Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Oscar Telecast Retrospective Part 1: Rock's Monologue

Time being the heartless thief that it is, you'll have to bear with me as blog my way through this year's Oscar telecast one bit at a time, as opposed to one massive post which just takes too long to write.

The show opened with the obligatory stirring montage of the year in film.
I counted no less than sixteen films that received zero nominations, with multiple shots of 2015's highest grossing non-nominees Jurassic World, Age of Ultron and Minions (but no screen time for Anomalisa, Boy and the World or When Marnie Was There -- shocking). Were they trying to dupe the casual viewer into sticking around past Chris Rock's opening monologue?

Speaking of which...
He got of to a rocky start (seriously not intending a pun there) with an obvious “White People's Choice Awards” joke, but things picked up from there. “How come it's only unemployed people who tell you you should quit something?” he quipped in reference to calls that he boycott, before setting up the night's one decent running gag by adding, “And the last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart.”

Most critics agree – and I'll cop to it as well – that Rock crushed his opening set. At least as a performer.

The chinks in his comedy armour – chiefly the reduction of Oscar's diversity issue to a strictly black actors issue – may have revealed themselves early, but you need to have flawless timing and stage charisma to spare in order to land sweat-curdling jokes like: “We were too busy being raped and lynched to care who won Best Cinematography”. His incendiary contrasting of 1960s civil rights strife and the esoterica of Hollywood awards shows was simultaneously problematic (blacks still do have “real things to protest”) and yet audaciously insightful, putting two year's worth of social media outrage towards the Oscars into harsh perspective.

His call for opportunities was inspired, and his description of Hollywood as “sorority racist” was so on point that it merited more of an knowing nod than a laugh (and could be partly responsible for his diminishing returns after that point).

The picture editors were clearly having a tough time finding cutaways to people in the audience, no doubt unsure about laughing at Rock's blistering truth-bombing. I would've loved to be a fly on the wall at the Dolby! That must have been the most uncomfortable Oscar crowd since Rob Lowe cut a rug with Snow White.

Is Brie laughing or crying at Rock's bold racial humour?

It may not be the monologue Hollywood deserves, but it's the one it needs right now. And it was also simply the funniest one in many, many years.

On with the show in the next installment!

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