Well, Oscar has put another year of awards season to bed, and the event itself was mostly uneventful, at least by Oscar standards. No one got booed, no one got all political, no one got slapped.
Karl is not much for the red carpet part of the evening, and changing to a champagne carpet didn’t interest him much either. I, on the other hand, juggle between the outlets hoping to catch as much of it as possible. It is the annual moment to revel in the glamor of Hollywood, for those so inclined, revealing that deep down, we may be very superficial.
“Well, it’s fascinating. The whole of humanity is here. It’s vanity fair.” Hugh Grant nailed it in his response to Ashley Graham when she asked him what his favorite thing was about coming to the Oscars. Mr. Grant’s reference, alluding to Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress and Thackeray’s satirical novel about 19th century British society bearing the same name, went right over Ms. Graham’s head.
“Oh, it’s all about Vanity Fair. That’s where we let loose and have a little bit of fun.” Bless her heart. By thinking he was referring to the Oscar after-party hosted by the magazine, she immediately embodied Thackeray’s frivolous pretention, bringing it forward to 21st century Hollywood. The interview only got more awkward.
But here’s the deal. Ms. Graham was trying to do her job, silly as it might be. Mr. Grant, on the other hand, was not doing his. And that’s not rude, it’s just uncooperative. He would, however, be more conciliatory when presenting an actual Oscar on the actual Oscar stage, demonstrated by his willingness to make a weak, crude joke about his looking like a scrotum.
What’s really sad about that is less about his making himself the butt (or scrotum) of the joke and the fact that he didn’t know that he would have gotten a bigger laugh if he’d used the word “nutsack.”
Going back to the whole of humanity being there, Mr. Grant was quite right. In the acting nominations this year, almost anyone available for engagement could find a story with which to identify, and not just the stories that were being told in the movies for which these actors were nominated.
Seven of the acting nominations went to people of color, with five of the remaining thirteen going to Irish actors. Judd Hirsch representing The Fabelmans made the cut, so generally speaking, it was a hard year for WASPs.
Mr. Hirsch and Angela Bassett were back among the nominees, decades after receiving a first nomination. Brendan Fraser and Ke Huy Quan made big Hollywood-style comebacks, winning awards in their respective categories. Veterans Jamie Lee Curtis and Michelle Yeoh received long overdue first nominations after working as actresses for decades without Academy recognition. Their wins, at 64 and 60 respectively, strikes a blow against ageism in an industry noted for its obsession with youth. All in all, Oscar did much better than usual.
Much has been said, in social media and in entertainment news, about the obvious disappointment Angela Bassett displayed in not getting the Oscar. Many of her supporters have defended her authenticity (a word well on its way to becoming a buzzword) in a setting more known for displays of false emotion.
Some of her more rabid supporters have gone quite too far, which says more about them than it does about Ms. Bassett or Ms. Curtis. What is more interesting is the dichotomy this situation presented, and perhaps the rawness of the suppressed emotion just under the surface of what Mr. Grant referred to as “vanity fair.”
In her acceptance speech, Ms. Curtis was eloquent and moving, giving credit to all the usual suspects (cast, crew, agents, etc.) as well as the hundreds of thousands (more like millions, in actuality) who supported her “genre movies” (Halloween). She ended by speaking of her parents, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, and looking up, fighting back tears, voice breaking to tell them, “I just won an Oscar.” She was genuinely emotional, experiencing the validation that neither of them received and she probably thought she would never get either.
Ms. Bassett, on the front row, was experiencing the flip side of that validation coin, as would the majority of the nominees gathered there that night. Others might go in completely different directions in interpreting this, but since both of the ladies I speak of are of my generation, I say God bless a woman who doesn’t need to hide her feelings, be they joy, disappointment or anything in between.
So, you see, Mr. Grant, it’s not all vanity fair.