Pre Oscar Buzz

The Oscars will be held this coming weekend and it’s time for some random observations.

#1 – CHRIS ROCK AND THE WILL SMITH OSCAR SLAP ONE YEAR LATER

Well, we finally got our complete response from Chris Rock and it did not disappoint.

It was broadcast Saturday night on his live Netflix comedy special, Selective Outrage.

If you did not tune in, just know the entire set is great – smart, candid and brilliantly written and delivered.  

But most importantly, it’s really funny.

Oh he did not hold back

Nevertheless, it was the last 10 minutes that viewers will most remember, one that built to a well-earned mic drop to the question most of us have been waiting a year for him to answer:  

What was it like and how do you feel about being slugged really hard on live TV in front of 16 million plus people at the most prestigious awards ceremony in the world by one of the biggest stars in the world because he couldn’t take a joke? 

Well, first of all – it REALLY HURT.

And birthed an A+ NY Post headline

In terms of movies, think of it as the big guy who played Muhammad Ali (Smith) slugging the skinny kid who played Pookie (Rock) in New Jack City.

His words, not mine. 

But that was just the start.  Suffice it to say that in 10 minutes every ounce of massaged and manicured new age apology offered in pretty much any context by Smith and his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, was expertly shredded into origami and virtually shoved down their throats.

And we love a good shredding

But more importantly, it served to neuter the need for whatever obligatory dumb jokes that had been scheduled to address last year’s incident on the show, thus freeing this year’s ceremony to be as clever, dull, silly or timely as it chooses to be on its own.

Score one for team Rock and know that the festivities will likely achieve only two of the above four.

#2 – EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE OSCAR NOM-NOMS – This film grew on me and deserves the best picture and director wins it is clearly going to get next Sunday night.

James Hong sealed the deal at last week’s SAGs

I confess that after I viewed it the first time, barely holding on to middle age me didn’t quite get all the hoopla.  I mean, it was okay, but…huh? 

However, after watching it a second time it quickly became one of my favorite films of the year and, by any standards, one of the most original. 

Those of us who are not into multi-verse realities (Note: This includes myself AND most of my middle-aged friends) were a bit lost with EEAAO’s scattershot approach to reality.

But at its heart the film is actually nothing more, or less, than a very clever contemporary take on The Wizard of Oz.  Who doesn’t want to run away from a family that doesn’t listen to them when they are never truly seen?  On the other hand, what do you do when you suddenly realize that you are the one who is equally not seeing OR listening to them?

That’s one way to describe the multiverse

That’s a pretty good hat trick to pull off thematically, especially when the Mom who is substituting for Dorothy has to alternate between being a martial arts master, a glamorous movie star and a tired-looking working stiff, not to mention the voice of a googly-eyed rock.

A different kind of Oscar Rock this year

Here’s hoping that Michelle Yeoh makes history and wins a well-deserved best actress Oscar alongside the sure thing supporting actor Oscar win for Key Huan Quan as her sweet, put-upon husband. 

I think she will and that we’re looking at a big EEAAO sweep of all the top honors it’s nominated for in the making.

#3- THE VAGARIES OF THE VAGUE – There is something going on with films in the last few years for this viewer, aka ME, and it’s much more than having to watch EEAAO a second time to truly get it.

It seems there is a groundswell among critics and many industry-ites, nee Academy and other guild members, to go crazy for movies that feel slow, undone and vague.  Two examples this year are the multi-Oscar nominations for Tar and the near lock Women Talking has for the screenwriting award.

And we know how the Chair feels about ol’ Lydia Tar

Both films deal with the power struggles of women in unusual but incredibly obtuse ways.  Both are interesting looking, well acted and well made.  Yet both lack narrative details, drive and urgency, often choosing to stay mired in a miasma of talk and pretension.

It simply feels odd that Women Talking is a shoo-in for a best adapted screenplay win for writer-director Sarah Polley and that Tar’s Cate Blanchett is the top contender to snatch the best actress Oscar away from the more deserving Ms. Yeoh.

Don’t put that out into the universe!

This is especially true when two far superior films about women and their struggle for and against power, She Said and Till, were totally ignored by the Academy, 

Having seen all four films it’s hard not to conclude that the clear, well-crafted narratives of the latter two were judged not hip or happening enough for accolades by film critics and voters that believe something different always means something better.

I wonder what Miranda would have to say about this

For them I say, there’s a reason I can still wear the classic white shirt I bought at Agnes B a full 35 years ago but long ago gave away my beloved purple Armani suit that at the time I was convinced would be perennially flawless.

 #4 – THERE IS NO BEST ACTOR THIS YEAR – All of the people in this category, not to mention in most categories, are great.  But anyone who can say for sure whether Austin Butler will win for his startlingly shape shifting performance in Elvis or Brendan Fraser will take home the Oscar for his raw, heartbreaking acting turn of a lifetime in The Whale, is lying.

Some years it’s simply a tie.  Or an upset for Colin Farrell, who could squeak in for his subtle work in the much Oscar loved Banshees of Inisherin.

A tight race

Put a gun to my head and I’d say it’s probably Austin Butler’s ability to not only physically resurrect but also sing beloved Elvis Presley back to life.  On the other hand, I’m not gonna publicly deny one of the best male performances I’ve seen in years, by George of the Jungle, no less, from getting his much deserved Oscar win.

Which brings me to:

#4B – Darren Aronofsky’s The Whale received a handful of Oscar nominations but has received middling critical reviews pretty much across the board.  I don’t get it.  It’s one of the best, if not most disturbing, movies of the year.  It’s a tough watch but watch it.  It’s the anti-hip and happening and vague film stylistically (Note: Lucky for us) though ironically it seems to me that its in your face emotional rawness is exactly what we need in the world right now.

Not an easy watch — but should it be?

And finally:

#5 – THE OSCAR ARE ICONIC BUT…As fun as they are for all the right and wrong reasons, at the end of the day they don’t mean a lot.   And they’re often wrong.

I watched a double feature this afternoon on Turner Classic Movies of Born Yesterday (1950) and Some Like It Hot (1959).

One of the best lines ever

They are classic movies at their best – superbly entertaining, perfectly crafted and more than able to stand the test of time against most of their contemporaries.

Judy Holliday won the lead actress Oscar in Born Yesterday for recreating her much acclaimed Broadway performance.  But let’s remember in doing so she beat out Bette Davis, who gave one of the best female performances in film history as Margo Channing in All About Eve, and Gloria Swanson, who created one of the most enduringly iconic as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard.

All tea no shade

As for Some Like It Hot, it’s a movie that has been consistently rated by writers, directors and critics as one of the top five comedies of all-time, if not THE top.  Yet its only Oscar win was for best costumes and it failed to even receive a nomination for either best picture or best director.

The film that received the most Oscar nominations that year was, um,…Ben Hur.  And it was awarded the best picture, best director (William Wyler) and best actor (Charlton Heston) Oscar, among others.

Yep, this.

Try sitting through all 123 hours of Ben-Hur after watching Some Like It Hot.  And if you manage to, report back to us on which one you liked best.

“Running Wild” – from Some Like It Hot

Who Wants to be a Billionaire?

If you’re upset you can’t afford holiday presents, or that you even have to buy holiday presents, be cheered by the confirmation once again of this salient fact –

Money does NOT buy happiness.

But you can rent it, right Chairy?

The richest man in the world was having a hissy fit this week because a bunch of reputable journalists posted stories about him and his whereabouts he didn’t like and couldn’t control.

Yes, Elon Musk is THE richest person on EARTH and a bunch of silly, bitchy and not even very revealing comments about him by reporters who work at places like CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post pissed him off.  Not to mention a college student in Florida and what he wrote on his Twitter account. 

In fact, he suspended all their Twitter accounts, then banned them altogether, then reinstated them. 

He screamed (Note: Well, posted very loudly) they were violating his privacy by revealing the comings and goings of his private jet when that information is public record.  Forget that some of those reporters never even wrote about where he was.  They were instead commenting on his latest follies on the social media platform he now owns.

See, the richest man in the world bought Twitter for $44 billion this year in order to steer public discourse to his own liking. 

Ho Ho Ho

And even if it collapses under the weight of his toddler-y tantrums as he leads a band of digital dingbats to troll the libs, he will still be a multi-billionaire.

What it won’t do, though, is fill the deep hole of distaste for that which and those whom he cannot silence, or at least control.

Us.

Or, put in the spirit of holiday movies like It’s A Wonderful Life:

Elon will forever be Mr. Potter and….

WE ARE ALL GEORGE BAILEYS.

OK but the happy one right?

He will NEVER get his hands on our buildings and loans because we don’t look at the entire world as something we could ever, in reality, fully control. 

Certainly not with the cash and clout we have available to us in Christmas, 2022.

And how lucky are we for that?

Yes, lucky. 

Because we also learned this week that, aside from money, being the MOST POWERFUL PERSON ON THE PLANET (Note:  Which these days comes accompanied by a ton of money, or at least financial “opportunities”) also can’t come close to buying happiness.  Or even contentment.

Certainly not self-respect.

Bah humbug!

Yes, of course we’re talking about Tr-mp.  That’s a given.  But only in service or making a much larger point.

I mean, what would it take for you to hire/authorize/perhaps pay (Note: Well, maybe not the latter) a digital artist to create inferior drawings of you as a cowboy, a superhero, an astronaut or even fighter pilot, with a a strange, air-brushed slapped-on replica of your face and hair where the head is supposed to be?

For your sake and mine, we’ll post this instead. #yikes

It could conceivably be a fun party favor on your 50th, 60th or even 70th birthday under a tent, given to all invited guests.  You could imagine your spouse doing that behind your back without telling you, thinking you’d be pleased.

You might even be displeased but be forced to grin and bear it while resenting it, or even pretend to like it and then have it grow on you and sort of have it win you over because, hey, why not, what do YOU have to prove at this point, anyway, being so rich and powerful?

But no, imagine you actually WANT to create these faux objects d’art voluntarily, as YOUR merchandise from YOUR virtual merch store?  And voluntarily publicize and sell them to anyone in the world who wants to buy them for $99 a piece?

Wait, this is serious!

Um… what?

In your mind you ARE a superhero.  And maybe you were indeed an astronaut, a cowboy and a war pilot.  Who is to say that you were not?   

A liberal like me can joke all that he wants but hey, the Trump digital cards sold out in a day and they made $4.3 million.

I am clearly in the wrong business

At least that’s what THEY will counter.

But, well, is that a lot of money for a self-proclaimed billionaire?  More importantly, does that raise the stock of the once most powerful man in the world?

Well, maybe there is an Iowa state fair looking for a superhero carnival barker in 2024 rather than a presidential candidate.

Been there and done that, you can hear Trump really privately thinking about running again. 

So why not do the state fair

If they pay enough and you can private jet in and out it might be good for the brand in the long run, And wouldn’t it be so great to be back up on a real stage among MY people?  

You can imagine him contemplating it, even if he doesn’t publicly admit it. 

Or perhaps it is just a simple money grift from the man born with no shame and then some.

Welcome back Potter

Already intellectuals are writing think pieces about these Trump playing cards, attempting to cast them as some post modern ironic, version of crypto art.  They are NFTs, aka non-fungible tokens, after all.  Which is nothing more than a fancy word for images each with their own digital stamp. 

Sounds like a Sam Bankman-Fried scheme to me.  But let’s not go down that road even if Larry David and Tom Brady already did.

Instead let’s stay with the idea of seriously marketing yourself as a real life cartoon character NOT in the Marvel or DC Universe when you actually once were a sort of Superman/person in real life.

It’s kind of like the end of Tar when she finds herself….

Oh, never mind. I don’t want to give it away. 

Don’t worry Cate, we’ll have a podcast all about you #AwardsSeason

Even though I thought that movie was an unbelievably bloated, pretentious, obnoxious and sad excuse for…

Hey, that’s sort of how I think about Trump and Elon!

Two pieces of faux public art drowning in their own bottomless hubris as the rest of us celebrate this holiday season in ways they can’t understand and will never be able to buy.

P.S. We love you, Cecily

“Blue Christmas” – Austin Butler with the SNL cast