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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
#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).
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.
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.
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.