With each passing year, I find myself getting increasingly cynical and disenchanted with the Academy Awards/Oscars. As a kid, I watched them with wonder and excitement as the winners gave such great speeches in front of an audience that adored them. But as an adult, I see more and more how the wheels spin as movie studios continue to spend millions upon millions of dollars on their Oscar campaigns in hopes of obtaining one or more of those golden statues. Let’s face it if we have not already, an Oscar win means big box office money, and everyone wants to see their films turn a profit even if those Hollywood accountants will eventually tell them they did not, news which we greet with a loud, “Bitch, please!”
Still, as I watched the 95th Annual Academy Awards which saw the return of Jimmy Kimmel as host, I found myself swept in the innocence of everything cinematic as the speeches the winners gave moved me to no end. Granted, this ceremony is essentially Hollywood’s way of congratulating itself, but sometimes they get it right with the winners (case in point: “Parasite”). Plus, it is the only awards show I bother to watch as the Emmys and the Grammys never do anything for me. As for the Golden Globes, they are enjoyable for all the wrong reasons.
Allow me to take a look at this year’s Oscars before I slip into my cynical self and discover all the things which were wrong with it. Call me naïve or woefully ignorant, I would rather celebrate this evening right now rather than lay waste to it.
Well, there were virtually no surprises as “Everything Everywhere All at Once” won the most Oscars including Best Picture. “All Quiet on the Western Front,” however, looked at one point to be the evening’s upset victor as it scored more wins than many initially suspected. But with Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s film walking off with key prizes at the DGA and PGA award shows, we all walked in to this one knowing who would be victorious.
Ke Huy Quan proved to be an unforgettable presence in both “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” and “The Goonies” before his acting career lost speed and he went to work in film production and as a fight choreographer. His win for Best Supporting Actor was an emotional one as he spoke of how he spent a year in a refugee camp long before arriving on the stage at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. Here is what he also said:
“Dreams are something you have to believe in. I almost gave up on mine,” he said. “To all of you out there, please keep your dreams alive.”
Regardless of how cynical I may have become, I could not help but be moved by what Quan said as our dreams and passions are what we should be living for.
And how cool is it to finally be able to call Jamie Lee Curtis an Oscar winner? I have said this over and over, but you can put her in a god awful movie (“Virus” for example) and she will still deliver a terrific performance regardless of the material she has been saddled with. Her win for Best Supporting Actress comes on the heels of her laying waste to Michael Myers one last time in “Halloween Ends.” Granted, the Akkad family is bound to resurrect the “Halloween” franchise at some point in the future, but Curtis, as Laurie Strode, still got to have the last word.
As for Curtis’ speech, it was as moving as Quan’s as she slowly accepted the reality that she actually won an Academy Award. While many were not shocked at her taking home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar, she clearly was. Her proclamation of “I just won an Oscar” may come to rival Sally Field’s infamous one of “You like me! You really like me!”
When it comes to Best Original Song, the performances of each nominee can either be a much needed bathroom break or something spectacular which upstages the rest of the show. This year was a mixed bag when it came to that, but the winner of this category, “Naatu Naatu” from the film “RRR” brought the house down with its energetic performance as the performers and singers displayed an infinite amount of passion and audacity as they danced and sang the night away. The standing ovation which accompanied this was well deserved.
Still, when it came to the other original song nominees, Lady Gaga was not far behind with her performance of “Hold My Hand” from “Top Gun: Maverick” which proved to be both emotional and rousing. Moreover, while she came into the Dolby Theatre looking as glamorous as anyone else, Lady Gaga performed this song sans makeup and in a dark t-shirt which made her rendition of this song infinitely remarkable and wonderfully defiant.
I got to interview Michelle Yeoh a few years ago when she was doing press for “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny,” and she look fabulous and was great to talk to. I was reminded of this during her speech when she won Best Actress for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” as she gave us some of the most memorable lines of the evening:
“Ladies, don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are past your prime.”
“For all the little boys and girls who look like me watching tonight, this is a beacon of hope and possibility.”
No one can ever forget the inevitable “In Memorium” segment which pays tribute those who have since passed away, and which also infuriate so many who get deeply angered over who got omitted (speaking of which, what about Richard Belzer?). Having John Travolta introduce this segment seemed both appropriate and highly emotional as two of his co-stars, Olivia Newton John and Kirstie Alley, died after their long fights with cancer, and the death of his beloved wife Kelly Preston still hangs heavy on him. Lenny Kravitz pulled off a memorable performance as the names of the deceased were unveiled before us. Was anyone left out? Probably, but I will let others get into that. I do not have the energy to do it here.
And when it comes to predestination, Brendan Fraser’s win for Best Actor in “The Whale” was an inescapable certainty. Everyone loves a comeback, and no one could seem to get enough of his performance as a morbidly obese man desperate to restore his relationship to his daughter. Some will say there are no absolutes in life, only in vodka, but there was little doubt Fraser was going to take home the prize. And even after all the accolades he has received thus far, he remained as emotional as he was on the WTF Podcast with Marc Maron as he thanked director Darren Aronofsky for “throwing me a creative lifeline and hauling me aboard.” That is quite the compliment.
It is moments like these which quickly remind me of why I love watching the Academy Awards/Oscars. Regardless of the ridiculously competitive races Hollywood studios participate in, and whether or not you believe these winners even deserve to be nominated, I cannot help but love how thrilled the winners are to have reached such a penultimate recognition. History is always being made, and careers are being rewarded to where I cannot and do not want to deny that dreams can come true. Even if they do not come true for everyone, it always provides a beacon of hope we all need and thrive upon in this crazy realm known as show business.
Even as I still wonder if the Oscar campaign tactics of the Weinsteins are still being utilized by others, there is still a special place in my heart for the Academy Awards. Even if they seem more political than anything else, watching them still makes my spirits rise even when they seem too low down. Now please excuse me as I have to end this article before the things which pissed me off about this year’s Oscars rise to the surface…
…Okay, there a couple of things. I mean seriously, did we really need Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy introducing the new trailer for Rob Marshall’s take on “The Little Mermaid?” This struck me as crass commercialism as the producers have better things to do than promote upcoming films during this ceremony. Besides, if they are going to show a trailer for that, what about other studio releases? What is so special about Disney that they get to promote yet another live action remake of one of their famous animated classics?
As for the tribute to Warner Brothers on its 100th anniversary, someone needs to do a little more research as some of the movies they showed originated under MGM, not Warner Brothers. Even Bugs Bunny was rolling his eyes at this, and yes, he did this while in drag.
Okay, that is all for now.
It is interesting to me that we went to see “everything, Everywhere …” in London last May, we really loved it but decided afterwards that it seemed to have disappeared without trace. I guess it didn’t and we are very pleased that it did so well at the Oscars.