Daniel Kaluuya, accepting his Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor on Sunday night, had a brilliant moment when he made a joke about his parents having sex. The camera then moved to Kaluuya’s mother, who was making the ideal “What on Earth?” expression. It’s just one of those unplanned moments that has been a major reason why viewers have enjoyed watching the Oscars over the years. Anything can happen, after all! However, since there was no host at this year’s ceremony, it was left to Twitter to make the jokes. This is due to the fact that, in the absence of a professional and experienced host, we are left with presenters who are reading from a script they have already rehearsed. They have no right to appear on screen and even make a reference to what we, the viewers, have just witnessed. (And, to be honest, we certainly don’t want presenters deviating from the script because, if they don’t know what they’re doing, it might be disastrous in and of itself.) I kept imagining a future where, say, Chris Rock returns to the stage with a big smile on his face and begins teasing Kaluuya’s mother about what had happened. To really commemorate the wonderful event that just occurred. Instead, the show stayed true to the script as though nothing had happened. Then there’s the cliffhanger… oof. We’ll talk about it later.
Under the conditions, last night’s Oscars looked fine, and some of the speeches were excellent. Between the speeches, however, all appeared robotic. Too meticulously designed. There was no feeling that something could go wrong, which goes against the purpose of watching live television in the first place. And, given that we’ve all been sitting around trying to stop the plague for the past year, would it have been so bad to have a trained host come on and do what the best hosts do: lead the audience through and act as a cipher for the audience? That’s one of the reasons why people liked Billy Crystal: he seemed both pleased to be there and not adverse to bringing the proceedings down a notch when things got too stuffy. So, yeah, it would have been great to have someone there all the time to say, “Yeah, this has been a difficult year, but what do you think about trying to have a little fun tonight?” Instead, we got more speeches in between the speeches. These Oscars with no host have no personality. This year, it stood out even more because the production desperately wanted us to believe it had a personality.
(As an aside, with the difficulty in gathering people, wouldn’t this be the year for a grand death montage? With a slew of fantastic footage of all of these stars in their prime? This was supposed to be a ten-minute chapter! Instead, it was seen as if someone had pressed the fast forward button on an old VHS tape.)
So, there’s one major issue: no one wants to host the Academy Awards. I did some digging into why this is, and the general consensus seems to be that it’s a lose-lose scenario. Anyone who hosts a show already knows that in the weeks leading up to the show, viewers will be poring over their past. It’s a significant amount of scrutiny. Even people who haven’t made any major blunders in the past don’t seem to like the idea of being subjected to a public background check. And, based on what I’ve read, the host’s pay is incredibly low. (I want to be clear: it’s a good sum of money for you or me, but it seems poor for a celebrity who will be mocked for weeks.) So, despite the fact that there isn’t much credibility left with this job, the Academy is still seeking to recruit a host based solely on “prestige.” In normal times, any comedian at that stage could do a two-week stand in Vegas and make a lot of money. So, what’s the enticement? “Hey what if you made a lot less money for doing a lot of work and, oh, most likely everyone will hate you. So, what do you say?”
Obviously, the Academy must accept that its top job no longer carries the same weight as it once did. That means they can’t continue to pay hosts based solely on their celebrity. To make this thing work again, they’ll have to pay a lot of money to people who are successful.
Also, last night’s conclusion. What a disaster. This has nothing to do with Anthony Hopkins winning, and in fact, what the Oscars did to him was a bit of a sham. When it was revealed a few hours before the show that Best Actor will be the final award given out, I just thought that, because it’s such an odd year, the secretive protocols had been scrapped since the powers that be had been tipped off that Chadwick Boseman had won. Since the show went all-in on Boseman winning and ending on a touching and well-deserved tribute to his life, the production went all-in on him winning. And the thing is, maybe the idea was that even if Boseman didn’t win, whoever did win would undoubtedly say something good about him.
Instead, Joaquin Phoenix read Anthony Hopkins’s name, who wasn’t there to accept, then Phoenix skedaddled off stage as quickly as possible. Guess what … there’s no host, so there’s no one to run up to the microphone to say anything. It just ended on a thud. Imagine if the La La Land, Moonlight year didn’t have a host. We at home would have seen a huddle, then a quick announcement that Moonlight had won and that would have been it, with no one to explain what just happened.
I always love Jimmy Kimmel’s retelling of that story, as he’s in the audience to do a bit with Matt Damon to close the show and Damon says to him, “someone should go up there and explain what’s happening,” and it hit Kimmel, “Oh, I guess that’s me.” But, last night there wasn’t anyone to say “I guess that’s me.” No one to say, “Hey, before we go, he may not have won, but let me say a few words about Chadwick Boseman.” Instead, we just got the thud.
Anyway, enough of this: bring back the Oscar host and also make it worth their while to do it.