The 92nd Academy Awards: Review!

Last night’s Oscars ceremony was on the brink of teetering off the edge and into the dustbin of history when suddenly, after a long string of tired and predictable winners took the stage to repeat virtually the same speeches they had been using all throughout awards season, the event righted itself and took a wild turn: with the shocking upset victory of Parasite in both the Best Director and Best Picture categories, the 92nd Academy Awards were able to make a groundbreaking advancement in movie history.

As we knew going into the ceremony (which got off to a bad start, with the frigid temperature and heavy rain-showers forcing the celebrities into the building at breakneck speed), the field of candidates was dominated by white men – though the long list of snubbed women directors still managed to attend the ceremony, as names embroidered on Natalie Portman’s dress. But in some categories, the few diverse nominees were able to sneak in some surprising wins: Matthew Cherry took home a long-awaited Oscar for the adorable animated short Hair Love, which celebrates natural black hair; and Taika Waititi became the first indigenous filmmaker to win an Oscar, claiming the award for Best Adapted Screenplay for his anti-fascist satire, JoJo Rabbit. Bong Joon-ho and the crew of Parasite also won Best Original Screenplay and Best International Film, giving the South Korean drama a total of four wins: the most of any film last night.

Joker, the dark and dour supervillain story that danced into the ceremony with a whopping eleven nominations, only walked out with two wins, both in categories where it was expected to win: Best Lead Actor went to Joaquin Phoenix, thus making him the second actor to win an Academy Award for his portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime; and Best Original Score was presented to Hildur Guðnadòttir.

Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s joint work on “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” from the Elton John biopic Rocketman made them clear winners in the Best Original Song category, but the other contenders put on a good show: Idina Menzel, AURORA, and several Frozen II voice actresses from around the world sang “Into The Unknown”, while Cynthia Erivo and a chorus of back-up singers delivered a rousing rendition of “Stand Up” from Harriet. Then there was Randy Newman, with whatever the song was from Toy Story 4 (which somehow won Best Animated Feature in a year when Netflix’s Klaus was showing off the simple beauty of 2D animation). Three other musical numbers, unaffiliated with any film, were sprinkled throughout the ceremony: Janelle Monae and Billy Porter opened the night’s proceedings with a rousing, sparkly cover of “It’s A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood”, which also featured dancers dressed as characters from some of the past year’s snubbed films, including Us and Midsommar; Eminem made a surprise appearance to perform “Lose Yourself” to an audience who clearly had no idea how to react – and those that did, namely Idina Menzel and Martin Scorsese, soon found themselves trending for their shocked and disturbed expressions; and finally, young Grammy-winner Billie Eilish performed a moving cover of “Yesterday” while the In Memoriam tribute video played – a video which, as expected, left out a couple of notable deceased celebrities.

Politics were briefly addressed, with Brad Pitt throwing jabs at the U.S. Senate in his acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actor in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood (one of only two awards the critical darling picked up, the other being Best Production Design), and Joaquin Phoenix making time for a warning about the dangers of climate change, and the importance of environmentalism. But many of the winners and presenters were more concerned with poking fun at their own business – there was no more scathing example of this than when James Corden and Rebel Wilson, two prominent members of the cast of the box-office flop and movie monstrosity Cats, ironically had to present the award for Best Visual Effects to 1917 while wearing cat-suits and making sarcastic puns.

The major categories were looking like a straight-up copy-and-paste of the Golden Globes winners (to nobody’s surprise, Renée Zellweger won Best Leading Actress for her transformative role as Judy Garland in Judy, while Laura Dern closed out her award-season romp with a Best Supporting Actress award for her fan-favorite role as a divorce lawyer in Marriage Story: Netflix’s only consolation prize for being snubbed and soundly defeated in every other category), right up until Best Director. The award had been expected to basically throw itself into the arms of Sam Mendes, whose continuous-take gimmick for 1917 has been a subject of much debate this awards season (and had, just moments before, won Roger Deakins a Best Cinematography Oscar), but there was also room for Quentin Tarantino to eke out a surprise victory: but it was Bong Joon-ho who claimed this award, and then led South Korea to its first ever Best Picture win – Parasite, a drama about class divides and economic crisis, also made history as the first non-English feature film to win the highest honor at the ceremony. Bong Joon-ho’s fanbase, who call themselves the “BongHive” on social media, celebrated the film’s success around the world, while Joon-ho himself finally got to have the drink that he kept asking for throughout the night.

Was it a perfect ceremony? No. The event was downright predictable for most of its extremely long runtime, and there was a tired aura in the air: perhaps brought on by the bad weather, or an unmemorable red carpet walk. But did it also break new ground and pave the way for a greater acceptance of international filmmaking in Hollywood? Let’s hope so.

Ceremony Rating: 7.9/10

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77th Golden Globes Ceremony Review!

Appropriately, it was Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, a movie which celebrates a bygone era of film-making, that won big at the 77th annual Golden Globes awards last night, taking home three Globes in major categories. In many ways, the ghost of Hollywood Past was haunting the tired, slow-paced ceremony, which saw a mostly white and male ensemble of winners take the stage, during an event that felt unfocused and uninspired, barely held together by comedian Ricky Gervais, who looked bored to be hosting one of the most important events in the entertainment industry, and whose attempts to keep the audience’s attention off world politics felt sadly misguided.

Thankfully, his plea for political neutrality was steadfastly ignored by the majority of winners, many of whom took the stage to deliver impassioned speeches addressing a number of notable issues: from Best Actress In A Mini-Series Michelle Williams calling upon women to exercise their right to choose, Best Supporting Actress In A Series Patricia Arquette using her brief time onstage to demand that viewers vote in the 2020 U.S. elections, Best Actor In A Drama Motion Picture and animal-rights activist Joaquin Phoenix thanking the Golden Globes for serving an entirely plant-based dinner to the audience (a decision that was apparently met with mixed reactions), Australians Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett bringing attention to the deadly bush-fires currently raging across the country, and Best Actress In A Musical/Comedy Series Phoebe Waller-Bridge invoking the name of former U.S. President Barack Obama, who just recently included Waller-Bridge’s hit comedy Fleabag on his annual Presidential Favorites list. LGBTQ+ issues were at the forefront during Kate McKinnon and Ellen DeGeneres’ speech to honor the latter’s acceptance of the special Carol Burnett Award.

But in between these brief highlights, the ceremony still appeared outdated and backwards-thinking: outside of female-exclusive categories, women were handed a bare minimum of awards, with Icelandic composer Hildur Guðnadóttir being the exception to the rule, becoming the first solo woman to accept the award. People of color were also suspiciously absent from the proceedings, except as presenters – the exception in this case being Ramy star Ramy Youssef, and comedian Awkwafina, who became the first woman of Asian descent to win the Golden Globe for Best Actress In A Musical/Comedy. Small moments like these help to give the impression that progress is being made in Hollywood, but don’t make up for a list of nominees that is overwhelmingly representative of a long-gone period in Hollywood history – one of Gervais’ few on-point jokes was his callout of the all-male lineup of directing nominees, and his satirical suggestion that soon, Hollywood would go back to simply never hiring women directors: “problem solved”.

Anti-Disney and anti-Netflix sentiment ran strong at the ceremony, which witnessed an embarrassing turn of events for frontrunners Frozen II, The Irishman, Marriage Story and The Two Popes. Disney suffered their biggest loss of the night in the Best Animated Feature Film category, where they had not one, not two, but three nominees – all of which lost out to underdog Missing Link, a clay-mation movie from Laika Studios, in a move so shocking it even startled the Missing Link directors into near-speechlessness. Later, in the Best Original Song category, Disney was once again stunned by the surprise victory of Elton John and Bernie Taupin, who won for their work on “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” for Rocketman, beating out two Disney contenders, “Into The Unknown” and “Spirit” (both, admittedly, weak contestants). But Netflix’s film division was the biggest loser of the evening: going into the event, the main competition in both the Best Director For A Motion Picture and Best Drama Motion Picture fields had been The Irishman‘s Martin Scorsese versus Todd Phillips for Joker – but in both categories, it was neither man who took home the coveted prize, as Sam Mendes and war-drama 1917 won both times. That wouldn’t have been so humiliating if Netflix had been able to claim Best Supporting Actor In A Motion Picture (which they lost to Brad Pitt for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood), Actor In A Musical/Comedy Motion Picture (which they lost to Taron Egerton for Rocketman), Actress In A Drama Motion Picture (which they lost to Renée Zellweger for Judy, despite strong competition from Scarlett Johansson), Actor In A Drama Motion Picture (which Joker star Joaquin Phoenix easily won, beating out Adam Driver and Jonathan Pryce), or Screenplay Of A Motion Picture (an award that clearly belonged to either The Irishman or Marriage Story, but went instead to Once Upon A Time In Hollywood). Ultimately, only Laura Dern was able to carve out a small victory for the streaming service, winning the award for Best Supporting Actress In A Motion Picture for her fan-favorite role as a sassy, no-nonsense divorce lawyer in Marriage Story. A small win, but a win nonetheless, and one that Netflix Film desperately needed as they continue to fight against Hollywood bias.

The event should have been high-stakes, especially with the amount of surprises, snubs and gasp-out-loud upsets that occurred, but low-energy humor from the host and presenters, coupled with slow, largely repetitive victories (winners often had to walk absurdly long distances to the stage, and a few nearly got lost weaving through the crowd, making the ceremony move even slower) made the 77th Golden Globes an unmemorable footnote in awards season history. Here’s hoping that the Oscars will repeat last year’s surprisingly effective no-host format, and give us a more rousing, entertaining, and relevant ceremony than the Globes was able to offer.

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