92nd Oscars: Reflections

Our contributors have watched the Oscars, looked at the winners, and have decided to share with you their thoughts of Sunday night’s ceremony and results. Before we get to our contributors’ thoughts, let’s look at how they did at predicting this year’s Oscars.

Thomas was the winner this year with 20 correct predictions. Wesley came in just a point behind with 19, followed by Peter and Tripp tied for third with 16 apiece. Among runners-up selections, Wesley and Thomas both managed to predict all of the categories between their winners and runners up while Tripp pulled 22 out of 24 and Peter claimed 19 out of 24. Not bad at all.

The three categories all of us missed this year were Sound Editing and two big ones: Best Picture and Best Directing, a rare prognosticating failure for the quartet of us. Among the other categories, the four of us agreed on far more than we ever have and most of those were accurate. Our biggest differences were in the short film categories, but in the end, there was only one category where only one of our contributors’ managed to pick the correct winner and that was Live Action Short Film where Wesley’s prediction of The Neighbors’ Window was spot-on.

The four of us correctly predicted thirteen categories. Actress, Actor, Original Song, Original Score, International Film, Makeup & Hairstyling, Cinematography, Sound Mixing, Supporting Actress, Costume Design, Adapted Screenplay, Original Screenplay, and Supporting Actor.

Now that we’ve gone over the statistics, let’s hear what everyone had to say.

Wesley Lovell

I’ll start off my reflections on the 92nd Oscars with a statement that the truncated Oscar season was hell. Everything was crammed into the span of four weeks from nominations to the Oscars rather than seven or eight weeks. That makes for a lot of rushed articles and harried nights trying to get everything put together and posted in a timely manner. Thankfully, the next few Oscars have been scheduled out and they are, thankfully, much later in the month, giving us a couple more weeks to break everything out and down. Now, it’s on to the ceremony itself.

Going hostless for the second year in a row, it was never more obvious why the Academy needs hosts. most of the songs and other productions had no context built into them. For non-Oscar watchers, the Eminem performance of “Lose Yourself” was out of left field (and even for Oscar watchers who know that Eminem famously snubbed the Academy when the song was actually nominated and won felt it was a bit too far out of left field to be appropriate). The introductions to the songs from Breakthrough and Toy Story 4 were unexpected and ill-timed.

Still, there were some genuinely funny moments starting off with former hosts Steve Martin and Chris Rock doing an opening monologue for the show. Their material was largely fresh, though they recycled a cheap joke from earlier in the season regarding them not actually being the hosts. Beyond that, they were affable and engaging and, like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, would be a terrific team to host the Oscars in the future, should they decide to go back to it. The only other interesting new technique the producers used was having montages of the nominated performances play before the acting categories were awarded. Not only do they showcase more of the actors and the films themselves, it helped the audience understand why they may have been nominated in the first place. That might be something worth keeping for next year.

Some presenters didn’t make much of an impression, while others made the wrong impression. In spite of stinging joke James Corden and Rebel Wilson made about the visual effects in their film Cats while dressed in feline costumes, the bit fell utterly flat and their playful batting of the mic stand was distracting and overlong. The bit Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell did was also not terribly funny.

Meanwhile, a handful of presenters shone brightly Sunday night including a stellar Olivia Colman who’s bit about her husband being incredibly happy after her win last year was the comedy highlight of the night followed closely by the terrific banter between Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig. That pair would also be rather fun to have hosting this ceremony. Additional props to a bizarre, but energetic opening by Janelle Monae who would make a great host as well. Beyond that, there was a nice moment when Wonder Woman Gal Gadot and Captain Marvel Brie Lrason heaped love on fellow presenter Sigourney Weaver for paving the way and providing inspiration for them, most likely for her genre-defining lead performances in the Alien films. It was a nice moment even if what succeeded it was as ham-fisted as it gets.

The season may have had a lot of foregone conclusions going into Oscar night, but there were a lot of categories where the potential winners weren’t certain and that uncertainty led to two of the most surprising wins of the night. Bong Joon-ho won for Best Directing in a shocking upset over DGA winner Sam Mendes and then his film, Parasite, managed to take Best Picture in a well deserved victory. The Academy has no qualms about going unique directions and after their Green Book selection from last year, it’s nice to see them going for quality over mediocrity. Matter of fact, their winners this decade have largely been strong selections even if not my own.

I’m very disappointed that Little Women couldn’t do better, but I’m certain Greta Gerwig will be the first woman nominated twice for Best Directing and one of these days, she’s going to win, as is her muse Saoirse Ronan.

There you have the 92nd Academy Awards. A lot of predictability, a touch of unpredictability, and a whole lot of opportunities for improvement, both for the Academy and for us prognosticators.

Peter J. Patrick

History was made with the Best Picture win accorded Parasite. I’m not sure how much of the joy that surrounded it was the audience’s affection for the film as opposed to Hollywood patting itself on the back for having finally given an award to a film not in the English language. All the same, it was a nice ending to what up to the last half hour or so held little in the way of surprises.

The show got off to a lively start with Janelle Monae singing the theme from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, but the rest of the opening number was a bit bonkers. The surprise appearance of Steve Martin and Chris Rock was a mix of funny and why bother. Then the awards got started with Brad Pitt making another classy acceptance speech. From there it kind of went sideways until the Parasite wins started coming in.

Laura Dern’s and Renee Zellweger’s speeches were nice. Olivia Colman’s patter was glorious. Joaquin Phoenix’s rambling was bizarre as usual. If he had just recited his brother River’s poem it would have been one to remember but that whole preamble that started with the cow, the calf, and the milk was an affront not just to the audience in the theater but to anyone watching. Even his current girlfriend, Rooney Mara, looked disturbed by it.

Not introducing clips of the Best Picture nominees by presenters full of themselves was a good idea. Not having someone introduce each song was another good idea. Having Eminem sing the song he refused to sing at the Oscars seventeen years ago without anyone explaining why, was not. This wasn’t the Grammys. Nor was the elaborate introduction to Lin-Manuel Miranda called for. This wasn’t the Tonys either.

The mid-show recap was just plain silly. The banter between Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig was not only not funny, it was something that would likely have been rejected by the producers of Saturday Night Live.

Old style glamour was missing for the most part. Sigourney Weaver and Jane Fonda supplied it, but what was with Diane Keaton? Was she tipsy, nervous, confused, or putting on an act? She should have gotten over her Annie Hall act decades ago.

Oh, well. On to next year!

Tripp Burton

No commentary provided at this time.

Thomas La Tourrette

Like everybody else, I am still surprised by the win of Parasite for best picture and director. Oscar likes to surprise us, and boy did they succeed. When Bong Joon-Ho won best director, there was suddenly talk that Parasite might claim best picture. I was dubious as I just was not sure the Academy was ready to give their top award to a foreign language film. Then when Jane Fonda paused before she announced best picture, it suddenly was apparent that they had. The audience at the Oscars was thrilled, noted by their standing ovation and preference that the cast and crew get to speak some more.

So I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it since then. In some ways it is understandable, as it is an intimate drama about two families versus a larger scale production, with production perhaps being the key word. I know lots of people that admired 1917, but not who loved it. They could admire how it was made and the technique that went into it, but perhaps were not moved by it. Parasite may be a more divisive choice. I know lots of people that were not fond of it, and others that really were. I was not sure what to make of it when I first saw it, but it was also a movie that stayed with me. Something that is usually a good sign. The violence at the end was shocking, but one could see how it got there. I might have been happier if Jojo Rabbit, Little Women, or even Ford v Ferrari had pulled the upset, as I enjoyed them more, but thinking about it, I am okay with the Parasite win. 1917 may have been personal for Sam Mendes as parts were based on stories from his grandfather who served during WWI, but the single shot technique may have felt a bit distancing for the general audience. Parasite did a better job of pulling people in to the lives of the two families, and that is probably what resonated with voters. That probably is why Moonlight pulled the upset a couple years back. Or even Green Book last year. They are films about people and one ends up caring about them.

As to the rest of the awards, many went exactly where we thought. The acting awards all went to the expected winners, all actors who have been in the industry a long time. For three of them it was their first award after a fairly long career and multiple nominations, and the fourth was a comeback role. Not surprising, but not always the most exciting either. One of the closer races turned out to be for animated feature. It was starting to seem that Klaus, a small Spanish made film, might win over the bigger animators. Turns out it went to the Pixar film Toy Story 4 after all. Maybe Academy voters are not prepared to go totally out on a limb when it comes to awards. It was nice to have the awards doled out between many movies, as I am glad that there was room to honor Jojo Rabbit, Ford v Ferrari, Little Women, Judy, Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, and Rocketman. It’s a pity that The Two Popes and A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood had to go home empty handed, but there is not room to honor every film.

The ceremony itself went by pretty quickly. I still don’t know that going hostless is the best thing for the evening, but it worked this time. It was entertaining with some heartfelt speeches, and some a bit more political than I expected. And less humor, Brad Pitt that means you, but nothing cringe-worthy either. I will look forward to the coming year to see what films come out and controversies arise. But I still enjoy my Oscars.

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