Here are some random thoughts on this year’s Oscars:
This year’s show needed a host. Once again, the Oscars teased us by trotting out two eminently qualified individuals (in this case Steve Martin and Chris Rock), allowing them to spend a little time making some spot-on and funny (as well as gratuitous and not-so-funny) observations, and then saunter off into the night, leaving us with, among other missteps, celebrities introducing other celebrities, which served to slow the pace and deaden our resolve (in this case, to stay with the show). It would have been delightful to have a host who might amusingly comment on the evening…and introduce the presenters (and though I’m in the minority, I think David Letterman did a fine job in that regard when he held the hosting job).
The show has taken steps to “hurry” itself along and perhaps end at an earlier hour (minute?) but still it remains very, v-e-r-y long—even considering that the producers have banished the honorary Oscar winners to an offscreen, off-site ceremony—of which this year, there were no highlights shown, only a cursory mention. And what did we get in its place? A montage of songs that were re-defined by (or helped define) movies introduced by Lin-Manuel Miranda (fine), followed by a lengthy Eminem appearance (not-so-fine), and later, a recap of what has been seen so far in the broadcast (emphatically not-so-fine).
It was great to see Brad Pitt and deliver a mild jab at world (or should I say United States) events, and some of the other Oscar winners and presenters were both amusing (Olivia Colman) and moving (Laura Dern). It was also great to see Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph “audition” their acting and singing skills while in presenter mode.
It was not great to see some of the failed attempts at humor (as in James Corden and Rebel Wilson calling attention to their misbegotten Cats), And as I watched the opening number, it seemed to be an energetic but lengthy attempt to rectify and call attention to all the groups that were either marginalized or left out completely.
Which brings me to the nominations themselves. And yes while I speculated a few weeks ago what the nominations might have been, in no year has the process been perfect. It seems pointless to condemn the Academy members for this year while commending them on their spirit of inclusion in recent years. The Academy has taken steps to become more diversified, adding many new and younger members in the past few years. What should really be examined is how many “green lights” are given to women and minority writers and directors, with stories reflecting diverse social and historical fabric, and opportunities for actors across all color lines. I don’t believe that a film (or performance) should be included among the nominees simply owing to the need for diversity. Any film should be recognized on its own merits—the producers out there simply need to expand opportunities so that these films can be made. Having said that, while Parasite would not have been my choice for Best Picture (I loved Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood), I am happy it won, especially since director Bong Joon Ho was a gracious and amusing winner—and his film was funny, observant and disturbing.