Monday, March 5, 2018


Soulful and soul stirring. Stately yet sluggish and sleepy.

These adjectives are never mutually exclusive concerning the annual Academy Awards telecast but even so, I just wish that there was some way to make this show at long last leap over what has been its greatest obstacle time management.

Yes, it has been achieved in the past--most notably, when Ellen DeGeneres hosted in the year of the now iconic "selfie" moment. That particular year, the Oscars flowed in the way that it should. It was celebratory event. It was a party for all involved at the show and for all of us at home watching. But this year, yet again, the Oscars dragged on and on and on for almost four full hours and for the life of me, I cannot understand how a presentation like this is unable to find a rhythm, a level of momentum to keep the proceedings as exciting as the cinema they are honoring.

And so it goes....

I have no fault whatsoever with Jimmy Kimmel,  who again proved himself to being undaunted with a show of such massive scale. He felt to be right at home. He was relaxed. His stunts worked overall (LOVED the Jet Ski). His sharp opening monologue which dove head first straight into the sexual harassment controversies, the #MeToo and #Time'sUp movements, and themes of inclusion was as blisteringly on point as it was genuinely funny. And yet, the energy from the jump was low key at best.

I guess my issue is that while the show indeed possessed quite a number of powerful moments, not hing coalesced into a full experience other than being yet one more overlong Oscar program. Now, I still stick by my feelings that the musical numbers should be removed just to keep the show moving along faster. But truth be told, some of the most moving sections of the night were found within those performances, most notably Keala Settle's shattering vocals and piercing emotion of "This Is Me" from "The Greatest Showman" (even the formidable Mary J. Blige looked visibly shaken by Settle's power). 

While that song is not really my cup of tea, so to speak, Settle's performance, where it looked as if she had brought herself to ears while singing, spoke to the full core of the evening in regard to the consistent and essential messages of inclusion and representation in our arts and entertainment. As actor/co-writer Kumail Nanjiani of "The Big Sick" expressed during one segment, "Some of my favorite movies are by straight white dudes, about straight white dudes. Now you can watch my movies and relate to me. It's not that hard. I've bee doing it my whole life."

Amen to that.

It is a statement like that one that truly solidifies why Writer/Director Jordan Peele's historic win in the Best Original Screenplay category was so powerful for me, as he is now the first African-American to ever have won in this specific arena. To have Guillermo del Toro win for Best Director and Best Picture with "The Shape Of Water," an adult fable that is entirely about a collective of marginalized individuals coming to the aid of the most marginalized creature any of the have ever witnessed, was also more than telling. To have Frances McDormand's unrepentant throwing down of the gauntlet where she brilliantly demanded that all female nominees stand up in the auditorium and then further demand that they each take their respective crafts and ideas straight into the offices for developmental meetings post haste as they all have stories to tell (and of course, all of which need financing), felt like nothing less than that artistic brick being thrown through the glass window of the establishment. But, even so, we have to wait and see what happens from here and I sincerely hope that what we have seen recently as well as last night is not just another moment...for I really wish to witness a movement this time. 

Very recently on an episode of "Real Time With Bill Maher," Maher, filled with scornful disdain, essentially proclaimed that we have no need for future filmmakers, a statement to which he admittedly stated was indeed "conservative," a statement that I decry, frankly, as "bullshit." It really takes a person so deeply entrenched into their own status of White privilege to even make a statement like that.

Going back to Jordan Peele's win, as wonderful as it is, the greater truth is sobering. That in 90 years of the Academy Awards, only ONE African-American writer has ever won in this category. Think of ALL of the potential African-American writers over 90 years who could have but were not given the opportunity to even try and make a film. To that end, how many women and other people of color, the full variety of minorities and ethnicities who happen to love the movies have also not had the opportunity.

To have more artistic voices, regardless of race, creed, color or gender, become a filmmaker or visual storyteller is to be able to not only continue, but to enhance, enliven and forever enrich the art of storytelling, one of the most crucial fabrics of the human condition that we all possess. To have the opportunity to create, deliver and then, receive a story from a perspective that is wholly different than our own is a tremendous tool in helping us to begin to understand each other. We need more filmmakers, not less,. And furthermore, we also need to be IN THE ROOM WHERE IT ALL HAPPENS, to become the gatekeepers, the executives, the studio heads who will not only help to instill creativity and idiosyncratic artistic visions to go alongside the blockbusters but to bring more creative voices into the fold.

The Oscars represented that hop, from the films of resistance that were nominated to the sentiments of the nominees and winners of the evening. I felt that represented the program at its best while it did essentially stumble over and again as an entertainment program.

Better luck next year...and hey, toss my vote into the hat asking that Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph take the reins next year! 

Oh yeah, as for my Oscar predictions, I was 100% correct all the way to the Best Picture category and for the second year in a row, I could not have been happier to have been wrong!

No comments:

Post a Comment