I’m one of those film lovers who has been watching the Academy Awards telecast since I was high enough to reach the rotary tuner on our black-and-white Philco television. When I was the age Millennials are now, and a Manhattan single, I held Oscar parties in my Second Avenue apartment, with the ceremony projected on my 72-inch Kloss NovaBeam, a first-generation big-screen TV.
One year I dressed up as E.T. I would go so far as to write a fanzine for the Oscar parties.
I didn’t do any of that this year. It’s not news that the Oscars aren’t what they used to be. In the show’s heyday, I remember Johnny Carson hosting every year, and Bob Hope before him. I remember more than a few of the presumed liberals in the audience hissing as Native American Shacheen Littlefeather spoke on stage after Marlon Brando’s name was announced as Best Actor, for “The Godfather.” She wasn’t there to accept the award for Brando. She was there to decline it for him, in protest of Hollywood’s caricatured portrayals of Native Americans.
I remember the most emotionally charged, and arguably historic, moment in Oscar history. It was when the immortal Charlie Chaplin, who had been banished from the United States for 20 years, thanks to the scourge of McCarthyism, returned in triumph, as he received an honorary Oscar, accompanied by a prolonged ovation punctuated with lusty shouts of “Bravo!”
This year’s Oscars came at a time of upheaval in the way movies are made and distributed, thanks to those 21st century foxes, Netflix and Amazon. We’ve gone from the elegance of Carson and Hope hosting to no host, and that worked just fine, thank you.
There were no clumsy Busby Berkeley-esque production numbers—like the one that humiliated Rob Lowe years ago—and that worked very well as well.
There was no Meryl Streep, which immediately increased the chances of lesser-known actors winning an award. That’s what happened when Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”) unexpectedly grabbed the prize away from favorite Glenn Close, a Bedford resident who now is 0 for 7 as an Oscar nominee, a record among female actors.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences clearly was reaching across the generations by deploying non-Hollywood names like Tom Morello of rock band Rage Against the Machine and country music star Kacey Musgraves, fresh off her four Grammy wins, as presenters.
There was the very rare sight of a second acting Oscar presented to the same person within two years of the first honor. That would be Mahershala Ali, who in 2017 became the first Muslim to win an acting Oscar (“Moonlight”), and now, after Denzel Washington, is the second black actor to win two Oscars (“Green Book”).
Mr. Ali also is a good bet to pick up an acting Emmy Award this fall for his remarkable performance in HBO’s just-completed mini-series “True Detective.” In it, the 45-year-old actor plays a detective at three different points in his life, aging from mid-30s to mid-70s, and he’s wholly convincing throughout.
In the disapproving reaction in some quarters to “Green Book” getting the top award, we’re witnessing a Best Picture winner being ridiculed by liberals as being too liberal.
In Mahershala Ali, we’re witnessing the emergence of an A-list star with triple-A talent. At mid-career, his career is taking off like a rocket.
Who would have guessed it?
Not William Goldman, the Oscar-winning screenwriter who just died and who birthed classics like “All the President’s Men,” “Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid” and “The Princess Bride.” It was Mr. Goldman who famously reminded all of his fellow movie industry folk, “In Hollywood, nobody knows anything.”
Bruce “The Blog” Apar promotes local businesses, organizations, events and people through public relations agency APAR PR. He also is an actor, a community volunteer, and a contributor to several periodicals. Follow him as Bruce The Blog on social media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-275-6887.