Oscars without a host? Es no bueno

The day is here, the night of nights in the world of entertainment — no, not the MTV video music awards — we’re talking about the 91st Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards, otherwise known as the Academy Awards — The Oscars. It’s not just another awards show, The Oscars got the whole entertainment industry awards show thing going in 1929. I would go so far as to say if there was no Academy Awards there would be no Rock and Roll Hall of Fame thing. So I blame The Motion Picture Academy for that.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Really, do we need a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Rock’n’roll isn’t about being the establishment or being established even. Rock’n’roll was anti-establishment, was a protest against the establishment, a rejection of that power structure.

Now, most of the first progenitors of rock have passed on. Chuck Berry left us two years ago at the age of 90. The 1960s rock’n’rollers are in the 60s and 70s; half the Beatles have died and the only defying act of that generation is seeing the Rolling Stones still doing it at their ages. Along with Bob Weir, Mickey Hart and Bill Kreutzmann, now with Dead & Co.

Three cheers for all of them for wanting to make music ’til the end, but a Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame is antithetical to the whole notion, ideal of the genre. Now, the ’60s rock legends are the establishment.

But, this is about the Academy Awards. Do we need an awards show for the movies? How many awards shows do we have for the film industry? We all wonder why so-and-so or this movie or that wasn’t nominated, why this director (Spike Lee) has been snubbed for the past 30-plus years. Spike got a nomination for BlacKkKlansman, but that’s after epic films like Do The Right Thing and Malcolm X, the two best of Lee’s canon in my rarely humble opinion. Actually, I haven’t seen all his movies, not even half so I may be way off the mark. But, I’ve seen enough of them to form an opinion or two.

“BlacKkKlansman” director Spike Lee on the Oscars red carpet (YouTube)

Spike is nominated for Best Director, with Paweł Pawlikowski for Cold War, Yorgos Lanthimos for The Favourite, Alfonso Cuarón for Roma and Adam McKay for Vice. I saw Vice and I will assume all the others are worthy of their nominations.

In the Best Actor category, Christian Bale is nominated for playing Dick Cheney in Vice; that was masterful. Rami Malek for his role as Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody, Bradley Cooper in A Star is Born, Viggo Mortensen for Green Book and Willem Dafoe for At Eternity’s Gate.

I’ve seen Vice and Bohemian Rhapsody and will say this: I cried at the end of Bohemian Rhapsody, which was an ode to the incredible legend that is Freddie Mercury. Having seen the band perform several times, including Live Aid on TV, the power of Freddie was (is) undeniable and it was sad to remember he died so young. We miss Freddie and Rami Malek reminded us why.

All the other actors are very talented, I’ve seen them all in other work; I’ll just say this: The Hangover will become one of those timeless films we like to watch anytime, with much acclaim to Bradley Cooper for his role as Phil. And Viggo Mortensen; maybe he should be nominated just for his work in The Lord of the Rings series. I would like to see Green Book, as well as these other films.

Maharshala Ali is nominated for the Supporting Actor award for his role in Green Book. Currently, I’m watching him in HBO’s True Detective, which is now becoming even more intriguing. If he’s as good in the movie as he is in the HBO series, he is quite deserving of the nomination.

Olivia Colman in “The Favourite” (YouTube)

Here’s a true confession: I’m familiar with only three of the women nominated in the Actress In a Leading Role; Glenn Close (The Wife), Lady Gaga (A Star Is Born) and Melissa McCarthy (Can You Ever Forgive Me). One more confession: I haven’t watched any of the films they represent.

All the nominees, which includes Yalitza Aparicio for Roma and Olivia Coleman for The Favourite, are worthy.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role has some great actors: Amy Adams (Vice), Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk), Emma Stone (The Favourite) and Rachel Weisz (The Favourite). I’m not familiar with Marina de Tavira who is in Roma.

When we think of the Actor In A Supporting Role the idea gets jumbled in a cascade of names and roles that feel like they made whatever movie they were in unforgettable. Lt. Col. Kilgore in Apocalypse Now, played by Robert Duval or Lee J. Cobb in The Exorcist. Both were important roles and the character of Lt. Col. Kilgore delivered one of the greatest movie lines ever: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning … The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like … victory.”

Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen in “Green Book” (YouTube)

In this year’s category Mahershala Ali, Adam Driver for BlacKkKlansman, Sam Elliott in A Star Is Born, Richard E. Grant in Can You Ever Forgive Me and Sam Rockwell for Vice. Give it to Elliott. Many women still think of him as their Lifeguard. Look at his Filmography if you don’t get it.

The show won’t get to the Best Picture category until the end. There are eight films nominated, many already mentioned. BlacKkKlansmanVice, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Favourite, Green BookRoma and A Star Is Born. Add Black Panther to the list and voila! Wouldn’t it be cool if an action movie won the award? Probably not. Spike Lee deserves a win in this category and Vice is one of the best films I’ve seen in a while.

There are a bunch of other categories, for screenplay, music, cinematography, costume design, etc. and those are important and interesting, but the film industry rests on the performers first, technical staff second. Whichever movie wins “Best Picture” will do so largely because there is a great cast. Not necessarily well-known actors, but actors playing their roles superbly. Politics always play a part in the selection process and this is what makes awards shows so infuriating. Or maybe we just get angry when our favorites don’t win.

John David Washington as Ron Stallworth in “BlacKkKlansman” (YouTube)

Which is why I won’t have any favorites this year. It will be nice to see some first time nominees win — and one long overdue director. But other than that, good luck to all.

The real question is: how interesting will the show be without a host? Kevin Hart stepped down after it was revealed he made some terrible homophobic remarks on Twitter. The president and CEO of GLAAD said Hart should not have opted out but instead should have stepped up to raise awareness for LGBTQ issues, which really are about civil rights. So now, because of our ever so sensitive nature, there won’t be a host for the Oscars.

What a failure on the part of the producers of the show, including ABC, the network that is putting the show on TV. Hart would have given the show a great boost in ratings, especially since he has apologized for the remarks. The opening monologue could have been an historic moment on Oscars and television history. Instead, we’ll get an updated version of the 1989 Academy Awards, the last time there wasn’t a host. That was a disaster by everyone’s estimation and many are expecting the same tonight.

Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody” (YouTube)

Then there is the diversity issue. Minorities are under-represented once again so the chattering class will be watching to see who and what won. for Best Picture, half of the films star people of color. It would be something if Green Book won Best Picture and Spike Lee as best director for BlacKkKlansman. But we’ll see.

At 6 p.m. I’ll be switching over the HBO for True Detective. Maybe that will make the Academy Awards more palatable.

Top photo courtesy of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences