Should We Stop Fretting About The 2019 Oscars

Those worrying that this year’s hostless, controversy-steeped Academy Awards ceremony—just less than two weeks away!—will be a complete disaster can perhaps take some comfort in Sunday night’s Grammy Awards presentation. That, too, was looking to be a mess, and yet at the end of its blaring and uneven run, people seemed . . . happy enough?

There had been much cause for concern, as many of the biggest names in the popular-music business declined invitations to perform at the show—or to simply even show up—for reasons ranging from the merely uninterested to the pointedly political. That political protest, stemming from a historic and widespread inequity among Grammy winners—a long list of slights that, among other things, largely undervalues or outright ignores hip-hop artists—still loomed in a quiet but forceful way Sunday night.

Childish Gambino became the first-ever rapper to win record of the year, yet was not there to accept the award—a coulda-been-triumphant moment that was the Recording Academy’s loss more than it was Gambino’s.

Still, through sheer will of the talent, the show managed some fun moments, despite its egregious deficiencies.

Cardi B was a spirited performer and best-rap-album winner. Thinking-person’s country queen (and gay icon)

Kacey Musgraves performed with (gay icon)

Dolly Parton and won album of the year. Also joining Parton were

Miley Cyrus,

Maren Morris, the band Little Big Town, and a truly roaring

Katy Perry, the latter of whom maybe didn’t quite understand the assignment—but isn’t that always kind of the fun of Katy Perry at an awards show?

Janelle Monáe was great;

Alicia Keys was an affably mellow host;

Lady Gaga did a gonzo rendition of “Shallow” from A Star Is Born that felt like a reassurance to her die-hard fans that she hasn’t gone full respectable Hollywood actress just yet. And, of course,

Jennifer Lopez gave a masterclass in Motown with her reverent medley. O.K., I’m kidding about that last one. But all told, the show had a surprising sense of movement to it. Sure, it was without some star wattage; no

Ariana Grande, no

Beyoncé, no

Kendrick Lamar, no very special 98 Degrees reunion, despite my many letters to the Academy demanding such. It was still a decent time, though, certainly not the catastrophe it seemed destined to be in the days immediately preceding it.

So, should all this give Oscar fans any reason to think that, despite everything, the Academy Awards this year could somehow manage not to be so terrible in the end? Maybe! The obvious caveat here is that the Grammys and the Oscars are two very different ceremonies, with the Grammys long ago deciding to focus on performances rather than on the doling out of too many awards. The film Academy is trimming the number of categories it broadcasts as well—though unlike the Recording Academy, it is not filling the show with extra musical numbers to balance things out. It did at least walk back an earlier idea to only have a couple of the best-original-song nominees be performed, perhaps realizing that, oh duh, there’s premium content right there.

But that’s just five songs. What could the Oscars do to spice up the rest of the show? My personal dream is that they’ll try what the Tonys used to do for plays (before foolishly doing away with the tradition): have actors perform scenes from their nominated films, live onstage. I’m . . . mostly joking, but for the Oscars to make a case for themselves, there needs to be some added value beyond just the trophies being handed out. Usually, that task has fallen on the host and their team of writers. That’s not an option this year, so producers—and writers—will have to find new ways to keep the show engaging without someone standing at the center, setting the tone and holding it all in place.

Perhaps some winning inventiveness will come out of that. That the Grammys did not suck—this particular telecast, at least; the institution still needs a lot of work—perhaps mildly suggests that the Oscars could find some redemption this year in low expectations, a certain moxie in desperation. I don’t think we should declare the thing dead just yet, because we have no idea how the show is actually going to look this year. With a particular host, we can sort of guess based on past work. But the comedy stylings of producer

Donna Gigliotti? Those feel less tested. Maybe we should try to extract some excitement from that uncertainty, rather than going right to doom and gloom.

Given the state of the world and the grimness of its future, I certainly understand the impulse toward doom and gloom. Still: let us dare to hope, even knowing that the Oscars will still need to do a whole reckoning after this “rebuilding year,” no matter how things go on February 24. There could still be fun things at the upcoming ceremony, moments of triumph and delicious awkwardness and meme-able reaction shots. And some great performances! This bright blue, beautiful planet of ours was itself born out of chaos. So isn’t it possible that the Academy Awards could take an exciting new shape after all their tumult, too?

Ratings-wise, this year’s Grammy success was that the show merely maintained a 10-year low, rather than dropping further. Maybe, though, that’s all we can do right now: be glad that things at least didn’t get worse.

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Source : https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2019/02/should-we-stop-fretting-about-the-2019-oscars

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