My friend has run an Oscar pool for almost forty years (I tied for the win last night–maybe we need a tiebreaker) and for most of those years my mother has entered. Not this year. She lives on that planet that FoxNews viewers inhabit, the one where Hillary is a crook and Donald Trump is a great president. When I called her up to get her picks Saturday night she said she was skipping this year. Something about how the movies were no good and how she hated Jimmy Kimmel.
Well, she was right to skip the telecast. I haven’t checked the far-right Twitter-verse today, but I’m sure they are not happy. The show basically was a liberal’s wet dream, preaching inclusion and diversity, a three-and-a-half hour “Kumbaya” sing-a-long. There were shout outs to Mexico, Dreamers, the Parkland students, transgender performers, #MeToo, #TimesUp, and even a Native American actor (Wes Studi) introducing a clip honoring veterans.
This is all fine with me, but it certainly reinforces the image of Hollywood as a bunch of left-wingers (except for Jon Voight and Kelsey Grammer). I think the apotheosis of this was when Ashley Judd, Salma Hayet, and Annabella Sciorra took the stage to talk about sexual harassment and introduce a clip on diversity in film. The three women have in common being assaulted by Harvey Weinstein–Sciorra claims she was raped, and looked fragile. It was both an amazingly daring move for the usual staid Oscars to make, as well as one that felt uncomfortable.
Moments like this were peppered throughout the show, some working, some not. The big crowd-pleaser was Frances McDormand, who has sort of become Hollywood’s strict mom (I’m glad she actually smiled and laughed this time). She had every female nominee stand, and uttered two words that probably make film executives shudder–“inclusion rider.” That is a rider in a contract that can mandate that participation in a film, both above and behind the camera, be fifty-fifty in terms of gender. If someone as big as Jennifer Lawrence or Emma Stone insists on one, what are studios going to do? Hire more female cinematographers and directors, for one.
The awards were doled out largely as forecast, with no surprises. The Shape of Water hung on to win Best Picture, but almost every other Best Picture nominee got something–except for Lady Bird, the one film directed by a woman, which was shut out. Roger Deakins finally got an Oscar after fourteen tries, and James Ivory, who directed the great Merchant Ivory films of the ’80s, received his first Oscar at age 89, the oldest winner in any category, ever. He had to wait a long time, but Kobe Bryant, the former basketball star, got one in his first try, for Best Animated Short. This outraged many, because Bryant was accused of rape some years ago (he also has more Oscar wins than Alfred Hitchcock, Greta Garbo, Cary Grant, and Marlene Dietrich combined–one).
As for the show itself, I like Jimmy Kimmel and think he should be a permanent host, a la Bob Hope, but the ratings tanked. He had some good jokes (but why was he asking Steven Spielberg for pot?) but we can do without the stunts. Last year it was bringing in a tour bus load of fans, this year they went to the neighboring multiplex with snacks. Kimmel seems to think that we need to know that he hasn’t lost touch with the common man. Well, he may not have, but Hollywood has. There was a nice moment though when Mark Hamill introduced himself to Gal Gadot.
In addition to McDormand’s shout out to women (and Chloe Kim) I liked some smaller moments, such as Guillermo Del Toro stating, “I am immigrant” (four of the last five director awards have gone to Mexicans). But some things backfired. A performance of the song from Marshall, “Stand Up for Something,” included ten activists. But they weren’t identified, just stood stock still has if waiting for Scotty to beam them up (I was looking for Emma Gonzalez from Douglas High School, but alas she was not there).
Coming off looking good were Kumail Nanjiani, both in his presenting duties and an appearance in the diversity clip(future host?), and Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph, co-presenters who killed, reassuring viewers that there were many more white people to come, talking about their aching feet, and complimenting each other about expelling body fluids on film.
As mentioned, he ratings were way down for the show, which may be because there were no blockbusters nominated (if Black Panther manages to wrangle some nominations, an uptick may happen). Maybe they should get Dennis Miller to host, and my mom way watch again.