Sunday, June 23, 2024

The Stage Is Set For A Memorable & Historic Oscar Night

With less than two weeks left until Oscar night, there is as much dread as excitement, and not just for the usual reasons. To be perfectly frank, after the utter disasters that destroyed the last two Oscar ceremonies, ABC and pretty much every award season pundit and fan need the third time to be the charm. And to be even more honest, if this year’s show somehow finds a way to fumble the gifts it has just been given, then maybe the Oscars as they are now don’t deserve a comeback story.

In building up to this year’s show, most everyone will find a way to recall the only thing we remember last year’s show for. But that night of infamy wasn’t just embarrassing on its own, as it followed the almost equally embarrassing ending of the 2020 Oscars to boot. Granted, tampering with the presentation order of the final awards, saving Best Actor for last, and setting up a Chadwick Boseman coronation that never came is something on a far different level than last year’s more violent scandal. Regardless, no one was particularly happy to remember the last two Oscar telecasts, for whatever reason. Before the SAG Awards, there was a growing possibility that the 2022 Oscars would be a letdown in a different way. Instead of making us angry, there was a genuine chance we would turn on this year’s Oscars simply for being boring.

With “Everything Everywhere All At Once” all but securing Best Picture with its PGA win the night before, and with the Daniels all but securing Best Director with their DGA win the week before, the only chance left for any real suspense on Oscar night was in the acting categories. Yet if the winning SAG quartet were Austin Butler, Cate Blanchett, Ke Huy Quan, and Angela Bassett, that suspense would be gone entirely – and then what would we all have left to talk, argue or wonder about for two weeks straight and for much of the ceremony?

But by perhaps the first grace of luck in three years during this stage of Oscar season, SAG saved us all from the prospect of virtual pundit dead air. While Quan eliminated the last bit of doubt in Best Supporting Actor, Brendan Fraser, Michelle Yeoh, and Jamie Lee Curtis put Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress back up for grabs after all. As such, while we may have nothing left to talk or debate about in half the major categories, we mercifully have a few left that hasn’t been decided yet – and we can, therefore, still bite a few nails during the ceremony.

SAG gave this year’s Oscar show what it desperately needed and almost completely lost – a modicum of suspense, even if none of it is in Best Picture. With that suspense, maybe now the Oscars have a real chance to get something it desperately needs much more and hasn’t had for three years, namely an actual happy ending. Even if some fans were delighted with Anthony Hopkins beating Boseman, regardless of how it was presented, or content with “CODA” upsetting “The Power Of The Dog” if they actually remembered that happened during last year’s ceremony too, the Oscars have otherwise been torn apart for two years running. Arguably, the last time the Oscars got any good headlines or high praise was way back in the final days before the pandemic, when Bong Joon-ho won Best Director for “Parasite” and paved the way for its historic Best Picture victory.

That was the final unqualified moment of joy when it came to the Oscars, if not the last moment of joy for the entire world before it shut down. Since then, even spare moments of pleasure and historic victories in 2021 and 2022 were later tainted or mostly forgotten due to the ugliness that came before and after them. But in 2023, the stage is officially set to finally turn it all around.

For many people online and on the year-long “Everything Everywhere All At Once” bandwagon, it’s now likely Best Picture victory may be enough to make this the best Oscars in recent memory, all on its own. Yet even if it does make history like “Parasite” did, its SAG/PGA/DGA sweep has now made it a much more predictable winner. In contrast, “Parasite” actually came into Oscar night as the underdog when “1917” swept the PGA, DGA, and BAFTA – which made the announcement of Bong’s Best Director victory over Sam Mendes all the more unforgettable. It was the last great Oscar moment because it was halfway unexpected and because it was the moment that made it clear “Parasite” could and would really win the whole thing after all. It also joined Olivia Colman’s Best Actress victory for “The Favourite” the previous year as a viral speech for a somewhat surprising result.

Those back-to-back years were lucky to have instant classic Oscar moments – especially considering all the much less beloved major winners besides Colman in 2018. In that context, maybe back-to-back horrible endings over the next two years were a kind of karmic price to pay for all of it. Now that things are presumably even on that score, it is time for this year’s show to get the Oscars back on the right side of the universe.

Everything Everywhere All At Once” may do it on its own for Best Picture, but in case that isn’t enough, we now have Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Supporting Actress as our best chances for a Bong or Colman-like moment of history. Among those options, the very best opportunity for something special may come in Best Actress, now that it is an actual two-woman race again and not on track for a mere Blanchett coronation.

Yeoh’s SAG victory stopped Blanchett from clinching her third Oscar right then and there, although some are still convinced she has it locked up anyway. This alone would make Yeoh the equivalent of Bong – an underdog from an eventual Best Picture winner, facing a slim favorite who already has Oscars and the most industry precursors of the season. And while a Blanchett win would be historic and make her the first actress to win Oscars in three consecutive decades, it would not send as many shockwaves as seeing the first Asian Best Actress winner – and second Best Actress of color – take the stage.

If that doesn’t come to pass, a non-infuriating Oscars viral moment could still come in Best Actor, depending on whether one roots for Butler or Fraser. Assuming that Colin Farrell really is out of the running, Best Actor – the most cursed major Oscar category of the last decade in some shape or form – will either be won this time by one of the youngest Best Actor winners ever in Butler or by the author of one of the biggest comeback stories of this era in Fraser. If anything, a speech by either of them could wind up defining the entire show and season, whether by Fraser’s certain tear-jerking or by whether Butler still has his Elvis voice right to the end.

If that wasn’t enough, there’s still Best Supporting Actress, where Bassett has gone from potential sweeper to potential underdog all over again after losing BAFTA and SAG. Still, if she manages to pull through anyway, it would make her long overdue Oscar acceptance speech all the more moving now. The same could happen if Curtis somehow becomes the category’s overdue winner instead and surely brings down the house, as she did at SAG.

Though in that case, it may not be as well received outside the Dolby Theater if it winds up signaling “Everything Everywhere All At Once” will not get three acting wins as it did at SAG – to say nothing of arguments that its win in this category should have gone to Stephanie Hsu. Yet, on the other hand, the category could still go to Kerry Condon as a consolation win for “The Banshees Of Inisherin” and raise eyebrows – out of surprise or anger – that way.

No matter what, at least a few options could yield the best Oscar outcome and moment of this decade. If SAG had locked up every single acting race, to say nothing of the other guilds already all but locking up the biggest races of all, a historic but now entirely predictable “Everything Everywhere All At Once” Best Picture win would have to do all the heavy lifting to redeem this Oscar night, if not the previous two as well.

Fortunately, not only can anything still happen in some, if not all, major categories, anything good can still happen in them as well. If it does, then for the first time in three years, most of us will turn off ABC sometime before midnight on Oscar night with smiles, instead of scowls or disgusted shock, on our faces. Of course, that feeling of renewed optimism could somehow still come back to haunt us.

After all, no one outside of Steven Soderbergh’s production team knew the failed finale gambit of 2021 was coming, and no one on the planet could have seen the defining ugly moment of 2022 coming. If something equally terrible is going to mar the 2023 ceremony, it will be something we can’t possibly see coming right now, either. But if there’s something so terrible ahead that can foil or mar the much happier endings possible on March 12th, then maybe the Oscars really are beyond salvation at this point.

Are you excited for this year’s Oscars? What outcomes would make you the happiest? Please let us know in the comments section below or on our Twitter account and check out our latest Oscar predictions here.

You can follow Robert and hear more of his thoughts on the Oscars and Film on Twitter at @robertdoc1984

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