Althouse | category: Oscars



an endless succession of beans and nuts.

"The whole night, down to Rihanna’s eloquent performance of 'Lift Me Up' from 'Wakanda Forever,' felt well oiled but entirely preprogrammed because, of course, it was."

 What?! Everyone seemed drunk? I might have watched if I'd known that.

Hey, WaPo, "well oiled" means drunk. If you don't mean literally that oil, the lubricant, was used, you have to get "machine" in there — something like The show worked like a well-oiled machine — if you want to say it functioned effectively. 

I'm reading "It was a lovely, back-to-basics Oscar night. Sorry about that. At Sunday’s 95th Academy Awards, a focus on the winners, not the drama" (WaPo).

Yes, the Oscars took place last night. The thing that we'd be hearing criticism of if it didn't happen happened, so there's no way to know what motivated the Academy, and I just don't care anymore.

I don't know if Rihanna somehow injected "eloquence" into "Lift Me Up," but I read the lyrics, and they're the opposite of eloquent:
Burning in a hopeless dream
Hold me when you go to sleep
Keep me in the warmth of your love
When you depart, keep me safe
Safe and sound

But that nonsense did not win. This won: 

Translated lyrics hereLike the shrill voice of a bird that can ring your ears... Like singing a song that can make your fingers snap to the beat....

"At its worst her Leslie is a one-note cliché and a clunky Frankenstein’s monster of Jane Fonda in The Morning After, Faye Dunaway in Barfly, and Tilda Swinton in Julia, with just a dash of Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas."

"Only in a Hollywood community of short attention spans and even shorter memories could anyone look at that performance and not find it awkwardly derivative. It doesn’t help that the film that’s been built around Riseborough is sentimental and phoney when it should be gritty and unapologetic. It’s... a dopey soft-soaped world where Leslie’s alcoholism is a helpful tool for personal growth and provides her with life lessons, a new job and a tearjerking chance to reconcile with her son. Her alcoholism appears so unlikely, in fact, that it seems to exist only to provide Riseborough with a chance, scene after scene, to 'do acting'..."

Riseborough, a white actress, was touted by white actresses, and got a surprise nomination, and Deadwyler, a black actress, was, surprisingly, not nominated. Even though Oscar nominations are campaigned for, this particular campaign is deemed suspect because it worked so well and because it happened to undercut Hollywood's efforts to seem racially inclusive. 

I haven't been blogging about this controversy. There are many other columns that I've seen and chosen not to blog, but Maher's column crossed my bloggability line because it brings up an old hobbyhorse of mine: the overvaluation of acting performances playing the role of a drunkard. It said the 3 words that trigger me on this subject: "Leaving Las Vegas."

Here I am back in 2008:

Cut me a big slice of that ham acting.

Bigger can be better. (Via Throwing Things.) Think Jack Nicholson in "The Shining" and Klaus Kinski in "Aguirre the Wrath of God" and George C. Scott in "Dr. Strangelove." Those are all named in the linked article, and I love them all. What can I add? Jeff Goldblum in "The Fly"! But I hate a lot of ham acting too. I'm still mad at myself for sitting through Nicolas Cage in "Leaving Las Vegas." Just remembering that performance makes me feel a little ill.

"Has anyone ever won an Oscar for showing so little expression?"

"[Nurse Ratched as played by Louise Fletcher ] was not — as Nurse Ratched was in the book — an embodiment of matriarchy and women's repression of men. She was horrible, cold, and controlling, but she also had some humanity. She was in a predicament trying to deal professionally with some very trying individuals. She made all the wrong decisions, but she was recognizably human. The actors who played those patients did a fine job portraying seriously ill men and making them dramatically effective and immensely entertaining. We felt free to laugh at them a lot without getting the nagging guilty feeling that we weren't showing enough respect for the mentally ill. There's bonus entertainment in the fact that two of them are actors we came to love in bigger roles: Danny Devito and Christopher Lloyd. 'If they made this movie today, they'd ruin it with music,' I said halfway through. There was scene after scene with no music, other than the occasional record that a character in the movie played.... There was never any of that sort of movie music that instructs us on how to think and feels our emotions before we get a chance to feel them for ourselves. When Nurse Ratched puts a syrupy, soporific version of 'Charmaine' on the record player for the ritual of dispensing the psychotropic drugs, what we feel is in counterpoint to the music...."

I wrote that on Christmas Day in 2006, the morning after the last time I watched "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." 

I'm reading that old post this morning because I see the news that Louise Fletcher has died. She was 88.

Here's the scene where Nurse Ratched keeps the men from watching the World Series game (and McMurphy is an election denier):

"Littlefeather’s 60-second plea for justice resulted in immediate and enduring personal backlash. She says that in the wings, John Wayne had to be restrained..."

"... from storming the stage to physically attack her, while in the aftermath, her identity and integrity were impugned (the rumors were so abiding that in 2012, Dennis Miller mocked Elizabeth Warren by calling her 'as much Indian as that stripper chick Brando sent to pick up his Oscar'). Littlefeather, who had acted in a few films before her infamous moment, says that the federal government threatened to shut down any talk shows or productions that put her on the air."

 From "Academy Apologizes to Sacheen Littlefeather for Her Mistreatment at the 1973 Oscars/Nearly 50 years after suffering harassment and discrimination for protesting Native American mistreatment, the activist will be the guest of honor at an evening of healing and Indigenous celebration hosted by the Academy Museum on Sept. 17" (Hollywood Reporter).

From the Academy's apology letter: “The emotional burden you have lived through and the cost to your own career in our industry are irreparable. For too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged. For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration.”

"Will Smith was never asked to leave the Oscars following Sunday's slap, a new report claims, as Academy Governor Whoopi Goldberg says bosses were too scared..."

"... to physically remove the star over fears he was 'manic' and would cause an on-camera scene.... But according to TMZ, Oscars producer [Will] Packer told Smith he could remain at around 8pm, about 35 minutes after the slap and just five minutes before the actor won his first Academy Award for his role in King Richard....  Goldberg was not present at the Oscars and stressed that she was not speaking on behalf of the Academy's board of directors. 'I can't imagine what was going on back there, but I do know that the only person anybody should be focusing on is Will Smith,' she said."

The Daily Mail reports.

In 1998 — the year of "Titanic" — 57 million people watched the Oscars. This year, only 9.85 million watched.

In 1998, The Hill tells us: "The great Billy Crystal served as host of the show," but this year

There was no movie anyone was buzzing about. No household-name stars were nominated unless Anthony Hopkins – who won his last Oscar 30 years ago – counts. There wasn't even a host for the show, because the Academy thought it was a great idea to eliminate the position for reasons unclear when a raw, unfiltered talent such as Ricky Gervais would have been just the person to lift our spirits.

Oh, come on. If they'd picked anybody to host, that person would have been skewered for one thing or another. Billy Crystal is still alive, but I'll bet he wouldn't even want to be invited back. It's better for him to be remembered as the great Oscars host of his time than to be set up as a target. Not only would people say why him and not a person of color, he's vulnerable to cancellation for having boldly and repeatedly performed in blackface:


That wasn't at the Oscars, of course. Remember when Whoopi Goldberg hosted the Oscars in whiteface?


Those were simpler times. More racist times? 

ADDED: I'm just kidding about "simpler times." I think those were more complex times. We're simpler now. And it's not a compliment.

"This is a surreal depiction in which racism is concentrated everywhere. Everyone manifests racism, but then also a vulnerable human side."

"The characters' stories were nicely, complexly interwoven. I liked it — even when it skewed melodramatic. I liked that you were kept on your toes about which characters to love or hate, to respect or revile."

That's something I blogged in February 2006, after watching the movie "Crash," which had just been nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. 

The movie went on to win that Oscar, a fact I'm contemplating this morning because I'm reading "The Oscars always get it wrong. Here are the real best pictures of the past 45 years" (Washington Post). Here's the entry for that year:

Nominees: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Crash, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich 

Best Picture winner: Crash

The actual best picture: Brokeback Mountain

Your tolerance for “Crash” may vary, but let’s face it: It won because it employed a dozen well-liked B-listers, and it was filmed in the neighborhoods where all the academy voters live. A sensitive and groundbreaking film whose catchphrase (“I wish I knew how to quit you”) still haunts, “Brokeback” was robbed.

That's not new writing. It's something WaPo published in 2016 and is now republishing along with new material to cover more recent movies. This republication had to be updated for full disclosure: "We published this fine quarrel in 2016, but they just keep on handing out Oscars to the wrong movies, so we have updated it for your further education." 

The word "education" — though facetious — takes the position that opinion is stable and what they said 5 years ago about "Crash" is the same thing they'd say today.

But in 2016, anti-homophobia was predominant, and overheated worry over racial discord may have seemed passé. WaPo ought to have updated its opinion! Maybe "Brokeback Mountain" seemed better than it was because of the issue it hit, and the Academy voters were prescient to give the prize to " Crash."

Here's what I wrote the morning after "Crash" won the Oscar:

I haven't read the newspaper commentary yet, but I assume there will be a lot of analysis of why "Crash" beat out "Brokeback Mountain."... What about the possibility that "Crash" is actually a better movie? But maybe the voters really did think it was a good idea to express their social consciousness in the anti-racism mode rather than the anti-homophobia mode, because America's caught up on the proposition that racism is wrong.

So I was saying Hollywood plays it safe, and anti-racism is especially safe, even safer than anti-homophobia. I certainly wasn't predicting that 5 years later we'd be having a heyday of anti-racism, and real life would become a surreal depiction in which racism is concentrated everywhere and the approved elite cultural belief would be that everyone is racist.

FROM THE EMAIL: Temujin writes:

I liked 'Crash' very much the first time around for the reasons you nailed in your commentary from back in 2006. The idea that you weren't sure who to like or hate in this movie, that behavior was fluid- as fluid as human interaction can be. And it did a fine job in showing us all as human. In that sense it was a very real movie. And yes, it skewed melodramatic, but even those parts were so well acted, that it held you. And in its way it believably portrayed the racism built into LA society at that time. Yes, American society too, but LA had (has?) a particularly interesting way of doing it, with so much immense wealth across so many different types of people who interact with each other daily. And the LA cops had a racist reputation long before it became in vogue. They actually practiced it.

That said, to another point you made, I never did see 'Brokeback Mountain'. Why? Not because I'm homophobic. But because, at that time, the talk of gayness was so pervasive, so unrelenting, and so over the top that I was just tired of it. I had had enough and did not care to swoon over it in a movie theater. I got enough second-hand swooning just being around other people. I was over the entire thing.

Ha ha. I too never saw that movie. For just about exactly that reason. Plus, it bothered me that people were straining so hard to be pro-gay that they had nothing much to say about the plight of the wife who got stuck in a marriage to a man who loved someone else. The love between then men had to be exalted. That annoyed me. 

And that's where I find myself today when it comes to the subject of race. Today they want us to believe that the US is the most racist it's ever been and the most evilly racist nation in history, that all of us are racists and the only way to purify ourselves is to send all of our cash immediately to them. Then die. They tell us this that from $80K per year universities, 7-figure TV contracts, and millionaire sports events. CEOs of major corporations are pointing at their customers and shaming them for being. Just for being. So if 'Crash' came out today, I would probably not go see it, much like I avoided 'Brokeback Mountain' years ago. I'm over it. It's as if the entirety of our nation is swooning over racism now. I'm no swooner. And I can smell a bandwagon cause from a mile away.

"The whole night, down to Rihanna’s eloquent performance of 'Lift Me Up' from 'Wakanda Forever,' felt well oiled but entirely preprogrammed because, of course, it was.""Has anyone ever won an Oscar for showing so little expression?"In 1998 — the year of "Titanic" — 57 million people watched the Oscars. This year, only 9.85 million watched. "The Academy believes in the movies so much, they made Best Picture the third-to-last category of the night ('Nomadland' won). The producers clearly assumed..."

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