MCN Commentary & Analysis

The State of Oscar. 021020. Oscar’s Climax (Pt 1 – The Rundown).

Simply… a rundown of the show… with a few bits of commentary.

Janelle Monáe opens the show with an homage to a movie that was not nominated that turns into a really cool number paying homage to other movies that were not nominated. (There was a dancing Joker, and other costumes represented Dolemite Is My Name, Queen & Slim, US, Midsommar, and a couple of 1917 and Little Women dancers as well.) Then, the great non-movie performer Billy Porter, who we had a long time with in the also all-race, all-youth pre-show, turns up singing a song from the not-nominated for BP Rocketman. Monáe then comes into the audience in a Midsommar outfit and shouts out “the women, the black, and the queer.” Enormous energy. But basically a five-minute apology to open the show.

Rock and Martin kill it.

Regina King, last year’s Supporting Actress winner, as is traditional, announces Supporting Actor Brad Pitt.

Beanie Feldman announces Mindy Kaling to announce Animated Feature and Animated Short. Why are they doing the short after the feature???

First Nominated Song. Idina Menzel and women who voiced her role in other countries. Great idea. Not very good execution. Not a great song, which made it harder, as the choice suggested the song had the kind of world appeal that “Let It Go” did.

Kelly Marie Tran and Questlove intro an intro that sexualizes Keanu Reeves.

Keanu and Diane Keaton announce Original Screenplay. Nice nomination package, although a really odd set of choices from those movies. Bong’s first win.

Natalie Portman and Timothée Chalamet (with his Members Only tux) announce Adapted Screenplay. Taika gets an Oscar.

Presenters Shia LaBeouf and Zack Gottsagen for Live Action Short. Representation of cognitive disability, demanding an applause break, while based on its lack of nominations and its great-for-a-tiny-indie $20 million gross, you know less than half the people in the room had any idea who Gottsagen was and less than 10% of the television audience did. There was something insightful and beautiful watching LaBeouf help Gottsagen through the moment, which was clearly not easy for him.

Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig start their funny material at the 53 minute mark of the show. Production Design goes to someone other than 1917 at 57 minutes, the first crack shown. Costume is announced at the 1 hour mark of the show.

Second Song nominee with a chorus in the background that Oscar cameras emphasize, repeatedly focusing on its wheelchair-bound member. Commercial break at 1:04.

(A commercial for Quibi encourages short attention spans at serious moments. Ha Ha Fucking Ha.)

Oscar returns from a three-minute break with a pretty good package on docs. Mark Ruffalo does Best Doc and Best Short Doc, weirdly in that order.

Mahershala Ali announces Best Supporting Actress. Laura Dern gives a lovely speech and remains one of Hollywood’s most loved people.

At 1:25 in the show, the mysterious case of Anthony Ramos, who 1% or less of the audience has ever laid eyes on before, and will star in In The Heights this summer. He explains that he was in “Hamilton” (on Broadway) and intros Lin-Manuel Miranda for no apparent reason other than to let us know that he was invited to The Oscars as the ultimate plus-one or as an homage to Jimmy Kimmel pulling people in from the mall to be on the show in 2017. (The show’s producers don’t help the audience out.) Miranda intros a song package in less time than Anthony Ramos spent barely introducing himself.

A very clever package about how songs and the visuals of the movies become connected forever. The problem is, the package producers don’t seem to trust the moments in which the songs became indelible and on top of that, they include songs that aren’t actually indelible in order to have more moments of color and also include musical movie numbers, which are really not the point of the package at all. Why? We’ll know in a moment…

Eminem! 47-Year-Old Eminem. (At first, I thought Todd Phillips was rapping.) Why? He refused to show up at the Oscars 18 years ago when he won Best Song. The song was released as a video a month before the movie 8 Mile was released, which was great marketing for the film, as it was a massive hit when the film was released in November.

But why are we having this song honored in the middle of Oscar night 2020? Into The Unknown.


Salma and Oscar, with a great joke for Salma about holding an Oscar on that stage. Oscar, smartly, throws away the “Oscar not-so-white anymore” joke. Sound Editing and Sound Mixing.

Randy Newman sings his nominated Toy Story 4 song, which features the unfortunate lyrics, “Got nothing more to say, you’re not listening anyway.”

1:48 Anthony Ramos is back! Wait! It’s not Anthony Ramos. It’s Utkarsh Ambudkar. He says, “I do not belong here.” Millions agree. He’s another Lin-Manuel Miranda acolyte.

1:50 Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell announce Cinematography and Editing. Very funny.

1:58- 2:00 Picturing the Academy Museum with an announced opening date in December 2020… which follows earlier opening expectations in parts of 2019.

2:03 Zazie Beetz intros the black conductor for the show, Leno veteran Ricky Minor, who speaks of his love for Cynthia Erivo, who then performs her song from Harriet.

2:12 Comedy duo Rebel Wilson and James Corden don cheap cat outfits and make fun of their failed movie. Funny… but anti-cinema. Special FX.

2:16 Ray Romano and Sandra Oh, a wonderful TV star who has not been in a movie in five years, but is Korean-Canadian. Make-Up & Hair. Romano drops the Pesci-connected F-bomb. Oh responds with a brilliant retort of, “I think they will bleep that. Not everything is Netflix here.”

2:25 Penelope Cruz announces International Feature. Parasite takes its second award and Bong thinks his night is over. It’s not. Standing ovation suggests how the night will go.

2:28 Elton John is a colorful, American Bandstand-style presentation of one of his least-inspired songs.

2:35 Taika Waititi is the only nominee called upon to speak onstage with the now-required Dolby Theater acknowledgement that the theater is built on Native American land and then to announce The Governors Awards, which get no package… just a nod to Studi and Davis sitting in their seats.

2:37 Three superhero women, Gadot/Larson/Weaver, make fun of men and tell the audience that “all women are superheroes.” And they announce a female conductor will lead the orchestra for one number, doing the five Original Scores for three minutes. That’s three minutes of a three-hour-plus show. (What progress!!!)

Best Score. Hildur Guðnadóttir wins, as most of the precursors had predicted. Lovely speech.

Best Song. Elton John and Bernie Taupin suggest this is a defining moment after being one of the most successful musical duos in history.

2:51: Spike Lee comes out in a Kobe purple-and-gold tuxedo with Kobe’s number on the lapels to give our Best Director. Bong.

2:55 Spielberg introduces In Memoriam, throwing to Billie Eilish, who mumbles through “Yesterday.” The segment leads with Kobe Bryant, which seems odd. The package seems more than a little rushed, with just a 45-second non-singing break and no more than four seconds for any of the passed and no clips of anyone.

3:02 George McKay in the cheap seats. Makes a joke about multiple introductions.

3:03 Olivia Coleman does great announcing Best Actor. Joaquin wins and offers up a three-minute, 41-second stemwinder of a speech that will be historic, even if some people hate the film for which he won.

3:10 Rami Malek announced Best Actress, in a hurry. Renée Zellweger wins and decides to give her speech, regardless of the bomb that Joaquin Phoenix just exploded in the room. A more in-the-moment person would have known instinctively not to “have her moment” with a very conventional speech (that seems to have forgotten she already has an Oscar) for 3:57. It was almost as though longtime manager John Carrabino leaned over to her and told her to go longer than Joaquin. Not good.

3:21 Jane Fonda, new and improved fighting advocate, thanks to Greta Thunberg, arrives to announce Best Picture. She takes an extra beat after looking at the card before announcing… Parasite.

3:34 Show’s Over.

15 Responses to “The State of Oscar. 021020. Oscar’s Climax (Pt 1 – The Rundown).”

  1. Pat Hobby says:

    anti-cinema.?? The whole God damn thing was anti-cinema.

  2. John Rieber says:

    We know now that the ratings are the lowest of all time – not the fault this time of the nominated films, many of which were big hits. Where were the stars? You mention the lesser-known Talent put on screen, but no Denzel, no Sandra Bullock, Meryl, Clooney, Damon, Julia Roberts, Daniel Craig, Jamie Lee Curtis or any of the “Knives Out” group. No “Avengers: Endgame” leads. You were either nominated or you stayed away, which is too bad because a star-studded night of celebration sends a bigger message – and the lack of “Hollywood Royalty” diminishes what should be the industry’s Super Bowl of stars. Oh, and not to pick on the Director, but when Monae struts out with her “Midsommar” flower dress, they cut to Olivia Colman – NOT Florence Pugh, who wore that costume, and as an Oscar nominee is sitting in the audience!

  3. palmtree says:

    Anthony Ramos was in A Star Is Born and was featured in that a decent amount. Sure, he’s most known for Hamilton, but give the man his credit.

  4. Bobby says:

    The star power of the presenters seems to have gone way, way down over the years. I can remember back in the day when every single presenter that came out was a big A-list star, or at the very least kind of a red-hot up-and-comer that people were excited about, Neve Campbell right after Scream or somebody along those lines. Nowadays it’s really underwhelming. Seems like it’s mostly B- and C-listers and tv actors. Sandra Oh, Josh Gad, Beanie Feldstein, Anthony Ramos, even somebody like a Salma Hayek – all lovely, talented people, I’m sure, and successful and famous actors, but none of them would have sniffed an Oscar ceremony 20 years ago. Of course, part of that too is that there are simply way fewer movie stars these days, since they’re going extinct.

  5. Bob Burns says:

    I always enjoy watching the show.

    The Academy is stuck with awarding actor-driven dramas. Film makers all over the world make actor-driven dramas just as well, and often as Hollywood, and the Brits. The best actor-driven-drama-films are almost always international. Hollywood’s unique skill is its ability to create giant international tent-pole event franchises, made with cutting edge technology, with books and tie-ins across viewing platforms, and to merchandise and fashion. In other words multiyear, international cultural sensations….. films which form common sets of mental furniture around the world for generations.

    The Oscars, as formulated, are more and more about preserving a beloved American folk tradition, Hollywood glamour, like a civil war re-enactment, or the preservation of a big old plantation house full of antiques…. the museum honoring a lost way of life when actor driven dramas mattered.

  6. palmtree says:

    I definitely felt Geena Davis and Wes Studi should have gotten a package. They’ve done so in previous years and before that they gave the award at the actual big ceremony. That they couldn’t even be bothered to share a little bit about their achievements was just insulting.

  7. PanopticonNYC says:

    Here’s a thought… and I’m saying this as a liberal dude from a coastal state… is it possible that the rating were lower this year because the film with the most nominations, Joker, has a large audience of people who don’t want to watch a bunch of “SJW elites” talking down to them? Could argue the same for the audience of Once Upon a Time, 1917, The Irishman and Ford v. Ferrari… I also want an inclusive ceremony with a diverse crowd of winners, but this years’ ceremony was covered in flop sweat, reminding us how non-racist and non-mysoginist the academy is while honoring films that are almost entirely about old white men… I think all those movies (except Joker) are great, incidentally, but a lot of them clearly appeal to audiences of a certain age and background.

    Pretty awesome about Parasite though… honoring genre, foreign and daring films is never a bad thing…

  8. Hcat says:

    Of course it was the lowest rated telecast, like most award shows it will be slowly slipping away. non diehards are not going to watch for 3 1/2 hours for content they can get through in 30 minutes the next day. I don’t think there will again be films nominated that will get it up to 40 million. Its just the times.

    I agree with whomever mentioned above that the guest list seemed a little light. The only animated presenters were SNL alumni (counting Martin as an honorary).

    I always thought it was a distinct no no to advertise films during the broadcast, yet I noticed that Disney snuck a Mulan in there.

  9. Stella's Boy says:

    PanopticonNYC, I don’t think that’s why the ratings were lower. Ratings keep dropping even though we have expanded BP nominations so that comic book and other popular movies get nominated for BP. That hasn’t made more people want to watch. This is just the way things are in the era of peak TV and fragmented audiences. People are also watching The Outsider or the NBA or countless other programs. They’re following who wins on Twitter or Facebook if they care at all. Or they’re not watching anything at all. This is anecdotal but I’ve been teaching undergrads for five years. Every semester I am struck by how many don’t watch TV or go to the movies much if it all. Nothing save for maybe the Super Bowl has widespread cultural reach and significance these days.

  10. Hcat says:

    If you could make the Oscars an actual cultural event, where you go to someone’s house and consume 3,000 calories in dips and drinks, then you can sustain viewership like the superbowl. I mean when was the last time you went to an Oscar party?

  11. Stella's Boy says:

    Never. I never went to an Oscars party even when I watched them. I don’t know anyone who has hosted or attended one either. And I don’t know anyone who watches it. But I have been to Super Bowl parties in recent years.

  12. Yancy says:

    Swipe all you will at Newman, his most recent album – “Dark Matter” – shows he hasn’t lost an iota of his genius.

  13. Zhenya says:

    I just hosted my 25th Oscar Party. Nowadays it is usually just family and they don’t stay till the end as we are on EST (I take the next day off). Everyone had fun even though they did not see many of the films. I always provide plenty of champagne and food themed around the BP nominees. Always try to make it elegant as Oscar is one of the few remaining elegant events.

  14. palmtree says:

    I went to an Oscar party this year where we had an Oscar pool. Incidentally, I came in second with 19 out of 24 correct (thanks in part to the Gurus of Gold).

  15. Ray Pride says:


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