Carl takes a closer look at the highs and lows of the 2020 Academy Awards ceremony
Ok, here’s the thing. The Oscars can always be viewed as possibly the ultimate entertainment show. Virtually every year, we can expect hijinks, comedy, tears and great musical interludes. We can expect surprises, political statements to be made and all sorts of things. Normally, the show entertains the audience. This year, not so much. In what turned out to be a historic year for international cinema with regards to the night’s biggest success story, ‘Parasite‘, we were given an Academy Awards ceremony that almost sent me to sleep. Yes, there were some great standout moments that we have come to expect, some possibly scripted, many were not. But ultimately, the show wasn’t the grandstanding finale we have come to expect. Maybe it’s because they want to save money and have a scaled-back show (They did when Hugh Jackman presented them) or maybe they just ran out of ideas. But this year, in what should have been a historic, fulfilling year, turned out to be a damp squib.
Let’s take a look at the positives first:
Steve Martin and Chris Rock opening the show – I genuinely laughed heartily along with the two comedians as they took to the stage at the start of proceedings. Their witty and sly digs at some of the audience and to the industry in question made us believe we would be in for a real treat. With quips that poked fun at Jennifer Lopez and her Superbowl halftime show, both thanking the academy for demotions to presenters instead of hosts, a telling barb at the twitter storm that ended Kevin Hart’s hosting dream, the lack of female director nominations and the lack of nominations for the black community, a telling joke at the expense of Martin Scorsese, saying they enjoyed the first season of ‘The Irishman‘ and poking light-hearted fun at Brie Larson, Leonardo Dicaprio and Brad Pitt amongst others, the two started the show off to tremendous effect.
Josh Gad and his introduction of ‘Into The Unknown‘ from ‘Frozen II‘ – Like him or loathe him, Josh Gad made the auditorium and the watching audience laugh at his wonderful jokes while introducing the aforementioned song. With a brutal but true barb at John Travolta by saying he could actually say Idina Menzel correctly through to his quip about Donald Trump’s denial of climate change and the Canadian health system, he had everyone in stitches.
Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig – Boy, these two did manage to make an impressive and highly funny stage appearance with their antics. Both performed admirably in front of the assembled by turning their presenting duties into an audition for various roles in the movies.
The film song montage – why did they EVER get rid of the recap? It was brought back here to great effect and had many tapping their feet to the classic tunes used in the movies over the years. It all ended with ‘Lose Yourself‘ from ‘8 Mile‘. Speaking of which…
Eminem’s surprise appearance – Now this DID wake up the audience. As the song montage video faded, the rapper rose from the stage and belted out his Oscar-Winning song live for the audience. And many of the assembled took part in singing along with him as he gave the world a fantastic performance. Actresses such as Kelly Marie Tran and Gal Gadot were really into joining in with the song from the audience. What makes the appearance so special was that Eminem didn’t attend the 2003 awards where he actually won his Oscar for the song. He certainly made up for it here. As he finished, he was awarded a huge standing ovation which was completely deserved.
James Cordon and Rebel Wilson in make-up from ‘Cats‘ – Ok, this was a great dig at the film. Both probably expected to be up there this year as the film was battling for the main awards. Only the film was more of a turkey than a feline treat. Still, both actors bravely took to the stage in full costume and make-up and wonderfully played around with the mic stand as a cat would a mouse.
Elton John rocks the auditorium – It had to happen didn’t it? We sit there waiting for the show to be over and then on comes Elton and makes the audience and the world sit up as only he can. He belted out his Oscar-nominated (and later, Oscar-Winning song) with passion and with a knowing sense of having the audience held in awe of his prowess.
Olivia Coleman – She won Best Actress last year and returned to hand out this year’s Best Actor statue as is traditional. However, Coleman had the audience in tears of laughter as she claimed that last year’s win was ‘The best night of my husband’s life’, going on to use so many double entendre’s to make her point. The actress even apologised for taking up any of the audience’s time and ‘Keeping them from the bar’.
Brad Pitt’s and Laura Dern’s acceptance speeches – The actor was truly humble in his acceptance speech, almost to the point of shyness and unease. His thanks to Quentin Tarantino and Leonardo Dicaprio for their support and friendship made the audience clap enthusiastically. His heartfelt thanks to Sir Ridley Scott and the attending Geena Davis was one of the most moving pieces about his speech. The actor looked like he was really living his dream. Laura Dern spoke passionately about her fellow nominees and paid a moving tribute to her parents, Diane Ladd and Bruce Dern. The actress gushed about her children and what her work means to her in what really was an acceptance speech that came from the heart.
On the negative side:
The opening song number. Yes, Janelle, we know you’re ‘Queer’ (her words, not mine), you don’t need to shout it out, we get it. In fact, it seemed that the show deliberately wanted to push gender fluidity into our faces. That aside, however, the star started off really well with her rendition of ‘It’s a beautiful day in the neighbourhood’ but after a rousing start, the opening descended rapidly into a farce. Why would the organisers have singing and dancing and dancers dressed up from films such as ‘Us‘ and ‘Midsommer’? They are not even nominated! This is supposed to be about the films that ARE nominated, not a showcase for what a performer or the organisers decide they want to throw into their show.
Overrunning – The show overran by a good thirty minutes. Why? Because whoever organised the ceremony filled it with a lot of pointless filler material such as a rap recap halfway through proceedings. Why? We are already aware of who has won what so far, it’s not needed. The same goes for the Tom Hanks segment. Now, I love Tom Hanks but even he seemed bemused to be up on stage announcing the December 14th opening of the Academy Museum. Just send an email or a press release, don’t use up valuable airtime promoting something that most of the assembled won’t bother with presumably.
Political statements – Yes, we are guaranteed at least one at every awards ceremony but really? I mean, everyone who is anyone seemed to jump on the bandwagon and push their ideas on the assembled and those watching at home. Joaquin Phoenix can be excused from this as he made an impassioned speech about diversity which we all knew was coming and were ready for. He ended it with a quote from his late brother, River. We all know the problems the industry is facing and needs to combat but, come on. I’m all for a more inclusive film industry, I’m all for women directors to be recognised at the awards and for them to be given top jobs in the industry, I’m all for equality but please, don’t ram it down the throat of everyone assembled and watching at home.
The ‘In-Memoriam’ segment – Now, I most certainly don’t criticize the departed of the industry being recognised and honoured in this segment, really I don’t but to rush through it the way it was this year was an insult. I expect to see the departed legends of the industry to be really honoured during the Oscars and what did we get? A few single people getting their own slot but many relegated to being simply shown in a double up. Why? And please tell me why Dick Miller and Julie Adams were missing from the roll? Why just flash up a photo of the great Rutger Hauer as a passing thought? These people gave Hollywood some of the best known and loved films over the years and to see them either omitted or used as a passing thought is disrespectful.
Using one person to introduce another person who introduces another person – One word – WHY? It was a completely useless and time-wasting exercise of the highest order. Just use ONE person to introduce things, not use different celebrities just so they can get their faces on TV. It was a waste of time and money and ultimately caused the show to overrun. And on that note…
Turning off the microphones and the lights on the assembled cast and crew of ‘Parasite’-You have got to be kidding, right? Here is a historic moment in Oscar history, the first foreign film to win Best Picture, one that the people and actors behind the film will never forget and what do they do? They turn off the microphones and the lights on them. How completely disrespectful and disgusting. The organisers were at fault for the show overrunning in the first place but to shut everything off during what is a special moment, a monumental part of their lives was just completely WRONG. The audience demanded that the lights were brought back up and the microphones to be turned back on, much to their credit especially Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie but the damage was already done. The Academy says they want to be more inclusive and celebrate diversity and yet they pull this unforgivable act and totally undermine their preaching.
Well, there you have it. Those are my thoughts on the Academy Awards ceremony. And I must stress, they are MY thoughts and not the feelings of the rest of The Future Of The Force team. What promised to be an epic occasion, a historic moment in Hollywood history ended up being unfeeling and deeply unsatisfactory. In fact, you could call it a bore. And that is something I never envisioned myself ever saying about what should be the Jewel in the Hollywood crown. Perhaps the organisers will take heed of what they did wrong this year and make the 2021 Academy Awards a real shining gem once again. Because after this year, they couldn’t possibly do much worse. Or could they?
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Carl Roberts is a Senior Staff Writer and Books and Literature Correspondent for Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter @CarlRoberts2 where he uses the force frequently!