Friday March 4, 2016
THE SHOW (***)
Finally! As predicted, Chris Rock nailed it from the start. After welcoming everyone to the "2016 White Peoples' Choice Awards" he proceeded to hit the ground running. Despite the thanklessness of hosting The Oscars, Rock, playing before a mostly-white audience, took the lack of diversity issue by the neck and, hopefully, put it forever out its misery by devoting nearly 15 minutes of his opening to the subject. The only criticism (and it is a small one), that instead of just including this subject in the opening monologue, he proceeded to beat this dead horse into submission throughout the 3 hour 21 minutes (a minute shorter than last year, but a whooping 40 minutes shorter than the 2002 telecast record-holder). Just when you thought it was over, Rock resurrected the controversy over and over again. Personally, my eyes rolled and I wanted to yell out "Enough already!" Despite that, Rock did a very admirable job appearing relaxed, confident, and, for the majority of the time, hilarious.
Gone this year were the usual overwrought production numbers while only three of the five nominated songs received performances-which seemed odd to this reviewer. And, two of the three performed tunes were unimpressive at best (more on that below). The most entertaining segments were a couple of pre-recorded bits which generally hit the mark.
Despite the presence of a first-rate comedian leading the way, and several changes to streamline the show, The Oscars brought in only 34.4 million viewers (36.6 million watched in 2015) and ended up being the lowest rated show since 2008 when Jon Stewart hosted. Too bad more people didn't watch, because, overall, it was the finest telecast in years for the usually clunky extravaganza.
Once again, my annual apologies to Sergio Leone, as this breakdown will pretty much sum up the event through this reviewer's eyes:
- Chris Rock. The Academy finally got it right.
- The "thank you" crawl. At least it helped cut down on the interminable ramblings of most acceptors.
- The elimination of time-consuming production numbers.
- The early announcement of the screenwriting awards. Nice to shake-up the usual order - even if it was only a minor shake-up. The reason given was to present the order in keeping with the chronology of the movie-making process (starts with a script-get it?). That thinking kind of fell apart as the broadcast went long but kudos for changing things up just the same.
- The majority of the speeches were swift and quickly ended after just a couple of notes from the orchestra, which returned to The Dolby Theater after spending the past three years a mile away at the Capitol Records building.
- Mad Max: Fury Road being recognized with the most Oscars-albeit all minors. An amazing film that deserved to be recognized even if it didn't win a major
- 75% of the acting awards went to first-time nominees
- Dave Grohl (of The Foo Fighters) with a beautiful rendition of The Beatles "Blackbird" accompanying the In Memoriam segment.
- Lady Ga Ga performing the song from the Documentary The Hunting Ground. (More on that below.)
- Leonardo DiCaprio finally winning a well-deserved Best Actor award on his sixth try (four acting and one producing failed nominations).
- We finally had unpredictable upsets in a couple of major categories (more on that below) after years of predictability and non-surprises.
- The "thank you" crawl. Although good that it helped to cut down program length, it took away the unexpected when past winners grappled to remember who to thank, or resulted in the absence of spontaneity and true emotion when before they had to rush everything they had to say on the podium. The result: quick but bland acceptances for the most part.
- The show went 21 minutes over their three hour time slot. Still way too long.
- Presenter Patricia Arquette who introduced the Best Supporting Actor. Patricia seemed a tad out of sync, to say the least having observers wonder if she was sedated, drunk, tired, or all three. Maybe she thought she was at the Independent Spirit Awards with its obvious presence of free-flowing liquor.
- The bit with Clueless actor/Fox correspondent Stacey Dash (more or that below).
- Singer Sam Smith while accepting the Best Original Song award proclaiming he was the first openly Gay man to win an Oscar. Elton John, Dustin Lance Black and Stephen Sondheim, among others, would beg to differ.
- Sarah Silverman, on hand to deliver the Best Original Song, is normally one of the most hilarious comediennes on the planet. Unfortunately, she delivered a totally flat soliloquy rambling on and on about having unsuccessful sex with James Bond. Painful.
-The yearly omission from the In Memoriam excluded, among others, beloved Hollywood character actor Abe Vigoda. The irony: in 1982 People Magazine incorrectly reported the demise of Vigoda. Ironic that now that he has finally passed, he's left off the list. Maybe the writers thought he left the planet 34 years ago.
- The addition of minions, Toy Story characters, and Star War droids (R2-D2, 3-CPO, BB-8) presenting for Best Animation did nothing to cut into the broadcast length and added an extra layer of boring. The only one who was excited was Jacob Tremblay. BTW, the droids appearance on stage was the only recognition of the night for the Star Wars franchise which went home empty-handed.
- Three Asian children presented as accountants (here was that diversity issue being addressed for the umpteenth time) with Rock "joking" that they were like other Asian children responsible for making iPhones in slave-like conditions. One of Rock's few missteps.
- The orchestra determined to end winning director Alejandro G. Iñárritu 's acceptance speech and tried to usher him off the stage. This was the only time the orchestra lost as Alejandro G. Iñárritu made a beautiful impassioned political diversity speech on behalf of his fellow Mexicans. The orchestra should have one ear on the speeches to know when the cutoff rules should be bended to avoid the embarrassment.
- Best Costume Design Winner Jenny Beavan (Mad Max-Fury Road) was outfitted as if she was on her way to a biker bar. I'll bet that was the first time a rhinestone skull ever appeared on a fashion garment at an Oscar show.
- Rock's lynching reference when he proclaimed that back in the 60's, "There were real things to worry about … We were too busy being raped and lynched to worry about who won for Best Cinematography. When your grandmother’s swinging from a tree, it’s really hard to care about Best Documentary Foreign Short.”
- Rock's comment that “This year, things are going to be a little different. This year, in the In Memoriam package, it’s just going to be black people that were shot by the cops on their way to the movies …"
- Rock completely skewered boycotting Jada Pickett in the opening monologue stating, “Isn't she on a TV show? Jada turning down the Oscars is like me turning down Rihanna’s panties. I wasn’t invited.”
NOW . . . THE ANNUAL JAY B CINEMA DIARY OSCAR SHOW AWARDS. THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE . . .
THE BIGGEST SURPRISE WINNER
Longtime stage actor Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) besting Sylvester Stallone, the overwhelming favorite to win the Best Supporting Oscar. No one, least of all Rylance or Stallone, saw that one coming.
THE 2ND BIGGEST SURPRISE WINNER
Spotlight winning Best Picture. After winning multiple BP awards including a Golden Globe, and then hauling down Oscars for Best Cinematographer, Best Actor and Best Director, The Revenant seemed poised to receive the big one. However, it is assumed Hollywood went for the more universal user-friendly film that tackled the controversial issue head-on. Don't get me wrong: Spotlight is a fine film (I gave it 4 stars in my review); however The Revenant was infinitely more powerful and memorable. And, as I have stated in this blog previously, I find it outrageous that the Best Picture's director isn't named Best Director. I'll never get it.
THE 3RD BIGGEST SURPRISE WINNER
The totally forgettable “Writing's on the Wall" from Spectre performed by Sam Smith was awarded after Lady Ga Ga's rousing emotional performance of Diane Warren's song "Til It Happens To You" from The Hunting Ground. All money was on Warren finally winning an Oscar. Oh well. Maybe Sylvester can offer her a shoulder to cry on.
THE 4TH BIGGEST SURPRISE WINNER
Ex Machina winning the Best Visual Effects award. Up against powerhouse effects film such as Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, this small ($15 million dollar budget) brilliant indie sci-fi film was the little engine that could. One of my favorite films of 2015 received one more award than the mega-hit Star Wars.
THE LEAST SURPRISE WINNER
Tie: Leonardo DiCaprio, Brie Lawson and Inside Out
MOST OSCARS WON
Mad Max: Fury Road (6)
MOST AWARDS EVER WON BY AN AUSTRALIAN FILM
Six (Mad Max: Fury Road)
THE FEWIST AWARDS WON BY A BEST PICTURE WINNER SINCE 1953's THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH
Two (Spotlight-which also won Best Original Screenplay)
BEST PRE-RECORDED DIVERSITY BIT
The montage that spliced black actors Whoopi Goldberg, Leslie Jones, Tracy Morgan, and Rock himself into Joy, The Revenant, The Danish Girl and The Martian, respectively. Hilarious.
2ND BEST PRE-RECORDED DIVERSITY BIT
Rock reviving his 2005 man-on-the-street bit quizzing movie patrons on white-dominated Oscar film nominees outside a Compton movie theater.
BEST WTF MOMENT
Stacey Dash, who previously called for the end of Black History Month calling it reverse racism, suddenly, and without explanation, appearing on stage and wishing everyone a "Happy Black History Month". The ironic "joke" was completely lost on the audience and the viewers, most of whom didn't even know who she was.
2ND BEST WTF MOMENT
Singer/actor Jared Leto's "merkin" reference while presenting for Best Make-up. He advised everyone who didn't know the term to "Google" it. If you haven't already, I'll save you the trouble. Here's his tweet.
3RD BEST WTF MOMENT
If you were still awake at the end, you may have noticed that the closing song, after over three hours of diversity jokes and references, was Public Enemy's 1990 groundbreaking song "Fight The Power". An extremely odd choice considering the glitzy white-dominated audience it was playing to. More irony: it was featured in Oscar boycotter Spike Lee's 1989 Do The Right Thing.
BEST FLIP-OFF TO THE ACADEMY
Sacha Baron Cohen's ignorant white rapper character Ali-G who introduced clips from Brooklyn and Room (“Now check out the movie that only has white people in it!”) who later related that he was told not to appear in character by The Academy. He later revealed that he had his wife sneak in the outfit which he slipped into during a bathroom break.
BEST POLITICIAN AT THE OSCARS
Joe Biden introducing Lady Ga Ga.
MOST EMOTIONAL MOMENT
Lady Ga Ga's performance of Dianne Warren's ballad. An admitted rape victim herself, she was joined onstage by campus rape survivors with inspirational slogans on their arm-holding hands at the conclusion.
BEST SONG WRITER NEVER TO WIN AN OSCAR
Dianne Warren. Seven noms and counting.
WORST SONG TO EVER WIN AN OSCAR
Bond song "Writing’s On The Wall".
BEST AUDIENCE CUT-AWAY
The Revenant bear clapping to its Best Picture clip.
2ND BEST AUDIENCE CUT-AWAY
Straight Outta Compton was represented in the audience by record producer and music executive "Suge Knight" appearing in a straitjacket and orange jumpsuit and flanked by two uniformed police officers. (The real Knight is currently in jail awaiting trial on murder charges.)
3RD BEST AUDIENCE CUT-AWAY
Young Jacob Tremblay jumping out of his seat in utter awe when the Star Wars droids appeared.
4TH BEST AUDIENCE CUT-AWAY
Audience members in stunned disbelief after Stacey Dash appeared.
Comedian Louis C.K. presenting for Best Documentary Short. His remarks, such as "These people will never be rich as long as they live" and taking home their award in a Honda Civic, makes him a possible candidate to host in the future.
2ND BEST PRESENTER(S)
Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe delightfully bantering about the number of Oscars between them before announcing the Best Adapted Screenplay award.
3RD BEST PRESENTER(S)
Sacha Baron Cohen as Ali G (paired with Olivia Wilde). It was all Ali G who carried on the diversity theme as only he could.
2ND WORST PRESENTERS
C-3PO, R2-D2 and BB-8
MOST INCOHERENT PRESENTER
WORST DRESSED WINNER WHO PLANNED TO ATTEND A HARLEY-DAVIDSON AFTER-PARTY
BEST TIRED REVISITING OF AN ELLEN DEGENERES AUDIENCE INTERACTION BIT
Chris Rock hawking girl scout cookies on behalf of his daughter. He claimed at the end they had sold 13,000 boxes totaling $65,235; however, post-show reports had the actual total as $2,500 for 800. In either case, that was a lot of cookies.
BEST AUDIENCE HEARTFELT OVATION
Best Original Score winner 87-year-old composer Ennio Morricone who only previously "won" an honorary Oscar. The frail composer, who had to be assisted to the podium, was a sentimental favorite and received a well-deserved extended standing ovation.
WORST AUDIENCE RECEPTION
Jenny Beavan. Even the orchestra cut short her acceptance speech.
BEST ACCEPTANCE SPEECH
Leonardo DiCaprio focused on something bigger than himself by giving an impassioned sincere speech on climate change.
2ND BEST ACCEPTANCE SPEECH
Alejandro G. Iñárritu who repeated as Best Director.
3RD BEST ACCEPTANCE SPEECH
Inside Out director Pete Docter focused on the trials and tribulations of being an adolescent and ended by informing his two kids that, because he won, they were to be rewarded with a dog.
UPCOMING REVIEW: The taut modern wartime political thriller "Eye in the Sky"
Lady Ga Ga joined onstage with campus rape survivors
Leonardo DiCaprio accepting his Oscar for Best Actor In A
"The Revenant" bear claps his approval after a clip of his
Louie C.K. introducing the Best Documentary Short Oscar
Fashion designer Jenny Beavan showing off her Best Costume
Producer, Director and cast celebrate"The Revenant" winning
for Best Picture