It is often the case that the loudest kid(s) in the class gets the most attention. It is not to say that the kid doesn't need or warrant the help that (hopefully) comes with the attention. But too often those who also need help and attention but are quiet get ignored. On Oscars night, that's exactly what happened. In the name of diversity, African Americans (and those not from Africa but identified as Blacks) were pulled into the spotlight as the token ones. Why, yes, they did also bring out those couple of Asian kids and, uh, oh-my-gawd Lee Byung Hun! And, the lady from Quantico (Priyanka Chopra, but does anyone watch that show? why else is she there?). But they were sideshows to the token Blacks, which made the whole attempt rang of empty politics and ultimately really silly.
Nevertheless, I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the show. I'm glad they addressed it - a little is better than none (though not sure if it should've taken up the whole show). I question though, how could they have known all these controversies to happen and hired Chris Rock, of all people, to MC? Could there have been a more apt host? Well, actually, maybe Margaret Cho would've been even better. Then the ratings would've been even worse, but they would've corrected everything! Oscars, you missed your chance!
Before I write of what I enjoyed, I want to mention first what I'm peeved about. As usual, I didn't read too much about the ceremony going into the broadcast Sunday night. I didn't read up on the boycotts either, other than the headlines about Will Smith. During the show, I was actually too busy to notice, but Griz pointed out later that there was indeed something more troubling (and telling) to me about the entire affair. The story was only told half in what the Oscars presented; what it omitted told an even better story.
While the producers did an admirable and excellent job in taking the time to bring us expertly stitched together and narrated clips of some of the talents (especially the sound, directing, and writing categories), they insulted the lesser known song nominees by completely cutting them out of the equation. Both Anohni and Sumi Jo, nominated for Racing Extinction and Youth respectively, did not get to perform, while Lady Gaga, the Weeknd, Sam Smith, and Dave Grohl (!) did. I don't understand this decision, given that year after year, the Oscars give space and time to the shorts that almost nobody watches! And I sit through these every year, including this one, amused by their dedication to highlight film crafts in spite of ratings. What's even more puzzling is that, given the banner of diversity hanging around the show and the Academy this year (not to mention the popularity of Transparent!), they cut out a transgender performer, and a South Korean soprano! It makes Sam Smith's win the worst of the night, even worst than the fact that it was not deserving of the win.
I guess what the Academy was trying to say is: "Sorry gals, there's no room for actual diversity, only room for political diversity. May the loudest voice wins!" The Token issue sucked up all the air time. They didn't even celebrate what a year it was for women!
Now that we've established the hypocrisy, here are a few things I was nevertheless happy about:
- Mad Max going gangbusters on all those tech awards! It really should've gotten more, but how fabulous is it that an action film takes home the most Oscars, including a film EDITING prize (the only "important" category it won in, traditional-Oscars-wise)! Years to come, we may appreciate what an achievement this film is in garnering as much love as it did in spite of its genre - nominations in Picture and Director!
- The sound categories clips were magnificent!
- Chris Rock skewered many people, including people I didn't think he'd be able to. Good on him. I liked the sorority racist distinction. I enjoyed the silly girls scout cookies skit, though it is a bit too similar to Ellen's pizza stunt.
- Louis C.K. telling what the award's attention is like for the nominees of less popular forms.
- Chris Rock interviewing moviegoers in Compton.
- The useful labels for presenters!
- Ali G!? Yes, he was utterly offensive, and on point. Was he necessary? Eh. What's one more in a whole show?
- The great dresses and the ladies who wore them beautifully! Olivia Wilde, Rachel McAdams, Saoirse Ronan, Margot Robbie, Isla Fisher, Olivia Munn, Priyanka Chopra, and, uh, Whoopi! And from the pictures that came out online: Amy Adams, Emilia Clarke, Elizabeth Banks, Jessica Biel. Lady Gaga's outfit looked like something that came out of a Georgia O'Keeffe paiting, minus the colours.
- Jacob Tremblay, Abraham Attah, Alicia Vikander, Brie Larson, Mark Rylance, Ennio Morricone and Margaret Sixels were such cutie pies.
- The shocker that is Ex-Machina winning visual effects against the effects-heavy blockbuster Star Wars! I had Ex-Machina as my alternate choice! How could you not vote for it though? Alicia looked like she was made of robot parts!
- The shocker that is Spotlight winning Best Picture despite only having one other award to its name. That's more of an amusing surprise rather than a wanted surprise, but it's good for the show anyhow.
There were wins I did not like (e.g. Amy over The Look of Silence), some cringe-worthy speeches (but fewer than other years?), and snubs I felt bad about (e.g. Charlize Theron and Emily Blunt not present in the actress race) but I expect and accept them by now. The Oscars is a popularity contest, albeit amongst industry people so it tends to favour at least "decent" choices if you can relate to their paradigm / taste. This 2016 show, though, despite its missteps, is one to remember, for good or for ill.