Oscar Gold 2021 – Postmortem

Okay. I’ve had a couple days to decompress. I’ve given myself what I believe to be the appropriate amount of time to process what I and a significantly reduced number of people saw on Sunday night (ratings were down 58% from last year, which was the previous lowest-rated ceremony ever). I can take stock, and look at things with a calm, objective, analytical eye, and elucidate in open, constructive terms, what we all witnessed at the Oscars.



Seriously, I try not to truly shit on the ceremony or the broadcast, because I know a lot of people work really hard on it, including a friend of mine from college who continues to rise through the ranks of live event directing. But holy shit cunt, that was a disaster from beginning to end, far and away the worst Oscar ceremony I’ve ever witnessed. I know you can’t plan for everything, and sometimes a snafu will just happen. Hell, look at what happened just a few years ago when Warren Beatty was given the wrong envelope. I didn’t think that could be topped as far as Oscar fuck-ups are concerned. But a mere four years later, that seems positively quaint by comparison to what happened this weekend.

There’s an old adage in Hollywood that you’re only as good as your last picture. If that’s the case, Steven Soderbergh may never work again. It doesn’t matter that he has his own Oscar on his bloody mantle. After that unmitigated disaster, I wouldn’t be surprised if he got blacklisted. The most appropriate thing that happened Sunday night was that the bulk of the ceremony took place at a Metro Station, because that was a fucking train wreck of epic proportions.

And I’m not even talking about the big WTF moments. I’ll get to those in a moment. I’m talking about the little things, like relegating the Original Song performances to the pre-show, which was pre-recorded. You can tell because H.E.R., who would go on to win the award later that night, is wearing a completely different outfit during her performance, which takes place at night, even though they cut to the live shots and show that it’s still broad fucking daylight in Los Angeles! Oh yeah, we didn’t have time for that in the ceremony, but we somehow had time for a SCRIPTED segment pretending to play a trivia game about Original Songs that racked up at least two FCC fines for profanity and forced Glenn Close to twerk to “Da Butt,” which she has since admitted she had no idea what it was. We wasted four minutes and up to a million dollars on a lie, but we couldn’t get the actual song performances in the telecast.

Then there’s the super weird division of the locations. The bulk of the nominees were at Union Station, crammed into booths that look like they were left over from last year’s Golden Globes cocktail party, while those unable to travel were on Zoom (or something similar – Anthony Hopkins revealed that he was not allowed to appear via a video feed to accept his award), and a handful were sitting in an empty theatre with an ungodly amount of social distance, like several rows and a dozen seats in between pairs or groups. Regina King explained that part of their safety protocol was to have people be unmasked while on camera, but that everyone had to mask up during commercials. Hey, you know where else that might have worked? INSIDE A FUCKING THEATRE!

And then there are the commercials. Oh, I don’t mean the ones that ran during the actual ad breaks (though the Google one trying to sell My Octopus Teacher as a great film for kids was a real doozy), I mean the ones inside the show, where the Academy/ABC sold exclusive time to run trailers for three upcoming films. Never mind that in doing so you’re selling out more than the HFPA. Never mind that you’re promoting a remake of a Best Picture winner, and we all know how THAT turns out. No, what really grinds my gears is that by doing this, the Academy is either a) taking a bribe, b) tacitly giving its stamp of approval to unreleased films, thereby tainting the jury pool next year, c) inviting a massive amount of egg on their faces if these movies end up sucking, or d) all of the above. What the hell?

The staging and blocking were just beyond belief. Bong Joon-ho has to emerge from the darkness to give out Best Director. At least three different presenters – most notably Regina King – nearly took a header off the stage because no one bothered to tell them it was a ramp and not a staircase, apparently. Laura Dern and others looked super awkward standing over the shoulders of some of the nominees, forcing them to crane their heads and necks to look at them, including Supporting Actor winner Daniel Kaluuya, who couldn’t just get handed his Oscar at his table, since that’s where Dern was. No, he had to turn around to hear her say his name, then march up to the stage in an incredibly awkward motion that had zero fluidity to it.

And the intros. Who the fuck came up with this? First off, there was absolutely no consistency as to which categories praised the work of the nominees, which ones rattled off completely irrelevant anecdotes about their favorite movies, and which ones were simply read out like normal, but without any clips from the films. It was completely scattershot. And those categories that did use descriptors and stories did so in incredibly slapdash ways. Marlee Matlin goes out of her way to praise Darnella Frazier, the teenager who filmed George Floyd’s death, only to lead into the Documentary Short category where the film about the casual murder of an unarmed black person (A Love Song for Latasha) fucking LOST! When introducing the filmmakers behind Animated Short winner If Anything Happens I Love You, we learn that one of them grew up loving Ordinary People, a lesser-known Best Picture winner from 1980 about teen suicide. So that inspired him to make a cartoon about a school shooting? What was the point of that? Oh, but he also liked to mix Milk Duds in with his popcorn as a kid, so… whimsy?

Finally, of course, there’s the rundown. The Writing awards were given out first, complete with Emerald Fennell’s fake bullshit humility, claiming to have not written a speech thinking she’d never win despite a sweep of Awards Season sans the Golden Globes. Best Director, traditionally the penultimate award of the night, was given out in the first hour. Best Picture, the highest honor in all of cinema, was third to last, in order to make space to go out on Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman winning the Acting prizes. And naturally, neither won, with Frances McDormand taking Best Actress and not even bothering with a speech because she blew her wad during Best Picture (and when your speech begins with, “Please see our movie,” you know this has been a DOWN year), and Anthony Hopkins upsetting the late Boseman, basically leaving Joaquin Phoenix to hold the bag and say something tantamount to “Fuck it, we’re done here. Strike the set.” Also, none of these actors got laudatory backstories for their nominations, because even within the convoluted concept that Soderbergh set up, he couldn’t follow through in a way that made any sense.

I’ve done all this ranting, and I haven’t even really gotten to the actual awards. This was just the laundry list of bullshit with the ceremony and the broadcast. As to the prizes, it was basically a letdown across the board. There were no surprises until the end, and those were bad ones due to poor planning. Hard-hitting, insightful documentaries about justice, corruption, and empathy lost out to a vanity project about a guy who was one step away from fucking an octopus. Major categories were such dead giveaways that they were dispensed with insanely early. The whole affair basically ended up as a Participation Trophy ceremony, with only The Trial of the Chicago 7 failing to win an award among the Best Picture nominees. Nomadland won the night with a grand total of three! Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Soul, two movies deemed unworthy of Best Picture consideration – even though there was room for them in the category with a maximum 10 nominees – ended up with two awards each, the same as three Best Picture contenders, and more than four others. Had the Acting categories gone according to the ostensible plan, Ma Rainey would have been the top winner on the night, and yet unworthy of being named Best Picture. Bull to the shit!

This was just, just messed up, you guys. I have never seen a more awkward, clumsy display of what is supposed to be the most glamorous night in all of entertainment. Even the dresses, which I normally ignore, were lackluster. We only got some decent boobage from Amanda Seyfried and Maria Bakalova (yes, I’m a perv, sue me), and Laura Dern looked like she told her designer to bifurcate Bjork’s swan dress and give her the bottom half. What was the point of any of this? A video press conference and a PDF release would have been more substantive that what we got.

So how do we fix it? First and foremost, we have to end this three-year experiment of not having a host. Even if the jokes were horrible, we needed someone to lighten the mood and hold everything together. Instead of half-assed anecdotes about Reese Witherspoon watching The Secret of NIMH (her first exposure to a strong woman was a mouse who did everything she was told to do by larger men – great message), we could have had a cathartic laugh at all the absurdity and pain of the last year delivered by someone with expert comic timing. Instead of going to ad breaks on non sequitur song cues, we could have had someone like Neil Patrick Harris deliver some one-liners. Instead of staring with our jaws agape at the warp speed of the In Memoriam reel, we could have had someone detached from the process mime a frantic checklist or something. We can’t have this disorganization anymore. We need hosts again. God, I’d even take a stoned out of his gourd James Franco again.

Second, and this may sound radical, but the main producer and director of the broadcast need to have the results in advance. Have PricewaterhouseCoopers draw up the most punitive Non-Disclosure Agreement possible and have the top people on the production team sign it, then give them the results so they can come up with a competent rundown for the show. There was absolutely no reason to move Best Actor to the final spot of the night unless you were dead certain that Boseman would win. It was foolhardy to begin with, because had he won, the tribute would have been just as meaningful a half hour earlier. But the fact that he didn’t made for the most deflating ending possible this side of Tom Brady’s balls. From the Facebook posts I saw from my friend, the dress rehearsal finished up about four hours before showtime (or two hours before the pre-show). You could have easily given Soderbergh the results that morning and changed the rundown without anyone batting an eye.

What I’m saying is, what happened on Sunday can never be allowed to happen again. The pandemic was a variable none of us saw coming, but the Academy’s response was atrocious. Get back in a theatre. Get back to having hosts. Stop bucking tradition just for the sake of it and have a plan if you’re going to shake things up. And finally, don’t ever let a future Best Picture winner be a film so unseen that the lead actress has to beg you to view it after the fact.

I still love the Oscars, irrationally so. I will continue to Blitz for as long as I’m able. But the way things are going, what was once the #2 television “event” of the year (after the Super Bowl) will quickly become a cultural afterthought if things don’t get fixed but fast. Here’s a novel concept, Academy. Listen to your fans. They know what they want, and for the last several years, they haven’t wanted what you’ve provided, and they certainly didn’t want the abomination we got this year. As I am wont to say when I send IT tickets to busted online games I play, FIX YO SHIT! I’ll be back for next year’s Blitz, but don’t make me regret it.

Join the conversation in the comments below! What were your thoughts on the Oscars? Did they get anything right? What was your favorite childhood film that in no way inspired your professional life? Let me know!

3 thoughts on “Oscar Gold 2021 – Postmortem

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