Chris Rock nailed his monologue at the 88th Annual Academy Awards. He fired off zinger after zinger about the whole "#oscarssowhite" movement, and nailed almost everyone. As the night went on, some jokes worked (...and "we're black" after a commercial break) while some didn't (the Girl Scout cookies bit was merely a knock-off of Ellen DeGeneres' pizza delivery guy bit). A vignette of African American actors thrusted -Forrest Gump style into nominated films killed it with Tracy Morgan as The Danish Girl and a personal favorite - Leslie Jones attacking Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant.
But, something was missing: an actual appreciation for the actors and actresses who were actually nominated. Coming off a sour Ricky Gervais Golden Globes gig in which his Hollywood-bashing schtick became stale, it would've been nice if we saw a little praise for the "white" actors nominated. A man-on-the-street segment where Rock interviewed Compton moviegoers, who all trashed nominated films only drove this statement home more.
The thing that gets me about the protests and the "oscarssowhite" movement is it's totally taken away from an array of amazing performances this year. Did something need to be done? Yes. Was it? Yes - Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs already changed the rules. It's enough. Go home Al Sharpton. Find something better to do. It's not as if the Academy nominated Will Ferrell for Daddy's Home or Mark Wahlberg for Ted 2. By the way, what a terrible opening montage of films this year to start the show. Ted 2 had a clip and I can't even count how many Jurassic World moments were shown. Lame. Lame. Lame.
Anyway, all of the nominees (and winners I might add) were deserving. Did Idris Elba get shafted? You're damn right he did. Did Straight Outta Compton? Of course. But don't tell me the nominated films and actors selected didn't deserve to be there. That's why I was bummed out, as much as I laughed, to see Rock focus his entire monologue on the "blackout." Each year, a host points out historical moments and singles out some nominees for their excellent work. Would it have been awful to congratulate Slyvester Stallone for scoring a nod 40 years later for playing the same character? How about a shout out to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Mark Ruffalo, and Eddie Redymayne for being nominated yet again this year?
Look, ,I get it. Rock had to do this. He had his entire race watching. Spike Lee watched. You know he did. He wasn't there, but he was watching. So was blowhard Hall of Famer the Rev. Sharpton. People watched to see what the comedian would say, and he delivered. The Oscars, though, are about embracing cinema. Period. Between Rock and Gervais, this wasn't done this year, like, at all. I write all this thinking Rock did a great job. I only wish he and his writers acknowledged the rest of the room who did the same. Overall, it was a "B+" performance. I hope Rock hosts again without this whole controversy.
Anyway, here are some other observations from the night....
This is the first year I can remember where all of the winners deserved to win. I say this even though I wanted Stallone to win. Mark Rylance did, and I can't fight the Academy on it. He was brilliant.
Lou Gossett, Jr. introduced Dave Grohl. There's something you never thought you'd ever see.
Speaking of which, I'm wondering if Grohl's "In Memoriam" performance of The Beatles' "Blackbird" is still going on. Seriously, that lasted forever.
Alan Rickman's death still hurts. He never was nominated for any Oscars by the way - a travesty when you consider his work in Die Hard and Sense and Sensibility alone.
Stop cutting off meaningful speeches. Good for Alejandro G. Iñárritu for going on.
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Jon Chattman's music/entertainment series typically features celebrities and artists (established or not) from all genres performing a track, and discussing what it means to them. This informal series focuses on the artist making art in a low-threatening, extremely informal (sometime humorous) way. No bells, no whistles -- just the music performed in a random, low-key setting followed by an unrehearsed chat. In an industry where everything often gets overblown and over manufactured, Jon strives for a refreshing change. Artists featured on the series include Imagine Dragons, Bastille, Melissa Etheridge, Elle King, Air Supply, Yoko Ono, Joe Perry, Alice Cooper, fun, Bleachers, Charli XCX, and Cold War Kids.