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94th Annual Academy Awards: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Academy Awards has struggled to stay relevant in recent years. With ratings dwindling and the world passing the outdated show by with each generation, the Academy often swings for the fences to recapture the glory days and more often than not, misses big with every lame attempt. This year introduced a number of changes in hopes of bringing magic back to the Oscars, but ultimately failed more than succeeded.

There were so many incredible, history-making wins last night. Many of which were overshadowed by a series of unfortunate events, terrible bits, and montages that did nothing but take away from the greater, better moments. The whole show felt off for fans of the Oscars, so let’s break down more than just a 15-second moment that shocked the world. Let’s look at the good, the bad, the WTF and the Ugly from last night’s Award Ceremony!

The Good

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Despite the countless eyerolls and spiteful tweets I felt compelled to write, there were a lot of really wonderful moments this year. Almost of all of which came from the actual winners, some of whom made history and overcame incredible odds to take home the gold. Let’s start with the little Sundance movie that could. “Coda” went 3 for 3 last night, taking home the underdog story of Troy Kotsur winning best supporting actor, best adapted screenplay, and the biggest win of the night, Best Picture. “Coda” campaigned hard in the latter months leading up to the big win, with the cast of the film even visiting the White House. The clear frontrunner was “The Power of the Dog,” and the tiny film purchased by AppleTV+ for $25 million closed out the night with one of the most spectacular wins. It also marks the first time in history a Sundance film won a Best Picture award.

There was also the incredible win for “Summer of Soul,” granting Questlove his first ever Oscar by capturing a moment in time long forgotten to the pages of history. It is an incredible win for both the famed drummer and the incredible film, and really deserves to be recognized more. Then we got “Dune” doing a full technical sweep, claiming 6 out of 10 Oscars last night. I think this sets the stage for “Part Two,” which I believe will be able to add a few more wins to that number in 2024. Remember, Denis Villeneuve was NOT nominated for Best Director despite almost every facet of his film being recognized in one way or another. Early predictions is the sequel not only adds him to that list, but maybe a few others to have the sequel break double digits.

While I wasn’t over the moon about them overall, I thought the hosts of Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes, and Regina Hall did the best they could considering the circumstances. Though not every joke landed, and a lot of the bits went on for far too long, all three of them felt like the genuinely wanted to be there and entertain viewers. Even Schumer (who I could do without for most things) did fine in her opening monologue, even making me laugh a few times. They weren’t all gems, but none of them were the actual trainwreck we thought they would be, either. I surprisingly enjoyed the regime change, which each host getting their own hour (sort of) and changing the set with each new host. Of all the things they tried to do this year, that was one the big swing that landed for me. it made the show feel fresh and new with each hour, and I wouldn’t mind that happening again.

Lastly, we have to recognize the historic event of a woman winning Best Director AND Best Picture two years in a row. It shouldn’t be, but this is completely unprecedented and has not happened ever. Director and Picture are about as boys club as Actor and Supporting Actor, and a woman snagging both awards two years in a row is a monumental achievement of recognition in an industry that has long failed to put their money where their mouth is. This is what it means to actually have diversity, and what it means to actually give voices to marginalized communities and push forward to gender equality. It’s not enough, of course, but it’s one helluva start and we should absolutely recognize it. Here’s hoping this continues to kick down the door and give more opportunities to incredible stories from woman everywhere.

The Bad

I don’t really even know where to start. The bad is almost indistinguishable from the ugly, because the misses were BIG, and bogged the entire evening down. For starters, the whole night just felt off and impersonal. Everything felt more like a pandering display of disconnected sketches instead of a cohesive celebration of film achievement. The Ugly section is probably going to be massive, so let’s talk about the real elephant in the room.

The decision to not air 8 awards in lieu of extended bits, needless montages and a an actual movie trailer loomed heavy over the entire evening from the start. The fact that we had to learn about “Dune’s” technical sweep via Twitter was as exhausting as it was insulting. Not just to fans of the show, but to everyone who worked to make those films great and award worthy. This includes Hans Zimmer‘s first Oscar win in 28 years.

It was even further exasperated by their feeble attempt to pretend that the unwatchable red carpet was “live” when it was not. Interviewing Jessica Chastain on the red carpet when we know damn well she’s already in the theater watching “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” win for Hair and Makeup set the entire ceremony up for failure. By the time the actual event started, fans were already jaded and put off by what wasn’t shown. It rained on the parade of minimized so much of what transpired afterwards.

Everything from the weird, extended preshow interviews of audience members (we watch to see celebrities dressed to nines, not Steve from Boyle Heights telling us he’s excited to be there) to not airing important awards, to the unnecessary James Bond montage, to the forced and overshadowed memoriam that seemed more production than dedication, and yes, the random “Lightyear” trailer airing immediately after Troy Kotsur’s incredible win. Not during a commercial break, either. They literally forced Chris Evans to record a promo and aired a trailer no one wanted DURING THE SHOW. It was bad. Really, really bad and didn’t even end up saving time as the show was longer than the last two. Everything about the show just didn’t feel right. It was bad and I hope they learned their lesson to never, ever pull this kind of shit again.

The Ugly

There was a lot more that happened to turn off even the most dedicated awards viewer. Let’s save the most obvious one for last, and talk about a few others that haven’t been talked about nearly enough. Let’s start with the Twitter Fan Moment and Cheer Moment that won out over airing the 8 awards removed from the live broadcast that amounted to next to nothing. Not only were the selections proof that Film Twitter doesn’t actually watch movies and should never ever be given a voice ever again, but it was also so lackadaisically presented that no one really even had a chance to know what the hell was going on. It just appeared as a strange, out place montage of moments with almost 0 fanfare or interest, making it’s inclusion and winners all the more baffling.

No, The Flash entering the speed force from “Zack Snyder’s Justice League” is NOT the best cheer moment of film from the last year. You have to be fucking bonkers to ever think that that beats anything in any movie ever, let alone devoid of film knowledge to pit it over Avengers Assemble from “Endgame.” This is what happens when you engage the internet. True to form, it rears its ugly head in skewed, ridiculous voting polls that clearly don’t reflect the actual opinions of general audience. Rather, it gives a megaphone to a small contingent of diehard Snyder twats who happened to be the only ones voting. Both categories, the way the were presented, the nominees included, and everything behind the decision to do it the first place is an ugly decision that should be retconned immediately. I’m all for taking some risks, but this was grotesque and yet another slap in the face to the actual filmmakers who were excluded from the broadcast for it.

We must also address the horrible, insensitive memoriam that was more show than honor. I get it; it came at a time in the show where we were all still in shock and trying to catch our bearings, but even without that it still felt cringe. I know that it’s a production, but this was way more style over substance when the substance is what matters more than anything else. The fact that the dancing choir was the highlight and not the long list of dedicated actors and filmmakers who passed was downright repulsive. So horrid in fact, that many of us missed the fact that Bob Saget was not included in the memoriam montage. That’s right. BOB FUCKING SAGET was exempt from being honored at the 94th Academy Awards Memoriam. This kind of tribute snub is what happens when you’re so desperate to make your show hip and cool for an audience that will literally never care about anything you do, you forget to include the actual people that deserve to be honored in a tribute.

And yes, we need to address the slap heard around the world. I’m not going to go in too deep into my thoughts on this. There are enough hot takes from all sides you don’t actually need my opinion to be added to the echo chamber of discourse. What I will say is that everyone involved, Chris Rock, Will Smith, the Academy, and everyone in attendance needs to do and be better.

The Academy bears responsibility for being so desperate to appeal to a younger audience that they intentionally created a show that highlighted everything else EXCEPT the awards. Rock was absolutely out of line, and told a bad joke in poor taste. Whether he knew about Jada Pinket-Smith‘s medical struggle or not, the joke was bad, and the Academy should’ve removed it the moment they heard it. No one is exempt from ridicule at award shows, but poor taste is poor taste and cooler heads should’ve prevailed and deleted it from the speech.

And yes, Will Smith is at fault for reacting poorly to that joke. Assaulting a man on national television during a live broadcast because of a bad joke is uncalled for and downright criminal. No, he was not protecting his family from anything. That is a strawman argument that only fosters toxic masculinity and the sad truth that celebrities truly live above the law. And everyone there giving him a standing ovation for an incoherent acceptance speech minutes after the assault is perhaps the most grotesque display of toxicity from the whole situation.

Jokes go wrong, people react poorly, and assault is never justified. All of those things happened and it is between them all to decide how to proceed. But cheering, applauding, and heaping praise on that same man moments after is simply obscene. I get it, the question of what were they suppose to do? Well, not that. Whatever they did was wrong, and only furthers the very real open secret that for all its change, Hollywood is an incredibly toxic place and clearly plans on continuing to look the other way when it comes to both verbal and physical abuse.

The incident exposed a very ugly side of Hollywood we all know about but seldom give credence too because it’s been so prevalent for so many years. That should not be the take away from The Academy Awards. We should be talking about the historic wins of the evening. The touching speeches from people like Kostur and Chastain, who were so genuine in their acceptance speeches it should’ve filled us with joy. We should be talking about how wonderfully sweet Lady Gaga was to Liza Minelli, in a touching display of kindness and respect that should’ve melted our hearts. We should be talking about how absolutely precious Yuh-jung Youn presenting the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor was and how deeply heartwarming it was to watch her hand the award to Kostur. We should be talking about Billie Eilish and Questlove winning their first Oscar and sheer, unbridled excitement for their wins.

Despite all the bad and the ugly that overshadowed the good, there were some really great moments that deserve to be talked about much more than what we all want to talk about, and it’s damn shame that this 15 second mishap overtook some truly historic moments.

Here’s hoping The Academy learns the right lessons from this borderline disaster and turns in a better outing in 2023. Seeing as how there was a 56% increase in viewership, that’s seems doubtful.

I guess all we can do is start drinking now for when some dumb clip of “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” wins next year’s Cheer Moment, and Kanye gets a front row seat despite having no reason to be there.

You know, for the clicks.

Grade: D+

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