Film & Television

“And the Oscar Goes to . . .This Year’s Oscars”

According to preliminary reports from Variety, viewership of Sunday night’s 90th Academy Awards ceremony was down about 16% from 2017’s. That, my friends, is a shame.

Because change — real change — was in the air.

The Oscars had a tougher challenge than usual this year. The ceremony has often been criticized for its torturous length, its uneven hosts (or hosts missing in action, e.g.: James Franco, 2011), and for its persistent insularity (back-to-back years of #OscarsSoWhite). Herding hundreds of celebrities down the red carpet, coordinating an extravagant live broadcast, and ensuring that the right envelope gets in the right hands at the right time is a Herculean feat for the show’s organizers.

Now add to all of that somehow striking the right balance between the serious issues that have plagued Hollywood recently and honoring the industry’s biggest night, as well as showcasing some diversity worthy of celebration. Producers Jennifer Todd and Michael DeLuca, second-time host Jimmy Kimmel, presenter after presenter, and all of the winners pulled it off marvelously.

In lieu of a musical number (Does anyone remember the cringe worthy 1989 open with Rob Lowe and Snow White?), the show began with some silliness harkening back to Hollywood’s golden age. Kimmel struck just the right note, finding humor in recent headlines without diminishing the alleged abuses or demeaning victims who have come forward (a vast improvement over Seth Meyers at the Golden Globes several weeks ago). After explaining last year’s Best Picture mix-up, he quickly moved into more topical territory.

Standing beside a life-sized statue, he enthused, “Oscar is the most beloved and respected man in Hollywood and there’s a very good reason why. Just look at him. He keeps his hands where you can see them. Never says a rude word, and most importantly, no penis at all. He is literally a statue of limitations. And that’s the kind of men we need more of in this town.”

He continued, “Here’s how clueless Hollywood is about women — we made a movie called What Women Want and it starred Mel Gibson.” And he didn’t spare Harvey Weinstein either, but found a way to simultaneously poke humor and address how serious the allegations against the mogul are.

“The Academy, as you are no doubt aware,” he said, “Took action last year to expel Harvey Weinstein from their ranks. There are a lot of great nominees, but Harvey deserved it the most. The Academy kicked him out and after they did, I was curious so I looked it up. You know the only other person to be expelled from the academy ever was a character actor named Carmine Caridi. In 2004, he was kicked out for sharing screeners. Carmine Caridi got the same punishment as Harvey Weinstein for giving his neighbor a copy of Seabiscuit on VHS.”

Whether he was joking or serious, Kimmel’s theme throughout the evening was change. He was quick to point out diversity where he could and the number of “firsts” being honored. He also encouraged winners and presenters not to shy away from more important issues. “I hope you will listen to many brave and outspoken supporters of movements like #MeToo, and Time’s Up,” he said, continuing, “So if you do get an Oscar tonight we want you to give a speech and we want you to say whatever you feel needs to be said. Speak from the heart. We want passion. You have an opportunity and a platform to remind millions of people about important things like equal rights and equal treatment. If you want to encourage others to join the amazing students at Parkland at their march on the 24th, do that. If you want to thank a favorite teacher do that. Or maybe you just want to thank your parents and tell your kids to go to sleep. What you say is entirely up to you, you don’t have to change the world, do whatever you want.” But, he added that the shortest speech would be rewarded with “A brand new jet ski!” which Dame Helen Mirren was happy to model.

Highlights of the evening’s entertainment — and it was truly entertaining, for a change — included a terrific team-up of presenters Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph. The two women (wearing comfy slippers and carrying their high heels in their hands) assured viewers that despite their presence and all the diversity that preceded and followed them, “Are the Oscars too black? Don’t worry, there are plenty more white people to come tonight.” Their timing, fast-paced quips, and sheer joy were a highlight — intelligent, female and very funny.

A more serious but equally uplifting segment featured Ashley Judd, Salma Hayek, and Annabella Sciorra, three of Weinstein’s bravest accusers. These trailblazers were joined by Ava DuVernay, Lee Daniels, Geena Davis, Kumail Nanjiani and others who have helped expand Hollywood beyond its traditional white male leaders. Daniels ended with a promise, “Get ready for some more Black Panthers, some more Wrinkle in Times. We’re here, and we’re not going anywhere.” Multiple presenters and winners described themselves as immigrants and dreamers, honoring not only the happily ever afters that Hollywood promises, but the promises of our nation as well.

The various musical numbers, nominees for Best Original Song, were particularly powerful this year. Common and Andra Day embellished “Stand Up for Something” from Marshall with references to the NRA, and they were joined onstage by real-life activists including Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers; Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood; Nicole Hockley, a Sandy Hook mother; and 8-year-old Syrian refugee Bana Alabed. Mary J. Blige delivered an emotional rendition of “Mighty River” from the film Mudbound (for which she was also nominated as Best Supporting Actress). “Remember Me” from Coco (which ended up winning the category) was a crowd-pleasing homage to Mexican culture. And Keala Settle brought the house down with the power anthem “This Is Me” from The Greatest Showman.

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  • Cheryl March 6, 2018 at 9:35 am

    I have always liked to watch the Oscars, for what it was was designed to be: entertainment, beautiful gowns… and most importantly- the best in acting. What it is has turned out to be is: political theatre, hence the lowest drop in viewing apparently since 1976 news sources report. If acting, sports, and the like would stay with what they do best, and leave their politics at the door, more viewers would enjoy it again…

    Reply
  • Cheryl March 6, 2018 at 9:34 am

    I have always liked to watch the Oscars, for what it was was designed to be: entertainment, beautiful gowns… and most importantly- the best in acting. What it is has turned out to be is: political theatre, hence the lowest drop in viewing apparently since 1976 news sources report. If acting, sports, and the like would stay with what they do best, and leave their politics at the door, more viewers would enjoy it again…

    Reply
    • Pam Woodson March 6, 2018 at 10:00 am

      The Oscars are a different movie every year, view it as a movie you wouldn’t recommend, for many of us it’s the movie we’ve been waiting to see!

      Reply