Mar 29 • 13M

THB #108: Oscars in Pieces: Piece 3

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Okay… started with a broad Piece 1, followed with a Will Smith-ian Piece 2, and now my friends and foes, The Show.

The Fat Joke, The Gay Joke & The Slut Joke

There was, pretty much, one surprise winner on the Oscar show on Sunday night. No Time To Die won Best Song over Encanto’s Dos Oruguitas, likely fueled by the idea that Disney had misstepped by not nominating We Don’t Talk About Bruno.

So that part of the long day’s journey into the 8:47p L.A. night was pretty much par for the course. Dune, Encanto, and Cruella were the only other winners that came from films that audiences saw.

The decision to have 8 films left off the live telecast turned out to be doubly mistaken. First, the show went 3 hours and 47 minutes, so the effort to hold to 3 hours was missed by a country mile. Second, the way they put the taped moments into the telecast varied and stumbled and bumbled along. By the last ones, they may have been cutting to people who were not in the room when the actual awards were given out. They didn’t save much time, but they undercut the living spirit of the show.

Of the three hosts, Wanda Sykes came out most unscathed, as she did the least. Clearly, there was an effort to give each member of this 3-act a specific show personality. Amy Schumer was endless apologizing for her weight and playing the dumb white girl. Regina Hall was positioned as the single woman on the make. And Wanda’s character was, kinda, being a lesbian. “Living out loud,” as she mumbled it out at one point. Later, her King Richard joke was pulling tennis shorts out of her genital area. Classy!

I was a little shocked that my friend and shining thinker Manohla Dargis seemed to give this feel-up gag performed by Regina Hall a pass. I thought we were past these moments…

Simu Liu and Tiffany Haddish did a flirty thing on the show that actually played nicely, with 2 new-ish faces. Of course, Haddish still ended up playing dumb.

Amy Schumer had her moments. I thought she looked rather unsettled in the opening triple-monologue…

… this kind of “don’t take it badly” smirky face is not an Amy Schumer signature. If she pulls it out, it is usually to emphasize a “fuck you” to the butt of the joke. Not Sunday night. But she was clearly more comfortable after the Will Smith fracas. But then, there was this…

Couldn’t pronounce Hersholt. But that is easily forgivable. The show squeezing the honorary awards into 25 seconds is offensive. But then Schumer tops it (bottoms it?) by immediately undercutting the importance of those by adding a throwaway was-she-trying-to-be-funny? mention of Ukraine and women and trans people losing their rights... WTF?

This was the night it was.

The list of other obvious mistakes was long:
Opening a live show with a pre-taped music video is stupid. If you liked it, bless you. And a choice for a live event, it will always be a stupid choice.

Why does Daniel Kaluuya need an escort to give out Supporting Actress?

20 seconds or less clips for each Best Picture nominee.

The direction of the entire show was just a mess. Too many close-ups… too many poor efforts to create motion with multiple moving cameras. Anyone know what that globe is in the background. No? It was an idea brought to life without a purpose or artistic offering… like many on the night. The audience was left guessing a lot on the evening.

Top 5 Most Cheer Worthy Moments: The Matrix Bullet Dodging of 23 Years Ago, Jennifer Lawrence’s big song from Dreamgirls of 15 years ago, Avengers Assemble, from 3 years ago, 3 Spider-Men Meet from newly on DVD, and #1 is Flash Enters The Speed Force from Zack Snyder’s Justice League of Excrement. Sit on it, Potsie… what was the idea, much less the purpose here?

Wanda Sykes tours the Academy Museum and acts dumb for almost no laughs, including referencing Kinky Boots: The Stage Musical and not Kinky Boots: The Movie because no one knows a damned thing about movies and noticed the inconsistency.

Chris Evans introducing a trailer for his movie in a pre-tape that somehow refers to the award that was just given out live. ???

The Last Duel joke that was just idiotic and mean. But really, only as mean as taking shots at 3 of the nominees before just plain rooting for CODA. Glad she loved the film, but she is a host, not a fan.

Changing the stage and the music every hour, like no one thing was good enough.

The dancing In Memorium segment that featured 3 dead industry members above all others… left Maya Rudolph looking like I felt…

And personally, I hated what they did to Liza Minnelli, who is the trooper’s trooper. But I know that moment in a life that I saw… physically challenged by age, unable to remember in the short term, an object and not the full human being that she still was just a couple of years ago. That is not how I want to remember her. Bless her. I hope she comes back strong, but she seems to be well into the roller coaster of adult dementia.

Overall, the show never had a rhythm or a beating heart. Will Packer is a smart producer, but he had no idea what he was doing last night.

It was a show where you could take your moments, but so much more was wrong than right that it wasn’t an even deal.

Loved the producer of Drive My Car stopping the band to speak a little longer.

Jenny Beavan gave a great speech accepting for Costume.

Lovely speeches from Jessica Chastain, Troy Kotsur, Sian Heder, Questlove, and Joe Walker, who should host the show moving forward or play James Bond.

Loved seeing Elliot Page, not an extra word was needed.

The Pulp Fiction bit was the best of the reunions. (Coppola and his silent partners was only memorable for Francis speaking.) But where the hell was Quentin? They should have hired a great magician to have him emerge from the glowing box with the envelope.

Okay… I almost put myself to sleep writing about the show, even as I replayed bits of it to keep it fresh in mind.

And now… the least important thing that happened at the Oscars.

Netflix lost.

Apple won.

Will Netflix stop chasing Oscar? Probably not.

In 6 of the last 10 Oscars, the winner of Best Picture surged into the lead late in the season… or so it felt. Being an early frontrunner is really hard… unless you are, by the nature of the film, an overwhelming frontrunner.

The one strategy we have not seen from Netflix is the late entry of their top title, being the upsetter instead of the upsetee.

What happens if Netflix decides to drop the awards chase?

Nothing, really. Unemployment for a swath of staff and consultants, all of whom will find similar work elsewhere before the next season.

Would it change the Oscar story? Nope.

Same as if The Academy put a stake down as a theatrical-first award. Streamers who want to play would adjust. Those who decide that makes it too challenging will not.

Is Apple going to win every Oscar from now on? Unlikely. It is more likely that this will be the only one they ever have. But I’m not suggesting they can’t do it again.

By the way, this marks the 6th year in a row when neither Cynthia Swartz or Lisa Taback was the top driver of the campaign for the Oscar winner. Both have driven many, many Oscar nominations in that period. And Moonight, for instance, started with Taback on it before she got more focused on La La Land. So it is very possible that either Super Consultant had a finger in and out of the pie for these last 6 winners. Taback was all-in on Spotlight in 2015.

Does this mean anything? What is doesn’t mean to me, as some unkind backbiters have claimed, is that they can’t close the deal.

If it means anything, to me it means that the Oscar season has changed and that pulling down the frontrunner late in the season is now a bigger strategic move than ever. There have also been more years in which the level of competition is just not what it used to be… and that is the quality and experience of the films, more than the issue of box office, which is becoming a bigger issue with so many streamers in the season.

I have said before and will say again of Netflix that they have gotten behind great filmmakers and made very good films, but they have mostly made those awards-y films when filmmakers can’t get funded for traditional theatrical release. They haven’t gotten the best. And if you are going to try to run a movie from the September festivals to an Oscar win in Feb/Mar/Apr (oy!), you better have the undeniable killer.

I reject all mockery of The Power of the Dog. But I also recognize that it is the kind of film that, in the past, would get nominations and be thrilled to win a couple Oscars, never expecting to win. It’s not a feelgood movie. It’s not a clear, easy narrative. It is an adult film made by a filmmaker who has made films for adults exclusively through her august career.

Anyway… a twist this way or that and Roma would have won four years ago. No matter how much the PC Police tell us that Green Book was evil, it was a crowd pleaser. It wasn’t racist or homophobic… it was just old fashioned.

The Irishman was super-long and perhaps the slowest Scorsese movie ever. Mank was trying to do too many things at once for the audience to care.

No matter what, you need to have The Movie. What that means varies.

CODA became the feelgood story of the season with very likeable talent and the country learning how to applaud in sign language. Every pejorative that has been aimed at it is true for a significant percentage of the audience. But on the other hand, (almost) no one hated it.

Nomadland went wire-to-wire in the most intensely pandemic-bent season. Plenty of people hated it… but there was also love and none of the other movies ever stepped up. Either they couldn’t figure out the campaign or they had even more detractors. And they had the Best Director phenom, which they could lean into all season.

Parasite had Bong. And Bong became the best story of the entire year. Parasite was an unusual Best Picture winner… reminiscent of The Departed, where Scorsese locked in for Director and the violent, but well-liked movie was pulled along by that.

Sometimes one can see what makes a movie The Movie. Sometimes one cannot.

But does this Oscar loss have any real or lasting effect on Netflix? None.

Does this Oscar win with a Sundance pick-up (Matt Dentler wins) make Apple an Oscar regular? Nope.

Is Amazon next? Could be. But the question there is whether it will be DeLuca/Abdy making that happen from scratch or if they will wander into a perfect pickup? And no one knows. They could stick with DeLuca/Abdy and end up winning with a pick-up anyway! Or in classic Hollywood style, DeLuca/Abdy could leave Amazon after 3 or 4 years and then one of their left behind projects could win. Show biz, baby!

This becomes a story if Netflix makes a big change. I do wish the ambulance chasers would crash their cars though (and without physical injury).

And that is it! I hope to never write about most of this ever again. Thanks for putting up with 3 full newsletters on this year’s Oscars, the second lowest rated in history… the most f-ed up in history… never to be forgotten, except for all the awards and winners in about 72 more hours. (So cynical! Sorry.)

Until tomorrow…