Archive for the ‘Oscars’ Category



2016 Oscars Recap: Chris Rocked

Posted on: February 29th, 2016 by doyle

From the desk of Alice Morgan

Triumph

He nailed it. As I say every year, hosting the Oscars is a thankless job. Not only did Chris Rock triumph, delivering one of the best opening monologues in Oscar History, but he did so with a topic which – let’s face it – is tough. Taking on the topic of racism in Hollywood in a way that’s funny, makes the point, yet doesn’t completely alienate the audience? The man virtually split the atom.

chris rock oscarsShow-And-Tell
As usual, the Oscars were long. The tickertape of names at the bottom didn’t help. The text callouts describing the hosts didn’t help either. The biggest improvement from last year the conscious and mostly effective effort to explain the category being presented. Example 1: Cate Blanchett walking among costumes. Example 2: playing sound from the movies when introducing the sound categories – great idea! Example 3 (my fave): showing Andy Serkis recording his iconic parts in Lord of the Rings and Planet of the Apes – prior to his introducing the Visual Effects category.

Memorable Moments
Louis CK’s introduction to the Documentary Short Subject category was hilarious. Lady Gaga performed a moving tribute alongside survivors of sexual abuse. My favorite part was when Ennio Morricone won Original Score for “The Hateful Eight.” The legendary composer of the iconic Sergio Leone scores finally won. What a wonderful capstone.

Upsets!
The Oscars were less predictable than usual, yay. Mark Rylance scored an upset for Supporting Actor for Bridge of Spies. Mad Max won 6 Oscars which was unexpected and enjoyable. Best of all, I loved that Spotlight – a quiet, extraordinary film – won Best Picture. The showy, art-housey Revenant-like pictures almost always win. Not this year!

Back to Chris
Most of his bits worked. Loved the “Black History Month” homage to – Jack Black! Girl Scouts selling cookies to the glitterati? Sure. Favorite part other than the monolog was the “man on the street” interviews with African Americans outside the Multiplex about the fact that – guess what? – no one had heard of let alone seen most of the nominated films.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?
Which brings me to a short treatise on the State of the Industry and this whole lack of diversity brouhaha. Why is it that the movies biz remain mostly all white and largely all male? That no African-Americans were nominated this year isn’t surprising given that most movies are marketed squarely at young white males. So why is there so much diversity in the world of music and TV? I think it’s All About Distribution. 400 scripted TV shows were released last year, according to the New York Times. There are an ever-growing number of distribution venues, from network TV, to cable, to Amazon. When it comes to music, anyone can upload to YouTube. Movies, in contrast, are released at the (corporate-owned) multiplex, with usually no more than 20 playing at any one time. They are financed by a handful of deeply risk-averse (corporate-owned) studios. And because of this, movies are not diverse. Many of them are also not very good. I’m not an expert in the economics of making and distributing movies, but something’s gotta give. Movie-lovers – in all our fabulous, glorious, diversity – deserve better.

Oscars 2015: Snoozefest

Posted on: February 25th, 2015 by doyle

The Ceremony

It is not Neal Patrick Harris’ fault that the Oscars were terrible. He tried. It is an impossible job. Here are the problems with this year’s Oscars:

  1. Few people had seen the movies. When big budget pictures (Lord of the Rings, The Blind Side) are in the mix, there is more interest.13-1421141119-oscars-2015-best-picture-nominations
  2. Everything was overproduced. The production numbers extended an already dull broadcast (see point 1). Example: every year, famous movie people who have passed away over the past year are honored. Meryl Streep provided a moving intro, followed by the customary photo montage. All good. But then, the tribute was extended when Jennifer Hudson sang a post-tribute-tribute. They lost me for good when Lady Gaga performed a The Sound of Music Although to her credit Lady Gaga did a nice job, it’s hard to imagine two more incongruous singers than Lady Gaga and Julie Andrews, who gamely appeared to awkwardly thank Lady Gaga. The Lego Movie song “Everything is Awesome” should have been performed by, well, Legos. It started off this way, then live people got involved and the whole thing jumped the shark.
  3. Incongruous songs (“The Look of Love,” “Endless Love,” “Moon River”) were played each time presenters appeared. I kept thinking, what does this song have to do with these presenters? Then I figured it out – nothing. The producers were again trying to musicalize the Oscars, to bizarre effect.

Here is what I liked about this year’s Oscar ceremony:

  1. The opening production number. Bravo.
  2. The riff about Octavia Spencer guarding Neal Patrick Harris’ predictions, which I initially thought was awkward and pointless, was fun in the end when the predictions commented on the (relatively) interesting points in the ceremony (i.e. Terrence Howard was strangely emotional, John Travolta touched Idina Menzel’s face).
  3. The guy who accepted for Ida (foreign language film) kept at it, doggedly finishing his lengthy speech even as the orchestra tried to play him off. That this was a high point indicates a snoozefest of a ceremony

The Movies

Were good, not great. The Grand Budapest Hotel was my favorite film of those nominated but I am a Wes Anderson fan and I get that he is not everybody’s cup of tea. The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything were similar movies, historically based films that were good, if somewhat plodding at times. Boyhood was really cool but let’s face it – it had no plot. And the fact that Birdman won Best Picture is the epitome of Hollywood naval gazing – let’s give an Oscar to a movie about actors! The movie had fantastic camera work and good performances, particularly by Edward Norton. But it made no sense. I can’t wait to see Whiplash, which was made in a month for a song and has great buzz. Still Alice is a Hallmark movie but Julianne Moore’s performance is incredible. Gone Girl should have been nominated for Best Picture, as it was very well done, but the Academy doesn’t view thrillers as award-worthy.

Why I am No Longer Going to Write About the Clothes

I have decided to hang up my hat on this topic. The Internet has enough haters. I am all over the campaign #askhermore, which is all about asking actresses about their work, and not their clothes. Actresses have legions of fashion and beauty professionals on hand to make sure they look fantastic, and for the most part succeed. Let’s stop carping about how they look. As Emily Nussbaum points out in her fantastic piece on Joan Rivers, Joan was a trailblazer, true, but a key part of her schtick involved tearing down other women. In 2012-2013 (the latest years for which this information is available) about 30% of all-on screen speaking characters in the top 100 films were women. And when it comes to directors, the story is much worse. Woman directors are a rarity in Hollywood despite some female studio heads. Read New York Times movie critic Manohla Dargis’ excellent 3 part series on the topic.

As Neal Patrick Harris noted in the beginning of the ceremony, “moving pictures shape who we are.” And what they currently show is that it’s a man’s world. Think about movies like Django Unchained, in which there is a slew of great roles for men, and then there’s Kerry Washington, who’s stuck playing The Girl. Let’s work to change that by focusing on actresses’ work, instead of their looks.

The Oscars: Better Safe Than Sorry

Posted on: March 3rd, 2014 by doyle

The Oscars: Better Safe Than Sorry

From the desk of Alice Morgan, Doyle Research’s Oscar Prognosticator

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The Big Picture

Hosting the Oscars is a thankless job.  This year the Academy Awards Powers That Be concluded that benign is better than belligerent.  So they asked Ellen to host.  I think they made the right call.   Here’s why.

The Host

Ellen is amiable, good-natured, and universally beloved.  She turned the Academy Awards into a giant version of her talk show by mixing with the A-listers in the front row, most of whom gamely played along.   It was a bit forced, (Handing out pizzas!  Tweeting selfies!) but it was also sort of fun, certainly better than listening to Seth MacFarlane sing “We Saw Your Boobs.”

The Speeches

Although it is obnoxious to “play out” overly long speeches, it is also obnoxious to force the audience to listen to, well, overly long speeches.  I kept thinking the ceremony should have been shorter.  There was no opening production number, the introductions to the Academy Award nominees for Best Pictures were done in batches, and there wasn’t even a lifetime achievement montage.  Despite this, the ceremony dragged and ended at midnight ET, as usual.  All the actors who won had prepared speeches, thank goodness.  Cate Blanchett’s rocked – good for her for taking on the studios’ “earth is flat” belief that women-driven films don’t make money.  Catching Fire was the top-grossing movie of the year, people!  (Hooray for J-Law!)  And Darlene Love of 20 Feet From Stardom brought down the house when she sang – hooray for backup singers!   Lupita Nyong’o looked amazing, and her speech was perfect.  Really.  See for yourself.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fluQ6iyy85g.

The Production Numbers

Speaking of singing, the production numbers were surprisingly good.  Loved “Happy” – a joyous, fun, well choreographed number that made me happy by just watching it.  The Wizard of Oz tribute in which Pink sang “Over the Rainbow” was beautifully done.  And Idina Menzel’s performance of “Let it Go” was stirring and strong.

The Clothes

Every year, Charlize Theron kills it.  Although she would look good wearing a paper bag, her dress was no paper bag.  She gets my vote for best dressed.  Nearly all the dresses were good.  Sandra Bullock, Naomi Watts, Cate Blanchett, Amy Adams and Kate Hudson looked great.   Although Anna Kendrick’s see-through red and mesh waist panel didn’t work, points to her for taking a risk.  Nowadays dresses are safe and stylist-approved.

How To Improve the Ceremony

There are many ways to improve the Oscars, but I will focus on two.  The first is to shorten the ceremony by paring the number of categories given out during the telecast.  Given that technical people comprise a considerable chunk of the Academy’s 6,000 voters, that is not going to happen.  The biggest problem with the Academy Awards is that there are no surprises anymore.  I correctly predicted 20 out of 24 nominations.  I am not an insider, just your basic movie fan who reads Entertainment Weekly.   The Oscars are easy to handicap because they air after all the other awards shows.  Want to spice up the Oscars?  Televise them in January, before the Golden Globes, SAGs, et. al.  Be the leader, not the laggard.   I don’t think this will happen anytime soon since the Academy and the movie industry in general is notoriously risk-averse.

So How Were the Oscars This Year?

With a likeable host, stylist-approved fashions, and predictable winners, the Oscars were, in a word, safe.  We saw a couple of moments of genuine emotion amidst the long slog to Best Picture.  There was nothing risky, nothing edgy; it was all very careful.  Over and out, until next year!