Not me watching two hours of the Oscars I don't normally give a damn about to see Megan Thee Stallion rap about Versace, Zendaya, and Frozen.
I bet we all thought that at that moment, a butchered performance of a beloved song was as bad as it could get, eh?
You might be wondering about the title of the article – was anything we witnessed last night a laughing matter? Or is it actually worth shedding a few tears for the Academy, may they rest in peace with their pain-strikingly out-of-touch business conduct and racial insensitivity covered by false attempts at woke-ness?
No, it is not. I will tell you who I was crying for – the millions of kids tuning in to see a hyper-hyped performance of "We don't talk about Bruno", their parents having to wait two hours and then consoling them, Will Smith who ruined his moment that he has been waiting for some thirty-five years of his life, Chris Rock who just came to do a show and collect a paycheck, Andrew Garfield who had to witness Amy Schummer hanging off the ceiling dressed as Spider-Man, and ultimately, Kanye West. Because he will have to do a brainstorming session with patients at the Bedlam Hospital to top the mess that happened at the last night's Oscars.
I always joke about opening a psychic shop with my friends, but perhaps I should really put down a deposit for a building. If you go back and read my article about Encanto: https://www.theteenmagazine.com/3-things-encanto-got-right-and-wrong-about-dysfunctional-families, I state loudly and clearly that the Oscars are cursed and that something wild would happen. But even so, many of the moments that had kids throwing themselves on the ground and left adults confused and shocked were not on my Bingo card.
Since January, we have all been witnessing such gross mismanagement, ad-hoc events, and senseless announcements from the Academy, it could not have ended any other way. First, there was the fan-favorite category shtick that was supposed to win over the public but only backfired, then randomly announcing a live performance of a song that was not nominated just to ride the coattails of its popularity, and the nail in the coffin was the backlash over not-inviting-then-oh-s**t-we-need-to-invite Rachel Zegler to participate in the show.
If you let Twitter manage your business, operating according to what is currently trending, then perhaps you should just declare bankruptcy. You will not find empathy or the course of right action on Twitter, no matter how hard you try to disguise it by virtue-signaling and too little-too late empty gestures.
Although I will say, Twitter was indeed hilarious yesterday and mostly right about everything.
It's easy to be the General after the war is over, so let's kick off with a little retrospect as to how we got here. 94th year in the making, and instead of solidifying the status and preserving the legacy, the Oscars act as if they bet the world that dismantling ninety-four years of relevance in a game of Russian Roulette is not only possible but necessary.
Let me tell you a little detour story that will perhaps give you a better glimpse into the world of media, publicity, and image.
In the year of our Lord 2006, the highly anticipated Mission: Impossible 3 was released. But ahead of its release, Tom Cruise thought it would be a good idea to stop taking his meds and reveal his true colors on Oprah, Matt Lauer, and other shows in a series of appearances that could only be described as a mental breakdown.
The movie commercially flopped, the critics were not giving it five stars either, and Tom Cruise's streak of hot-shot roles and diverse performances over twenty-something years in Hollywood was in serious jeopardy.
Let's just say it's not a good idea to rant about Scientology, Jesus, and women's rights to abortion on a promo tour for an action flick.
If the term "canceled" had existed back then, Tom Cruise would be the definition of it.
And then he (or perhaps its publicity team) decided to put him in a fat costume, give him big, hairy hands and have him swear and dance his way through a movie with Iron Man, Mr. All Right- All Right- All Right, and other comedy geniuses, like Ben Stiller and Jack Black in a film called Tropical Thunder.
Not only did his career and image recover, the next Mission: Impossible installment brought in almost 800 million dollars.
The point of this side rant is … Hire Tom Cruise, Academy. Or his team. Because you are clearly so off-kilter and delusional about the practice of recovering an unpopular image, the harder you try, the worse it gets.
Now, let's count backward from number ten to number one together, kids.
10. Lime-Drenched Diamonds in Compton
Jesus, what an introduction. I get it, we are not supposed to criticize Queen Bey, and frankly, I'm not even sure if this is a criticism directed towards her. I'm not sure who staged that performance, to what extent she's involved in the production. But let's put two and two together, shall we?
This is an Awards ceremony of the Uber rich patting each other on the back for being rich, wildly criticized, and now downright overlooked by the public, if ratings are to testify. So my question is, whose idea was to glamorize Compton with a lime tennis court from my nightmares and then plant Queen there with a diamond garter so visibly signaling how poor we all are, I still feel a little uncomfortable.
First, Beyonce is not from Compton, she's from Texas. And this is not MTV Movie Awards genetically crossed with That's What I Call Music VH1 Tribute. Was it a superb performance? Yes, she's Beyonce, of course, it was. Is she beautiful? Yes, of course, she is, she's Beyonce. But why not put her on the actual stage with horses and lime diamonds, especially when we saw her sit in the audience later on? Doesn't it miss the mark completely? Doesn't it feel insensitive and just a little too out of touch?
And that was the opening number! Man, we have a lot to look forward to, don't we?
9. DJ Khaled´s Interlude
If you thought that Beyonce´s staging for the Be Alive performance was random, all you had to do was wait a few minutes for the follow-up act. DJ Khaled got lost on the way to the toilet and stormed the stage just as the hosts Amy Schummer, Regina Hall, and Wanda Sykes were walking on to start the show.
I guess he was supposed to introduce them, but all he did was run a few laps around them and turn up the awkward levels to a hundred after shouting his catchphrases. The monologue itself wasn´t a disaster, but the DJ Khaled impromptu (or rehearsed?) distracted me so much, I had a problem paying attention to the opening roast. In fact, I got a PTSD response when I saw him wonder on stage, I thought it was going to be the 2008 Kanye VMA´s 2: Khaled´s Electric Boogaloo. It dimmed down these women's elegance for no reason at all.
8. Kevin Costner and his Deadpan Delivery
I'm sorry, but I lolled hard at Kevin Costner reading jokes from the teleprompter like it was a eulogy for his grandma. There was a definitely made up story about his first "adult film" which earned mixed reaction from the audience since Costner´s delivery made it hard to understand whether it was an intended poke or just a blunder. Even Jane Campion who won the Best Director category summed up his presentation as "very dramatic."
Phew, after her BAFTA Awards acceptance speech, I'm glad she refrained from any other comments.
Alas, I do admit that Kevin Costner´s appearance was one of the better parts of the evening.
7. Anthony Hopkins´ Message of Peace, Love and Quiet
Probably an overlooked moment, but it was low-key funny how a seasoned, experienced actor who has most likely seen some crap in his day, was completely floored by the Will Smith incident, which we will get to later.
We always look to our elders to give guidance in situations like these, so he probably felt the need to say something more than a script prepared for his presentation.
Hannibal Lecter leaned towards his microphone, looking around as if to do a quick mind poll on whether it would be a good idea to comment on Smith's bitch-slap, as he ultimately decided against it and just stretched out his hand like a Pope and said: "Let's have peace and love and quiet."
6. The Costume Sketch
I am not riding the coattails of a five-year-old bandwagon against Amy Schummer, I don't really care that much for her. I like some of her standup, I also know she stole some jokes from Mulaney and other comedians – but this is not a piling up the hatred session. The truth of the matter is that the costume routine was less than enjoyable. It was unnecessary, the setup was weak and the punchline never arrived.
Or, rather, it did in a form of Wanda Sykes, who I love and is one of my favorite comedians, delivering the oldest stereotype joke at the expense of lesbians. I'm not a lesbian, I'm not a prude either, and I do enjoy tongue-in-cheek, provocative jokes – it depends on the joke. It resembled an attempt at Ricky Gervais´ type of comedy, but it didn´t land at all. Or was Wanda allowed to make that joke because she's a lesbian, is that how the rule book works now?
5. Regina Hall's COVID-19 Inspection
My point will probably be a little repetitive from the previous example, but since we are analyzing the hypocrisy, let's do it properly. Again, do I have something against challenging jokes that might offend the public? Absolutely not, I'm one of the people who make them (or I try to, at least). I love Russel Howard, Ricky Gervais, and the kind of comedy that is now considered controversial. I'm just wondering if the roles were reversed, and it was Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa or Bradley Cooper "inspecting" Regina for COVID-19, would the audience and the internet laugh?
Double standards are indeed alive and well when a woman is allowed to objectify and touch men for the sake of comedy just a couple of years after Hollywood's practices of hiring actresses were revealed. There is something to say as well to the fact that Regina made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith, too, yet she was met with a cordial response instead of a slap in the face.
So, are we equal, or what, Hollywood? Probably not the best institution to ask, is it.
4. Cutting Off Ryusuke Hamaguchi
Japanese Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi took home an award for his work on the nominated Drive My Car picture.
Fifteen seconds into his speech, the Academy that oh so values international pictures and the catalog of diversity in attendance, cut him off. You might think that perhaps he was speaking in Japanese, and they got annoyed (because of course they would be).
But no, the director was speaking in English and had to put in a request to stop the wrap-it-up music. I'm sure many of us were reminded of Dave Chappelle´s Wrap-it Up sketch from the Chappelle´s show, and facepalmed just as hard when they literally could not let the poor director finish and even ushered him off the stage after he got to thank (at least) some people on his docket.
3. Rachel Zegler´s Quip
After social media's outrage at the lack of invitation for the West Side Story's leading lady Rachel Zegler, the Academy took the criticism to heart and listened to its experienced field media advisor, Twitter. Rachel was invited to present, she dodged the questions about the whole fiasco on the red carpet as every media-trained star and politician would do, and then made a quip about how she'd "never expect to be here six days ago".
Whether Zegler´s initial snub was racially motivated, a plain miscalculation, or an excuse for the Academy to omit the scandal-wrapped Ansel Engort from the ceremony, too, is unclear. At this point, I'm not sure if they even know what the strategy is, the preparations felt like a WWE telenovela, just stumbling from one plot point to another, pegging down the confidence of talented actors along the way.
2. the Real Reason Why We Don't Talk About Bruno
I am going to have a field day with this.
If you read my articles or know the first thing about me, you might have noticed that I adore Disney. I'm not proud of it, I know they are not exactly the pinnacle of kindness and right decisions, but it would be remiss and hypocritical not to point out that Disney has launched some of the most influential artists over more than half a century.
It shaped my childhood, inspired my writing, and is still affecting me to this day – not to mention the ownership of other artistic and non-artistic corporations meddling with the entertainment industry.
I may not care about the Oscars, but I did care about the overpromised-under delivered performance. We may even wonder if performing that song was even necessary, and the answer is no, of course, it wasn´t.
You see, it is the common practice these days to manufacture zeitgeist (although that never works) instead of putting in the work and hoping that the art connects, like it used to be done. To everyone's surprise, We Don't Talk About Bruno was the song that connected, topped the commercial charts, shattered Disney records, and started a Cultural Revolution.
Naturally, at the last minute, the Academy jumped on the hype to try and siphon some of that relevance off of a culturally meaningful piece of art that is Encanto.
The song wasn´t initially even submitted, it wasn´t even a marketing target for the For Your Consideration campaign, but here we are. Apparently, they were very secretive about the way the performance was going to be conducted and kept quiet about the staging and the musical arrangements even from the creators who after the show reportedly said that it was "mind-blowing".
Yeah, I bet it was. My mind was blown to pieces, for sure.
There are so many things wrong with that performance, I don't think the English language is sufficient to unpack all of them, so let's focus on the most damaging one: Representation.
In case you haven't seen it – I kid you not, they invited the entire cast of Encanto - Adassa (Dolores), Stephanie Beatriz (Mirabel), Mauro Castillo (Felix), Carolina Gaitan (Pepa), and Diane Guerrero (Isabela) to perform, only to push them aside and park them there to blend in with the background dancers after the first verse of the song. Megan Thee Stallion then took center stage to perform a new rap randomly added to the arrangement about how great female hosts are (?) and that Zendaya is great, too(?).
If you think that was the end of it, think again. The torch was passed down to Becky G and Luis Fonsi who honored Pfizer that evening by dressing as their most popular drug from the late 90s.
They then proceeded to sing changed lyrics from "We don't talk about Bruno" to "We're here to celebrate Oscars" and a bunch of other verses I did not hear because technicians wisely decided on overpowering their voices with instrumentals. I caught something about "shout-out to Lin-Manuel" and "it's finally the Oscars´ night."
None of those people are Colombian, they had nothing to do with the movie, and if I'm not mistaken, Megan Thee Stallion isn´t even Hispanic.
Why Frankenstein-assemble this song this horrifically? Well, because to the white elite, all the Spanish-speaking countries are potato/potatoe.
Luis Fonsi is Latino, no? Let's throw him in there. Becky G is producing Latin music, no? Young people "Stan" her or something, let's throw her in the mix too, and since we have been accused of being white supremacists, we will take advantage of a talented Black woman to check the final racial diversity box regardless of whether she worked on the film or not.
Only the Academy can turn what should have been a slam dunk to restore viewership and trust into a dumpster fire.
Lin Manuel Miranda wasn´t in attendance, so … Congrats, you dodged a bullet right there.
1. Will Smith Assaulting Chris Rock
The cherry on top after a spectacular two-and-a-half-hour debacle and search for identity and popularity, Will Smith lost it. I really don't know what to say, if it is even my place to say anything. I am aware that just because I have a Black father, that does not constitute me opening my mouth about the complexities of what had transpired. I'm not certain if anyone even knows what happened exactly.
I watched Chris Rock make a joke about Jada, Will laughing about it and the next thing I know, the Prince of Bel Air was freshly marching towards Chris Rock, recreating the Batman meme.
Since it is not in my nature to stay completely impartial, I will state facts that we all witnessed and can hopefully agree on: It was shocking, it was violent, and it was unnecessary. One slap might not carry much weight in and on itself, but let's not forget that while white people have the right to individual screw-ups and have them be judged as individual screw-ups, Black people pay for the "sins" of individuals collectively in this society.
It takes years to build trust and reputation and only a few seconds to destroy it, so I have no idea what came over Will Smith at that moment. I do know that he smacked a comedian doing a stand-up comedy routine without the regulators overseeing the ceremony so much as blinking for the sake of "the show must go on", I guess.
Speaking on behalf of the everyday working class as well as disappointed kids and probably Ricky Gervais, maybe the show should not go on anymore.
We are heartily sick of it.