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Opinion

Holding the Oscars in a train station makes sense – the show was a ghastly train wreck

As evidenced by this most recent disastrously dull and incoherent ceremony, the annual Academy Awards are on the fast track to irrelevance.

My biggest question regarding 2021’s egregiously bungled and boring Oscar telecast is…if an awards show collapses but no one is watching, does it make a sound?

Interest in the Oscars has been in steep decline for years now, and after suffering through the entire three hour and twenty-minute show last night I can dutifully report that the 93rd Academy Awards came in with a whimper and left with a whimper, too. 

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The night’s climactic moment was a dud as the show ran long, as usual, and then rushed to announce Best Actor, which everyone thought would be an emotional moment as it was expected to go to the late Chadwick Boseman. The award instead went to Anthony Hopkins. Uh-oh. 

Hopkins is most deserving of the award, but his victory will no doubt spur more cries of “racism” from the usual woke suspects. Adding to the discomfort was the fact that Hopkins wasn’t present at the show, and so the telecast ended basically with everybody standing around looking at one another like they were waiting for a train. 

Speaking of which, the show was held at Los Angeles’ Union Station – which is a train station, which is apropos, since the show was an absolute train-wreck.

Union Station is known as a hub for hordes of homeless in Los Angeles, and I’m sure that, as much as homeless people have defecated in that public space over the years, they’ve never made a stink as odious as Oscar’s producer Steven Soderbergh did on the night. 

Soderbergh put his stamp on the show as he shot it like a movie, with more handheld cameras than static shots, and by mixing up the order of awards. For instance, contrary to previous Oscar ceremonies Best Director came early in the proceedings and Best Picture wasn’t the last award. 

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Of course, the Oscars are going to be the Oscars, so the show was filled with the usual rambling speeches, self-righteous political pandering, and the airing of racial grievances, but what it didn’t have was any clips of the nominated work. Want to see the nominated cinematography, acting, costumes, hair and makeup or production designs? Not on Soderbergh’s watch!

Instead Soderbergh had presenters share inane “fun factoids” about each nominee like a kindergarten teacher handing out Valentine’s Day cards in class. This was accompanied by a roving camera desperately whirling around searching the room for these unfamous nominees like a toddler lost in a train station frantically looking for its parents. 

The lowlight in the evening of lowlights was a “music game” where nominees guessed if a song played by DJ Questlove (who replaced the traditional orchestra) was an Oscar-winning song. This hapless and ham-handed bit deteriorated into Glenn Close pretending she knew the song “Da Butt” and then humiliating herself by getting up and doing “Da Butt” dance. If Glenn Close ever had a relationship with dignity, it ended in a ferocious divorce last night. 

The entire endless evening felt like one long extended version of Glenn Close doing “Da Butt,” and conjured all the gravitas of a junior high school drama club awards night. 

The Oscars did make history, though, regarding diversity, with “artists of color” winning two of the four acting categories and Chloe Zhao being the first woman of color ever to win Best Director and Best Picture. 

So maybe #OscarsSoWhite has transformed into #OscarsSoWhat? Unfortunately, I’m sure the Academy would prefer even the righteous anger of racial resentment to the overwhelming apathy that hangs over the festivities like a toxic cloud of poisonous gas. 

Even the stars who came out to aid Soderbergh in his time of need, like Halle Berry and Harrison Ford, looked disinterested. The usually luminous Berry looked like she had slept at Union Station or was suffering a hellacious flu when she presented an award, while Ford just seemed like he was baked off his ass as he mumbled through a presentation. 

Soderbergh did not limit the award winners in the length of their speeches, which led to some unnecessary verbosity, but also to some moments of profundity. Director Thomas Vinterberg’s speech after winning Best International Feature Film for Another Round, was painfully poignant as he spoke about the tragic death of his daughter Ida during filming. 

In contrast, Frances McDormand’s grating short speeches managed to remind everyone she’s the most annoying person in all of Hollywood, which is an achievement even greater than her three Best Actress Oscars. 

As shrill and grating as she is, McDormand’s movie Nomadland was the biggest winner of the night as it won Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress. 

The biggest losers of the night, though, were any poor bastards like me who stayed up to watch, and of course, the Academy Awards themselves.

If this year’s abysmal Oscar ceremony proves anything it is that the Academy Awards are on the fast track to irrelevancy and, even though the show ran late, that train left Union Station right on time.  

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