Category Archives: Oscars

The 89th Oscars: The Hollywood Reach-Around

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“Who do I have to blow to get nominated?”

People who don’t like the Oscars often cite the notion that it is a bunch of Hollywood elites congratulating themselves. This was further elucidated, especially by conservatives, after Meryl Streep went off on Donald Trump at the Golden Globes. To this I say–well, duh. Of course entertainment awards are mutual masturbation sessions. Do the Oscars mean anything? Except for a boost in box office for some films, absolutely not. They are garish, silly, and often boring. But I am fascinated by them.

I can pinpoint my interest in the Oscars. For the 1971 awards, Life magazine (is there anyone old enough here to remember it?) ran a two-page spread with a picture of all the nominees. I didn’t know who most of them were (Jeff Bridges, who’s he?) but something about it compelled interest. My parents let me stay up, even though I was only ten years old, and I haven’t missed a show since then. I have studied and handicapped Oscars for years, I think because they combine my love of movies with my love of sports. These people are really like horses at the big race.

So, for those who have a kernel of interest, this year had two big stories. One is that La La Land tied a record, set by All About Eve and Titanic, for most nominations with 14. This was pretty much expected, and the film has to be considered a runaway favorite (if Damien Chazelle wins the DGA, it’s all over). This will make for a boring awards show, especially for those who hate the film (and I have heard from some). There is a backlash against it by those who find it silly, unrealistic, and without any depth. But I doubt this backlash will effect any voters–they are all in the movie industry, Note some of the recent Best Picture winners–Argo and The Artist. Both about Hollywood. The suspense on February 26th will be whether La La Land breaks the record for wins, which is now a three-way tie between Ben-Hur, Titanic, and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. 

The other, larger story, is that seven actors of color were nominated, a record (six of them are of African lineage, one is East Indian). Three black women are nominated in the Best Supporting Actress category, a record for any acting category. Barry Jenkins is the fourth black Best Director nominee, and in a first, a black woman was nominated in the Best Editing category (both for Moonlight). Two black men, Denzel Washington and Pharrell Williams, are producers in the Best Picture category, and three of the Best Picture nominees are about black American life.

I think this last sentence is key–I may be incredibly naive, but I don’t think there’s racism at work in the nominating process. This year saw a lot of black nominees because there were good movies with a lot of black actors. If Hollywood continues to make these films, #OscarsSoWhite will permanently go out of business.

But certainly there is a historic lack of representation of black winners. I was struck by two factoids from his year’s nominations: Viola Davis is the first woman to receive three nominations, and Octavia Spencer is the first black woman to receive a nomination after she had won.

Snubs? Well, there are always some, even if they have to be invented. I suppose the closest thing to one is Amy Adams getting passed over for Arrival even after it got all the necessary nominations for a Best Picture win–director, screenplay, and editing. I suppose her nomination went to Ruth Negga of Loving, who gave a very good but understated performance–no obvious clip for her–which goes against a lot of Oscar history. Or maybe it’s Meryl Streep, getting nominated for a technically good but ultimately frivolous role in Florence Foster Jenkins. It’s Streep’s 20th nomination; she has lost more times than the runner-up, Katharine Hepburn, was nominated.

Another supposed snub was Deadpool getting completely shut out. After nominations from the PGA and WGA, some Oscar ninnies were giddily wondering if it would get a Best Picture nomination. Except for Heath Ledger’s nomination for The Dark Knight, no comic book movie has ever gotten an above the line nomination, and it wasn’t about to start with Deadpool. Let’s get real.

A few perpetual bridesmaids: Kevin O’Connell got his 21st nomination for Sound Mixing for Hacksaw Ridge. He has never won, and holds the record for Oscar futility. He’s in the same category with Greg P. Russell, who has now 17 nominations without a win (this time for 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi). They will probably both lose to La La Land.

In the music category, Thomas Newman got a nod for Passengers. His family has wracked up a lot of Oscar nominations. Uncle Alfred had 43 nominations and nine wins. Cousin Randy has twenty nominations and two wins, but didn’t win until his 16th try. So Thomas can take solace, he now has 14 nominations without ever winning.

Over the next 33 days I’ll put up my thoughts on who will win, as I always do. It might be pretty easy this year, although I’m already struggling over who will win Best Makeup and Hair Design.

1966: Qui Tacet Consentire

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1966: It was the year Star Trek and Batman debuted on television. Charles Whitman, in the first mass murder in U.S. history, killed 16 people from a tower at the University of Texas. And Adam Sandler, Halle Berry, and J.J. Abrams were born.

At the movies, it was still the era of biggest is better. The number one film at the box office was The Bible: In the Beginning, and second was Hawaii, both almost three hours long. British films were also prevalent, earning many Oscar nominations and occupying a golden age for that country that has never really returned. Two of the five nominees for Best Picture were British, including the winner.

alfie_originalAlfie was one of the British films nominated, and it was the star-making turn for Michael Caine, who plays an amoral cad who seduces a number of women and treats them quite badly. It’s only Caine’s performance that lets us tolerate his bad behavior. It was directed by Lewis Gilbert and written by Bill Naughton, based on his novel and play. It also starred Shelley Winters as what we might today call a cougar, and Jane Asher, who is now best known as being Paul McCartney’s girlfriend while he was in The Beatles. Also known for it’s theme song, “What’s It All About?”

russians_are_comingThe Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming is something of an unusual film when it comes to Best Picture nominees–it’s a farce. A Russian sub gets grounded off the coast of Massachusetts, and panic sets in among the locals. It was directed by Norman Jewison, with a script by William Rose, who also wrote It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, which bears much resemblance to the tone of this one. Alan Arkin received an Oscar nomination for his film debut as a Russian sailor, and it features a host of other well-known actors, such as Carl Reiner, Eva Marie Saint, Brian Keith, and Jonathan Winters. It’s one of my favorite comedies.
the_sand_pebbles_film_posterThe Sand Pebbles is a very typical film of the era, a lumbering road-show picture, three hours in length. Directed by Robert Wise, it tells the story of a U.S. gunboat trying to keep the peace in China in the 1920s. It starred Steve McQueen, who earned his only Oscar nomination. The parallels to the Vietnam War are there if you look for them. Interesting about McQueen–he had a persona as the outcast for almost his whole career. It’s not too many modern stars who played basically the same role over and over again.

whos_afraid_of_virginia_woolfOne of the splashiest films of 1966 was Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf?, the star-studded adaptation of Edward Albee’s scathing play about marriage. The directorial debut of Mike Nichols, the stars were two of the most famous people on the planet, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, as the constantly warring Martha and George. Sandy Dennis and George Segal are the unsuspecting guests that stop in for a nightcap. There is perhaps more drinking in this film that any other ever made. Taylor and Dennis won Oscars for their roles.

220px-a_man_for_all_seasons_1966_movie_posterThe winner for Best Picture was A Man for All Seasons, directed by Fred Zinneman. A very British, very stately, very PBS sort of film, it tells the story of Sir Thomas More, played by Oscar-winner Paul Scofield, as he defies King Henry VIII in his attempt to divorce his first wife and marry Anne Boleyn. This period of time has been seen in many films and TV shows (such as The Tudors and Wolf Hall) but this was one of the first (other than the sillier The Private Life of Henry VIII). Robert Shaw makes a robust king.

All of these films have something to their credit–there’s no clinkers here–but my vote would have gone for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which still manages to be viscerally exciting fifty years hence.

Other notable films that year that some might think should have nominated were Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly; Michaelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup; and, of course, Don Knotts in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken.

 

Oscar 2016, Best Actress: Strawberry Blondes Forever

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Emma Stone in “La La Land”

This year’s prospects for the Best Actress Oscar are pretty deep, compared to other years. They are especially good for actresses of color, but may end up being dominated by redheads. I’d bet the farm that the winner will fit in one of those categories. Now that Toronto and New York are over, more pictures have been seen by those that beat the drums.

In alphabetical order:

Viola Davis, Fences: She’s a shoo-in if here isn’t a category dispute. She won the Tony for this role, but in the Supporting Actress category. The studio may want to push her for Supporting, where she would probably be the favorite. She’s way overdo for an Oscar.

Ruth Negga, Loving: The film doesn’t seem to be getting the reception that it seemed like it would on paper, but Negga, as one of the participants in the Supreme Court case that found anti-miscegenation laws unconstitutional, seems like the best bet for a nomination.

Natalie Portman, Jackie: This film kind of came out of nowhere for Oscar bloggers, but is getting buzz for not only Portman, but for Best Picture. It covers the few days after JFK’s assassination. Portman is a previous winner, but some are suggesting she still may win.

Emma Stone, La La Land: This redhead’s your favorite as of now, a well-liked actress who is getting rave reviews for the film that is now in the catbird’s seat for Best Picture. It is also possible she (and her co-star Ryan Gosling) could be nominated in the Best Song category, as they each wrote a tune for the film. That would be unprecedented.

Meryl Streep, Florence Foster Jenkins: This is a light role for Streep, and if nominated it would be her twentieth nomination. She’s probably on the bubble, and we’ll have to see if any other actresses supersede her. I think she was terrific, though, and wouldn’t begrudge her another nomination.

Also possible: Amy Adams, Arrival or Nocturnal Animals (redhead); Annette Bening, Twentieth Century Women; Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane (redhead); Isabelle Huppert, Elle (redhead); Taraji P. Henson, Hidden Figures.

Oscars 2016, Best Actor: Who Wants Thirds?

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The putative front-runners for the Oscar for Best Actor this year are both two-time winners, and both have already cemented their status as Hollywood legends. One of them seems a sure thing for a nomination, the other is in a movie that no has seen yet, but seems to have Oscar written all over it. But could a first-time winner sneak in?

Right now, barring Fences being an absolute disaster, four of the Best Acting nominees feel fairly certain, in films that have already been seen and pleased audiences. The fifth spot could go any number of places.

In alphabetical order, here’s my take:

Casey Affleck, Manchester by the Sea: This movie was a Sundance hit and is eagerly anticipated. Affleck, who has one nomination under his belt (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) seems likely here, if his recent legal problems don’t hamper him (he was sued for sexual harassment; there was an out-of-court settlement).

Ryan Gosling, La La Land: As of today, La La Land may be the favorite for Best Picture. Emma Stone is getting most of the accolades, and just may be the favorite for Best Actress (that’s coming up right here next month) but Gosling may be along for the ride for his role in a musical. When actors do something different from their usual pesonas voters take notice. Gosling has one nomination also, for Half-Nelson.

Tom Hanks, Sully: Believe it or not, but Hanks has not been nominated for 16 years, not since Cast Away. He only has five nominations total, and has been passed over for what were thought sure-fire nominations in recent years. But Sully is a hit, and Hanks is the major part of it. Could he be the second man to win three Best Actor Oscars (after Daniel Day-Lewis)? I wouldn’t be shocked.

Nate Parker, Birth of a Nation: This is my going out on a limb pick, and it wasn’t so until recently. But revelations about Parker being charged with rape (but acquitted) have cast a pall all over the film. However, there seems to have been a backlash against the backlash, with Parker appearing at screenings and receiving ovations. Time may cool things down. But don’t put any money on it.

Denzel Washington, Fences: Again, Fences has not been seen by any press, and Washington’s previous two directorial efforts garnered zero Oscar nominations. But there’s a lot of hope for this, as it has a black cast and given the cultural climate would ease a lot of wounds if it here a hit. Washington has won two Oscars, one for Supporting Actor (Glory) and one for Best Actor (Training Day).

Also possible: Joe Alwyn, Billy Lynn’s Long Half-Time Walk; Joel Edgerton, Loving; Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Snowden; Michael Keaton, The Founder; and Miles Teller, Bleed for This.

Oscar 2016: #OscarsMaybeNotSoWhite

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Birth of a Nation

When the Oscar nominations are announced on January 24th, what everyone will be looking for is not necessarily who gets nominated, but what color they are. A third straight year of no people of color being nominated would be a public relations disaster even bigger than last year. Fortunately, there are several films being released later this year that have black themes, and I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb to say that there’s about a 99.9 percent chance that one of the twenty performers nominated will be an African-American.

I’ll get into that further in my posts on the various acting categories, but I’ll start with Best Picture. So far this year the pickings have been slim, and in looking over the slate of films coming out later this year, only a few films jump out at me. Usually I can guess about five out of ten films right (the nominees are anywhere from five to ten films) but I wouldn’t put much hope in that this year. This is the kind of year that could be very kind to small indies or to blockbusters. A nomination for Captain America: Civil War? Not completely out of the realm of possibility.

Here, in alphabetical order, are ten films I’m banking on, as of now. Only one has been released.

American Pastoral, Oct. 21, Ewan MacGregor. Although I am somewhat hesitant because this is the first film directed by MacGregor, it should be remembered that because of the large preponderance of actors in the Academy, actors turned directors are treated very kindly. One of two Philip Roth adaptations this year (the other, Indignation, probably won’t be nominated in this category, though it may be better), American Pastoral is based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel on a weighty subject: a successful Jewish businessman’s life is turned upside down by the radicalization of his daughter during the 1960s.

Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, Nov. 11, Ang Lee. Lee’s films can’t be ignored. I loved the book, but as I read it and envisioned it as a film I wondered how it would succeed as a film, since much of its comedy comes from description, not from plot or dialogue. It’s about a unit of soldiers who are honored as heroes at a Dallas Cowboys’ Thanksgiving game, and the hypocrisy of it all. I will be interested to see Steve Martin as a Jerry Jones-type owner.

Birth of a Nation, Oct. 7, Nate Parker. This film has been a favorite for an Oscar since it wowed them at Sundance and got purchased by Fox Searchlight for 17.5 million. Purposely co-opting the title of D.W. Griffith’s racist masterpiece, Parker writes, directs, and stars in this story of the slave rebellion by Nat Turner. Oddly, the film may have hit some trouble with the relevation that Parker was once charged with rape as a college student, but acquitted. Will that stick until Oscar nominations? Hard to tell. A reminder that no person of color has ever won the Best Director Oscar.

Denial, Sep. 30, Mick Jackson. Haven’t heard a lot about this film, but after seeing the trailer it hits a lot of Academy buttons. It is the true story of a woman who is sued for libel by a holocaust denier. As the stereotype goes, films about the holocaust, however tangential, strike chords with Academy voters, and this at least seems to be a well-done project. Starring Rachel Weisz and Timothy Spall as David Irving, the denier.

Fences, Dec.16, Denzel Washington. Washington’s only other feature as a director, Antwone Fisher, didn’t exactly thrill many, but this adaptation of August Wilson’s play will provide several opportunities for black actors to be nominated, notably Viola Davis and Washington himself, as a former Negro League ballplayer turned trash collector who is dealing with issues in his own life and the world around. If this is any good at all, it should garner several above the line nominations.

Florence Foster Jenkins, Stephen Frears, Aug. 12. The only one of these ten that people can now see, it’s a crowd-pleaser about the world’s worst singer. Films about entertainers usually do well with the Academy, but this is a twist given she’s bad. But it could strike a nerve with actors who secretly may feel that they have no talent. It’s a lush period piece, which helps, and while Meryl Streep has not been in as many Best Picture nominees as you might think, (both of her wins for Best Actress were in films not nominated for Best Picture) her performance, as well as the “comeback” of Hugh Grant, should help.

La La Land, Dec. 2, Damien Chazelle. The writer/director of Whiplash is back with another musical film, this time about the relationship between a jazz pianist (Ryan Gosling) and a waitress (Emma Stone). Hard to know with this one, as an original musical hasn’t been nominated for Best Picture since (and check me if I’m wrong) Doctor Dolittle in 1967.

Loving, Nov. 4, Jeff Nichols. While Birth of a Nation has gotten most of the Oscar buzz for black-themed films, it may be this film that sneaks in, and I’m going to make it my ridiculously early pick as winner. Directed by Jeff Nichols, who has made several fine independent films, it details the plaintiffs in Loving v. Virginia, a 1967 Supreme Court case that tested Virginia’s miscegenation laws. I know so many mixed-race couples these days that it may come as a shock to people today that interracial marriage was once outlawed. Look for Ruth Negga, who plays the wife, to be a breakout star.

Manchester by the Sea, Nov.18, Kenneth Lonergan. The Academy has been hit or miss with Lonergan, but this film was another Sundance sensation, being bought by Amazon for 10 million. It stars Casey Affleck as a man returning to his home town to assume legal guardianship for his late brother’s son. Said to be almost unrelievedly bleak, maybe too much so to get traction in this category.

Miss Sloane, Dec. 9, John Madden. I’m going with this film, knowing almost nothing about it, as my zeitgeist film. Jessica Chastain is the title character, a lawyer fighting for gun control measures. May not do well in fly-over country, but among the liberals of Hollywood this could strike a nerve–if it’s any good.

Other possibilities: The Light Between Oceans, Sep. 2, Derek Cianfrance; Snowden, Sep. 16, Oliver Stone; Sully, Sep. 9, Clint Eastwood; Hell or High Water, Aug. 12, David Mackenzie; and Silence, Martin Scorsese. This last film, about missionaries in Japan, would seem to be prime Oscar bait, but a release date has not been announced. It will probably be released in award-season, but might be pushed to 2017 as well.

Oscar 2015: Black Millionaires Matter

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The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences gets so many things wrong, but they lucked out when they hired Chris Rock to host this year’s ceremony. Little did they know that he was the perfect host to handle the #OscarsSoWhite controversy. Though ratings were way down, I think it’s safe to say that those that tuned in were waiting with baited breath for one of the greatest social commentators of our day to sound off on the problem of lack of diversity in Hollywood.

He did not disappoint. In my view, he walked the tightrope like Philippe Petit, occasionally making a slip but staying on the wire. He spent the whole show talking about it, making it a one-issue broadcast (not one mention of Donald Trump–if there had been a black nominee or two we would have heard Trump’s name numerous times). I can’t imagine how someone like Neill Patrick Harris would have handled it–badly, I suspect. Rock took the controversy, grabbed it by the horns, and basically took Hollywood to the woodshed, where they squirmed but took it, knowing they had it coming.

The Academy’s producers, David Hill and Reginald Hudlin, also bent over backwards to make Hollywood look like a rainbow coalition. By my count, 17 presenters were people of color. Rock also added a few filmed bits that were quite funny, especially one that imagined black people in “white” roles, with Rock playing a stranded astronaut, a la Matt Damon, who isn’t going to be rescued, since it would cost $2500.

Rock’s monologue was sharp. He started with expected quips like “Welcome to the White People’s Choice Awards,” but then went on to cover both sides of the argument. It was clear that he was annoyed that there were no black nominees (he gave a shout-out for Michael B. Jordan, introducing him as “should have been nominated”) but then putting things in perspective when he said that in the fifties, black people were worried about getting lynched, not who was going to win Best Cinematography. Many attacked Rock on Twitter for this, thinking me meant that black people had no problems now. But they seemed to miss his next joke, which was that the “In Memoriam” montage would be made up of black people shot on their way to the movies.

Rock also aimed some darts at Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. The latter started the boycott, and Rock put her in her place by suggesting she was as welcome at the Oscars as Rock was in Rihanna’s panties, and that Smith may have been snubbed for Best Oscar, but it also wasn’t fair that he made twenty million for The Wild, Wild West. What it all boils down to is that regular black people do have plenty of things to worry about, whether it be police brutality, unemployment, and high incarceration rates, not whether zillionaire Will Smith gets an Oscar nomination.

The most bizarre part of the night was when Rock introduced the Academy’s new “minority outreach” director, and out came Stacey Dash, former actress and current Fox News commentator. Several wondered what was going on, but I got it right away–Rock was using Dash, the useful black idiot for white racists, who has suggested there shouldn’t be a Black History Month or that the BET Awards are racist, to parody the whole controversy. What wasn’t clear was whether Dash was in on the joke. She seemed nervous, as if a gun was pointed at her from the wings. Several in the audience looked aghast, particularly The Weeknd, who did a face palm.

Interestingly, the moments that fell flat were those that made fun of Asians, who apparently aren’t included among minorities who feel slighted. Sasha Baron Cohen, as Ali G,, made a very tasteless joke, and trotting out three Asian kids as the accountants played right into stereotypes.

Now, as for the winners and losers. Of course the biggest surprise was Spotlight winning Best Picture. It won the first award of the night (Best Original Screenplay) and the last and nothing in between, making it the first Best Picture to win less than three overall Oscars since The Greatest Show on Earth in 1953, the only other post-1940 film to do so. Most had their chips on The Revenant, which won the DGA (and indeed, Alejandro Innaritu won the directing Oscar, his second in a row, only the third to do so) and BAFTA. Some had an inkling it might be The Big Short, which won the PGA. But Spotlight prevailed. Perhaps it was because of the preferential ballot–it might not have been the leading vote-getter on the first, second, or even third round, but was the film that more people put second or third. The Revenant, judging by anonymous voters interviewed in the Hollywood Reporter, was hated by some, who thought it was beautiful but empty, like a Road Runner cartoon, and were tired of hearing how difficult it was to shoot. They honored Innaritu and Leonardo DiCaprio, but then voted for Spotlight.

The other surprise was Mark Rylance beating Sylvester Stallone in the Best Supporting Actor category. In retrospect, this is not hard to figure out. I even doubted Stallone would be a nominee, thinking that too many would not be able to get past the thirty years of schlock between good Rocky films. When they saw that name on the ballot, they thought, “Wait a minute, this is the guy who made Cobra.” Rylance is a respected British stage actor, whom Hollywood usually love out of envy.

Another mild surprise was Ex Machina beating out Star Wars and Mad Max for Best Visual Effects, and in doing so, had the first woman to ever win in this category. It could also be considered a surprise that in Best Song, after Lady Gaga brought the house down with her song about campus rape, “Til It Happens to You,” a James Bond song that no one admitted to liking won..Sam Smith, the winning songwriter, then erroneously took credit as the first out gay man to ever win an Oscar.

The Academy tried something new to keep things moving–a crawl that winners could use to thank the multitudes. It didn’t really work, as it went by too fast and seemed just like a series of first names, when it didn’t look like a weather alert. As for playing winners off the stage, the orchestra used familiar movie themes, but they might want to rethink using Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.” Wagner was a notorious anti-Semite, and it was a bad choice to play off the winner of Best Foreign Language Film, a movie about a concentration camp.

A few bits of trivia. Emannuel Lubezki won his third consecutive Oscar for cinematographer, a first, while fellow nominee Roger Deakins is now 0 for 13, losing to Lubezki for three straight years. Composer Thomas Newman is now also 0 for 13, losing to Ennio Morricone, who at 87 is now the oldest person to win a competitive Oscar. Diane Warren, who must have been sure she would win Best Song after Lady Gaga killed, is now 0 for 8.

Michael Keaton joins a select group of actors who have been in two consecutive Best Pictures, while Mad Max: Fury Road, which dominated the middle of the night, is the winningest Australian film of all time (the winning costume designer, Jenny Beavan, set tongues wagging by wearing a leather jacket with a skull on the back).

I thought it was one of the better Oscar shows in recent years, and Rock was the best host since the Steve Martin days. As I read somewhere today, he probably won’t be back, at least not next year, as it’s a draining job. They seemed to be auditioning next year’s host: Sarah Silverman, Kevin Hart, and the team of Tina Fey and Steve Carell all did bits, though Louis C.K. was the best with his take on the Best Documentary Short award (years ago Jerry Seinfeld gave out the same award and commented how depressing they all sounded, probably killing his chance of hosting). Or maybe the team of Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe?

Perhaps the lasting image of the 88th Academy Awards will be Girl Scouts roaming the theater, selling cookies to famished attendees. Kate Winslet looked at box of Tagalongs as if it were an exotic dish she had never heard of, and Morgan Freeman, the show over, pawed into a box of Thin Mints held by Michael Keaton. The closing music, after Chris Rock closed with “Black lives matter,” was “Fight the Power,” by Public Enemy. Perhaps an N.W.A. song could have been chosen, but I don’t know if any of them pass network standards.

The Eighth Annual Gone Elsewhere Oscar Challenge

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Time for this year’s Oscar Challenge. It’s simple–just pick the winner in each of the 24 categories.

I suggest you simply cut and paste the list of categories below in a comment and type your choice of winner next to it. If you change your mind, either edit your comment or post a new one. I will take your last predictions as official.

Best Picture:
Best Director:
Best Actor:
Best Actress:
Best Supporting Actor:
Best Supporting Actress:
Best Original Screenplay:
Best Adapted Screenplay:
Best Foreign Language Film:
Best Animated Film:
Best Cinematography:
Best Editing:
Best Production Design:
Best Costume Design:
Best Song:
Best Musical Score:
Best Documentary Feature:
Best Documentary Short Subject:
Best Makeup and Hairstyles:
Best Animated Short Subject:
Best Live Action Short Subject:
Best Sound Editing:
Best Sound Mixing:
Best Visual Effects:

The nominees can be found all over the web, including here.

Deadline will be anytime before the first award is given. The Oscar show is February 28th.

Oscar 2015: Fuck tha Academy

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Well, we can guess what Chris Rock’s first joke will be about.

When I watched the announcement of the Academy Awards yesterday morning, I was first struck by the shocking omission of Ridley Scott as Best Director for The Martian. But then again, I am a white guy. As the day progressed, the big story was the total absence of people of color in the acting nominees for the second straight year. This drew a hue and cry from many quarters.

It seemed extra cruel that two movies about black America, Creed and Straight Outta Compton, each received one nomination–which went to white people (although, why didn’t the Compton producers get black writers?) Though I certainly understand the outrage about this, I think that this is pretty trivial in the long run, especially when considering other things that affect the black community, like high incarceration rates, police brutality, and unemployment.

Before I sound like Bill O’Reilly, let me explain. The problem with so-called snubs is that people usually don’t have the guts to say who shouldn’t be nominated. The vacuous mannequins on Access Hollywood bemoaned that Will Smith should have been nominated for Concussion, but didn’t say who he should replace. It’s easy to say someone was screwed, but back it up and say who took their place improperly.

Secondly, the Academy Awards are selected by 6,000 people in the movie business, who hardly represent the pulse of America. Attempts have been made to make the membership more diverse, but what exactly does this mean? If there were more black members, Straight Outta Compton would have been nominated for Best Picture, because black people will automatically like it? Black people can’t like Brooklyn? Also, what people protesting seem to be calling for is some kind of quota. If the voters didn’t like Will Smith (I haven’t seen the film, but judging by the trailer the performance is typically overwrought Smith), so be it. Maybe I’m naive, but I doubt voters checked in with each other and said, “Don’t vote for any black people.”

The problem is that there isn’t more films written, directed, and featuring black people. If someday a larger percentage of films are about black people, made by black people, then the nominations will certainly increase. When most black films seem to be starring Kevin Hart or directed by Tyler Perry, well, don’t hold your breath on the Oscars.

Okay, so what else did we learn from the nomination reveal? The Revenant was the big winner, with 12 nominations. But it did not get a screenplay nomination, which hurts it’s Best Picture chances. Same with the next highest nominee, Mad Max: Fury Road. I love all the love it got, considering it’s a sci-fi car movie, the fourth in its series (the last of which was thirty years ago) and it ended up being my favorite movie of the year. But it won’t win Best Picture.

The rest of the Best Picture nominees were predictable, with Spotlight and The Big Short the only movies that are lined up for the win: they have the necessary director, screenplay, at least one acting nomination, editing, and a SAG nomination for Best Ensemble.

But back to Scott: when a director is shunned like that, it fucks up a prognosticator. This has happened a few times over the years, and every time the DGA, which is a great bellwethers for Oscar, has responded by giving their award to the passed over guy. This happened in 1985 (Spielberg for The Color Purple), 1995 (Ron Howard for Apollo 13), and 2012 (Ben Affleck for Argo). The shunned guy wins the DGA, leaving the Oscar race wide open. Although only in 2012 did the picture actually win the Oscar, which means if Scott wins the DGA it doesn’t mean The Martian will win Best Picture. In fact, I think The Martian’s chance are slim and none.

The other big story of the morning was Sylvester Stallone getting the call for Creed (instead of director Ryan Coogler or co-star Michael B. Jordan). He got a big hand at the announcements from the press, and a great reception when he won his Golden Globe. Will he win? I think so–but voters will have to hold their noses and overlook all the schlock he’s done over the years. Also, buzz is that he’s not a warm and cuddly guy. Should an Oscar go to the man who made Stop, or My Mom Will Shoot?

A few bits of trivia: Stallone sets the record for the longest gap between nominations for playing the same character, 39 years. He joins Paul Newman (Fast Eddie Felson), Peter O’Toole (Henry II), Cate Blanchett (Elizabeth I) and Al Pacino (Michael Corleone) as performers nominated twice for the same character. In Best Original Score, we have two octogenarians: Ennio Morricone, who has never won an Oscar in competition, gets nominated for The Hateful Eight at age 87, a record in this category, and John Williams, 83, gets his fiftieth individual nomination for Star Wars: The Force Awakens!

Speaking of score, also in this category is Thomas Newman, for Bridge of Spies. This is his fourteenth nomination, and he has yet to win. Also in the bridesmaid category is Roger Deakins, who just picked up his 14th nomination for lensing Sicario, and he is also without a win. Below the line talent don’t generally get sentimental votes, because their names are not on the ballot, just the movie.

In the younger person arena, Jennifer Lawrence just got her fourth nomination by the age of 25, a record (previously held by Natalie Wood). Lawrence may be the new Meryl Streep, getting nominated for anything, even a movie, like Joy, that got tepid reviews, or at least the new Kate Winslet or Cate Blanchett, who each picked up their seventh nominations.

Things to look for on Oscar night: two directors have won in back-to-back years, John Ford (1940-41) and Joseph Mankiewicz (1949-50). However, no director has helmed back-to-back Best Pictures, and Alejandro G. Innaritu has a chance at both. His cinematographer, Emmanuel Luzbecki, stands a very good chance at winning his third Oscar in a row, which would be a record for the category. Oh, and for the first time in god knows when, Harvey Weinstein could not get a film nominated for Best Picture.

So, start guessing at how Chris Rock will skewer the Academy for their whiteness, send Harvey your condolences, and root for upsets and controversy to make the evening tolerable.

1965: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

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1965: The year that the first U.S. ground troops landed in Vietnam, Dylan went electric, and Robert Downey Jr., Ben Stiller, and Chris Rock were born. It was a big year for Julie Christie, but it may just have been the worst year for Hollywood (in terms of quality), ever. As I have done now for nine years, I will take a look at the five films nominated for Best Picture. None of them are great, some of them have aged badly. Looking over the list of films released that year, it’s not like anything was egregiously passed over. It was the year of Beach Blanket Bingo, That Darn Cat!, and The Greatest Story Ever Told.

Darling322To start, alphabetically, is Darling, a British film directed by John Schlesinger that starred Julie Christie as a model who sleeps around London and Italy. I imagine it was very daring in its day, with its depiction of casual sex, abortion, and attacks on the callow youth of Swingin’ London. But today it comes off as horribly dated and not very profound. Christie won the Best Actress Oscar.

DrZhivago_AsheetChristie also starred in Doctor Zhivago, one of David Lean’s patented three-hour-plus epics, this time set against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution. Omar Sharif stars as the titular medical man, an apolitical fellow who gets caught up first in the fight between Bolsheviks and the loyalists, and then between the internecine squabble between Reds and Whites. Christie is Lara, who becomes Sharif’s mistress (he is one of the nicest adulterers ever seen in film). The movie wasn’t really that well received upon release, but has a better reputation today, though I found most of it a bore.

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Another boring film is Ship of Fools, another socially-conscious film by Stanley Kramer. It’s set aboard a German passenger liner in 1933, an important year for Germany and world history. Based on a novel by Katherine Anne Porter, it’s been called “Grand Hotel on the water,” as it has several storylines going at once–sort of like the later U.S. TV series, The Love Boat. It’s a lugubrious film that plays with hindsight, such as when a Jewish man says of the new Nazi Party–“There’s one million Jews in Germany. What are they going to do, kill us all?” The film is notable for being the last for Vivienne Leigh, who plays a bitter divorcee who provides one of the few highlights when she spontaneously dances the Charleston.

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If I had a vote back then, I would have gone with A Thousand Clowns, by default I guess. It’s a good film, and if Darling is a relic of British cinema of the decade, A Thousand Clowns represents the Jewish left-wing Broadway days, and can be seen as a link between the Beat Generation and the hippie counterculture. It is based on a Broadway play by Herb Gardner, about a TV writer (Jason Robards) who has quit his job and withdrawn from society. But, he is caring for his nephew, and the Child Welfare agency wants him to get a job or he loses custody of the kid. Thus, we have the opposite of the previous year’s Mary Poppins: instead of abusinessman learning to fly kites, we have a guy who flies kites who needs to learn business. Though bound by its stage origins, it’s funny and loquacious. Our own Marco reviewed it here.

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The winner of the Oscar that year was The Sound of Music, which also became the highest-grossing film of all time (it knocked Gone With the Wind off the top spot, and would hold the honor until The Godfather seven years later). It was the second large-scaled musical to win in a row (after My Fair Lady) and a crowd pleaser, to be sure. But it has had its many detractors over the years. Gene Siskel went so far to say that while watching he rooted for the Nazis. When I was a kid my grandmother took me and I wanted to leave early. But watching it again I realize it’s actually a very accomplished picture–terrific editing and camera work (that opening helicopter zoom on Julie Andrews is still stunning, and the cutting during the puppet show of all things is superb) it’s just a very square film. It’s the kind of film that is for people who don’t go to a lot of movies, an event that doesn’t add to the literature of cinema. Time has not been good to it–it’s now a piece of kitsch, where people go and have sing-alongs and talk back, like The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

So what was the best film of 1965? Damned if I know. Patch of Blue, which I saw on TV many, many years ago, was ahead of its time but is not available on DVD. Cat Ballou, for which Lee Marvin won an Oscar, is an enjoyable if slight comedy. If you had asked me when I was twelve I would have told you The Great Race, in which Blake Edwards tries to replicate It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and misses (but not by much). The James Bond entry that year was Thunderball.

In foreign films, Sergio Leone gave us For a Few Dollars More, Fellini had Juliet of the Spirits, Jean-Luc Godard gave us Alphaville, and Milos Forman had Loves of a Blonde. I have more 1965 films to see, but, from a Hollywood standpoint, it was a critical disaster.

 

 

Oscar 2015: Best Supporting Performances

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It’s best to wait in predicting the Best Supporting performance Oscars, because without anyone having seen the films, it’s hard to know who stands out in an ensemble, or who is a lead, or who is that someone we’ve never heard of that breaks out. It’s easy to look a year ahead of time and see that Leonard DiCaprio will be nominate for Best Actor for The Revenant, but nobody on god’s green Earth could have, more than a few weeks ago, posited that Sylvester Stallone would be nominated for, of all things, playing Rocky again (in Creed).

But that’s a distinct possibility. A lot of Academy voters in the acting branch may get all nostalgic thinking about Stallone, who was nominated for the first Rocky (and for writing the script) and might well have won had Peter Finch not dropped dead a few months before the ceremony. But there are also might be those who realize what Stallone squandered, giving up on making movies in quality, lowering himself to Rambo films and then wallowing in projects like The Expendables. It’s a tough call, but I don’t think, in the end, that he will be nominated.

The Supporting Actor race will probably have a couple of actors from Spotlight, the token British theater actor, a previous winner, and one wild card, which may be Stallone. I’ll put them in alphabetical order:

Christian Bale: The Big Short. Bale has picked up a few nominations in the last few years, so he seems to be a popular choice among the branch. This comedy, about the 2008 economic collapse, is an ensemble piece, but all signs are pointing to Bale to get any accolades.

Benicio Del Toro: Sicario. Del Toro, the previous winner fifteen years ago for Traffic, is in another film about the drug trade, and this may be his finest performance yet, as a guy working for the CIA (we think), but who has is own agenda.

Michael Keaton: Spotlight. The New York Film Critics went with Keaton as Best Actor, and he is the emotional center of the film, but the studio is putting everyone in the supporting basket, and the Academy usually complies. The “we owe him one” for last year’s snub for Birdman may help him win.

Mark Ruffalo: Spotlight. If Keaton is the emotional center of Spotlight, Ruffalo gets the big scene, with his fiery portrayal of a reporter. Ruffalo is getting a lot of high-profile roles these days, and it would be his third nomination. You get the sense it’s just a matter of time before he wins.

Mark Rylance: Bridge of Spies. Rylance is a multi-Tony-winning British actor who steals the film right from under Tom Hanks’ nose. It’s a great performance.

With Best Supporting Actress, we’ve got the fresh new faces and a Hollywood legend, perhaps gunning for a third Oscar.

Jane Fonda: Youth. Fonda has only worked sporadically this century, but she has one of those big diva scenes that call attention to themselves. She has won two Oscars, but hasn’t been nominated in almost thirty years.

Jennifer Jason Leigh: The Hateful Eight. Leigh has never been nominated for an Oscar, but Tarantino seems to get a lot of actors we’ve almost forgotten about nominated. Hard to know at this point if she’s got any scenery-chewing, but maybe she’s due.

Rooney Mara: Carol. Haven’t seen this yet, but apparently Mara’s part is bigger than co-star Cate Blanchett’s, but she’s being pushed for Supporting and Blanchett for lead. She’s a lock at this point.

Alicia Vikander: The Danish Girl. Vikander was in about eight films this year, and she won the L.A. Film Critics for Ex Machina, but it’s likely the Academy will go with the more prestigious offering. Basically she’s playing the patient wife of Eddie Redmayne, which got Felicity Jones a nom last year.

Kate Winslet: Steve Jobs. The film’s lackluster box office will hurt it in several categories, but if Winslet pays the price I will be livid, as this is great acting.

Golden Globe and SAG nominations will help sort all this when they are released this week. Stallone is sure to get a nod from the HFPA, star-fuckers as they are, but if SAG goes with him to he may get that nomination for the Academy.

Oscar 2015 Preview: Best Actress

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Brie Larson in “Room”

Unlike many years, this year’s Best Actress race actually has a bevy of women vying for top honors. No longer must we look to foreign films or indies that no one has seen. This year figures to be an all-Hollywood slate.

Who gets in may depend on how big the films hit. Charlize Theron, who ordinarily would never have a chance with an action picture like Mad Max: Fury Road, may be a contender because of box office, while Lily Tomlin, who seems like a very sentimental choice, could be hurt by Grandma‘s paltry 6.4 million dollar box office.

Here is my best guess for the five women who will get nominations come January:

Cate Blanchett, Carol: This is a film about a lesbian relationship, directed by Todd Haynes, who has already directed Blanchett to one nomination (I’m Not There, as Bob Dylan). Co-star Rooney Mara won at Cannes, but those who’ve seen it say that Blanchett is the lead, and Mara is supporting. Blanchett is kind of like Meryl Streep-lite now; she’s nominated for practically everything she does.

Sandra Bullock, Our Brand Is Crisis: I admit going out on a limb for this one, but I saw the trailer and its full of scenery-chewing moments. Bullock is enjoying a productive stretch of quality films after years of fluff, and if the film is any good, I think she has a shot. It’s also a role that was written for a man.

Brie Larson, Room: The winner at Toronto, Room has suddenly vaulted into a lot of Oscar talk, especially Larson, as a young woman, like Jacy Dugard, who was kept captive for several years and gave birth to a child fathered by her abductor. Larson got a lot of buzz for Short-Term 12, and if there’s a lock for a nomination right now, it would appear to be her.

Jennifer Lawrence, Joy: This would be the third nomination for Lawrence directed by David O. Russell. I did a little sleuthing on the Internet and I can’t tell if that would be a record, but it would certainly be significant, since Lawrence is only 25. Joy is a film about a woman who invented the Miracle Mop, so who knows what it will be like, but Lawrence can’t be counted out for anything.

Saorse Ronan, Brooklyn: Ronan, who received a nomination as a child for Atonement, would be only the second woman (after Jodie Foster) nominated as both a child and an adult, and she seems a safe bet, as the star of an old-fashioned film about an Irish immigrant and the loves she has on both sides of the pond.

Other possibilities: Marion Cotillard, Macbeth; Carey Mulligan, Suffragette; Charlotte Rampling, 45 Hours,  Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road, Lily Tomlin, Grandma.

Oscar 2015 Preview: Best Actor

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“Nominate me or else.”

Now that the Toronto Film Festival is just about done, and prestige pictures are being released, the Oscar race starts to make some sense. Many films have not been seen yet, but educated guesses can be made, especially in the acting categories.

For Best Actor, Oscar ninnies can use a combination of actors’ track records, the role played, and the quality of the film. Oh, and there’s also the excellence of the performance, but many times we don’t know it because we haven’t seen it.

These five performances figure to be the front-runners headed into the fall. Some will no doubt fall by the wayside if the movie is no good, but two or more seem likely.

Bryan Cranston, Trumbo: Best known as a TV actor, Cranston has earned the Emmy and the Tony, and seems ready to conquer film as well. Add to the mix that he’s playing a legendary Hollywood figure, blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, and it seems like a gimme, but only if the film doesn’t slip through the cracks.

Johnny Depp, Black Mass: Depp, who was once one of our best “serious” actors, has frittered away the better part of a decade playing cartoon characters while making millions. In his early 50s, he’s already making a comeback. The transformation into notorious gangster Whitey Bulger, via makeup and other affectations, can’t hurt. My early call is that he will win the award.

Leonard DiCaprio, The Revenant: One of these days DiCaprio is going to win an Oscar. This would be his fifth nomination, and if Depp doesn’t get it he just might. The role is a physical one, of a wounded mountain man tracking down his betrayers. Unless the movie is an absolute bomb, he should be in.

Michael Fassbender, Steve Jobs: Fassbender is an intriguing actor, and when the material is right, he can be magnificent. So whether he gets nominated as the founder of Apple depends highly on the reception of the film. It certainly has all the earmarks, as the Academy loves guys who play geniuses.

Eddie Redmayne, The Danish Girl: Last year’s winner should be back this year for playing what is thought to be the first man to undergo gender change surgery. This role is grooved for so many Oscar cliches that unless voters figure that he’s already won, he’s in.

A second tier of possibilities: Tom Hardy, Legend; Tom Hiddleston, I Saw the Light; Idris Elba, Beasts of No Nation; Michael Caine, Youth; Matt Damon, The Martian.

Oscar 2015 Preview: Best Picture

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Eddie Redmayne as “The Danish Girl”

It’s time for back-to-school sales and looking forward to the fall slate of film releases, which are chock full of Oscar bait. In my annual round-up of my predictions for Best Picture (which is usually about fifty percent accurate) all but one of these films has not been released yet, which means I’m guessing blind. There is no real favorite yet, which makes it all pretty interesting right about now. As for the favorite, I’ve been doing this now for several years but I think I’ve only nailed the winner once at this time of year, and that was for 12 Years a Slave. Last year I had Unbroken, which wasn’t even nominated.

In alphabetical order:

Bridge of Spies (Steven Spielberg) You can never count out Spielberg, unless it’s one of his sci-fi action flicks like Jurrasic Park or War of the Worlds. This one is a Cold War tale with Tom Hanks. Of course, they also made The Terminal together.

Brooklyn (John Crowley): A film about an Irish emigre in New York City, this film, starring Saorsie Ronan, looks like an old-fashioned film that Oscar used to love.

The Danish Girl (Tom Hooper): Hooper’s last two films have been nominated in this category. It’s about the person first recognized for having gender-change surgery, and stars last year’s Best Actor winner Eddie Redmayne. Gender identity is very much on the minds of many these days, so the zeitgeist might be right. I’ll pick this as the picture to beat.

The Hateful Eight (Quentin Tarantino): Tarantino is on a two-film streak with Best Pictures, so why not this one, which has a large collection of cool actors in a Western? With Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained he’s shown that blood-soaked pictures and over-the-top performances can still be nominated in this category.

Inside Out (Pete Docter): While the Academy had a mandatory ten-film slate of nominees, animated films got in (Toy Story 3 and Up). Not so since it’s been anywhere from five to nine nominees. If it’s ten this year, I think Inside Out, generally acclaimed as great by critics and audiences, will get in.

Joy (David O. Russell): Russell is on a three-film streak, and he is teaming with Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro for the third time in this story of the woman who invented the Miracle Mop. Based on the pedigree, this has to be a contender.

The Revenant (Alejandro Innaritu): Last year’s winner was directed by Innaritu, can he get two in a row? This film, about Leonardo DiCaprio as a mountain man bent on revenge, has been full of stories about problems in the set, but if it’s good as it could be, it should be a lock.

Sicario (Denis Villaneuve): Starring Emily Blunt in a role the studio wanted a man to play, it seems to be about Mexican drug cartels and, with Benicio Del Toro as a co-star, reminiscent of Traffic. That would be a good thing.

Steve Jobs (Danny Boyle): There’s already been one film about the Apple founder which bombed, starring Ashton Kutcher. The difference here is that it’s Michael Fassbender as Jobs and the script was written by Aaron Sorkin. If he can do with Jobs what he did with Mark Zuckerberg, the film should be great.

Suffragette (Sarah Gavron): A story about the women’s-right-to-vote moment in England, this film looks great in the trailer and has lots of great parts for women. But movies about women haven’t won many Best Pictures.

Also in contention: Black Mass (Scott Cooper); By the Sea (Angelina Jolie); Carol (Todd Haynes); Freeheld (Peter Smollett); In the Heart of the Sea (Ron Howard); The Martian (Ridley Scott); The Secret in Their Eyes (Billy Ray); Star Wars: The Force Awakens (J.J. Abrams); Trumbo (Jay Roach); Youth (Paola Sorrentino).

Oscar 2014: Tightie-Whities

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The 87th annual Academy Awards telecast is now history, and it may be remembered for a few things: a writer thanked his dog, Lady Gaga showed old people than she has a great set of pipes, and tightie-whities got lots of mention and exposure.

What it will not be remembered for is a good show. Everyone had high hopes for Neil Patrick Harris, who had hosted just about everything and now was after the brass ring of the Oscars. He bombed almost completely. He’s a great song and dance man, and full of charm, but he was given some very bad jokes and had some exquisitely bad timing. After a woman dedicated an award to her son, who had committed suicide, he made a crass joke about her dress. Bah-dum-bum.

When a man has to resort to coming on stage in his underwear to get laughs, we know things are desperate. He did this in tribute to a scene in Birdman in which Michael Keaton did the same thing, but it’s funnier for a man out of shape to have to jog through Times Square in his underwear than a buff guy backstage at the Dolby Theater. This wasn’t the only joke made about that Birdman scene–Alejandro G. Innaritu, during one of his three Oscar acceptance speeches, made a joke about wearing Keaton’s underwear. Those Jockeys may end up in some movie costume museum.

It was a Birdman night. It won only four awards, but three of them were big: Picture, Director, and Screenplay. It did not win Best Actor for Keaton, my major disappointment of the night, instead honoring the puppyish Eddie Redmayne, another actor playing a disability to win. The other acting winners–Julianne Moore, Patricia Arquette, and J.K. Simmons, were all overwhelming favorites.

There were some surprises. That Boyhood, which was the favorite for Best Picture a month ago, walked away with only win (Arquette’s) seems kind of stunning. I knew it was doomed when it didn’t win Best Editing. I mean, taking twelve years of footage and putting it together in a film seemed a natural, but instead it went to Whiplash, which won three awards. The Grand Budapest Hotel also won four awards, and Wes Anderson got many thanks, but he didn’t win anything personally.

In an amazing bit of fair play, each one of the eight nominated Best Pictures won at least one award. The Imitation Game got Adapted Screenplay, allowing Graham Moore to give my favorite speech (“Stay weird”), Selma got Best Song, Common and John Legend were favorites if only because the Academy were desperate for some black people to win. And American Sniper got a Sound Editing Award, prompting the usual indignation from Sean Hannity.

As for the speeches, they were a mixed bag. There were some politics–Patricia Arquette came out for equal pay for women, which seems a safe platform, even if it isn’t in effect, and Common and John Legend gave a fiery speech about black incarceration. J.K. Simmons was more sedate–“Call your mother” he said. I do think that the screenwriter for Birdman–I’m sorry for not knowing which one–thanked his dog Larry. This has to be the first canine that was thanked at an Academy Awards, at least since Lassie.

But the evening overall seemed sour and ugly. Sean Penn made an inside joke about Innaritu’s immigration status that was certainly okay between them–Penn made 21 Grams for him–but sounded like a xenophobic rant. Idina Menzel and John Travolta made up, but did he have to fondle her like a bubbe fondles her grandson? And what was Terrence Howard on?

Some of the musical performances made the evening for me. I loved Tegan and Sara and Lonely Island doing “Everything Is Awesome,” including cameos by Questlove and Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo, and the performance of “Glory” was epic. It was almost outdone by Tim McGraw’s simple and heartfelt rendering of Glen Campbell’s song.

But I think I will most remember Lady Gaga paying musical tribute to The Sound of Music. On paper this sounds horrible. The Sound of Music is one of those phony classics, a movie that nobody under 50 likes except when they mock it at live sing-alongs. And Lady Gaga, a woman known most to some for wearing a dress made of meat (and appeared on the red carpet in red gloves that looked ready to perform a prostate exam) cleaned up, wearing a stunning white dress, flowing blonde hair, and a fabulous voice. Then, when Julie Andrews strode out and the two hugged, well, somebody must have been cutting onions.

I think NPH will be one and done, as ratings took a nose dive. Of course, this is always based on the movies nominated, but he will take the fall. They should probably go back to a comic, because its the approaching-vicious monologues that people remember the next day, not Jack Black singing about tentpoles (but Anna Kendrick can do anything in my book). I would lobby for one of the Jimmys–Fallon or Kimmel–or maybe Stephen Colbert will be ready by then. Let’s keep trying until they figure it out.