What a Night…
Well, once again I digress from this site’s usual stream of sci-fi/fantasy/horror offerings to offer a few thoughts on last night’s 94th Annual Academy Awards Oscars ceremony. First, I was pleased with the winners, as there seemed to be more quality offerings this year than in the previous awards ceremony of 2021. Also nice to see a personal favorite of mine, “Dune, Part One,” bring home six well-earned statutes for cinematography, editing, musical score, visual effects, production design and sound.
There was also a greater diversity among this year’s winners than in past years as well, and all felt genuinely earned, too; this is an important distinction to those who commonly accuse the Academy Awards ceremonies of being too ‘liberal’ or ‘politically correct’. None of the winners this year, which included a woman Best Director (Jane Campion for “The Power of the Dog”), a queer Afro-Latina Best Supporting Actress (Ariana DeBose, for “West Side Story”) and a hearing-impaired Best Actor (Troy Kotsur, for “CODA”) felt undeserved in their respective categories. Each win felt solid. While I haven’t yet seen “CODA” or “Power of the Dog,” I trust the opinions of people close to me who have seen those films, and I’m going to try to stream them this week before I leave for WonderCon in Anaheim on Thursday night–no pressure, now.
For the first time ever, three women served as hosts. Comedians Amy Schumer (“I Feel Pretty”), Wanda Sykes and actress Regina King. This was, unfortunately, a mixed bag. Schumer delivered a few zingers, but Sykes and King seemed off their game. Sykes is normally hilarious, and I love her Netflix comedy specials, but her pre-taped tour of the new Academy Museum sketch went on way too long, with many of the jokes falling flat. I don’t know if Sykes wrote her own material, but it was definitely not her A-game.
Regina King fared even worse with a sloppy, innuendo-filled gag about her personally screening select male attendees (Bradley Cooper, Tyler Perry, Timothee Chalamet & Simu Liu) for COVID. She also insisted on patting them down onstage, after offering to swab test their mouths with her tongue. This sketch also went on long past its expiration date, as the male attendees onstage seemed genuinely uncomfortable with King’s hands going up and down their inseams. My first thought on King’s sketch was to imagine how it would’ve went down if King were a man, and he ‘insisted’ on running his hands up and down Jessica Chastain’s thighs, for example. As my wise wife succinctly said; “It was cringe.” Sexual harassment, regardless of the gender perpetrating it, is never funny. King simply joking she that she wished to personally test these men for COVID in her own lascivious way would’ve been more than enough. The sketch did not work.
Of course, King’s antics were peanuts compared to the shocking onstage assault of comedian Chris Rock by Best Actor nominee (and later winner) Will Smith (for “King Richard”). Chris Rock was introducing the Best Documentary category, and was making the usual jokes with some of the attendees, which included Will Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith (“The Matrix Resurrections”). Pinkett Smith suffers from an autoimmune disorder known as alopecia, which caused her to lose most of her hair prematurely. Pinkett Smith has since come to own her condition by fashionably expressing herself within it.
Unfortunately, Rock made a joke about Pinkett Smith starring in “G.I. Jane 2” (“G.I. Jane” was a 1997 film that saw actress Demi Moore shave her head to play a female Navy SEAL). The joke landed, got some nervous laughter, and a laughing Will Smith soon stopped as Rock’s joke sank in. Smith then strode to the stage, as Rock muttered “Uh, oh,” before Smith gave him a hard slap across the chops. The sound on the US broadcast was quickly muted for several seconds as Smith returned to his seat. Uncensored TV broadcasts from Australia and Japan heard Smith then repeatedly shouting “Keep my wife’s name out of your f–king mouth!” to a visibly-shaken Rock. Chris Rock still seemed a bit stunned before he continued on with introducing the Best Documentary category and winner (“Summer of Soul”).
As of today, March 28th, Rock has refused to file assault charges against Smith with the LAPD, and that’s just as well. Both men behaved poorly. Chris Rock mocking Smith’s wife’s alopecia was the kind of cheap, cruel humor I’d expect to hear from Donald Trump at one of his rallies instead of the Oscars. Will Smith also seems to have forgotten that striking a man in front of millions of live viewers around the world is still assault, even in response to a tasteless joke. Here’s hoping the two have since made up at the Oscar afterparty. To those who say Smith didn’t deserve to be welcomed back onstage to accept his Best Actor win for “King Richard”? One event had nothing to do with the other. Smith’s Oscar win was determined before the ceremony, and his contrite, tear-filled apology during his long-winded acceptance speech seemed sincere, if a bit late. Rock was the only debatable ‘victim’ here, and if he refuses to press charges against Smith, then there’s nothing more to the matter.
Nearly as bad as the Rock/Smith fiasco was the shoddily-handled “In Memoriam” segment of the show, which traditionally honors those from the entertainment industry who’ve passed away in the previous year. Typically, the segment is a several-minute video of names & faces set to melancholy, wistful, or sentimental music. For this year’s segment, some genius got the idea that the broadcast should intermittently pull away from the actual names on the video and focus instead on The Samples Choir, who were all dancing merrily onstage to several oddly upbeat selections. As a result, many of the names flashed onscreen became virtually illegible to audiences watching at home on smaller TVs or computers (or in our case, our 43″ living room TV). Bill Murray took to the stage to personally honor the late Ivan Reitman (“Ghostbusters”) while Jamie Lee Curtis came to honor the late Betty White. Despite these last minute saving graces, the overall segment felt a little tacky.
While I didn’t expect Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune: Part One” to win the Best Picture Oscar, it did manage to bring home six statues for Best Cinematography (Greig Fraser), Best Editing (Joe Walker), Best Musical Score (Hans Zimmer, who was unable to attend), Best Visual Effects (Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Brian Connor and Gerd Nefzer for VFX), Best Production Design (Patrice Vermette) and Best Sound (Mark Mangini and Theo Green). While there is some debate among hardcore fans over which of the three versions of “Dune” is a personal favorite, there is no argument that Villeneuve’s 2021 film is the most sumptuously and meticulously produced version to date. No surprise that the visually and aurally uncompromising first half of Villeneuve’s epic “Dune” saga took home the most gold statues of the night.
Another favorite of mine won the Best Supporting Actress category, with Ariana DeBose nabbing the gold for her role as “Anita” in “West Side Story”; the same role that her costar Rita Moreno won an Oscar for in the 1961 version of the film. DeBose also made history being the first queer Afro-Latina to win a Best Supporting Oscar. From my perspective as a fan, all I can say is that DeBose was brilliant in the film, and very much earned that Oscar. I would’ve loved to see “West Side Story” nab one or two more awards (perhaps even another Best Director Oscar for Steven Spielberg), but given its competition? I was more than happy with this win. As I said earlier, the competition was particularly sharp this year.
Note: Of course, this was not the first time two actors have won Oscars for the same role; both the late Heath Ledger and Joaquin Phoenix earned Oscars for their roles in 2008’s “The Dark Knight” and 2019’s “Joker,” respectively.
Also nice to see the Best Actor Oscar go to Troy Kostur for AppleTV’s production of “CODA”; he is the second hearing impaired actor to win an Oscar; the first being his “CODA” costar Marlee Matlin for 1986’s “Children of a Lesser God,” which costarred the recently late William Hurt (1947-2022). A friend of mine recommended this film to me last year when she streamed it, and she seemed very pleased with the win, so the movie is on my digital projector playlist for tonight, in fact (assuming I punch this column out in a timely manner today…). Another film on my radar is Hulu’s “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” which starred Best Actress winner Jessica Chastain (2015’s “The Martian”). The new movie sees Chastain playing the late former televangelist, Tammy Faye Bakker. Chastain has been one of those steadfast actresses who seemed bound to win an Oscar, sooner or later. Glad that her time finally came. Unfortunate that it came during such a train-wreck of a show, but her win, along with the others, were highlights of an otherwise wildly uneven four and a half hour broadcast.
“CODA” ‘s other wins for Best Adapted Screenplay and ultimately for Best Picture were significant in other ways as well; this was a film whose primary venue was streaming (AppleTV), not theatrical release. This was also true for Netflix’s Oscar winner “The Power of the Dog”, which won for Best Director (Jane Campion, who also won a Best Writing Oscar for 1993’s “The Piano”). Streaming has, in large part due to the COVID pandemic, become a mainstream movie delivery service for people (like myself) who aren’t yet comfortable going back to crowded theaters during the ongoing COVID pandemic, especially with new relaxed regulations regarding masks/vaccinations.
With my digital projector and 7 ft. collapsible screen, I look forward to capturing a few more of last night’s Oscar winners in the weeks ahead. I hope to see AppleTV’s “Coda” tonight, and perhaps one more before I head off to WonderCon this Thursday evening. Busy week!
Virtual Tour of the Dolby Theatre
In the spring of 2019, my wife and I had membership in the Paley Center for Media (formerly the Museum of Television & Radio). With that membership, we had invitations to several events at the Oscar’s Dolby Theater (formerly the Kodak Theater), the same venue where the Oscars have been held for the past two decades, following the theater’s opening in November of 2001.
Note: The only exception in those last two decades was the 2021 broadcast, which was held in downtown L.A’s Union Station; which was also a practical filming location for the police station of 2017 in Ridley Scott’s “Blade Runner” (1982)
The Dolby Theatre is located at 6801 Hollywood Blvd, Hollywood, CA 90028, in the middle of a dense shopping center, right off the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The massive, modern theater is multi-level, and has a huge parking garage as well (for the shopping center, as much as the theater).
Photos for both Paley Center events my wife and I have attended at the Dolby Theatre are in the links below:
For fellow “Star Trek” fans? I go more into depth with my experience at “Star Trek: Discovery” Paley Fest 2019 here.
Those are my thoughts on the Academy Awards’ Oscar ceremony for 2022, and I sincerely hope you enjoyed my virtual tour of the Dolby Theatre itself!
Be Safe/Stay Strong.
With the recent invasion of Ukraine, here’s hoping the courageous Ukrainian people will see daylight from this nightmare. Wishing the people of Ukraine perseverence, and that this hideous aggression ends sooner than later. Meanwhile, the current number of COVID-19 related deaths in the United States is over 1 million (and over six million worldwide) as of this writing. Please use caution and good judgment when it comes to masking and safe distancing, as many states are now easing prior COVID restrictions due to decreasing numbers of infections, though some states are reporting increasing case numbers as a result.
In these challenging times, be safe and stay strong.