Vive la difference.
Or not .
So last night’s Oscars were a departure from anything ever staged before. Plenty of diversity, not much of same-same, virtually no entertainment in the process of announcing the winners. The party started with lots of anticipation. It ended with a thud.
Now Monday Morning Quarterbacks are pondering the lowest-ever ratings. Nomadland became Nowatchland. The numbers are in: 9.8 million viewers, and a 1.9 rating among the priority adults 18-49 age bracket, a dramatic decline from last year’s 23.64 million and 5.3 in the demographics. The figures reflect a 58 per cent drop of viewers, 64 per cent in demos. But the Academy Awards are not alone. All awards events have lost viewers in these pandemic times. The Grammys dropped 51 per cent, the Golden Globes 62 per cent and the Screen Actors Guild 52 per cent.
Are viewers fatigued with the genre? The Oscars used to be the centrifugal force of awards ceremonies, with entertainment segments in-between envelope-opening, and a tradition for Hollywood’s best to strut their stuff.
This year’s telecast broke many of the roles. No red carpet (did I see blue?). OK, some chit-chatting from Union Station’s exteriors, with the enough gowns and tuxes to dazzle.The best song contenders were via videos displayed outside of the main telecast.The on camera boasted a coterie of nominees, heavy on the dark side of filmmaking: hair ad makeup, cinematographers, screenwriters, etc.
No emcee; Regina King, a nominee, opened the evening and announced a few winners. The site – a tiered, circular venue with a teeny stage – included a few nominees like Glenn Close, Viola Davis, Frances McDormand and Daniel Kahuuya – but minus heavy hitter names (not nominated this year) from the recent past, like Leonardo di Caprio, Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep, Michael Douglas, and, well, you get the idea.
The size of the room – looked like a filled restaurant – mandated only nominees and presenters filling the seats. No limit on acceptance speeches – a few went on and on – from many worthy tech winners, whose names and faces were not widely known to home viewers.
–Youn Yu-Jung, first Korean to win an acting award (best supporting actress) and a delightful acceptance speech, clutching her Oscar and telling her two boys mama was coming home with a statue.
— Frances McDormand and her out-of-the-box, never-mind-the-fashions presence and perkiness; ‘twas her third Oscar, for best actress (“Nomadland”).
–The unexpected upset of Anthony Hopkins (“The Father”) upsetting Chadwick Boseman (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) and the former acknowledging the latter in his acceptance speech.
— Best Director winner Chloe Zhao (“Nomadland”) and her pigtail ‘do, an Oscar first?
After tossing away the usual parade of winners, normally leading up to the final Best Picture presentation, the producers anticipated the aforementioned Boseman to win Best Actor, so obviously delayed the actor nod to follow Best Picture. The surprise created an embarrassing and sour finish. Some traditions should prevail.