Hope you all enjoyed the Academy Awards Sunday night; always one of my favorite nights of the year. This year’s telecast, though, wow, I thought it was pretty dreary. Lot of long, boring speeches and silly skits. I was, however, elated and shocked that “Spotlight,” a movie about newspaper journalists doing huge, important work won Best Picture, and I thought host Chris Rock, who had a huge amount of pressure on him this year given the #OscarsSoWhite stuff and the boycott, did a fantastic job with his monologue (Best line: “This year it’s going to be different. The in memoriam segment is just going to be black people shot by the cops on the way to the movies.”)
As I’ve done occasionally in the past here on Oscar night, I’m turning today’s post over to my hilarious, awesome and witty friend Diana, who’s a much bigger pop culture maven than I am and who graciously agreed to file a report on the Oscars.
Diana, take it away…
It’s been 20 minutes since the Oscars ceremony ended, and I’m still trying to absorb all that happened. It was not the light-hearted event I used to watch; the most difficult question tonight wouldn’t be “Did Angelina Jolie stick her leg out like that to draw attention away from her possibly pregnant tummy?” a la 2012. (The answer, it turned out, was no. She was just, well, being Angelina.)
No, tonight I’m battling with whether Chris Rock was helpful or hurtful to the diversity problem in Hollywood. Tonight, I’m thinking about Lady Gaga and the dozens of men and women on the Oscars stage whose pain you could see and hear so clearly. Tonight, I’m pondering “Spotlight’s” win for Best Picture and if there will ever be another newspaper movie again, if the industry I’ve poured my heart into will continue to have chances to make a difference in the world.
Thank God for Jacob Tremblay. The pint-sized star of “Room” saved the Oscars for me. He was charming on the red carpet, smoothly slipping his hand inside his tux as he walked up to reporters and mentioned how his view on the red carpet was “lots of legs.” He was adorable as he stood up from his seat in the auditorium, wide-eyed, to get a better view of C3PO, R2D2 and BB8 on stage. And he was both polite and cute as can be when Chris Rock brought him a box to stand on when he was presenting and called out, “Thanks Chris. I loved you in ‘Madagascar’!”
So, yes, thank goodness for Jacob Tremblay. Because the rest of the Oscars wasn’t so easy to form an opinion on.
I’m a huge fan of Chris Rock. And I was thrilled that he would be the host this year, the year of #OscarsSoWhite, which came about after no minority was nominated for an acting award and, while it wasn’t the first time, it wasn’t the first time. I couldn’t wait to see how Rock would approach the Oscars ceremony.
Rock approached it head-on. His opening monologue was solely about race. Many jokes landed, but some did not (suggesting that they fill the “In Memoriam” with black people who were killed by cops on the way to the movies). And he carried the theme throughout the ceremony. There were the movie clips with black actors inserted and ignored (funny but I felt like I had seen it before — and had in a similar “Saturday Night Live” sketch). There was the Black History Month Minute segment. The Stacey Dash spot. The movie theater commentary in Compton (which I enjoyed for the most part). And the Oscars beginning and ending with the song “Fight the Power.”
Rock was a one-note. And while some may say that by addressing the issue so forcefully he made Hollywood pay attention, I think that when you push something so hard, so much, people start to tune you out. They don’t listen. Had he sprinkled other jokes into his performance, the race jokes and commentary would have had a greater impact.
Another thing that bothered me was the reinforcement of stereotypes. When talking to a black woman outside a Compton movie theater about why she didn’t protest the Oscars by looting, he said, “This was your time to get that TV.” As in, if you’re black and you’re protesting, rioting and looting must certainly be involved.
But I felt like Rock really set back his mission with the introduction of PricewaterhouseCoopers accountants, bringing out three Asian kids (bad enough) and then adding that they were the same kids who made your iPhone. So racism is bad, but not when it’s involving Asians? Could he see what he was doing?
I don’t think he could. After all, his entire commentary about race involved the black race. Not Asians, not Hispanics, not Native Americans – all of whom were also missing from the acting nominations.
That said, I thought a few other people who took the stage did a much better job at addressing the issue. Kevin Hart was both funny and serious and it worked. Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs eloquently explained the steps the Academy was taking to be more inclusive. And Best Director Winner Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu gave one of the most beautiful speeches on race, issuing a call to “our generation to really liberate ourselves from all prejudice.”
Oscars So White was the dominant theme of the night, for sure. here are some of my other views from the night:
— Oscar Dresses So White: It appeared that white was a dominant color on the red carpet. Purple, too. My personal best-dressed award goes to Brie Larson, who I think was perfect from head to toe in dark blue. I also thought Tina Fey in purple, Charlize Theron in red, Jennifer Garner (whom I mistook for Angelina Jolie on more than one occasion) in black and Naomi Watts in metallic were quite beautiful. I wasn’t a fan of Heidi Klum’s dress (the draping and light purple color were beautiful, but I hated the one big sleeve and the appliqués). Ditto for Cate Blanchett. She looked like a craft project to me. And I really disliked Kerry Washington’s black and white dress, particularly the black hip lines.
— I also hate it when presenters pretend to be drunk, a la Tina Fey tonight.
— I’m starting to like the black and blue tuxedo.
— Lady Gaga’s performance of “Till It Happens to You” was spellbinding. It came from such a deep place and you could feel her pain, as well as see it on the faces of all the sexual assault victims on that stage. To me, it was one of the most powerful moments of the Oscars.
— The idea of having a list of names scrolling on the TV screen (so award recipients didn’t have to recite a bunch of people) seemed smart in theory. But in execution, unsuccessful. People still recited names on stage. They still got played off. The scrolling list just seemed to offer them a way to list a million names they would have never otherwise said. And it went way too fast to be effective.
— I thought it was funny a few years back when Ellen ordered pizza and then collected money from the audience for the pizza delivery guy’s tip. This year, Chris Rock brought his daughter’s Girl Scout troop in to sell cookies. Sure, it was cute, and it’s always fun to watch who pulls money out of their pockets and waves it around. (Also fun to imagine how much those starving actresses must have wanted a Samoa.) But I just hate when a shtick is repeated.
— My second-favorite person of the night: Louis C.K., whose made us laugh when he announced the winner of the Documentary Short Film award as “‘Mad Max’?!”
— I quite enjoyed those Kohl’s commercials with past Oscar speeches dubbed in – clever and kept you wanting more as you tried to figure out who the people were.
— Almost as adorable as Jacob Tremblay? Morgan Freeman and Michael Keaton grabbing Girl Scout cookies from Chris Rock as the Oscars ended. I’m pretty sure that’s something we can all agree on.