I watched the Oscars last night the way I watch all awards shows -- I recorded them and then fast-forwarded through. It worked pretty well, and I got finished in about two hours, saving about 1-1/2 hours. As a result, though, I don't have many comments about the show, especially those would be fair and accurate, since I only saw the Cliff Notes version. What I did see, however leads me to a few random observations.
Ellen DeGeneres seemed a perfectly fine host. Whimsical, charming and a bit disjointed. I liked the pizza bit, although the delivery of the slices went on much too long. Taking the selfie was a little longer than ideal, but okay. Overall, it seems like a respectable, lighthearted hosting job.
Given how long the show was and that it went about a half-hour over, I don't quite understand the thinking of the two songs. While I guess this was the 75th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, and it's nice to have a tribute, just having Pink sing "Over the Rainbow" to a film montage fell a bit flat for me. And besides, it was also the 75th anniversary of a LOT of truly great movies from 1939, most notably Gone with the Wind, so why not honor that Oscar-winning Best Picture, let alone all the top movies from that amazing year (including Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Wuthering Heights, Of Mice and Men, Stagecoach and Ninotchka among the 10 nominated? Not to mention the classics that didn't even get nominated, like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Destry Rides Again, and Gunga Din.) .
But mainly I didn't understand having Bette Middler come onstage to sing "The Wind Beneath My Wings." If they really, really wanted her to perform, then sing it over the Remembrance montage. Get two-for-one. But to run the montage first, and then just have Bette Middler stand there and sing after? Seriously??
By the way, in that Remembrance montage they made one choice that was bizarre. They were honoring some fellow who was a make-up artist and worked on the Star Wars films -- but the clip that they ran with him was of Yoda. Given that Yoda was a freaking Muppet, I think it's a pretty fair guess that the guy didn't do a whole lot of makeup on it. They couldn't have found a clip from his impressive career of a human actor??
Like most of the world, I also didn't understand John Travolta. How utterly bizarre that he so horribly mucked up saying "Idina Menzel." I'd like to think the concept of rehearsing your lines ahead of time was not a lost art. Big points to Ellen DeGeneres covering for him so politely, coming onstage afterwards and saying, "Idina Menzel, she was wonderful, Idina Menzel."
One last thing. I haven't seen 12 Years a Slave because I acknowledge having issues with the screenwriter, John Ridley. During the last WGA strike, he and I got into dueling Huffington Posts. (I'm sure at this point he doesn't remember me, though the back-and-forth went on for quite a few posts.) His thoughts about the strike were deeply wrong-headed, I thought, but worse he eventually quit the Guild -- during the strike -- a process which is s known as going Financial Core. It's pretty bad to quit the WGA and go FiCore at any time (you don't have to pay dues but get all the union protections), though I can accept some people's reasons, even if I don't necessarily like it. But to quit during a strike borders on reprehensible. Further, while complaining about how the Guild was handling the strike, at one point he wrote an article about what the WGA should do instead -- and it was...well, insane. Utterly ludicrous, not to mention likely highly-illegal. I wrote an article pulling apart his inexplicable "idea," but the short version is that he thought that the way the WGA should spend its money and promote itself, rather than strike, was -- to finance its own movie!
First, of course,there would be the horrors of deciding what script submitted from 6,000 members you'd do. Then there would be the lawsuits from the members whose scripts weren't selected by their own union, in favor of another member. And the reality of whether you'd have the $20-40 million needed to make even a low budget film, compared to the $60-80 million for a standard budget today. Not to mention what happens to the union if the movie flops and you lose your investment. But overriding all of this is that the idea is probably so illegal on so many levels for a union to use member money to finance a commercial project like that, which would pay a single single member for the rights to his screenplay. I'll let you figure out all the other things mind-numbingly wrong with this suggestion.
So, while I had to sit through him wining the Oscar for best adapted screening and the filming taking Best Picture, it was with a cross between feeling galling annoyance as a writer and a reaction of "it couldn't happen to a better guy" when both the winner of best supporting actress and director/producer of the film when winning Best Picture both didn't mention him in their long thank-you list acceptance speeches. The director/producer omission was even more notable since he had a paper on which he'd written down the names beforehand of those he wanted to be sure to thank, And the writer was not among them.
I don't know if the John Ridley was so annoying that these others intentionally didn't mention him, or if it was just a huge oversight by both the actress and director/producer. But either way, it stood out to me that he didn't get mentioned. It was wrong to have ignored him. It was horribly and unacceptably wrong, not mentioning the person who wrote the script for the movie they'd won Oscars for. Did the actress think she made up her lines, did the director think he was able to make a movie from blank pages? But if you're going to have an omission, it couldn't have happened to a sweller guy...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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