The Sunday Mail
Man, I really miss Billy Crystal!
I never thought I would ever utter such “nonsense”, but those were my first words after sitting through the three-and-a-half hours of this year’s Academy Awards, better known as the “Oscars”.
Crystal is a famed host of the Academy Awards and held the gig a record nine times, from 1990-93, 1997-98, 2000, 2004 and 2012.
I bring up the famed comedian’s resume because, first and foremost I am a fan, and secondly, his touch was gravely missed during the 92nd edition of the Academy Awards.
For the second year in a row, after last year’s Kevin Hart controversial tweet debacle, the Oscars went ahead without a host and produced yet another bland and mindboggling affair.
At the time of writing, it had been roughly 48 hours since I had watched the show but could not put my finger on exactly how l felt about the whole ceremony.
On one hand, I had no major gripe with most of the winners.
“Parasite” walked away with the Best Picture gong, which was refreshing. I would have had no problems with “1917” or ‘The Irishman” winning it either. I had prayed to the film gods that it would not be given to the “Joker”.
I was glad Eminem got his Oscar moment, 17 years later, and finally got to perform his Oscar-winning song “Lose Yourself”.
I knew Elton John would walk away with the Best Music (Original Song) for “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from the biopic based on his life “Rocketman”.
Taika Waititi (Best Adapted Screenplay Joho Rabbit), Brad Pitt (Best Supporting Actor for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) and Laura Dern (Best Supporting Actress for Marriage Story) all made heartfelt and sincere speeches, so that too was refreshing.
But I did not like the fact that Toy Story won the best Animated Feature gong, or Joaquin Phoenix’s speech, which he appeared to be giving in a “Joker” mode, rumbling incoherently throughout.
The fact that Renee Zellweger is still winning awards, let alone Best Actress gongs, riled me as well.
But hey, that is just me!
I would rather talk about are the lessons that we, as Zimbabweans, can take from the just-ended Oscars, specifically the elements that we can avoid as the Star FM Awards and the National Arts Merit Awards (Nama) beckon.
The most important lesson is taking the ceremonies seriously. That is something the Americans (Grammy, Golden Globes, BET and Oscars) and English (BAFTA) excel in.
Red carpet and fashion are not just side acts at the events, they are an integral part of the process. This is what l think – if you give your house guests VIP treatment every time they come to your house, odds are that they will come often.
The visual sets at the few awards shows that I have attended locally lacked creativity. This needs to be rectified as soon as possible.
The same goes for artistes that perform at these shows, we are tired of just seeing a couple of people running and dancing up a stage. lt would be wise for some local acts to look up to Idina Menzel’s “Into the Unknown”, Cynthia Irivo’s “Stand Up” performances from this year’s Oscars, or Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar’s opening number from the 2016 BET Awards for inspiration.
A good host, award show humour and banter also lacked at this year’s Oscars. Hosting is integral to every award show and local awards organisers should keep that in mind.
It serves as the glue that keeps the show together and flowing.
Due to the fact that the Oscars did not have a host, the show seemed to take too long, with presenters sometimes announcing other presenters to present certain awards.
No one was pointing out the big issues of the season, which in this case was the apparent lack of women and colour in most of the categories.
Some of the humour fell flat, case in point being that Rebel Wilson and James Corden appeared in cat makeup, trying to plug in their flop movie “Cats”.
No one explained why Eminem was there to perform his 20-year-old hit “Lose Yourself”.
These are the things that good hosts have safely navigated before.
The last and most important lesson to take from the Oscars is to embrace the controversy. After all, there is no such thing as bad publicity.
One of the biggest failures of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science — the custodians of the Oscars — is that they have tried to weather and navigate controversy, rather than acknowledge, address and remedy it.
One of the accusations levelled against them is their lack of diversity in the show and its categories.
Their solution to this, for those who watched the ceremony on television or online, was to show a montage of previous winners of colour, the likes of Halle Berry, Sidney Poitier and Cuba Gooding Jnr, during advert breaks.
It felt rather patronising, to say the least.
When Chris Rock hosted the 2016 gig, it was marred by racism.
Other recent Hollywood awards have been marred by sexism. These problems are not going away anytime soon. They have already ruined “Parasite’s” Oscar moment as the film is viewed as a token win.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science needs to find a solution this problem, and they better do it fast. Otherwise the future looks bleak.
Back home, the main problem is transparency, which has a quick fix. First iron out the adjudication panels and the processes public knowledge. What the panel is looking for in a winner should not be a secret.