Oscars 2018: Inclusion Riders, the Jetski Challenge, and Rita Moreno’s Dress

Posted on March 5, 2018 at 8:15 am

Oscars 90th Academy Awards

The 90th anniversary Oscar broadcast was one of the best in many years and not a minute too long. Look, with the Oscars you know what you’re signing up for. You may not be interested in the awards for Best Sound Editing or Best Sound Mixing, but I respect the Oscars for recognizing the dozens of people you never see the rest of the year for every one you see on screen, all vital to the impact of the film. And if they didn’t televise those awards, how would we see people like that guy whose tuxedo sleeves stopped just below his elbows? And I expect and appreciate the political issues addressed in the show. Without them, it would be eerily sterile. What are the nominated films about, after all? They are about justice. They are made to touch our hearts and inspire us to be more inclusive and fair. So, it is not just right, it is deeply moving when Lupita Nyong’o and Kumail Nanjiani remind us that they are immigrants. And also funny when Nanjiani says, “And I am from Pakistan and Iowa, two places that nobody in Hollywood can find on a map.”

I normally do not watch the red carpet, but this year I turned it on a bit early and was really delighted with the ABC pre-show interviews, especially when Michael Strahan showed Timothee Chalamet a video of the high school drama teacher who changed his life wishing him well, along with current students at the “Fame” school he attended just a couple of years ago, and the glimpse of Gary Oldman in full Winston Churchill makeup and costume, dancing to James Brown.

Then, on a prism-circled stage set that kept reminding me of the Shimmer in “Annihilation,” Jimmy Kimmel led off with a graceful, witty opening, candid about the turmoil of the past year, that set the tone perfectly. The promise of a Jetski for the person giving the shortest speech was silly, and having Dame Helen Mirren as the prize girl really made it work. It also inspired a couple of funny callbacks through the night.


Frances McDormand, asking the women nominees to stand, and introducing the world to the term “inclusion rider” — a contract provision stars can insist on that requires film productions to employ a specific number of women and minorities, including the crew, and may require pay equity/parity as well,

Alexandre Desplat, thanking the musicians who worked on “The Shape of Water” and the musicians playing live at the broadcast,

Tiffany Haddish and Maya Rudolph, who should be Golden Globe hosts next year,

Jordan Peele, the first African-American to win a screenplay Oscar, speaking from the heart about what the experience has meant to him,

Jodie Foster blaming Meryl Streep for Tonya-ing her,

Two golden age of Hollywood presenters reminding us what “star” really means — Rita Moreno and Eva Marie Saint, Moreno in the same dress she wore when she won the Oscar for her performance in “West Side Story,”

The outstanding 90th anniversary montage, reminding us of the best that movies — and humans — can be,

The excellent montages introducing the acting awards,

Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder singing Tom Petty during the In Memoriam segment,

The third “amigo” wins — Guillermo del Toro joins his two director friends from Mexico in winning a Best Director Oscar (Alejandro G. Iñárritu won in 2014 for “Birdman” and in 2015 for “The Revenant.” And in 2013, Alfonso Cuarón won for “Gravity”).


“Remember Me” is a lovely song, which well deserved its Oscar, but for some reason the live performance sounded off-key,

The trip to the movie theater next door, a stunt that went on too long and didn’t really work,

The people inexplicably left out of the In Memoriam segment, including Tobe Hooper, Oscar-winner Dorothy Malone, Powers Boothe, and John Mahoney.

For a show in which there were no surprises or upsets, it remained lively and engaging all the way to the end. And Faye and Warren and Price Waterhouse got it right this time.

PS Check out rogerebert.com’s annual “If We Picked the Oscars,” including my tribute to Laurie Metcalf.

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The Boss Baby

Posted on March 30, 2017 at 5:50 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: Rated PG for some mild rude humor
Profanity: Some schoolyard language
Alcohol/ Drugs: "Formula" that keeps babies from growing up
Violence/ Scariness: Cartoon-style action peril and violence, no one hurt
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: March 31, 2017
Date Released to DVD: July 25, 2017
Copyright Dreamworks 2017

Yes, sure, babies are adorable and it is wonderful fun to nibble their toes and kiss the backs of their necks. But let’s be honest. They are also tiny tyrants. Who decides when it is time to eat and sleep? It is not the adults in the household. And who is no longer the top priority in the home anymore? The older child! (Let me state for the record that my two younger sisters are lovely people and I couldn’t be luckier to have them as siblings, but those first few months are tough.)

“The Boss Baby,” inspired by the Marla Frazee book, takes these ideas hilariously to the extreme with a baby who is literally the boss.  He arrives complete with suit, tie, Rolex, briefcase, and the ultra-adult voice of Alec Baldwin. This is deeply disturbing for Tim (Miles Bakshi, grandson of animation pioneer Ralph Bakshi), whose previously blissful life of undiluted devotion from his mom (Lisa Kudrow) and dad (Jimmy Kimmel) is destroyed by this demanding creature and it seems that only Tim really understands what a monster he is.

Somehow, Mom and Dad, a sweet couple who both work for a pet food company, can only see the baby’s cute little face and have no idea that the baby is really a spy, even though “if things weren’t to his immediate satisfaction, he had a fit.”  They are so numb from sleep deprivation and so captivated by what looks to them like an infant that they never suspect there is anything unusual going on.  But Tim overhears the Boss Baby talking to his office — and then the Boss Baby blandly tosses some money his way and asks for some sushi: “I’d kill for a spicy tuna roll.”

Once Tim learns that the baby will return to his office after his mission is complete, he and the baby join forces to take on the real villain of the story — I will not spoil his very funny nefarious plan.

Director Tom McGrath says that this film is a tribute and apology to his older brother, because like all younger siblings, he was for a time the “boss baby.”  He gives the story a pleasantly retro look, setting, and soundtrack, evocative of old-school cartoons and an era before everyone was mesmerized by devices. It is surprisingly funny and even more surprisingly sweet. Tim is a great kid, brave, smart, and wonderfully imaginative, and it is nice to see a movie for children that is about something other than following your dreams or learning to be confident. It’s about visceral feelings everyone will recognize — worrying that there is not enough love to go around, jealousy, competitiveness. And it is also about feelings we should recognize but too often overlook: the importance of imagination and the pleasures of being a kid.

NOTE: Stay all the way through the credits for an extra scene!

Parents should know that there is cartoon-style peril and violence along with some potty humor and schoolyard language.  The theme of the movie centers on issues of sibling rivalry.

Family discussion:  Why wasn’t the Boss Baby sent to earth as a regular baby? What are the best and worst parts of having a sibling?

If you like this, try: the “Madagascar” films, from the same director

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Animation Based on a book DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Scene After the Credits Stories About Kids

Emmys 2016

Posted on September 18, 2016 at 11:39 pm

“If your show doesn’t have a white Bronco or a dragon in it, go home now.” Jimmy Kimmel was joking in his opening monologue at this year’s Emmy Awards, but it was funny because it was true. Once again, the Emmys were awarded to past recipients, including two record-breakers. “Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus with her sixth for lead actress in a comedy, and her eighth Emmy overall broke the record for most lead actress wins, breaking the three-way tie she held with Candice Bergen and Mary Tyler Moore. And “Game of Thrones” is now the most awarded scripted series in Emmy history with 38 wins. So, Kimmel was right about the dragons, and he was also right about the Bronco. The O.J. Simpson miniseries collected a several awards, including two actors who gave two of the evening’s best acceptance speeches, Sarah Paulson and Sterling K. Brown (whose sweet shout-out to the wife who “rocks chain” was picked up by some of the other winners. Paulson also prompted some of the evening’s most passionate applause.

The nicest surprises at the Emmys were the awards to first-time winners “Orphan Black’s” Tatiana Maslany, “Bloodline’s” Ben Mendelsohn, and “Mr. Robot’s” Rami Malek. Kate McKinnon was awarded the first Emmy for a “Saturday Night Live” performer since Gilda Radner in the original cast (and was congratulated via tweet by Hillary Clinton, who she portrays in satirical sketches on the show). And, as last year, with the nominees, presenters, and award winners, the Emmys provided a sharp and explicit counter to the #oscarssowhite failure of diversity at the Academy Awards. Slate explains one of the reasons — a change to the voting system. Jeffrey Tambor, who won for “Transparent” and presenter Laverne Cox both called for more casting of trans performers.

And it was great to see the enthusiasm for the kids from “Stranger Things.”

The in memoriam segment began with a touching tribute from Henry Winkler to Garry Marshall, and paid graceful tribute to those who died in the past year. Kimmel’s weakest moment of the night was in the joke he made about working hard to make next year’s even better. His mother is adorable, but I think the passing-food-around-at-award-shows bit is played out and then some. Kimmel was just okay as a host, but I loved his getting-to-the-Emmys opening, with rides from “Modern Family’s” Dunphys, the “Veep” Presidential motorcade (driven by Jeb Bush!!), James Corden, the Bronco, and, yes, a dragon.

Major awards listed below:


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