The live broadcast of the Oscars on March 27 will feature additions and subtractions, both motivated by an attempt to boost the declining annual ratings of awards shows, this one in particular.
Unlike the past three years, the telecast, scheduled for 8 p.m. on ABC (Channel 6), will have one host, a trio of them – comedians Wanda Sykes and Amy Schumer and actress Regina Hall. They will be the first to act as emcee since Jimmy Kimmel took on the task in 2018.
In 2019, Kevin Hart was supposed to host the Oscars, but protests over comments he made during a nightclub number caused him to pull out of the job and he wasn’t replaced.
Subtracted is the number of categories that will receive live coverage. To save time and perhaps accommodate perceived audience wishes, ABC and the Oscar show’s producers opted to tape the eight-category announcement before the televised portion of the proceedings began. These recorded segments will appear on air during the main broadcast, but only for attribution. This measure saves time watching recipients exit their seats, approach the podium and deliver speeches.
The elimination of live presentation was questioned and protested by many in the film industry, especially since among the categories cut was Best Editing, a crucial role for any recorded product. Other relevant categories include Original Music, Sound Design, and Best Shorts (Animation, Live Action, and Documentary). In its statement, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences says that all of these categories will be represented and announced, with speeches edited into the general program, but they will not be in the spotlight. .
I love having hosts, but I have to admit that the Oscar shows were just as enjoyable and more effective in the years when no one was around. Jimmy Kimmel is naturally funny. The question for me will be whether Sykes, Schumer and Hall will be this quick with a zingy ad lib or whether they will betray obvious effort or launch into written sketches that tend to spoil shows.
I have mixed feelings about eliminating the categories, especially since they’re covered if not live and in the moment. The dilemma is that a televised awards ceremony serves two masters, with the industry and its practitioners being honoured, and television.
The standard award show format does not serve television. It can be tedious and boring, especially in this age of quick cuts and a few frames that last more than five seconds on screen.
Yet the programs are industry events, recognizing the top pick of a year or season and giving certain artists – composers, editors, writers, hosts – a moment in the spotlight that is usually reserved for performers. and, perhaps, to the directors.
I’ve always considered myself and the TV camera an intruder in an industry that is even boring by chance. My quibbles have never been with the necessities of the Academy or the camera time given to generally unrecognized people on their birthday. It’s with showy, unintelligent television production trying to knock the socks off but avoid reaching for the knee highs, if not the mute buttons, to defend the mess the producers are creating, especially with the music production numbers (invariably gruesome) and business for the host (usually juvenile and stupid, Ellen de Generes’ selfie in 2014 being an exception).
Seeing the unknown acknowledged hasn’t been nearly as painful over the years as hearing writers struggle to define what acting, editing, or cinematography are overly flowery terms that make presenters choke in reading them. I would gladly trade listening to one of these insulting atrocities for seeing a composer of a better score called to the podium live.
Sunday will tell if the hosts and changes are an improvement or another kind of status quo.
The good news is even that the 2021 movie year has been cut short, with many nominees being viewed on TV screens, laptops and smart phones rather than in cinemas, it’s been a good year for movies. and performance.
I saw all the candidates. Here’s an overview of the top five categories for people who don’t have one.
BEST PICTURE: The lineup here is incredible with splashy remakes of “Dune” and “West Side Story” rivaling an original like “Belfast” or an adaptation like “Power of the Dog.” The latter seems to be a prize giver’s favorite although I find it overrated and difficult to visualize smoothly. The 10 choices are so good that others, like “Being the Ricardos”, “The House of Gucci” or “The French Dispatch” were not retained. Prediction: Power of the dog. Preference: Belfast, the most satisfying movie I’ve seen in years.
BEST ACTOR: No character was alike in this category which shows Will Smith as a struggling father, Javier Bardem channeling Desi Arnaz, Benedict Cumberbatch being quietly sinister, nurturing and witty all 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’s a terrific quintet, featuring three well-known icons of the genre who tend to garner votes. Kristen Stewart dazzled as Princess Diana but was confined to a limited attitude and mood, Nicole Kidman loved Lucy more than ever, and Jessica Chastain was captivated as Tammy Bakker while Olivia Colman gave meaning to a confusing role, and Penélope Cruz was a sunny delight. Prediction: Nicole Kidman. Preference: Nicole Kidman.
BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE: Is there a character that JK Simmons can’t master? Same question for Jesse Plemons. Troy Kotsur is a deaf man playing a deaf man, something the Academy loves, especially since he does such a great job as an actor. Ciarán Hinds represents three actors from “Belfast”. Kodi Smit-McPhee is wonderful in “Power of the Dog”. Prediction: Troy Kotsur. Preference: Jesse Plemons.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: It’s an amazing group and doesn’t even include Caitriona Balfe for ‘Belfast’ or Tilda Swinton from ‘The French Dispatch’. Ariana DeBose can go down in history as an actress who wins an Oscar for the exact same role for which a previous performer (Rita Moreno) was honored. (Robert De Niro in “The Godfather, Part II” and Joaquin Phoenix in “The Joker” do not count; same role, not exact.) Judi Dench lets herself be seen naturally, Jessie Buckley amazes, as always, Kirsten Dunst adds to a cavalcade of great performances, and Aunjanue Ellis creates real power. Prediction: Ariana DeBose. Preference: Jessie Buckley.
Bring back ‘Bridgerton’
Friday marks the return of “Bridgerton” to Netflix.
Naturally, a sensational new romance will percolate in Shonda Rhimes’ formula for the series in season 2. It will, of course, be narrated by the anonymous Lady Whistledown who we now know to be Penelope Featherington, although voiced by Julie Andrews and unbeknownst to the early 19th century British society represented.
Simon Basset and Daphne Bridgerton are now married and settling into their ducal responsibilities. The teases in the season preview imply that Bridgerton’s eldest son, Anthony, will be this season’s reluctant take and 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 love interest ultimately rewarded. Kate’s sister Edwina, it seems, will then be free to be the belle of London balls once Kate falls in love.
I’m not a fan of “Bridgerton”, but it’s a confusing guilty pleasure.
Miss Blue on the radio waves
As good as some liners and substitutes can be, sometimes when you swap what you’re expecting for something else, the results might not be as pleasing.
At around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Miss Blue, DJ for WRTI (90.1 FM), in the jazz half of her broadcast day, presented a recording of Ella Fitzgerald singing Rodgers and Hammerstein (and winner of the Academy Award for Best Song in 1945 ) “It might as well be spring.
It’s one of my favorite songs of all time. I was grateful that I didn’t arrive at my destination until I could hear it. Even if I had, I would have waited in my car to enjoy the entire interpretation, as I did with a piano concerto by Saint-Saëns during the WRTI classical half-day.
The moment came, and there were an awkward five seconds of dead air until a WRTI promo popped up.
Miss Blue returned to explain the vagaries of live streaming. A technical glitch prevented Ella’s “Might As Well” from going from intended to air.
Instead, Miss Blue reported, the station would air the next track listed and return with a different version of “It Might as Well Be Spring.”
How awful it was.
I underestimate. The word that applies is “parody”.
Rather than hearing the pure tones of Ella Fitzgerald, as Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote the song, WRTI treated its unwary listeners to a horribly inept rendition of King Pleasure, a novelty act from a bygone era of the jazz.
King Pleasure, in his patented style, scrambled the lyrics and melody in a way that was consistent with jazz but in this case defied the song’s taste and intent. Her version was not only a big disappointment but unworthy of the aerial game and far from the league of an 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 deserves my disdain. Yes, this version is in the jazz canon, but in this case it was canon with a clown coming out of it.
A note to Miss Blue: Oscar Hammerstein’s name, without exception, is pronounced “Hammer-stine”, not “Hammer-steen”, a mistake that is reprehensible. To put the point in context (and without wanting to be too silly), 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 correct him “All-bee”.
WRTI Classical Announcers are so thorough and accurate in pronouncing the names of composers, conductors and performers. Their jazz colleagues can learn from them.
Although, in my opinion, mistaking a ‘steen’ for a ‘stine’ pales next to how cavalier the jazz team is to give credit to the right songwriter. Very often, a tune is attributed to the artist who recorded or arranged it rather than to its author. For example, Nina Simone didn’t write “Feelin’ Good”. Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse did. Miss Simone recorded a glorious version of the song which has become a classic, as has much of her work. (To be fair, this mistake happened on NBC’s “The Voice,” but it serves as an example of what typically happens.)
Neal Zoren’s TV column appears on Monday.