Last night my wife and I engaged in our annual ritual of watching every bit of the Oscars show where Academy Awards are presented to film winners in 43 categories, if I recall that number correctly.
We like movies. So we like the Oscars.
This year, per usual, the show ran long, so I spent 3 1/2 hours of my remaining life span in front of our TV. Given that expenditure of vital energy, I'm going to do my best to conjure a Church of the Churchless blog post out of the more philosophical/political aspects of the Oscars.
A primary interest of mine was hoping that Everything Everywhere All at Once didn't win Best Picture, because I disliked that film.
As I said in that above-linked blog post, the multiverse theme in the film left me feeling confused and uninterested. Of course, there's no evidence that the multiverse exists. But the movie's fantasy multiverse was much less appealing than real life.
The way a multiverse was presented in Everything Everywhere All at Once reminded me of reincarnation beliefs.
Meaning, there's forces outside normal human understanding that control what is happening in this life.
It takes some special powers to learn what those forces are. Because anything can happen in the multiverse, hurting other people or even killing them is no big deal, since they will remain uninjured or alive in another corner of the multiverse. (Akin to reincarnation, obviously.)
For me, this took away the most interesting aspect of a movie for me: the struggle of characters to deal with problems in their lives. When a movie like Everything Everywhere All at Once resorts to science fiction mumbo-jumbo, the humanity of the characters becomes subservient to fantasy.
In my January blog post about the movie, I quoted from a review in The Guardian.
Everything Everywhere All at Once has been critically swooned over in the US and pretty much everywhere else, so it’s disconcerting to find it frantically hyperactive and self-admiring and yet strangely laborious, dull and overdetermined, never letting up for a single second to let us care about, or indeed believe in, any of its characters.
There are some nice gags and sprightly Kubrickian touches, and one genuinely shocking scene when Evelyn fat-shames her daughter – an authentically upsetting moment of family dysfunction that seems to come from another film, one in a parallel universe.
But this mad succession of consequence-free events, trains of activity which get cancelled by a switch to another parallel world, means that nothing is actually at stake, and the film becomes a formless splurge of Nothing Nowhere Over a Long Period of Time. Again, this film is much admired and arrives adorned with saucer-eyed critical notices … I wish I liked it more.
"Means that nothing is actually at stake." So true. This movie isn't really religious, but its multiverse theme gives it a supernatural vibe.
Just as a religion will say that human life is just a brief way station on the way to eternal life in heaven, so Everything Everywhere All at Once presents a view where nothing really matters in the lives of the characters, since whatever is happening is just one of many happenings to them in other corners of the multiverse.
By contrast, I liked All Quiet on the Western Front, a German movie, much more. The horrors of trench warfare in the first World War came through loud and clear. I could identify with the soldiers who had to obey stupid orders of their generals.
Scenes from All Quiet on the Western Front are still vivid in my memory because I could identify with the humanity of the German soldiers in the film. I can't recall any scenes in Everything Everywhere All at Once that came close to that vividness, since the characters in that movie were caricatures lacking human depth.
What else comes to mind about the Oscars? Well, here's an excerpt from the blog post about the Oscars I wrote last night.
A few years from now, I suspect Everything Everywhere All at Once will be viewed as a production that doesn't age well.
On the plus side, I was thrilled when Navalny got Best Documentary. The acceptance speech for Navalny was the only time Putin's horrendous invasion of Ukraine and his authoritarian rule of Russia was mentioned at the Oscars.
And having watched and hugely enjoyed RRR, an Indian film, I was rooting for it to win Best Original Song, which it did for the catchy “Naatu Naatu.” The dancing that accompanied the song was as infectious as it was in RRR itself.
Jimmy Kimmel had some good jokes. Naturally I can't remember most of them. One that sticks in my mind came near the end of the show when he observed that whoever edited the voluminous footage of the January 6 insurrection at the nation's capitol into a "film" that made the riot look like a tourist visit deserved an Oscar.
(It was Tucker Carlson of Fox News who fashioned that lie, of course.)
Here's the "Naatu Naatu" dance.