My Oscar Day adventures began in the morning, long before “Parasite” (shown here) was named best picture.
I was in a movie theater, watching the pre-previews. (Yes, it’s my fault for getting there early.) Some onscreen idiot said the Academy Award ratings were up last year, “and most people think it was because” the show had no host.
One small correction: Approximately NO ONE — or no reasonable human being — thinks that. In truth:
a) Ratings were up because there were movies that people had heard of. It’s easier to get them to root for “Black Panther” and “Lady Gaga” than for “Moonlight” and “Hurt Locker.”
b) The show was salvaged by great music – Queen and Adam Lambert first, Lady Gaga later. This Is not something that can be repeated annually.
This year’s Oscar ceremnony certainly tried to match the music. It had a huge opener (vibrantly sung by Janelle Monae) and a great rendition of “Yesterday” by Billie Eilish. And it did its best to make the nominated songs a big deal.
Two of them – Idina Menzel singing the song from “Frozen 2” and Cynthia Erivo doing the one she co-wrote for “Harriet” – were superb. Elton John’s “Rocketman” song was fairly good; so was Chrissy Metz’s “Breakthrough” song. Only Randy Newman’s “Toy Story 4” song fell short.
Chris Rock and Steve Martin partly made up for the hostless-ness with some clever opening remarks. After that, however, the show often drifted into people thanking agents and managers and such. There were a few clever presenters (Will Ferrell and Julia louis-Dreyfus, for instance) and a few good acceptance speeches (Brad Pitt, for instance); there was also a lot of droning that could have been salvaged by a host.
And the awards? I was surprised to see Erivo’s magnificent ballad lose to John’s song. Otherwise, there were lots of worthy winners – (a caution: Zellweger’s “Judy” performance is Oscar-worthy, but the movie itself is so-so) – and a neat surprise.
People had been disparaging the lack of diversity among nomines; even Greta Gerwig’s brilliant direction of the superb “Little Women” was snubbed. But one of the first awards went to a black woman, for “Hair Love,” a delightful animated short. The adapted-screenplay award went to Taika Waititi, who is from the Maori people in New Zealand. All night, we kept seeing women winning Oscars as producers or for behind-the-scenes wizardry.
And the most important diversity went beyond the usual questions of race and gender: A Korean film gobbled up awards for best picture, director, original script and foreign-language film. That provided a lot of firsts. Let’s also hope there was also a last – the last time any award show goes hostless.