Wide Shot: Oscars 2023 avoided crisis. Is that enough?
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If the Oscars wanted to avoid drama and chaos, they certainly succeeded Sunday night with the 95th Academy Awards. For all of Jimmy Kimmel’s jokes about last year’s slapping incident and the so-called crisis team created in its wake, there was little disorder to manage.
Yes, there were slap jokes, as part of an amusing and mostly conventional monologue. There was “Cocaine Bear” banter. The show resurrected Jenny from “The Banshees of Inisherin” (no, not the actual donkey from the film). There was a hot-dog-fingered David Byrne of Talking Hands, er, Heads.
No one, thank goodness, entered the Speed Force, except, one could argue, for the dancers in the “RRR” performance. Aside from the insistent QR codes, the Oscars broadcast mainly stuck to its usual devices.
In terms of the awards themselves, there was a sense of inevitability hanging over the proceedings, as if we’d traveled to this part of the multiverse before.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” dominated the major categories — with best picture and six other trophies — as expected. For Oscar prognosticators, this was fairly locked up after “Everything Everywhere” nabbed the precursor awards handed out by the Hollywood guilds, despite Netflix’s late-surging “All Quiet on the Western Front” winning big at the BAFTAs.
From the moment Jamie Lee Curtis beat Angela Bassett (from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”) in the supporting actress category, it was pretty clear that this was going to be directing duo Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s night. There were a string of wins for “All Quiet” in crafts categories and international feature, but the “Everything Everywhere” march began again with the quirky sci-fi family drama’s awards-season kung fu moves knocking down Oscar after Oscar leading up to the big finale.
And yet, the film’s success is remarkable, despite its predictability, coming roughly a year after its debut at the 2022 South by Southwest festival. It may be a reflection of a changing academy, one that’s more international, younger and in touch with contemporary culture. Whether that’s enough to keep the show relevant is an open question.
- Emotional moments beat mayhem. Who wasn’t moved by Ke Huy Quan shouting out his mom from the Dolby stage, while gripping his gold statuette? Or “RRR” composer M.M. Keeravaani (winning original song for “Naatu Naatu,” shared with lyricist Chandrabose) declaring his love for the Carpenters before breaking out into song? Letting the winners speak and get real with their feelings has always been the thing that creates the best Oscars moments.
- Politics blessedly absent. A Rep. George Santos joke was low-hanging, perhaps even bipartisan, fruit. But the political moments felt mostly unforced. “Navalny” director Daniel Roher dedicated his feature documentary Oscar to political prisoners worldwide and condemned authoritarianism “wherever it rears its head.” Imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s wife gave a heartfelt speech. This was a natural way to address the matter of Russia and Putin, rather than having Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky speak.
- Speaking of ‘Navalny.’ It’s a little ironic that CNN Films, the unit behind the winning documentary, was one of the businesses that Warner Bros. Discovery scaled back last year during its pursuit of cash flow and cost savings.
- Big A24 night. A New York-based indie studio, just over a decade old, dominated in rare fashion, winning nine Oscars total (seven for “Everything Everywhere,” two for “The Whale”). It’s the first studio to win best picture, director and all four acting categories in one year, which is a remarkable achievement, especially for an independent player.
- Don’t feel bad for streamers. Netflix’s six Oscars (four for “All Quiet”) represent a solid showing, especially considering Edward Berger’s WWI epic seemed to be hiding out in the trenches until just before its nine nominations were announced. Netflix still doesn’t have its best picture, though.
- Props to theaters? There were multiple appreciative mentions of movie theaters during the ceremony, in a year in which the best picture nominees produced better box office results than usual. “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water” were genuine blockbusters. “Elvis” did serious business. Winner “Everything Everywhere” grossed more than $100 million, which is a hit, if not a “Titanic”-sized one. Can we really blame the nominees if the ratings are still bad?
- That said... It wouldn’t have hurt audience interest to give Tom Cruise a lead actor nomination, just as a thank you for, at least according to Steven Spielberg, basically saving the movie business. Cruise did not attend.
- Part of your world. The most blatant act of corporate synergy during this ABC telecast was a big promo for parent company Disney’s live-action “Little Mermaid” remake, though the vocal abilities displayed by Halle Bailey, the new Ariel, helped offset the naked commercialism. And then there was that Warner Bros. montage.
- The Gaga show. Someone in my Oscar pool group chat called Lady Gaga’s stripped-down “Hold My Hand” performance her “MTV Unplugged” phase. Spot on.
- The Oscars is a 3.5-hour show. And we just have to deal with that fact, apparently. Sunday’s telecast was about three hours and 40 minutes long, like last year’s. It’s hard to get anyone, especially young audiences, to sit for nearly four hours to watch a live telecast. But this is the card the academy has dealt itself.
All about the Oscars
— The Oscars’ best picture might seem radical. But it’s as traditional as they come. Times film critic Justin Chang’s take: For all its representational achievements, the sentimental, self-important “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is not as bold a choice as it appears.
— Was this the ‘Year of the Comeback’ at the Oscars? Mark Olsen: This awards season gave a special spotlight to veteran performers Ke Huy Quan, Jamie Lee Curtis, Brendan Fraser and Michelle Yeoh.
— Backstage at the 2023 Oscars: Exclusive photos from behind the scenes. The stars were out.
— Gaga and Rihanna! Oh my! (a donkey and a bear too): The must-see 2023 Oscars moments. Slap references, some course correction and other must-see moments — including animal attractions — from the 95th Academy Awards.
— At SXSW, an unexpected banking crisis disrupts a tech-world tradition. Amid the failure of Silicon Valley Bank, the annual tech and culture summit South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, has taken on a decidedly somber tone.
— Bob Iger admits Disney theme park pricing moves were ‘a little too aggressive.’ Iger also acknowledged that the initial $6.99 monthly fee for streaming service Disney+ was too low. Now the company is looking to cut its streaming losses.
— Fox News anchor Maria Bartiromo is front and center in Dominion’s defamation suit. The host of “Sunday Morning Futures” and morning host for Fox Business Network figures prominently in Dominion’s claims that the network lied about election fraud.
— Spotify charts podcasting future after controversies, challenges and shakeups. Spotify announced a handful of new podcast partnerships, production tools and a Batman spinoff starring Hasan Minhaj as the Riddler.
Number of the week
The U.S. movie theater business lost more than 2,000 cinema screens during the pandemic, according to a report issued last week by the Cinema Foundation — surprisingly few, considering the damage that the COVID-19 crisis wrought on the industry.
The American theatrical landscape lost 5.3% of the 44,283 screens it had in 2019. As of 2022, there are 42,063. There may be more losses to come as Regal winds its way through the bankruptcy process and AMC wrestles with its debt.
To avoid additional closures, theaters need more films. The U.S.-Canada box office came in at $7.53 billion in 2022, 34% shy of 2019 levels. Not coincidentally, there were 36% fewer wide releases last year than there were the year before the coronavirus outbreak hit.
Theaters are anticipating 40% more wide releases in 2023 than there were last year. That should help, big-time.
Best of the web
— Vinyl sold more units than CDs in 2022 for the first time in decades, according to the RIAA. (Rolling Stone)
— Missed this one: Did you know there are “reality TV coaches”? Casting consultants are helping regular people get on their favorite shows. (Wall Street Journal)
— Anthony Pellicano gets the ripped-from-the-headlines documentary treatment. (Daily Beast)
— GQ asks why so many guys are obsessed with “Master and Commander.”
— The way Americans watch local sports teams is about to change. (WSJ)
— The Tucker Carlson schtick melts away (Politico)
With my brain fried after the Oscars, I watched the first two episodes of “History of the World, Part II” on Hulu. Guess what? It’s funny!
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