Pre Oscar Buzz

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


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

The Top Guns

The Oscars unveiled its 2023 nominations this past week, joining the previously announced award nominees lists from the major unions of craftspeople that make movies (Note: DGA, WGA, SAG, PGA, among so many others).

The work and the films run the gamut from big budget and big box-office to micro-cost and little-to-speak-of in the way of tickets sales.  They also stretch from the extremely well reviewed to the mixed or even disliked.

Now streaming on Peacock!

This is nothing unusual and as it should be.   

AND…  If you’d like to hear our totally unvarnished take on this year’s Oscar contenders, as well as marvel with us over how it is that Riz Ahmed and Allison Williams, this year’s genetically gifted announcers, can still manage to look that good at 5:30 in the morning, click here for all the hot takes we have and then some.

Shameless self-promotion, to be assured, but also informative, fun and a bit bitchy.

Still, I do have one small but definitely full-on bitchy bone to pick over what is and what is not required for great screen storytelling these days.

Top Gun: Maverick has been judged one of five BEST adapted screenplay nominees by BOTH the Oscars AND my own Writer’s Guild of America this year. 




I don’t care how much $$$$ it made or the fact that it seems to be credited with single-handedly reviving the domestic box-office at brick and mortar multiplexes post-pandemic.

There are financial awards for that, not to mention attention from NATO.


The latter would be the National Association of Theatre Owners, not the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  That last one is a world peacekeeping organization vs. the former, whose job it is to keep the nation’s movie theatres open and its owners at peace.

Note:  Top Gun: Maverick DID NOT save the world.

Beach football didn’t save the world??

Unless the only world you know is the movie business.

Perhaps that’s the problem.

Hey, there is nothing wrong with big, broad blockbuster entertainment.  And there is nothing wrong with big, broad blockbuster entertainment being nominated for awards.

When they are deserved.

Shade, Chair! Shade!

But if you are talking about basic storytelling 101 in the blockbuster arena, at its most essential and most basic there are the GOOD GUYS and the BAD GUYS.

Yet in Top Gun: Maverick, this box-office behemoth of a sequel to a blockbuster from the wretched excess decade of the eighties, we don’t even know who the bad guys are because the writers are too scared, too lazy or likely too worried to tell us.

Tom Cruise’s Maverick is tapped to choose and lead a small group of elite fighter pilots (Note: Think Cruise and his buddies thirty plus years ago) to stop __________________ from enriching uranium, which can presumably, in turn, give THEM, the _________________, a nuclear bomb(s).

But who is THEM???

Who are THEY?  Who is __________________?  The ENEMIES?  THE…..BAD GUYS?

The best we are given is the general term rogue nation.

and here I thought the real enemy was Miles Teller’s mustache

Except no rogue nation can fit the definition of what country or powers are being even vaguely suggested, even if you take into account the very, very few clues provided in the screenplay/film. (Note: For a breakdown of the evidence, here is one excellent analysis, much better than we could do here).

So, well, whom are we rooting against and why are we invested in this mission in this award-nominated screenplay?

Okay, okay, I know. It’s because we want Tom Cruise to win.  Always.

I’m really not sure

Well, some of us.

But from a STORYTELLING point of view in a war movie, don’t we need to know WHO IS THE ENEMY?????? 

That is, aside from logic. 

Of course, right.   A major reason we don’t know is international box office potential.  The forces behind Top Gun: Maverick don’t want to offend any nations, or nationalities, or inanimate objects, rogue or not, for risk of denting their profits with any type of political firestorm or cultural cancellation. 


And at a $1.44 BILLION in ticket sales worldwide, including $744 million in foreign territories OUTISDE the U.S, who can argue with that strategy.

But…is it AWARD WORTHY dramatic writing?

It depends on what you are giving the award for.

Et tu Jon Hamm??

To whit, Top Gun: Maverick is now the FIFTH highest grossing movie of all-time, soaring past the original Black Panther.  The latter film, a worldwide phenomenon, grossed $1.347 billion in total, $647 million from the US and almost $700 million from overseas.

And it had a ton of discernible villains, not only from within Wakanda, its own country, but even from the U.S.

Best Marvel villain ever — no questions at this time.

Not to mention, its current Oscar nominated sequel, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, has SPECIFIC ENEMIES from ALL OVER the UNIVERSE.

That is because the people behind the Black Panther movies know how to BOTH tell a good story AND respect their audience.

See, blockbusters can be artistically interesting and don’t HAVE to play it vague and safe.

If the filmmakers and the studio decide that is what they are going to do.

I said what I said!

What is surprising is that a very large group of Hollywood writers in both the Motion Picture Academy and the Writers Guild have drank their employers’ Kool-Aid and chosen to keep everything they know about great dramatic screenwriting away from their ballots in favor of their hoped for bloated bank accounts.

I would like to attribute it to solely a large group of white male Hollywood writers over 50 whom long for the glory days, when they could imagine themselves as digital Tom Cruise, or even simply employed by the likes of Simpson and Bruckheimer.

But then I realize I am one of those white male 50+ voting writers.

Oh god I’ve become a Taylor Swift lyric

And among my biggest nightmares would be to wake up resembling anything akin to the fictional Maverick or the digital and/or real life version of that particular movie star.  Or in the employ of any two producers making any Simpson-Bruckheimer type product.

So that answer is way too easy.

Instead, I attribute it to a much more realistic view of what’s happened to corporate artists worldwide since time began, especially in Hollywood.

As your bank account rises you have to work like hell to prevent your work and your taste and your voting opinions on anything from going into the toilet.

And that requires the kind of effort and determination that far too few of us are still willing to suit up for.

Lady Gaga – “Hold My Hand” (from Top Gun: Maverick)