Monday, February 10, 2020

2020 Oscars -- my brief recap

As I suffered through the Oscars I was so glad I’m not reviewing them in full this year.

What an insufferable night of oozing insincerity. You realize that all of those noble equality/gender causes, Hollywood cares so deeply about (this year) is only because there’s pressure on them to do so?

I will say they got it right with PARASITE, but what does it say about US filmmaking that there is such a glut of Comic Book, sequels, and action films that decent, well-made movies about actual people are so few that not even one can win the Best Picture Academy Award? PARASITE was more original, more inventive, and in my mind, more worthy of the prize. Imagine last year's winner, THE GREEN BOOK going up against it?  Which film do you think would win? 

And I’m sure the takeaway from Hollywood studios is not make more quality movies, but stage better promotional campaigns.

Just remember, these are the same people who honored and honored and honored Harvey Weinstein.

Brief observations:

Steve Martin & Chris Rock were funny.

Maya Rudolph is never funny. I’m sorry. She’s always a presenter, she always bombs.

I was thrilled for Laura Dern.

First time I ever heard cow insemination brought up in a victory speech.

What a joke that Tom Hanks was nominated for Best Supporting Actor.   The movie's about him.  The movie doesn't get made without him. 

FORD V FERRARI -- a movie that’s 2:30 and should have been 1:30 doesn’t deserve to win Best Editing.

Academy President, David Rubin was a casting assistant on a show I worked on in the ‘80s. It’s nice to see good and talented people rise to prominence.

The new Academy museum will be housed in my favorite building in LA --the old May Co. building at the corner of Wilshire & Fairfax.  

Joaquin & Rene – even when you have wonderful things to say, if you just keep talking forever people will start to hate you.   You couldn't hear it but America was screaming at the screen: "GET THE FUCK OFF ALREADY!"   They were screaming that for the last four minutes of each of your speeches. 

Melissa Disney did a great job as offstage announcer.  She was actually the host of the Oscars.

There were a few upsets so that was fun.

The "Cats" bit was as painful as the movie. 

What does it say about the lack of stars when they kept showing Disney CEO, Bob Iger on camera?

And finally, here’s next year’s sure bet: At least one woman will be nominated for directing. Greta, round up your camera crew.


Michael said...

Thank you everybody, Thank you Academy for this honor.......

I would like to begin by thanking Ken Levine. Sir, you have been kind to your readers. So many reviews over the years. And even now, when you hate Oscars so much. My heartfelt gratitude to you.

Thank You God .....

For answering my prayers and making sure woke actress Scarlett lost both her nominations.

Acting in so many Woody Allen movies, then masquerading as an activist, demanding her button back from James Franco.

Thank you for making Quentin lose all his 3 nominations.

Smug copycat was crowing how the screenplay Oscar would be renamed as "Quentin" if he won for the third time.

Thank you for saving us from that disaster.

He shouldn't have won the other 2 in the first place, for his cheap ripoffs from older movies.

And a final thank you for sending the "Hubris project of the year" empty handed for their 10 nominations.

Laura said...

You too Ken?

Poor Marty was brutally trolled

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Well, I can see the argument that the movie is about the *effect* of him, not *him*.

Ken, as you may or may not know, a couple of weeks ago Earl Pomerantz announced an intermission in his blog because he couldn't see. I think a lot of us would like to know how he is, if you happen to be in a position to relay any news.


The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

* I really enjoyed FORD V FERRARI. I would have accepted that or 1917 as Best Picture (though I haven't seen Parasite).

* Why was Leo nominated as Best Actor? Pitt was the star of the movie and Leo was almost another actor on set. His scenes could have been cut.

* Here's the PROBLEM with saying on stage that women should have been nominated for best director. You are saying this TO THE PEOPLE you wanted to cut instead! IF you think someone didn't deserve to be there THEN JUST NAME THEM OUTRIGHT! Have some real guts. Don't just say "Where are the women?" Instead say, "Greta is better than Quentin or Martin or Sam"

It's VERY insulting to the people who are being honored right in front of you

*Nice summary Ken.

Triggered said...

I hate Natalie "Privileged Asshole" Portman and her political statements every awards season. Always trying to grab attention using feminism crutches.

Others who also hate her, watch this, this should cool you down.

UnWoke said...

Before anyone makes any gross comments, the young woman in the photo is Scorsese's daughter, not girlfriend. He's not Polanski.

UnWoke said...

For those keeping score

Netflix 2 /24

Mendes 0 / 3

Scorsese 0 /2

Tarantino 0 /3

Johansson 0 / 2

Greta and Husband 0 / 2

Thomas Newman lost his 15th nomination

Here is a consolation song from another loser Randy Newman

Mike said...

They sucked all the botox out of Renee and pumped it into Hanoi Jane's face.

Ted said...

Those wondering WTF M&M was doing, here's the explanation

James said...

Next year please consider just reviewing the Channel 5 and Channel 7 red-carpet pre-shows, which each run longer than the Super Bowl pre-shows. I know nobody outside of LA can see them, but every town has their own Ted Baxters and Kent Brockmans who do the same things. The Oscar red carpet shows are the best comedies on TV these days.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Well, I can see the argument that the movie is about the *effect* of him, not *him*.

Ken, as you may or may not know, a couple of weeks ago Earl Pomerantz announced an intermission in his blog because he couldn't see. I think a lot of us would like to know how he is, if you happen to be in a position to relay any news.


Andrew said...

You made no mention about Eminem.

So now Oscars is being used to peddle new albums?
And they too are desperate to grab eyeballs.


Would David Rubin accept an invitation for being a guest at your podcast?

Any chance, is he related to Sam Rubin?

Gary said...

Did anyone see Brie Larson's reaction in the audience especially when Brad Pitt was speaking?

She gets a lot of hate online. And she deserves it.

MrCarlson said...

If Natalie Portman really wanted to make a difference regarding the lack of women directors, instead of embroidering the names of women directors on her dress, she should change her name to Natalie PortWoman.

Tom Asher said...

My favorite things to say during these shows are "play him off" and "play her off". And I say them SO MANY TIMES...

Thanks for the quick review!

Anne said...

Where did that "cow insemination" speech come from?

What is wrong with these actors?

David said...

I think your last statement is the most important. If anyone is concerned about people of color or females not dominating the categories then ESTABLISH A QUOTA! Disregard the quality (as they see it) of the performance or work behind the camera. Hand out the nominations solely on sex, race, religion, sexual orientation, etc. I've always heard people say that they want to be treated as equals but when they don't get their own way they pout because "It's because I'm (insert the flavor of the month here)" Grow up and count your millions, Hollywood.

William Rabkin said...

Oh, Ken, I'm so sorry to see you making this silly argument about editing. I expect it from people who have never worked in the business, but you know better: It is not the job of the editor to decide whether the movie is going to run 90 minutes or 150, and any editor who cut an hour's worth of scenes out of a movie without the director's approval would find it hard to get another job.

The editing nomination for FvF was for the work in the scenes, and I'd guess particularly the brilliant work of bringing all the race footage to life.

The length problems belong to the director, the writer and the producers, and it's a cheap shot to blame the editors for them. And I know you know better.

Jim P said...

Am I the only one who noticed that the In Memoriam segment began with alleged rapist Kobe Bryant and ended with alleged rapist Kirk Douglas?


Matt said...

Knives Out was the best movie I saw last year.

By Ken Levine said...


I was partly being facetious, but there are many times when an editor can influence a director. FORD V FERRARI was way too long. The time and energy in the editing room was obviously spent to construct the exciting race scenes (which were terrific). But in terms of overall storytelling the movie lost its punch. An editor may not have final say but his opinion sure counts.

John Leader Alfenito said...

In this morning's L.A. Times an interesting assessment of Eminem's puzzling appearance:

"But the real action was in the audience, where ABC’s roving cameras caught a succession of priceless reaction shots from the likes of Idina Menzel (who looked frightened), Martin Scorsese (who looked glazed) and Billie Eilish (who looked like she was wondering who’d invited her science teacher)."

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

Unlike the Emmys, at least the Academy put up a correct pic of Andre Previn during the Memoriam segment.

Melissa Disney--a member of THE Disney family? Wikipedia says she claims to be distantly related to Walt.

Mike Barer said...

The Oscars now come so early in the year that you can't use the Bob Hope Joke about what Oscar night is known as in the Hope household.

Michael said...

There were Academy Awards last night?


Ralph said...

Natalie Portman is a low life scoundrel who pulled a similar stunt some years ago when she announced "Here are the 5 white male directors". Is it their mistake that others were not nominated?

Now with this stunt she is trying to kiss some female directors' asses to get a role, especially Greta.

Glenn said...

Natalie Portman's dress made her look like she has chest hair.

In Memoriam Fail said...

I was astonished that the In Memoriam didn't even give them the dignity of their own solo tribute, most of them shared screen time with another person and you barely had time to read their names before they flashed to the next pair of tributes.

Cliff Tooth said...

Poor QT. Must be biting his own foot and wallowing in tears.

He was pissed at the BAFTAS

He was pissed here too.

Anyway he and the winner both have one thing in common. They have worked under the "legend" himself - Harvey Weinstein.

maxdebryn said...

"Yesterday" was a curious choice for the All-Star Dead Reel, I thought. It should've been something more somber, and wistful. Just my tuppence.

McAlvie said...

I don't watch these days because I'm rarely familiar with the films nominated, and the ones I am familiar with aren't the kind they nominate. I actually don't mind the action hero comic book movies; but I don't want a steady diet of them and I agree that it would be nice if Hollywood would just focus on Good Movies. The real problem is that most are just bandwagon jumpers. But the same is for the other arts, as well. One guy does something different and does it really well - its a hit. Then everyone wants to try their hand at a mediocre copy cat and it sours the whole genre.

But on the topic, every year at this time there are retrospective articles talking about past Oscar winners, and its a bit of an eye opener. So many big winners are movies nobody remembers now, whereas many still popular classics and the actors in them got snubbed. Of course, the Oscars are for the industry, and there are categories that are meaningless for the average audience, technical stuff where the winners might very well have deserved the award. But when a movie sweeps the Oscars and then disappears from memory it makes you question the validity of the awards in general

Edward said...

1. The Irishman lost as the powers that be did not want Robert DeNiro on stage cursing and using the platform to make stupid political attacks about the president.

2. Actors have money, celebrity, people applaud them and ask for autographs and photos, but they have no power. Stupid political statements on stage are in the news for 24 hours, then are quickly forgotten.

3. Politicians have power, but few have money and nobody likes them, so they want to be actors.

4. Now that the award shows are over, I'll probably rent some of the movies on pay-per-view.

gottacook said...

At least 15 of the In Memoriam images included two people instead of one - the first time I recall this being done - but only one of these pairings didn't seem random: Rutger Hauer and Syd Mead, both made (more) famous by Blade Runner in 1982.

Someone please explain why some introducers of segments had their own introducers, while two of the nominated song performers had no introduction at all. (I realize Randy Newman is a "needs no introduction" person for some, but this is still a worldwide broadcast, isn't it?)

Thanks for identifying the announcer. Not too long ago the Academy allowed this to occur on air; there was one broadcast (10 years ago?) that ended with a shot of the announcer at his microphone, concluding with "This is Peter Coyote." And it was.

UnWoke said...


Irishman was pathetic. Forget best picture, it didn't win even a single award out of the 10 it was up for.

It got nominated BECAUSE of the big names like De Niro, Scorsese, Al Pacino.

Rob D said...

@Gary: What's this about Brie Larson vs. Brad Pitt? During his speech they showed Quentin T in the audience, and during that shot you could see Brie sitting behind him smiling. So what's the big deal? I can't say I've seen a single mention of anything online. No offence, but this seems like a non-story to me.

Sy said...

@ Edward - Parasite won. Don't try to politicize and take away a good movie's recognition.

That win was the highlight of the evening. Don't ruin it.

Fred Vogel said...

A lot of hate from some of you today. Lighten up.

Sheila said...

So, this is your last review, why don't you tell us if are a voting member?

Buttermilk Sky said...

I'm glad you didn't review the Oscars. Are you planning to not review the Tonys in June?

Gary said...


Pause at 0:58

Look at every other expression of genuine happiness and look at hers. Forced smile like getting her tooth extracted.

Look at these videos, the comments, the dislikes count - that shows how many hate her for her attitude.

It's like she doesn't care, nothing is good for her, smug arrogance....

Anonymous said...

Interesting to see the Natalie Portman hate. She is an Elite who attended Harvard with Jared Kushner and is a great friend to her former professor, Alan Dershowitz.

Amanda said...

You've got some interesting new commentors who seemed determined to take any criticism you have and piggyback it to a much more hateful statement. I enjoyed the Oscars. The only new movie I saw all of last year was Knives Out but I still just had fun with the evening. I'm a little confused by your strong dislike for Maya Rudolph, while she isn't a FAVORITE of mine I'm surprised you don't think she ever does a good job in anything. Different strokes for different folks...what a stupid phrase--we need a rant about that!

Seriously though, glad you were happy for Laura Dern, her and Diane Ladd touched my heart with their reactions. And Bong Joon Ho was a funny guy.

I also agree with your comic book movie statement, I can just never say it out loud because I have too many friends who are obesessed with them.

Unknown said...

How did Billie Eilish go to the bathroom with those nails? I'm sure TSA would consider them weapons

Monkeefan88 said...

Meatballs was snubbed again, I'm beginning to think that it's never going to happen.

Dave said...

Woke actress Natalie Portman used to date Jared Kushner.

Jon B. said...

Hot takes--no sarcasm: Eminem was great. No women deserved to be nominated for best director over those five. Maya Rudolph is not unfunny to me generally. Leo should have won. Ford v Ferrari was not too long. Parasite was a deserving winner, but feels like a compromise pick. Rene won best actress before the movie was released.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

Just watched on YouTube a five-minute clip of the opening of the 1966 Academy Awards--the first Oscar ceremony telecast in color.

Hope, of course, emceed and Hank Simms--best known as the voice of the Quinn Martin shows--served as announcer.

SharoneRosen said...

I lost interest in Ford VS Ferrari about half way through.
The Irishman could have lost an hour and still been a great film.
Eminem... what for?

Cynthia Erivo was robbed tonight... TWICE.

YEKIMI said...

Am I the only one who noticed that the In Memoriam segment began with alleged rapist Kobe Bryant and ended with alleged rapist Kirk Douglas?

So, what, they're now supposed to be shown grouped together as to what crime they may have "alledgedly" committed? Maybe they should just rename the Oscars' "In Memoriam" segment as "The Academy Awards: SVU & Criminal Intent" presented by Dick Wolf.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Next year, I predict the Academy will have NINE Nominees for Best Director/Actor/Actress.

This way fewer people can complain that a person or type of person was left off.

Lisa said...

The opening monologue fell flat.

They didn't even make an effort. If they both were chosen to host then maybe they would have put in some effort.

Phil said...

Just an idea.
You could blog and tell us what the insiders in Hollywood are talking about. That is something only you can tell us.

Just a short gist of the insiders reaction to Parasite winning and the way Oscars is down in the dumps.

Max said...

Ken, a sincere question. If you dislike the Oscars so much, why do you even bother to watch them? That's an awfully big chunk of time out of your life to send watching something you hate.

flurb said...

I'm with Fred Vogel today. Plus, I do think Maya Rudolph is funny, and that she and Kristin Wiig were terrific; so sue me.

Eggnog Atmosphere said...

I hope he's planning to not kill himself.

I'm Outraged! said...

A lot of shallow, ugly comments here, including pathetic name calling, a bit beneath this site I would have thought, Ken.

Charles Bryan said...

The thing about Phoenix's speech: I generally agree with his statements (although I'm not protesting milk) and I got tired of listening to him.

D McEwan said...

"First time I ever heard cow insemination brought up in a victory speech."

But many a cow has been inseminated at Oscar after-parties.

I asked at the time, how is Tom Hanks a supporting player in his movie? Is the movie about Mr. Rogers's best friend?

"Melissa Disney did a great job as offstage announcer."

Well, when Bong Joon Ho went up to accept his directing Oscar, she did say that this was his second Oscar win. Apparently she can't count to three.

After Joaquin Phoenix completed his lecture to us, I expected Rami Malik to start with, "If you could hold off slitting your wrists for a few moments, we'd like to give out Best Actress."

There were a hell of a lot of hostettes, one-segment hosts or hostesses, at whom I yelled, "WHO ARE YOU?" Then they'd say their names, and I yelled, "OK that's your name, but WHO ARE YOU?"

Is Billie Ellish always toneless and flat? Her performance of Paul McCartney's lovely Yesterday made me envy the people in the "In Memorium" montage. At least they didn't have to hear the ear-torture she was putting out.

My Fast-forward button saved me from suffering through Eminem.

D McEwan said...

"Edward said...
1. The Irishman lost as the powers that be did not want Robert DeNiro on stage cursing and using the platform to make stupid political attacks about the president."

There is no such thing as a "stupid political attack" on Trump. Only defenses of Trump are stupid. And "The Powers That Be" at the Oscars rightly loathe Trump. The Irishman lost because they Academy members voting in the various categories preferred other work, or they hadn't finished watching it yet.

Rob D said...

@Gary - Okay, I have visited a couple of those links, against my better judgment. Again, no offence intended toward you, but frankly the YouTube comments section is not my cup of tea. Not exactly known for its civility and maturity. Not to mention basic grammar and spelling.

Stephen Marks said...

Ironic that not one woman in the history of cinema has come forward with the idea of just putting all the actors together when nominated. Best Actor - both genders, Best Supporting Actor - both genders. Ladies if you want equality there's your answer. But is Nat Portman willing to battle it out with Hanks and Phoenix? Doubt it.

What you folks should be outraged about is West Ham United is in the relegation zone of the English Premier League and about to be dropped into the second division, 2 years after moving into a brand new 60,000 seat stadium. Direct your anger over there.

Jahn Ghalt said...

Agreed - Steve Martin & Chris Rock WERE funny.

I liked the opening number - but didn't get who the lead singer was.

Very Odd that Tom Hanks was nominated for "Supporting Actor".

Was it me, or was there a chilly response when Pitt, twice, made a not-so-oblique reference to the I-word (during his winner's speech)?

Did anyone notice? ALL FIVE of the supporting actor nominees was a bona fide veteran movie star. Brad Pitt (now 56) was the "baby" in the group. The others were:

Hanks - 63
Pesci - turned 77 day of the show
Pacino - 79
Hopkins - 82

Average age = 71+ - that seems like a record for the category (include lead actor for that).

Zellweger getting the nod for Best Actress - no big surprise, given that film's long-overdue homage to Judy Garland.

Scarlett Johansson got TWO nominations - a big feather in her cap.

Harvey Weinstein - before he was "outed" - was a big promoter of indie films. Shouldn't THAT be worthy of being "honored and honored and honored"?

How long should The Irishman (also nominated for Editing - 209 minutes) have been?

Keaton and Reeves - gets the nod for oddest, most awkward presenter-couple (interesting that Reeves had some normality and emotional range for the "part")

Gary said...

It's nice we have trivial stuff like this to distract us during the final year of our democracy.

kitano0 said...

@ I'm Outraged:

Thought the same thing while reading this morning...checking back to see if anyone responded to the fierce negative energy on display. Over the Oscars.

Jahn Ghalt said...

The Bumble Bee Pendant "asked":

Why was Leo nominated as Best Actor?

then commented:

Pitt was the star of the movie and Leo was almost another actor on set. His scenes could have been cut.

It seems plain that Pitt's Cliff Booth/Stuntman role was fairly-narrow - not a particular acting challenge.

Contrast with Leo's Rick Dalton/TV Western/Action Actor - which had a considerably wider emotional range.

It is not clear that the Rick Dalton character was the LEAD and Cliff Booth the sidekick (though WHAT a SIDEKICK and WHAT A COUP for QT)?

(BTW, I have always thought Pitt a fine actor - when the role calls for it)

I assumed that Billie Eilish's grimace (during a medley of "old songs") was a reaction to those songs. Perhaps this is unfair - Newsweek suggests this was a (understandable, appropriate) reaction to her own image appearing on "giant screens" at the the show:

Lorimartian said...

I thought this was one of the best Oscars, with some exceptions, in terms of entertainment value in years. Unfortunately, it may be too late to bring back the younger crowd that this particular telecast seriously attempted to regain. I laughed out loud at some of the jokes/repartee and was delighted to see the live orchestra back in the auditorium after being relegated to the basement of a building three blocks away the past few years. I admit that I don't get Eilish...the few times I've seen her, she looks either manic or in extreme pain when she sings. I was happy that a female composer won for best score.

Lastly, I want to put in a good word for CATS. Not a perfect film but not the train wreck the critics would have one believe. It features a beyond talented ensemble of performers who deserve to be seen on the big screen. Those I know who saw it were thoroughly entertained, as was I. It's a shame it was so harshly dismissed for reasons I still can't fathom.

Prairie Perspective said...

Nailed it, Ken. I would like to like Maya Rudolph but her “comedy” is simply not funny. It just lays there like a collapsed soufflĂ©. It was painful to watch her and Kristen Wiig attempt to entertain with a weak, barely written series of awkward moves. She has had numerous chances. Time to let someone — almost anyone — have those chances.
And Billie Eilish was right.

Craig Gustafson said...

I was at an Oscar party and at the end of the evening, I won the booby prize for the least amount of correct predictions for the evening. I was given a (used) DVD of "Gigli." My acceptance speech was heartfelt. "I would just like to thank all my family and friends who dragged me along on this journey, where I gained the knowledge that if you milk a cow with love and understanding, when you die you will forever be in the arms of Judy Garland."

Christy Grey said...

You're welcome to leave if you don't like it.

Anne in Rockwall, TX said...

What in tarnation? Is this real?

Brian Phillips said...

FRIDAY QUESTION: Years ago, I remember seeing an "Entertainment Tonight"(or something like it) that was a "Behind the Scenes" story about Frasier. Kelsey Grammer was not enamored with a line directed to David Hyde-Pierce's Niles. The line was rewritten. In that spirit, were there any lines that had to be rewritten because Moose was incapable of achieving the desired effect?

Brian Phillips said...

To Lorimartian: I did not see "Cats" but, there are almost universally-acclaimed movies, some that garner a tepid response, some that are bad and there are many other categories in between.

Then there are movies that are perceived to be bad and the perception goes viral. Danny Peary, the author of the "Cult Movies" books talks about his distaste for "Bad Movie" nights at second-run houses and the section of the audience that cannot wait to look down their noses on a film that all the cool kids have deemed to be awful.

For me, my "Cats" would be "The Lone Ranger" from 2013. Johnny Depp's Tonto was, politely, an acquired taste and the movie is CERTAINLY not a classic, but it did not deserve the scorn heaped upon it. The nice thing about it was that going in with no expectations, the bar is decidedly lower in my mind to be entertained. The same goes for "The Last Action Hero".

That's not to say I don't think that all movies are great, but I try to shut out the peer pressure of the hip hate-watcher.

Kosmo13 said...

With a name like Bong Joon Ho, he should direct a Cheech and Chong movie next.

Steve said...

Ken, first of all, I truly appreciate that you did offer the comments you did on the Oscars telecast. It was easily the best review I've seen, even if it wasn't the full review you've done in the past. I didn't agree with everything you said, but that should be fine, and even when I didn't agree I found what you wrote either thoughtful or funny or both. And I completely, completely agree with your reaction to Maya Rudolph. She is in EVERYTHING and I almost always can't stand what she brings. I actually thought her bit in the Oscars was less painful to me than usual, but still. I always yell at the TV when I see her pop up, as she invariably does.

Jeffrey Graebner said...

>> "Well, when Bong Joon Ho went up to accept his directing Oscar, she did say that this was his second Oscar win. Apparently she can't count to three." <<

She was actually correct. The official winner of Best International Feature is the country, not the director. Bong Joon Ho accepted that award on behalf of South Korea. For this same reason, at least according to the Academy, he didn't officially tie Walt Disney's record 4 Oscars in one night as some reported.

MikeN said...

Came here to berate you for saying Maya Rudolph is not funny, but now I realize I was thinking of Rachel Dratch.

YEKIMI said...

Maybe your headline should have been "2020 Oscars--My Brief ReCRAP"