Banal. I said the word “banal”.
I could not have been more wrong.
The 88th Oscars were without a doubt, the funniest and most intriguing shows in many, many years. Overlong of course, the word diversity beaten to death. And sorry Sam Smith, you horribly misquoted Gandalf, many openly gay people have won Oscars. Including fellow British Singer Elton John.
But stem to stern, I night of belly laughs and shocking results. I went 17 for 24, average year, with some winners that could not have been predicted.
Before anything, let’s talk about Chris Rock. Spot-freaking-on. The right host at the right time. Was there anything better than watching a room full of rich, white, entitled millionaires squirm in their seats, wondering if it was OK to laugh at his jokes. “We had better things to protest than who won best Cinematography”. The Will Smith jokes kept coming. Whoopi Goldberg’s cut into the scene from Joy. And the shows best moment, Chris Rock goes to Compton. “What’s your favourite movie? Superfly!”.
Morgan Freeman showed his skill as an actor last night. Spotlight has been all but written off for Best Picture, winning only one award earlier that evening. He managed to not react, hide what had to be his own shock when he announced the biggest “upset” in recent memory, arguably in Oscar History. The little dramatic pause he took with a grin on his face was pure skill.
You could hear an audible gasp in the room when Patricia Arquette finished her fumbling presentation and announced Mark Rylance for Best Supporting Actor over the heavily favoured Sly Stallone. I picked Sly and was rooting for him full force. But in this one instance, I will give a nod to the academy for making the right pick. Acclaimed stage actor Rylance was perfect in Bridge of Spies. The only consolation I will take here is that I called Rylance at the possible upset in my pics.
The Actress Catoegories went according to predictions. Both women gave wonderful, eloquent and dignified speeches. Alicia Vikander handled her moment like a seasoned veteran, with her mom by her side to see her win.
A highlight of the night for me was the legend Ennio Morricone finally getting long overdue recognition for Best Original Score for The Hateful Eight. Morricone spoke in Italian with a translator and the gang in the Orchestra pit who had been cutting off acceptance speeches all night, paid proper homage by letting him finish.
Mad Max:Fury Road is a six time Oscar Winner. I don’t know what to make of that. It is essentially a two hour video game of a movie. Coherent, but barely so and no plot. When it won #6, I thought it may just take best picture.
Other notable moments: Alejandro Innaratu joined only two other directors as back-to-back winners, the last being John Ford. The brilliant Emanuel Lubezki became a rare three-peat winner, after taking well-deserved cinematography Oscars for Gravity and Birdman. I loved Louis CK talking about the important of Best Documentary Short. “This Oscar is going home is Honda Civic”, referencing that the makers of these movies do it for love and for their cause and no chance of making a profit.
Th Weekend did Canada proud. Sam Smith sucked. Don’t care if you like him or not, that was a bad performance. Lady Gaga – I could argue either way, but I thought she nailed it.
And finally, Leo. How did this night become about Leo. For my Canadian friends, it’s worth noting that The Revenant was filmed in Alberta and Leo made an epic blunder of blaming a Chinook wind on the oil sands. That lead to a bit of a public spat with our Prime Minister. Thank you, Leo, for at least for acknowledging Martin Scorsese for making you into an actor. I do not knock his talent. I love his films. But he managed to make this about him.
The late great George Carlin said two things about comedy : “the joke is in the exaggeration” and “I feel its my job to poke fun at people who take themselves to seriously”. Chris Rock took that spirit of comedy and knocked it out of the park. A little offensive at times, maybe crossing a line or two? You bet. But to me, that was his job. When he said “Jada Pinkett Smith boycotting the Oscars is like me boycotting Rhianna’s panties” I stood and applauded the TV. My kids were there to witness. It was perhaps the most audacious moment I have ever scene at this Oscars. And if there is a crowd of people that needs to be slapped off its pedestal, this is it.