Oscars at the Ranch — My Recap of the Awards

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The best thing about the Oscars this year was that I was watching it at the San Diego International Film Festival, benefiting the San Diego Film Foundation. I got to talk to a lot of local filmmakers and movie lovers I know. Matthew Lickona, the great writer/critic at the Reader, showed me where the steak was being served. I would’ve never found it otherwise, and for that, I’ll always be grateful.

I saw former DJ, and great stand-up Russ T. Nailz playing a guitar that was one of the auction items. I yelled out “Freebird!” and he gave me a courtesy laugh. We later had a conversation about comedians and a comedy show he’s got coming up.

Unfortunately, I got so wrapped up in the great ice cream sandwiches Cravory Cookies was making, that I missed the beginning of Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue. At least most of it was political, which I’ve grown tired of. It was nice that he took some shots at Harvey Weinstein though. But somebody will have to explain to me why, if we’re going to act all upset about all these horrible actions men have done, why was Kobe Bryant awarded an Oscar? It angered me as much as when Eminem won “best song” over Paul McCartney’s much better “Vanilla Sky.” And it’s not because Kobe paid over a million dollars to a teenager he was accused of raping. It’s the fact that Dear Basketball just wasn’t very good. There were two animated shorts that were better (Lou and Garden Party).

I was thrilled that the “live short” The Silent Child won, as it was by far, the best of the bunch. It was cool to see the writer/producer/star also sign her acceptance speech, as a promise she made to the young star in it.

I loved seeing Allison Janney win. I talked briefly with her at the Critics’ Choice Awards, and she is so happy for all the love she’s getting. I just wish I, Tonya was a better movie. And I preferred Laurie Metcalf in Lady Bird. In fact, I was ticked that Lady Bird didn’t win “best original screenplay,” which it clearly deserved (and was the best shot it had at winning anything). Sure, Jordan Peele is a great guy and it’s cool that he won, but…was Get Out really that great a movie? I only gave it 3 stars. His cat movie (Keanu) from a few years ago was better.

I was wearing a badge that said “I Love Lady Bird.” One guy came over wanting to talk basketball with me, and mid-sentence, he realized what it said. He laughed and explained, “I thought that said ‘I love Larry Bird.’ And I do, too.”

I told him I was a Magic Johnson fan, and actually hated that Bird. At least we had a fun basketball conversation. Speaking of which, one guy kept telling his friend Bill Walton was going to show up at the party. I kept looking, but he never showed. Probably best. I once had the seats right behind him at a Keith Richards concert. He’s 6’11” and needless to say, I couldn’t see anything. I was already dealing with a lot of people talking, making parts of the show hard to hear. The last thing I needed was a former NBA center standing in front of me.

It was cool seeing the Star Wars folks come out. Mark Hamill had a great line about making sure he wouldn’t announce La La Land as the winner.

I was bummed Frances McDormand won, simply because I didn’t find her Three Billboards character that much of an acting stretch. She played it one-note. Although after she gave such a stunning speech, it made it worth it. Loved hearing her tell every woman nominated in any category, to stand up. Meryl Streep, sitting in the front row, immediately sprang to her feet. It was a lovely moment. Oh, and McDormand put her Oscar on the stage. That was something a few people did. Turns out, it was one of those rare times where they had microphones, but no podium to set them on.

Speaking of Three Billboards, I hated Rockwell winning. His racist character was too cartoonish, and I thought Willem Dafoe deserved the gold statuette. Also found it odd that when he mentioned the other actors in his category, he had to read the list. Is it really that hard to remember four other names?

I was thrilled to see Roger Deakins win the cinematography award for Blade Runner. He’s been nominated 14 times and is the best in the business. My wife said, “Is that Roger Deakins or Roger Daltrey?”

Another line she had that cracked me up is when Gary Oldman won the Oscar. She said, “Who would think of him to play Churchill? David Ogden Stiers looks more like Churchill.”

I then replied, “I’ll bet you anything Stiers doesn’t get mentioned in the ‘In Memorium’ segment, since he just died the other day.”

Of course, they didn’t mention him in that, which is a shame. Sure, he’s known mostly for MASH, but he’s done a number of movies (I loved him in Doc Hollywood). As usually, they missed a few people. John Mahoney, who isn’t just known for Frasier. He was in many movies (remember Primal Fear, Say Anything, Moonstruck, Barton Fink, Tin Men, and American President…to name a few). Sure, Adam West is mostly known for Batman and more recently, Family Guy. But he had a decent movie career. The worst was leaving off Powers Boothe. Seriously, this happens every year. How hard would it be for somebody to make sure big name actors aren’t left off the list? Especially when you have Chuck friggin Berry, who is a musician. The only two contributions I can think regarding movies was the dance scene in Pulp Fiction (playing “You Never Can Tell”) and the documentary Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll.

It was nice to see former San Diegan Eddie Vedder, singing Tom Petty’s song “Room at the Top” while the names were shown, though.

Kimmel was smart to start the show humorously telling people to keep their speeches short, and that the shortest one would win a jet ski. Helen Mirren, in a Price is Right style skit, showed the $17,000 vehicle off. Of course, this gave a few winners the chance to reference that.

At the Oscar party, they quickly put the TVs on closed captioning. That helped. Although it seems if the closed caption companies are going to do that, they probably shouldn’t try to caption the movie clips. That was a bit of a mess and hard to follow.

During commercial breaks, I went out to check the food out (at 49, I’m more interested in checking the food out, than these gorgeous women dressed to the nines). An amazing selection of stuff (I’m still talking about the food…my wife is reading this). I couldn’t take my eyes off the huge Oscar cake, with various, edible Oscars all around it (each with one of the nominated films written on it). It was the coolest cake I’ve ever seen.

It’s always nice mingling at Film Festival events. You meet the most interesting people. One woman was telling me about a low-budget horror movie she was involved in, and a great story about how her friend has known Jordan Peele since he was a kid.

One bartender had a jar for tips, with all the money going to the San Diego Film Foundation. That made me feel better about slipping a few bills in it. Although, it also made me feel bad for the bartender, who obviously wasn’t getting tips for this gig.

Even though I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Shape of Water, it was great to see Guillermo del Toro win for “best director.” He does a lot for film and seems like a great guy. The score for that also deserved its win.

The costumes for Phantom Thread won, as everyone expected. I’m just shocked that movie got nominations for anything else. It was awful (am I right, Jennifer Lawrence?).

At the Critics’ Choice Awards, when Oldman won for Darkest Hour, he happened to walk by my table. I held up a cigar and said, “Gary! I’m going to smoke this later in honor of your win.” He pointed at me and winked. It made my night. Well, I did the same thing with his win for the Oscar. It wasn’t him walking by me, but Sonny and Ludvina, two patrons that do so much locally for the arts. Sonny brought me a cigar he got from Gran Havana, who was a sponsor at the event. It may have been a little chilly outside after the Oscars, but there were enough fire pits and heat lamps. I met Alex McDaniel, who brought the cigars. He told me Gran Havana has been in business in San Diego for more than a decade, and that these sticks were hand rolled, and aged in house.

He and his buddy told me great stories about screenplays they’re writing, and their enthusiasm reminded me of a time many years ago I heard del Toro talking at a lunch at CinemaCon.

We were given gift bags as we left, which had lots of goodies in them. The Lodge at Torrey Pines had some lotions in there, but my favorite thing was that when the Cravory table was breaking down, they walked around offering us cookies to take home. Perfect use of the gift bag.

Nothing like driving through the winding roads of Rancho Santa Fe late at night, with a few cookies in my hand.

I’m already looking for next year’s party.