Sunday, April 25, 2021

A dull evening at a train station with Oscar

        In a culminating surpriseAnthony Hopkins won best actor for his performance in The Father at the 93rd Academy Awards
      Hopkins, who wasn't at the ceremonies, succeeded in making  the horrors of dementia all too real but I was disappointed that the Academy failed to honor front-runner Chadwick Boseman (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom). 
      Wasn't Boseman's triumph supposed to provide the show's most emotional moment? Hopkins already won a best-actor Oscar for Silence of the Lambs (1991and has been nominated six times. Boseman, who died last August, won't be getting another chance. He should already have won an Oscar for playing James Brown in 2014's Get on Up.
      Emotion and star power seemed in short supply. A small audience of nominees and significant others gathered in Los Angeles' Union Station, sitting at tables that looked as if they had been borrowed from a Denny's. 
      Instead of feeling intimate, the evening felt diminished. 
      Opened with presence and flair by Regina King, the show quickly began a downhill slide. Under the guidance of filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, the Oscar show was a mostly tasteful dud. 
      Too many of the presenters were asked to go film school rather than old school, delivering the kind of lectures about film that might have been the last thing an already disinterested audience needed to hear.
       There were few highlights. Among them:
       Danial Kaluuya, who won the best supporting actor Oscar for playing Fred Hampton in Judas and the Black Messiah, pushed his unsuspecting mother into WTF consternation when he tried to celebrate the miracle of life by reminding the audience that his mother and father had had sex and .... well ... here he was 32-plus years later receiving an Oscar.
        Cynics might point out that the conjugal efforts of most mothers and fathers have produced less "miraculous" results.
        Glenn Close provided Oscar's second most compelling moment. Snubbed again for playing a grandma in Hillbilly Elegy, Close rose and shook her booty to Da Butt,  a pop hit that was part of the sound track for Spike Lee's School Daze (1988).
        Close's wiggly-jiggly turn took place during a game (really) in which several actors were asked to guess the Oscar status of three songs played by the evening's DJ, Questlove.  
         Had the tunes been nominated for an Oscar, ignored entirely, or awarded a gold statue?
        Though silly and superfluous, the game featured comedian Lil Rel Howry, who injected a shot of life into the overall  somnambulance. 
       Given everyone's pandemic fatigue, more humor would have been welcome.
        Close's Oscar snubs, by the way, are now officially at epic levels: This year marks eight nominations without a win.
        Frances McDormand, who won best actress, said her talent was a sword. She unsheathed it when she howled like a  wolf in the acceptance speeches accompanying Nomadland's win as best picture.
        Yuh-Jung Youn's acceptance speech for best supporting actress for Minari charmed the audience. Youn wryly commented that it was nice finally to meet Brad Pitt, who served as one of the movie's executive producers. She thanked her two sons for making her go out and work. 
         The 73-year-old Youn is the first Korean to win an acting Oscar and the only one of this year's nominees to acknowledge that competition among artists is generally pointless.
        Danish director Thomas Vinterberg accepted the award for best international feature for Another Round by noting that his daughter was killed in a car accident shortly after filming began. She was 19 and had been slated to appear in the film.
         Soderbergh took a non-traditional approach that made you wonder whether he understood that the evening is supposed to build toward a climax. The best director award was announced before the show had reached the half way mark. The best picture award preceded the awards for best actor and actress. 
        Soderbergh shuffled the deck in other ways that seemed to serve no purpose aside from creating confusion.
         And who would have thought that we'd miss the orchestra that typically tries to silence those who rattle on in their acceptance speeches. Many of the speeches felt interminable, making me wish that DJ Questlove, who took the place of an orchestra, had dropped the needle.
           Tyler Perry, winner of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, beseeched viewers to refuse hate. 
           In keeping with the spirit of Perry's request, I'll refrain from saying I hated this year's show. Most of it wasn't worth the expenditure of adrenalin it would take to get that worked up.
          Oh well, if they gave frequent flyer miles for displayed cleavage, the evening's female attendees could have joined forces and acquired a record-setting open-ended ticket.

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