Culture Clips: Moving on From the Oscars?

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Yesterday, we talked about Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscar speech and briefly mentioned that, relatively speaking, not very many folks watched it.

Oh, sure. In an age in which a hit show might garner 4 million viewers, the 23.6 million folks tuned in to see Janelle Monáe’s shimmery dress and hear Billie Eilish sing “Yesterday” is still a big number. But that means that 6 million people who tuned in last year couldn’t be bothered this year, and they couldn’t all be washing their hair.

So now, the question is … why?

I suggested yesterday that it might have something to do with the growing sociopolitical tenor of the event, and a number of pundits agree. Writing for the right-leaning National Review, Kyle Smith said that politics is the “surest way to alienate your audience.” He added:

Who can blame viewers for running away when the ceremony was so breathlessly, insistently, hysterically PC? Who even heard of half of these presenters brought in to show us the Oscars are diverse? People want stars. What we got instead was a harangue, sometimes in the form of song, sometimes in rap, sometimes in terrible jokes, about the number of black actors nominated for acting honors (one) and the number of female directors nominated (none). Interspersed were assorted ill-advised cheap shots by everyone from Pitt to Joaquin Phoenix, who told us we should feel bad about milking cows. Oh, and a Korean film seen by almost nobody won the top two awards.

But others argue that the awards show didn’t go far enough. Deadline’s Dominic Patten called the telecast “toothless,” arguing that the year was “screaming out for relevance and opportunity,” but the show simply let it slide.

To remind us just how bad Cats was, James Corden’s and Rebel Wilson’s appearance in full furry regalia was the wind blowing through the awards shows graveyard of irrelevance. The fact that no one had the guts to even utter the words Harvey Weinstein, his victims or the fight of the #MeToo movement and Time’s Up with the once powerful and now much accused producer currently on trial for rape in New York City right now only made Gervais’ scathing words nearly lost at the end of the Golden Globes last month more biting.

But let’s face it: Setting aside those topical concerns, most pundits said the Oscars had some problems.

Even though the hostless Oscars ceremony was praised last year, the curtain call wasn’t greeted so warmly. Many called the Oscars “driverless,” a fitting description for a show that didn’t seem to know where it was going. Many of the choices made by the producers induced a legion of head-scratching. Why have stars introduce stars to introduce awards? Why were so many Elsas singing?  Wrote Caroline Framke of Variety, “The 92nd annual Academy Awards quickly lost its own plot amid a million distractions courtesy of ABC’s frenetic, often baffling production decisions.”

One of the weirdest choices was the decision to have Eminem rap out “Lose Yourself,” a song for which he earned an Oscar 17 years ago. “It may have worked in the room, and in the living rooms of viewers who still have the song on their workout playlist,” wrote The New York Times’ James Poniewozik. “But energizing the show with nostalgia for a 2002 soundtrack feels a little passive-aggressive toward the movies of 2019.” (Eminem, who didn’t perform the song back when it was originally nominated, chose to accept the invite this time around because “maybe it would be cool.” And while it was cool to the glitterazi who gave Eminem a standing O after his performance, director Martin Scorsese seemed less impressed.)

Even fashion wasn’t above scathing rebuke. When Natalie Portman wore a dress embroidered with the names of female directors overlooked by the Academy, #MeToo activist and actor Rose McGowan fired off a Facebook post criticizing Portman for … agreeing with her, I guess? “I find Portman’s type of activism deeply offensive to those of us who actually do the work,” McGowan said.

Still, the Academy Awards audience and pundits alike appreciated the praise given to Parasite, which won four Oscars including the night’s biggest prize. The movie’s director, newly-minted Oscar-winner Bong Joon-ho, says that his work was deeply inspired by Hollywood filmmakers, and he warmly called out Scorsese during his acceptance speech. (Scorsese’s own Best Picture contender, The Irishman, went home empty handed despite 10 nominations.)

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times points out that Parasite and 1917—a film that once was considered the Best Picture frontrunner—were both deeply influenced by video games. Indeed, many movies are taking cues from that entertainment medium. 1917 Director Sam Mendes says that he was influenced by Red Dead Redemption, and Bong Joon Ho says that he wrote with the help of a 3D model of the affluent home where much of the movie takes place. “It was like playing a video game where I could roam around the house through my computer,” he said during the New York Film Festival.

The Oscars also paid tribute (in its annual “In Memoriam” segment) to Kirk Douglas, the 103-year-old Hollywood legend who died just days before the ceremony. (And naturally, other folks are remembering his legacy, as well.) But critics pointed out that the broadcast failed to mention Luke Perry, whose last role was in Best Picture nominee Once Upon a Time … In Hollywood. (Other omissions included Disney star Cameron Boyce and longtime comedian Tim Conway.)

Who else wasn’t mentioned? Jussie Smollett, for one. After being at the center of a wild controversy last year (in which he claimed to have been assaulted by two people for being black and gay) that landed him a place on Plugged In’s own Movers and Shakers list for 2019, Smollett was newly indicted on six felony counts of disorderly conduct related to the case.

Birds of Prey will likely not be up for too many Academy Awards next year. But Warner Bros., still hopes to make some money on the thing, so it’s essentially changing the film’s name—at least for ticket buyers. The AMC, Regal and Cinemark theater chains are all listing the movie (the full name of which is actually Birds of Prey [and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn]) to Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.

Finally, let me finish with one last Oscars note, and then we can be done with the ceremony forever—or, at least, for a few months. The award show’s famed gift bags (which are given to every acting nominee) were valued at $225,000 this year. Included in the bag were a two-week cruise to sunny Antarctica, valued at $78,000; A weeklong stay that the Golden Door spa in Escondido, California ($10,000) and a $20,000-value matchmaking service from Drawing Down the Moon Matchmaking. (Weird … doesn’t seem like Hollywood stars would have much trouble finding dates.) But according to, the best part of the gift bag were the two Milano cookies included—worth a grand total of 49 cents.

Hopefully, cow’s milk played no part in their making.

Who wrote this?

Paul Asay has been writing for Plugged In since 2007 and loves superheroes and finding God in unexpected places. In addition, Paul has also written several books, with his newest—Burning Bush 2.0—recently published by Abingdon Press. When Paul’s not reviewing movies, he hikes with his wife, Wendy, runs marathons with his grown kids, Colin and Emily, and beats back unruly houseplants. Follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous 3 months ago
It's obvious I'm passionate about my love of Disney movies, especially the live-action remakes, so it irks me to no end when people can't see how great they really are. Yes the visual wonders they can create on a computer to make everything look bigger and better than ever before is a feast for the eyes and ears, but just to see your favorite scenes and characters live and in your face instead of merely animated is also a treat beyond words. The Lion King 1994 is one of my favorite Disney movies ever right up there with Snow White, Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book 1967, Robin Hood, Tarzan, and The Princess and the Frog, but it was such an awesome one-of-a-kind experience sitting there in my theater seat while the live goodness of The Lion King 2019 came washing over me that it's a little hard to describe. The trees, the desert, all the animals, everything looked so much more real and life-like than the old animated version that I swear I was watching a completely new movie, not just a simple remake, and thanks to that new level of detail I was able to fully enjoy the story once again as if it was 1994 all over again. Same with Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast. They're different from their animated counterparts that's for sure, but that's a good thing since they make the stories a hundred times better.
Edna Konrad 3 months ago
How about you just enjoy them without trying to make other people like them? Most people find them to be badly written and lacking the heart and soul of the originals, and that doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy them. But they definitely are objectively not on the level of movies like 1917, Parasite, Jojo Rabbit, and the other best picture nominations.
Edna Konrad 3 months ago
That only means that most people saw them lol. And maybe most people like them too. But that doesn't mean they are good enough for the Oscars. Those awards aren't for the most enjoyable movies, they're for the movies that did something great. Disney live action movies are mediocre.
The Kenosha Kid 4 months ago
I finally saw Parasite last night. Off-the-charts brilliant. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood had been my top movie of 2019, but now I know the best film won. 

-- The Kenosha Kid
The Mouse Of Non 4 months ago
Interesting. I don't know if I'll watch it or not. I did watch Ford v. Ferrari last week and I loved it! So I knocked another Oscar winner off the list. 
Edna Konrad 4 months ago
I'm just happy to see Jojo Rabbit and Toy Story 4 get awards. But to be fair, I didn't see any of the other nominees.
And at least that trash Rise of Skywalker didn't win anything.
I don't know why everyone is still talking about Phoenix's opinion on milk. There are bigger things to talk about. Like how terrible Apple keyboards are.
Anonymous 4 months ago
The only truly shocking thing about the Oscars this year was the horrific Toy Story 4 winning Best Animated Picture, and a foreign-language film winning Best Picture. Oh, and Cameron Boyce being mentioned would have been a nice touch but since his claim to fame was really on the Disney Channel being in Jessie and Descendants I can see why he wasn't recognized, though I'm personally still grieving over him myself.
Anonymous 3 months ago
Parasite won becasue it is a well made movie. I have seen quite a bit of South Korean cinema before and most of it is a lot cleaner and has better quality than American cinema. Parasite does have more content issues in it, but on the whole, Korean movies and dramas are often more moving and more engaging and a lot cleaner than American movies and Dramas. One of my favorite TV shows is South Korean. It's called My Love from the Star and it is really emotionally moving, clean, and very well made. It beats most if not all the shows I've seen. I haven't seen Parasite yet, but I've heard it's a brilliant movie and that it deserved the Oscar, which is why it won. And subtitles are not a problem. I've seen lots of things with subtitles and I forget that it's in a foreign language and am just as moved. And I don't have to hear the cussing, so it doesn't bother me. 
The Mouse Of Non 4 months ago
I was just super disappointed that Knives Out, Avengers: Endgame, and 1917 didn't get more love.
Edna Konrad 4 months ago
I was definitely surprised that Endgame didn't get nominated for anything.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Endgame did get nominated for best visual effects. It just didn't win, but at least was nominated, which is more than say Aladdin got which really should have been nominated and/or won for Jasmine's new song Speechless, or the wonderful make-up/visual effect job they did in transforming Will Smith to the Genie.
Edna Konrad 4 months ago
Aladdin was terrible. It got all the nominations it deserved: none at all.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Apparently you're another one of those live-action Disney haters. The Lion King may have had more jaw-dropping visuals than Aladdin had, but Aladdin was far from terrible. Will Smith was about as good a replacement for Robin Williams as one could hope for, and letting him get married and have kids was an ultra-sweet touch. Plus Jasmine this time around definitely had more spunk and girl-power in her than the somewhat neutered animated version of her had, mostly evident in her outstanding new song Speechless. Jafar wasn't as menacing I must admit, but everything else about this remake was absolutely fantasic, and a long way from terrible.
Edna Konrad 4 months ago
Of course I'm a Disney live action hater. They are terrible. None of them should have been made. Pretty visuals does not make a good movie.
Anonymous 3 months ago
I've said it before, but I'll say it again the animated movies are called classics for a reason, but that in no way doesn't mean that seeing your favorite animated movie with real flesh and blood characters with updated visual effects, additional bits of storyline, and sometimes as in Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin extra songs as well can't be as immensely satisfying to watch as their animated counterparts. The only live-action version that has truly been terrible is Cinderella which changed way too many things around. The Jungle Book wasn't as good as it could have been but at least it still had The Bare Necessities and I Wanna Be Like You in it. But the rest even last year's unfairly maligned Dumbo have all been excellent with some like Maleficent being completely different re-tellings of the classic story. I have nothing but praise for Disney's animated films, but their live-action counterparts have by and large been as good if not better, and not just for the outstanding extra visual oompth that they bring to the table. Simply seeing your favorite characters played by real people instead of animated ones is a treat all by itself.
Edna Konrad 3 months ago
The live action movies are bland and stupid. And that's why Aladdin wasn't nominated. Enjoy them if you want but they aren't on the level of good movies.