Bill's Night At The Oscars

I'm not as jaded as many with award shows. Obviously, most serve a purpose. Surviving three seasons of Covid, two locked down, plays into a desire for a lighthearted fare. I don't take the word of the academy or a panel of judges with "best of" selections seriously, having previously served on juries and understanding how they function. Behind the scenes, there's a lot of 'push play.' The higher the stakes, the more money poured into a campaign and lobbying efforts to achieve said results.

Recent Oscars have, in some ways, resisted the obvious. Last year's nod to a small independent film CODA for Best Picture caught many off guard, as did the public. To date, the lauded film has earned $1,900,000 worldwide on a $10,000,000 budget. Near impossible. Even with a golden boy in hand, the film couldn't reel in enough viewers to justify the nod.

Come 2022, the return of the blockbusters. And there were a few. The buzz Sunday night was about how Tom Cruise saved Hollywood with Top Gun: Maverick, a film with an 8.3 IMDb rating and $1,403,491,858 in revenue. Yet Hollywood wasn't prepared to give the prestige award to a guy three sizes larger than Hollywood. First prize went to an oddball film, Everything Everywhere All at Once, which has done well for a small independent film with big aspirations earning $106,702,207 on a $25,000,000 budget. Quirky wins the day. For many, the question remains. Why?

After decades as an insider celebration, Oscar tries to be everything to everyone. In doing so, misses the mark. Much like the business of music. You can boost your brand until the world implodes, but as viewers and listeners, we're locked onto what turns us on. Not in need of a leash dragging in the opposite direction. Much of what's talked about in social media was not on that stage. It's about streaming. White Lotus, Succession, Chris Rock's: Selective Outrage, 1923, Your Honor, Ozark, The Last of Us, Cobra Kai. Even the night's main event - Netflix's streamed, All's Quiet on the Western Front - was rewarded with four Oscars.

Toronto filmmaker Sarah Polley stole the coveted Best Adapted Screenplay for Women by Talking about a group of Mennonite women rebelling against the colony after years of mental and sexual abuse. That was the moment Canada pinched itself and sang out loud from the recliners, Oh, Canada!

As a one-off show, the Oscars were a pleasing Sunday night diversion. A step away from the endless Rudy Giuliani exposé and endless dead air, Jimmy Kimmel is the perfect setup man.

Kimmel kept the humour light and tight, absent gaffes. Rare few incursions into extreme politics. Whereas past host Ricky Gervais jabbed celebrities with a hot branding iron, Kimmel navigated the room, poking fun at the deities with much the same patter heard on his late-night show. Nothing unsettling or off-colour. Nothing to write about the day after. No catchphrases or blood on the carpet. Only an awkward person in a weird bear suit harassing Nobel Prize recipient Malala.

The upside of this season's Oscars was the pacing. Forty-second speeches, big smiles, no awkward moments, a 'get along' evening. Maybe that's what the world needs now—speeches tailored for warm responses. A tearful John Travolta solemnly introduces In Memoriam. Touching!

The high for music fans was the live orchestra under the leadership of Ricky Minor. Minor cut a showbiz path as music director for Ray Charles, Alicia Keys, Whitney Houston, Beyonce, then the Grammy and Super Bowl. With the Hollywood film Babylon in the mix and soundtrack embedded with 1930s swing, Minor often pushed the orchestra along with a flair for the big band sound of the late Count Basie Orchestra. The musicians were flexible in landing the prime moment of the evening, performing the Best Original Song, Naatu Naatu, from the epic Indian war film RRR. With sleepy tunes in the mix and one truly messy effort from David Byrne- Son Lux, composer M. M. Keeravani based Natuu, Natuu on the traditional beats of folk songs in Indian Villages. The marriage of dance, rhythm and song was exhilarating.

The good, the bad, the not ugly.

The good. Now is the time for Elvis's impersonator, Austin Butler, to drop the Elvis shtick. Maybe the Ricky Nelson story awaits. The bad. The Banshees of Inisherin, The Fablemans, RRR, Top Gun: Maverick were, by all counts, the best of the lot. The not ugly? We've long been fans of Jamie Lee Curtis. We've watched many an award show with Curtis in attendance, and her cheerful presence and ambitious hand-clapping infectious. She's 'roots' Hollywood and supports like a lead cheerleader from Hollywood High. The award was more about endurance and coolness. Through the decades, Curtis has kept disappointment in check and soldiered on. Bravo!

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