Movie Day at Pencilstorm: Oscars 2016 Rundown - by Ricki C.

(Pencilstorm fully realizes that this kind of minute-to-minute review/recap the day after has been rendered somewhat redundant and obsolete by Twitter & Facebook postings, but we really don’t care.)

First off, my predecessor in the Watershed road crew – Rob Braithwaite – is the Pencilstorm contributor who SHOULD be penning this piece.  The guy is watching and reporting on 366 MOVIES this year, for Chrissakes.  (see next blog down)  But I’m the guy with the journalism background who’s supposed to be able to trot out prose at the drop of a hat without thinking, so here we go………

I particularly wanted to do the coverage this year because of all the “diversity/Oscars are racist/boycott” hoopla.  I wanted to do the report because of course the Oscars are racist, because our society – whether we wanna admit it or not, black President not withstanding – is racist.  But what I wanted to say is, I saw “To Kill A Mockingbird” the first time when I was 12 years old in 1964.  (It was released in 1962.)  I was raised in an Italian/Catholic family in the 1960’s, and – almost by definition, given that background – I was raised with any number of racist attitudes.  But when I went to see “To Kill A Mockingbird” and Gregory Peck revved up those courtroom scenes at the end, I remember specifically thinking, there in my seat in a darkened Ritz Theater on Sullivant Avenue, “What if EVERYTHING I have been taught in my life to this point is WRONG?”  And to me, that is the power of movies, just like it’s the power of rock & roll, or books, to teach us, “What if EVERYTHING we know is WRONG?”

Anyway, yeah, the Oscars are racist, our society is racist, but we’re the only ones who can do anything about it, so let’s not get our panties in a bunch about the Academy Awards.  Let’s change it by letting ‘em know with our ticket-buying dollars that in the words of The Who (or Twisted Sister): “We’re not gonna take it.”

Okay, soapbox over, let’s start badmouthing the Oscars…….

8:33 pm – Chris Rock knocks it out of the park with a searing opening monologue, going right at the Elephant In The Room, as I knew he would, and I think to myself, “I hope the The Oscars realize how lucky they are that they had Chris Rock already booked for this hosting gig before the diversity brouhaha blew up their world.”

9:03 pm – First Best Song nominee – “Writing’s On The Wall” by Sam Smith – is the worst kind of Typical Movie Dreck, and weak even by Bond Movie Theme standards.  (Best Bond Theme ever, IMHO, “Goldfinger” by Shirley Bassey.  McCartney’s “Live & Let Die,” weak.  Guns n’ Roses version even worse.)

9:19 pm – Cate Blanchett presents a Costume Design award while wearing a dress that looks like my laundry when I leave a Kleenex or two in the pockets of my jeans in the washer.  (My lovely wife Debbie reports that the dresses on the red carpet left her largely nonplussed.  No real disasters, no real knockouts.)

10:05 pm – Chris Rock hawks Girl Scout cookies on the telecast to rich Hollywood people.  Classic.  (He later reveals raising $65,000 for the Girl Scouts.  Good for him.)    

10:08 pm – Bear Story wins Best Animated Short Film, and so what?  It’s after 10 o’clock and we’re still handing out Nothing awards that Nobody cares about.  I realize that people work their whole lives to make these little movies, and it’s cool that they get some recognition (as Louis C.K. points out later in the show), but SOME of these awards HAVE to be given out in advance – off-camera – to get this telecast down to 2 (or even 2 & ½) hours, so that people might tune in.

10:15 pm – Weekend performs “Earned It” from Fifty Shades Of Gray.  Nice haircut.  A black man performing a song from a movie concerning white people in bondage; who says there’s no diversity in the Oscars?  Another terrible, typical movie dreck song.  Debbie comments that the stage production is like a cross between Cirque de Soleil and Cabaret.

10:56 pm – Dave Grohl performs The Beatles’ “Blackbird” for the In Memoriam section of the show and strives manfully to make a song with one verse and about 14 words stretch over four minutes of dead people’s photos.

11:12 pm – La Gaga belts out a typically overwrought “Til It Happens To You” from The Hunting Ground.  It’s a tie; by my count, all three nominated songs that were performed are horrible.  (But at least they get performed on the telecast.  Two others – “Manta Ray” and “Simple Song #3” – are simply completely ignored.)

11:20 pm – Pharrell Williams and Quincy Jones present the award for Best Original Score and it’s becoming difficult not to notice how many African-American presenters the Academy is trotting out. 

midnight – Morgan Freeman (who else?) presents Best Picture to Spotlight, and I’ve gotta say, “Good for the Academy.”  That movie is about my religion, but my religion is wrong.  And good for journalists at the Boston Globe.  Write on.

The wrap-up: I saw only two nominated Best Picture this year – Brooklyn and The Martian – my lowest count EVER.  I lost our annual Oscar Contest to my good friend Kyle by only 8 points this year; I could have pulled out a victory if The Revenant had won Best Picture.  Still, this is not bad.  I have lost other years by upwards of 25 points, even with changing the rules in the middle of the telecast to pad my score.  

The future: I fear a wave of minority performers in next year’s nominees to counter the backlash of this year’s controversy.  Tokenism does not correct racism; it only serves to make it more glaring.

And ending the telecast with Public Enemy’s fine, fine, superfine “Fight The Power”?  Come on, Academy, at least TRY to be a little less obvious and pandering. – Ricki C. / February 28th, 2016.