11 Oscar Observations

1. BROADCAST: Compared to most Oscars broadcasts this millennium, this one was “pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good.” Of course, it runs long. By the time Billie Eilish finished singing “Yesterday,” it was practically yesterday when the ceremony began. Her rendition of the world’s most covered song ever was decent. It’s hard for that song NOT to sound good. And by reaching back to 1965, she more than made up for not knowing who Van Halen is… something far more understandable than it seems at first glance. (Subject of a future post.) Pretty cool that Tom Hanks announced the new Academy Museum at Fairfax and Wilshire, though that intersection rings ominously to us hip-hop heads. #RestInPeaceToMyMFBiggieSmalls

Billie Eilish reminded me of that Guinness Book of World Records Indian dude. #NailedIt

2. DIVERSITY: Perhaps it cannot be stated enough that when society swings too far one way, the response to the shift isn’t great, either. Not to kick things off with politics (since movie stars never include that in their speeches) but one of the most insightful lines I read in the last year is that Donald J. Trump has made everything worse. The Republican Party is in bad shape, but so are the Democrats, since they’ve collectively chosen to veer so far left to counterbalance the swing to the right. Similarly, when the Academy nominates almost all white people, Oscar Night itself feels it must overcompensate by giving people non-award stage time. It’s good that there’s diversity up there, but then you end up with weird, inane choices like Janelle Monáe’s opening number. I’ve long enjoyed her acting and her singing; I’ve heard first-hand that she’s incredible live and I can hardly take my eyes off of her because she’s so beautiful. But showcasing a relatively obscure film… dressing people up like Jokers and as soldiers… awkwardly putting (mostly white) people on the spot to sing along… this was just strange. Let’s showcase women of color for their talents onscreen so we don’t have to put us all in this uncomfortable position, including the anxiety I’ll now feel for critiquing (not even criticizing) a WoC.

J. Mo.

3. GLUE: Bring back a host. Even if one host did the first half and another the second or two people co-host, having that anchor is key. Sure, they largely disappear after their opening monologues, but they’re the through-line. This procession of one person’s introducing the next who sometimes even introduces a NEXT made for a weird chain of events. Beyond the functional value, there’s a strong case to be made for jokes. We can evaluate them immediately. I think a lot of us had no idea what to make of Monáe’s opening. Most people just go, “OK, I guess that was good.” But with comedy, at least you know where you stand.

4. NOSTALGIA: The longevity of stars who made their debuts as far back as the ’80s is incredible. Brad Pitt’s speech was a nice romp down Memory Lane to remind us of how lucky we are to have these people in our lives. Or at least on our screens. I don’t feel the same about most actors who’ve debuted post-2000. Although I loved Marilyn Manson as lead actor in Marriage Story.

5. SINGING, PART I: I looked up whether this was the worst year for Best Original Song. Maybe there was an exception in there, but collectively, they were atrocious. Even Elton John’s was so boring. And don’t get me started on Randy Newman. Once upon a time, he served a purpose. His voice is etched into my memory from many eighties movies but this man did not need to continue lulling us to sleep in yet another decade.

6. SINGING, PART II: The Oscars and Emmys face a unique challenge: they’re rewarding recorded acting, whereas the Tonys and the Grammys reward live performance. You can’t exactly make actors go up and act out a scene… though actually, I would like to see that. So, Elton and Randy notwithstanding, keep the live performances AND keep at least two montages: In Memoriam and some kind of themed glance-back. We movie-goers are suckers for nostalgia and investing a few minutes in this provides a substantial emotional ROI. (Remember when I talked about nostalgia…?)

I Thought It Was Over.

7. SHADY AFTERMATH: Eminem killed it. I found all of the snarky online dialogue infuriating. Indeed, the fast news cycle has ruined things. You used to read Oscars reviews all week, but if you don’t put out your thoughts within 24 hours, the world has moved on. There may be some upsides to that (though the lack of mentions of Australia show another downside), but one clear negative is that people go for the quick kill instead of even a shred of circumspection. It took me a long time to get into Eminem — I loathed him when he first debuted in 1999 — but then he quickly became one of my favorite all-time musicians. I’d still say JAY-Z is the greatest (even if the best is a Biggie/2Pac tossup) but Eminem is a close second. #TossItUp So, given that the man has more fame and success than most of the actors in that hall, yes, I think he’s the kind of evergreen personality we’re lucky to see anywhere, anytime… even if it is random. But it’s not random. He dropped a new album last week and became the sixth artist in history to debut 10 albums at #1. Dude’s a legend — and his performance was arguably the highlight of the evening. If you read the reviews, the Fake News would have you believe he bombed. In fact, most people of all ages, races, and genders were bobbing their heads and many were singing along to “Lose Yourself,” arguably the song of the 2000s. Again, it seems easy to throw shade at a straight white man… why is HE here? Well, why the hell was Blac Chyna there? Sure, she was on the Red Carpet and not onstage, but all she did was marry and divorce a Kardashian. The reaction to that? “You go, girl. Get it.” No. Divorcees of any gender shouldn’t be punished but that doesn’t mean we need to reward it, either. Sure, Eminem used the Other F-Word far too much early in his career, but he reconciled with Elton John (whose song from last night I do NOT want to hear 18 years from now). Joaquin Phoenix hit the nail on the head when he said that we’re at our best not when we cancel each other but when we help each other grow. Like how Janelle Monáe makes me grow.

A River Runs Through It.

8. PAIR: “I’m seeing Red.” — Rudolph. Give it up for Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig. Not sure why Wiig’s comedy career hasn’t continued to skyrocket. Bridesmaids is arguably the last great comedic movie; she and Rudolph both killed it in that as well as last night. Granted, they’ve worked together much more than Rock & Martin, but they had comedic chemistry in all the ways the men didn’t.

9. LAMESAUCE: Shame on whoever’s decision it was to include the line, “All women are superheroes!” I turned to Harsha, winced, and said, “Dude, that is SO patronizing.” Lo and behold, I read this online: “… immediately after making Brie Larson, Sigourney Weaver, and Gal Gadot stand onstage and say things like, ‘All women are superheroes!’ All women should not be forced to participate in pandering, infantilizing bullish!t!” I don’t know who forced whom and don’t know if it’s infantilizing, but it’s pandering… and patronizing… and demeaning. And it’s not true. No group of people is a bunch of superheroes. Not women, not men, not straight, not gay, not trans, not cis, not whites, not Indians, not Eskimos. Well, except the Justice League. And the people next to me on the plane who sit for six hours without getting up to go to the bathroom. WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? They’re superheroes. Offer up something empowering like, “All women who go out there everyday and work and try to make this world a better place — whether you’re a bus driver or a Hollywood actor — even when you’re not being recognized and you have to work twice as hard as a man… you’re superheroes and we see you.” Maybe I didn’t nail the wording, and in typical Rajiv fashion, it’s longer, but at least make sure what you’re saying is true.

Kelly Marie Tran endured horrendous harassment at the hands of racist Star Wars fans. Just to mock them, she should start a site for Women of Color online and name it EWOC.

10. BROWN TOWN: South Asians performances weren’t featured onscreen, either, but it was dope to see Utkarsh Ambudkar’s freestyling. Dude once took a dump at my house. For more on that and more of his freestyling (including cutting me up pretty well), check out WatchRajiv.com. Fitting coincidence that Mindy Kaling handed out the award for Hair Love. Moments earlier, Chris Rock had appeared to “not-host”; it was his documentary, Good Hair, that told the world most black women’s extensions come from India. Dope to see some Ohio representation, too, with American Factory. OH-!

An appropriate arrow up from Priya Rai.

11. ENDING: Congratulations to Parasite! Loved 1917 (thought it would win) but Bong Joon-ho is this year’s Roberto Benigni. And that Asian auntie… my wife: “This is like having your Mom onstage.” What a way for the Oscars to remain relevant, address #OscarsSoWhite, and surprise us all… 92 years in. I heard Koreatown was going off last night… I can’t even imagine the parking situation. (No, that’s not an Asian joke… it’s a local LA joke.) In conclusion, we had no host but we did have a Parasite. A little biology humor for you.

“A very little humor.” — Spamboy on my FB Page.

And… just as I was about to hit Post, a news notification told me this year’s ratings fell to a record low. “That’s Life.” — Joker

#Oscars

Rajiv Satyal is a comedian and claims to be the world’s best movie quoter. He resides in Los Angeles.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store