscar pools? Am I completely out of my mind? Let me know!

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