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Thank you, er, hopefully the Academy invites me back.

Oscar Winners 2021

Well, at least this year’s Oscars gave everyone something to talk about, so let’s hear it for Chris Rock and Will Smith. We’re obviously at a stage where the entire ceremony and its participants could, if it was so desired, be virtually simulated, so this incident at least sparks the possibility that everything we’re seeing right now, even or especially in the world of celebrity, isn’t scripted, by whichever side that may be at that particular moment.

Indeed, this altercation could surely only be topped by Sean Penn publicly “smelting” his Oscars for the Academy’s crime of failing to give Volodymyr Zelenskiy a platform. Does Penn mean to suggest he’ll melt them down? Or fart in their general direction? Either way, a must-see.

It certainly seems that the ceremony was going down as an expected woke/dull/flat clunker before Will’s savage takedown. It managed to run to 3 hours 40 minutes in all, despite taking a wrecking ball to a selection of less-esteemed categories. The host complement of Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes was as miraculous as everyone predicted, with Hall indulging some lamery of groping a selection of Hollywood menfolk (a sure sign of how we have “progressed”) by way of a coof test, and Schumer delivering a yesteryear joke about Leo saving the planet for his girlfriends.

It took a “real” comedian like Rock to create a modicum of friction, picking up where his last (2016) Jada Pinkett-Smith directed Oscar barb left off but unwisely, it seems, using her alopecia as a source of yuks (“Jada, I love you. G.I. Jane 2, can’t wait to see it”). Some suggested Will’s initial chuckle suggested the entire thing was staged, with proof to the contrary being the uncensored details. I’d argue the clincher for the “genuine” take is that Rock is a terrible actor, so there’s no chance he’d pull it off, were it in fact a punking of the Academy. 

(EDIT 29/3: The above photos suggest a clear staging, with both breaking into brief smiles (a Getty images sourced picture, so one they want out there) immediately after contact. That’s more convincing than the slap analysis to me (mostly because there’s no reason to think Hollywood stars have any kind of punching power, regardless of boxing training and bulking up. See little Shia LeBouef railing on hulking loon Tom Hardy. So the motive, then, would be distraction, however brief, from current affairs (war, presidents and their sons, take your pick). The reward to Will would be the Oscar. And for Chris? Well, people will talk about Chris. That ought to be enough for him. That, and knowing he managed to put in a performance that had most people believing him, which doesn't happen often. If ever. Then again, maybe the performance convinced because he isn't Chris Rock. See under Best Actor.)

Obviously, Smith would have been more impressive had he bounded up to Rock and used harsh words to put the comedian in his place (it isn’t as if, historically, he’s been tongue tied or slow in conversation). And Rock attempting to act all innocent absolutely doesn’t wash ("Wow, dude, it was a G.I. Jane joke"), as if he wasn’t aware of the reason Jada had shaved her head.

The vitriolic reactions to Smith’s reaction were inevitable, most of them revolving around how Smith should have been charged with assault, should have been led from the building, will never work again: Mia Farrow: “It was just a joke”; Rob Reiner: “Will Smith owes Chris Rock a huge apology”; Judd Apatow (tweet tellingly deleted): “He could have killed him. That’s pure out of control rage and violence... He lost his mind”.

Of course, Apatow hasn’t exactly been killing with jokes in the past three decades. Hence the bated breath with which This is 50 is awaited. "Reaction" of the night was obviously the Gosling smirk, though. Worth its weight in smelted Oscars, that one. If only it wasn’t from 2017. I look forward to avoiding all the think pieces about toxic masculinity due to follow right about… now.

Besides CODA and Dune, the big winner of the night was Snyder Bros, with Army of Darkness taking the Fan Favourite (Cinderella, Minamata – go Deppites – Spider-Man: No Way Home and Tick, Tick… Boom! Is the latter something to do with Lin-Manuel Miranda/Hamilton devoteees? It can’t be about the movie itself). And Justice League taking the Oscars Cheer Moment.

CODA won three statuettes (and was nominated for three), while Dune gulped down a whopping six. The Eyes of Tammy Faye took one for each. I picked 18 out of the 23, a level of (relative) accuracy that reflects just how in-the-bag most of this year’s awards were (my tally since 2013 goes: 11, 16, 16, 15, 14, 16, 15, 14, 16).

Best Picture
Winner: CODA (Philippe Rousselet, Fabrice Gianfermi and Patrick Wachsberger, producers) 
I guessed: CODA

A CODA late surge had been looking likely ever since it became clear no one much loved The Power of the Dog. Plus, its director had made a couple of faux-pas that gave a good excuse to leave it languishing in the New Zealand/Montana dust. CODA’s an innocuous, inoffensive little movie, and thus much preferable as a winner than most of the ten nominees. Sure, you can put the win down to Apple TV+ coming on strong with the advertising (hence shouting out to “the incredible team at Apple TV”), but wasn’t it ever thus?

The actual presenter announcement was the height of bad taste, as self-involved psychopath Lady Gaga feigned caring concern for senile Liza Minelli – clearly insensible and so shouldn’t have even been in the building, let alone wheeled on stage – and helped her with the business. You really could believe the 94th is the Academy’s coda.

Best Director
Winner: Jane Campion (The Power of the Dog)
I guessed: Jane Campion

Jane, who can give Janet Street-Porter’s teeth a run for their money, was quite the “B-I-T-C-H” to poor Kevin Costner, who was only giving the kind of overblown, over-heartfelt introduction customary to the Oscars. And what did he get for his troubles? “Thank you, Kevin, that was very dramatic.” Ouch. Fortunately, Kev took the high ground and refrained from slapping her. The hardest slap to Campion is knowing her win was little more than virtue signalling and any “firsts” involved are slim pickings (first woman nominated twice for director).

Best Actor
Winner: Will Smith (King Richard)
I guessed: Will Smith

So Will, amid waterworks that resembled something from Airplane! told how Denzel had advised him, post slap, “In your highest moments, be careful, that’s when the devil comes for you”. As any devout scientologist will know, he’s already there. Will has history with slapping jokesters, having responded not dissimilarly to a prank kisser, a decade back. Will does not like to be publicly kissed by men (this event will probably be revisited positively, however, since the prankster was Russian).

Will’s speech was big on contextualising himself as a caring husband and father: "Art imitates life: I look like the crazy father. Just like they said about Richard Williams. But love will make you do crazy things… Being able to love and care for my mother and my family, my wife ... Thank you for this honour. Thank you for this moment. ... hopefully the Academy invites me back".

There is, of course, more gossip about the Smiths than almost any other Hollywood power couple, a fair portion of it aired in public and alluded to earlier in the ceremony with another spot of hilarity from Hall. In profile terms at least, Smith has taken the sympathy while Pinkett-Smith received the brickbats for pursuing the open relationship. In the murk that is Hollywood Elite circles, one can assume what we’re told often is rarely the case. This reading had it that Will is up to his eyeballs in the dark path whereas Jada has resisted (alopecia would fit with such stresses). Certainly, you’d hardly adorn anyone with Best Actor Oscar if they aren’t toeing the line (this in spite of suggestions he’s avoided the jab; there’s also the way any gossip on his preferences is held in check by the MSM).

If that was Will himself who accepted the award yesterday – his head increasingly ballooning in size, such that it begins to look ill-fitting – and any of the above is on target, then his combustible behaviour would make more sense. If it wasn't staged, that is (EDIT 29/3: Addressed here in the first ten minutes, suggesting it's not the actual Will, that "none of those people are with us" – impressive that Chris's replacement is doing stand-up gigs, in that case – and an agreement was made to make the spectacle we saw,  to "draw attention to it". I'll provide an addendum at the end of the post, should anything further be clarified or conjectured). In which case, Chris really is just lucky Will didn’t kill him!

Best Actress
Winner: Jessica Chastain (The Eyes of Tammy Faye)
I guessed: Jessica Chastain

There were lots of rumblings prior to the night that Penélope Cruz might cause an upset, but no. Amy Schumer called out why Kidman didn’t ultimately stand a chance (“The innovation to make a movie about Lucille Ball without even a moment that’s funny. If you’re Aaron Sorkin, how do you make a movie about the most iconic female comedian, not one laugh”). Chastain had the misfortune to take the stand after the Academy had been deeply inhaling Will Smith fumes for half an hour, so it didn’t help any that her speech was a rambling collection of bland platitudes, standing with Disney staffers re Florida (“discriminatory and bigoted legislation”), and gushing, performed sincerity.

Best Supporting Actor
Winner: Troy Kotsur (CODA)
I guessed: Troy Kotsur

Troy’s claim “this is our moment” is optimistic, since by asserting as much he presumably didn’t think Marlee Matlin’s Best Actress win 35 years earlier was.

Best Supporting Actress
Winner: Ariana DeBose (West Side Story)
I guessed: Ariana DeBose

And the award for the out-and-proud Oscar nominee goes to… What’s that, “Isn’t it supposed to be about best performance?” What ceremony do you think this is, exactly? To wit: “So lastly: Imagine this little girl in the backseat of a white Ford focus. Look into her eyes. You see queer – an openly queer woman of color, an Afro‑Latina, who found her strength in life through art. And that’s what I believe we’re here to celebrate”. Yeah.

Best Original Screenplay
Winner: Kenneth Branagh (Belfast)
I guessed: Kenneth Branagh

It could be argued that Sir Ken stayed classy in his speech. Which is more than his movies ever did.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Winner: Sian Heder (CODA)
I guessed: Sian Heder

Even before CODA became favourite for Best Picture, this was looking like a sound prospect, with various unpersuasive side glances in the direction of The Power of the Dog and The Lost Daughter.

Best Animated Feature
Winner: Encanto
I guessed: Encanto

Just in case you were lulling yourself into the idea these awards weren’t woke-first, ask quality questions later, here’s producer Yvett Morino: “I am so proud to be a part of a film that puts beautiful, diverse characters in front and centre, and that people everywhere are seeing themselves in the film”. Still, it could have been worse. The Mitchells vs. the Machines might have won.

It’s been noted that the presentation of the award rather pigeon-holed animation as a children’s art form, which is ironic, given Bestia. The Disney princesses giving out the statuette arguably precluded Flee winning, but stranger things have happened.

Best International Feature
Winner: Drive My Car (Japan)
I guessed: Drive My Car

Ryusuke Hamaguchi was repeatedly cued off without being able to say very much. I guess he didn’t have strong enough woke cachet. Or the Academy just thought he was a bit foreign.

Best Documentary Feature
Winner: Summer of Soul (...Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson, Joseph Patel, Robert Fyvolent and David Dinerstein)
I guessed: Flee (Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Monica Hellström, Signe Byrge Sørensen and Charlotte de la Gournerie)

The favourite won, as was largely the case this year. The emphasis here on celebration, relatively speaking, as opposed to say Attica.

Best Documentary Short
Winner: The Queen of Basketball (Ben Proudfoot)
I guessed: The Queen of Basketball

The favourite won. Again, an emphasis on celebration, relatively speaking.

Best Live Action Short
Winner: The Long Goodbye (Aneil Karia and Riz Ahmed)
I guessed: Please Hold

Another favourite taking the prize, although I rather hoped common sense might prevail over indulging Riz’s fear porn. His acceptance speech was almost disingenuously on message: “In such divided times, we believe that the role of story is to remind us there is no ‘us’ and ‘them’. There’s just ‘us’… This is for everyone who feels like they don’t belong. Anyone who feels like they’re stuck in no man’s land. You’re not alone. We’ll meet you there. That’s where the future is. Peace”.

Best Animated Short
Winner: The Windshield Wiper 
I guessed: Robin Robin

About the only completely left-field result of the evening, since most were predicting Aardman (and understandably so). I can’t say The Windshield Wiper did much for me, but sooner that than Bestia or Affairs of the Art.

Best Original Score
Winner: Dune (Hans Zimmer)
I guessed: Encanto (Germaine Franco)

Another favourite, Zimmer wasn’t present to accept the award, but there’s a tweet of him holding a statuette in his bathrobe (something no one needs to see).

Best Original Song
Winner: No Time to Die (Billie Eillish and Finneas O’Connell)
I guessed: No Time to Die

The upside of the most recent Bond score? At least it isn’t Writing’s on the Wall. The down? Both show you can compose any old shite and win an Oscar. “Oh my gosh, this is so unbelievable, I could scream” said Billie. I feel exactly the same. It’s a shame she’d changed her dress from the red carpet, where she gave the “impression of a woman who has been slowly eaten by a pair of curtains”.

Best Sound
Winner: Dune (Mac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Theo Green, Doug Hemphill and Ron Bartlett)
I guessed: Dune

Dune, as the technical categories titan, starts here.

Best Production Design
Winner: Dune (Production Design: Patrice Vermette; Set Decoration: Zsuzsanna Sipos)
I guessed: Dune

More proficient yet uninspired Dune work.

Best Cinematography
Winner: Dune (Greig Fraser)
I guessed: Dune

Fraser’s first Oscar. He’s also responsible for the currently riding-high The Batman. Credit to him for being glad to collect his award early so he could “go out and get to the bar”.

Best Make Up and Hairstyling
Winner: The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram and Justin Raleigh)
I guessed: The Eyes of Tammy Faye

Variety had the cheek to suggest this trio “won the Oscar for makeup and hairstyling largely on the strength of Chastain’s striking transformation in her role”. Surely the other way round?

Best Costume Design
Winner: Cruella (Jenny Beavan)
I guessed: Cruella

Beaven’s third Oscar (previously A Room with a View and Fury Road) from eleven nominations. Credit to her, her designs were everything Dune’s weren’t (interesting, memorable).

Best Film Editing
Winner: Dune (Joe Walker)
I guessed: King Richard (Pamela Martin)

I should have gone for a Dune sweep, I guess. His daughter deserves praise as she once insulted him with “It’s all very well for you, Oscar-nominated Joe Walker”.

Best Visual Effects
Winner: Dune (Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Brian Connor and Gerd Nefzer)
I guessed: Dune

One thing Villeneuve does is ensure seamless visual effects. Not especially awe-inspiring, but seamless.

Addendum 1: (29/3) That didn’t take long! So, it appears Pfizer were sponsoring the Oscars, and Pfizer also have a new alopecia drug due to debut later in the year. Which, irrespective of whether those were the real trifecta of Will, Chris and Jada in attendance, rather fits with Janine's suggestion that the slap was intended to cause a stir of some kind or draw attention to something. Any connection as obvious as Jada, alopecia and plandemic-profiteer Pfizer is asking to be identified and called out – it only took 24 hours – which could be seen to support the notion it was initiated by “white hats”. As opposed to really clumsy product placement (such as Disney advertising The Little Mermaid via a trio of presenters during the Disney-owned, ABC-transmitted ceremony).

Addendum 2: (30/3) An amusing take on the range of media responses:

Addendum 3: (01/04) The links to Janine’s readings illustrate the perils of fixing on the idea one wants to see – that the ceremony was filmed years in advance, in this case – even if one’s an otherwise good reader. In this case, personal accounts in the comments testify to the Oscars being live. Which doesn’t mean there wasn’t trickery, pre-planning, staging or – if you like – doubles/clones etc. You can see such assumptions in other readings too, such as the flipping on whether Jada is inverted or the birth mother of her kids. None of which is vital to anything, but you have to hope such margin for error doesn’t extend to her account of White Hats narrative as a whole.

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