The live Oscar broadcast March 27 will have some additions and subtractions, both motivated by an attempt to boost the annual fading ratings of award shows, this one in particular.
As opposed to the past three years, the telecast, scheduled for 8 p.m. on ABC (Channel 6), will have a host, a trio of them – comedians Wanda Sykes and Amy Schumer and actress Regina Hall. They will the first to act as emcee since Jimmy Kimmel handled the task in 2018.
In 2019, Kevin Hart was supposed to be the Oscar host, but protests to comments he made during a nightclub act caused him to bow out of the job and he was not replaced.
Subtracted is the number of categories that will receive live coverage. To save time, and perhaps respond to perceived audience wishes, ABC and the Oscar show producers elected to tape the announcement of eight categories before the televised portion of the proceedings begin. These taped segments will appear on air during the main broadcast but only as a mention. This measure saves the time of watching recipients emerge from their seats, approach the podium, and deliver speeches.
The elimination of live presentation has been questioned and protested by several in the movie industry, especially since among the categories chopped was Best Editing, a role crucial to any recorded product. Other categories affected include Original Score, Sound Design, and Best Shorts (Animated, Live Action, and Documentary). In its statement, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences says all of these categories will be represented and announced, with speeches edited into the general program, but they will not get the spotlight acting, directing, screenwriting, cinematography, and other categories receive.
I enjoy having hosts, but have to admit the Oscar shows were just as enjoyable and more efficient in the years none was present. Jimmy Kimmel is naturally funny. The question for me will be whether Sykes, Schumer, and Hall will be as quick with a zingy ad lib or whether they will betray obvious effort or go into written sketches that tend to mar broadcasts.
I’m mixed about the elimination of categories, especially as they are being covered if not live and in the moment. The dilemma is a televised award ceremony serves two masters, the industry and its practitioners being honored, and television.
Standard award show format doesn’t serve television. It can be tedious and boring, especially in this era of quick cutting and few images lasting on screen for more than five seconds.
Yet, the programs are industry events, acknowledging the voted best of a year or season and giving some artists – composers, editors, writers, animators – a moment in the spotlight that is usually reserved for performers and, perhaps, directors.
I always regarded myself, and the TV camera, as an interloper at an industry even that is dull by happenstance. My cavils have never been with necessities of the Academy or camera time given to the usually unsung on their day of celebration. It’s been with showy, unintelligent television production that attempts to knocks one socks off but makes off reach for knee-highs, if not mute buttons, in defense of the mess the producers create, especially with musical production numbers (invariably horrid) and business for the host (usually juvenile and stupid, Ellen de Generes’s 2014 selfie being an exception).
Seeing the unknown recognized has not nearly been as painful over the years as hearing writers struggle to define what acting or editing or cinematography is overbearingly florid terms that make presenters choke while reading them. I would gladly trade listening one of those insulting atrocities to see a composer of a Best Score called to the podium live.
Sunday will tell if hosts and edits are an improvement or a different kind of status quo.
The good news is even thought the 2021 film year was abbreviated, with a lot of nominees viewed on television, laptop, and smart phone screens instead of in theaters, it was a good year for movies and performances.
I have seen all of the nominees. Here is a rundown of the five major categories for people who have not.
BEST PICTURE: The range here is amazing with splashy remakes of “Dune” and “West Side Story” vying against an original like ‘Belfast” or adaptation like “Power of the Dog.” The last seems to be the favorite of award givers though I find it overrated and difficult to view fluidly. The 10 choices are so good that others, such as “Being the Ricardos,” “The House of Gucci” or “The French Dispatch” did not make the cut. Prediction: Power of the Dog. Preference: Belfast, the most satisfying film I’ve seen in years.
BEST ACTOR: No character was alike in this category that shows Will Smith as a striving father, Javier Bardem channeling Desi Arnaz, Benedict Cumberbatch being quietly sinister, nurturing, and spiritual at once, Andrew Garfield delivering a tour de force, and Denzel Washington as a worthy Macbeth. Prediction: Will Smith. Preference: Andrew Garfield.
BEST ACTRESS: Here is a formidable quintet, with three playing known icons of the kind that tend to garner award votes. Kristen Stewart dazzled as Princess Diana but was confined to a limited attitude and mood, Nicole Kidman made one love Lucy more than ever, and Jessica Chastain was captivated as Tammy Bakker while Olivia Colman made some sense of a jumbled role, and Penélope Cruz was a sunny delight. Prediction: Nicole Kidman. Preference: Nicole Kidman.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Is there any character J.K. Simmons can’t ace? Same question for Jesse Plemons. Troy Kotsur is a deaf man playing a deaf man, something the Academy adores, especially since he does such a fine job as an actor. Ciarán Hinds represents three actors from ‘Belfast.” Kodi Smit-McPhee is marvelous in “Power of the Dog.” Prediction: Troy Kotsur. Preference: Jesse Plemons.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: This is one stunning group and doesn’t even include Caitriona Balfe for “Belfast” or Tilda Swinton from “The French Dispatch.” Ariana DeBose can make history as an actress who earns as Oscar for the same exact role for which a previous performer (Rita Moreno) was honored. (Robert DeNiro in “The Godfather, Part II and Joaquin Phoenix in “The Joker” don’t count; same role, not exact.) Judi Dench lets one see her au naturel, Jessie Buckley astounds, as always, Kirsten Dunst adds to a cavalcade of great portrayals, and Aunjanue Ellis creates true power. Prediction: Ariana DeBose. Preference: Jessie Buckley.
Bringing back ‘Bridgerton’
Friday marks the return of “Bridgerton” on Netflix.
Naturally, a new sensational romance will percolate according to the Shonda Rhimes formula for the series in Season 2. It will, of course, be reported by the anonymous Lady Whistledown we know now to be Penelope Featherington, though voiced by Julie Andrews and unbeknownst to the early 19th century British society depicted.
Simon Basset and Daphne Bridgerton are now married and settling in their ducal responsibilities. Teases in the season preview imply the eldest Bridgerton son, Anthony, will be the reluctant catch of this season and that an equally reluctant South Asian woman, Kate Sharma, modeled by Rhimes or her writers on the Kate of “The Taming of the Shrew,“ will be his eventually requited love interest. Kate’s sister, Edwina, it seems, will then be free to be the belle of London balls once Kate is smitten.
I am not a fan of “Bridgerton,” but it’s a diverting guilty pleasure.
Miss Blue on the radio waves
As good as some understudies and substitutes can be, sometimes you when you exchange the expected for something else, the results might not be so agreeable.
At about 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Miss Blue, a deejay for WRTI (90.1 FM), in the jazz half of its broadcast day, introduced a recording of Ella Fitzgerald singing Rodgers and Hammerstein’s (and 1945 Oscar recipient for Best Song) “It Might As well Be Spring.”
It’s one of my favorite songs of all time. I was grateful I would not arrive at my destination before I would get to hear it. Even if I did, I would have waited in my car to enjoy the entire rendition, as I did with a Saint-Saens piano concerto during WRTI’s classical half a day later.The moment came, and there was an awkward five seconds of dead air until a WRTI promo came on.
Miss Blue returned to explain the hazards of live broadcast. A technical glitch prevented Ella’s “Might As Well” from making it from intention to air.
Instead, Miss Blue reported, the station would air the next listed tune and return with a different version of “It Might as Well Be Spring.”What a horror that was.
I underestimate. The word that applies is “travesty.”
Rather than hearing the pure tones of Ella Fitzgerald, as the song as Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote it, WRTI treated its unwary listeners to a hideously inept rendition by King Pleasure, a novelty act from a bygone era of jazz.
King Pleasure, in his patented style, scrambled lyrics and melody in a way that is in keeping with jazz but that, in this case, defied taste and the song’s intention. His version was not only a great disappointment but unworthy of air play and nowhere near the league of one Ella Fitzgerald.
None of this is Miss Blue’s fault. She was faced with a glitch and handled it well. Whoever chose the King Pleasure recording as a substitute earns my disdain. Yes, that version is within the canon of jazz, but in this case, it was a canon with a clown shooting out of it.
One note to Miss Blue: Oscar Hammerstein’s name, without exception, is pronounced “Hammer-stine,” not “Hammer-steen,” a mistake that is objectionable. To put the point in context (and without wanting to be too fatuous), I was talking to Leonard Bernstein when someone came up and said, “Mr. Bern-steen.” Mr. Bernstein’s first words were, “It’s ‘Bern-stine,’ always and only ‘Bern-stine.’” Edward Albee would walk away from anyone who pronounced his name “Al-bee’ (as in Al Bundy) rather than the correct “All-bee.’
WRTI’s classical announcers are so conscientious and precise about pronunciation of composer’s, conductor’s, and performer’s names. Their jazz colleagues can learn from them.
Even though, to my mind, confusing a “steen” for a “stine” pales next to how cavalier the jazz crew is about giving credit to the proper composer. So often, a tune is attributed to the artist who recorded or arranged it rather that its writer. For instance, Nina Simone did not write “Feelin’ Good.” Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse did. Miss Simone recorded a glorious version of the song that became classic, as much of her work did. (To be fair, this mistake occurred on NBC’s “The Voice,” but it serves as an example of what typically happens.)
Neal Zoren’s television column appears Monday.
Source: Berkshire mont