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COMMENTARY

Dern, Monae, Martin and Rock make Top 20 highlights of 2020 Oscars

Alan Pergament

Here are my Top 20 thoughts on the historic Oscars of 2020, most of which I tweeted during Sunday night's 3-hour, 32-minute show on ABC affiliate WKBW-TV. And people thought "The Irishman" was too long?

Translation Needed: “Parasite” director Bong Joon-ho of South Korea wasn’t the only winner who needed a translator. So did best actor Joaquin Phoenix (“Joker”) and best actress Renee Zellweger (“Judy”), who both rambled on because they were allowed to keep East Coast viewers from going to bed.

Bong Hits the Right Notes: (No pun intended.) His speech after winning the best director award was terrific, as he honored Martin Scorsese and the three other nominees in the category.

Identity Crisis: Janelle Monae was a great opening act as she dressed as Mister Rogers, playfully put her hat on Tom Hanks and sang beautifully. But I am sure at least some viewers were saying: “Who is she? She’s terrific.” There was an identity crisis from the opening to the end when a woman speaking after “Parasite” was named best picture wasn’t identified. She was Miky Lee, who the Hollywood Reporter called “the most powerful mogul in Korean entertainment.” I understand the decision not to name a host, but it would have been a good idea to have an announcer or a graphic to explain who was talking at times.

Best Speech: I’m calling it for Laura Dern, the daughter of actors Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, who called them her heroes after she was named best supporting actress for her role as a divorce lawyer in “Marriage Story.” What parent watching didn’t love that?

Politics Anyone: After being named best supporting actor for his role in “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Brad Pitt made a political reference. He said he was given 45 seconds to talk, which was 45 seconds more time than John Bolton was allowed before the Senate impeachment trial. I’m sure conservatives were expecting more bashing, but that was the only political statement of the night of any consequence. Pitt eventually talked about his acting journey, ending with a great line: “Once upon a time in Hollywood ... ain’t that the truth.”

The Grammys? There was almost more music in the Oscars than there was in the Grammys. It could have been an hour show if all the music was cut out.

Rocking the House: Chris Rock and Steve Martin, former Oscar hosts, got the show off to a great start after Monae, with several clever jokes about the entertainment business. One of Rock’s best lines was directed at Amazon owner Jeff Bezos. “Like, Jeff Bezos is so rich, he got divorced and he’s still the richest man in the world.” If you DVRed the show, my advice is watch the first 20 minutes, go directly to the three-hour mark at 11 p.m. and watch the last 32 minutes when the big awards were given out.

Censoring Eminem: I have new appreciation for the Oscar censor who instantly understood which words were curses during the rapper’s 2003 Oscar-winning “Lose Yourself,” when I had trouble hearing many of the lyrics. Once again, it would have been nice if an announcer explained why Eminem was performing it, 17 years after it was named best original song.

Mother’s Day: “This Is Us” star Chrissy Metz said, “I love you, Mom” after beautifully singing the nominated tune “I’m Standing With You” from the film “Breakthrough.” She wasn’t referring to Rebecca (played by Mandy Moore), the mother of her character Kate in the NBC hit series. Metz has sung on the show as Kate aspired to follow in the footsteps of Rebecca. If you were surprised that a star on an NBC show was singing on ABC, don’t be. “This Is Us” is produced by 20th Century Fox TV, which now is owned by Disney, which owns ABC.

I’m Still Not Standing: Elton John and Bernie Taupin won for best song for “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again” from “Rocketman,” but the audience didn’t stand after he finished like they did for Eminem.

Worst Presenters: “Saturday Night Live” alumni Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig killed some time with comic material that was so lame that it wouldn’t have made an “SNL” sketch at 12:45 a.m.

Runners-up: I wish Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus were as funny as they thought they were during their comic turn as presenters. The audience needed more Martin and Rock in their place.

Almost Clever: ABC ran a promo for Sunday’s premiere of “American Idol” in which contestants we haven’t met sang Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” It may have looked out of place, but it was an homage to a scene in the 20-year-old film “Almost Famous.”

Bleeping Surprise: Presenter Ray Romano, one of the cleanest standups alive, was bleeped late in the show after the kiddies were put to bed. Ray freakin’ Romano. As one of my Twitter followers noted, Romano was bleeped late at night in the same week President Trump cursed on the air during the daytime.

Best Timing: National Geographic ran an ad for its May miniseries “Genius: Aretha” after Cynthia Erivo sang the nominated song “Stand Up” from the movie “Harriet.” After listening to Erivo, you knew why she was cast as the Queen of Soul.

Tonight’s Viewing? “American Factory,” which won best documentary, is streaming on Netflix. It was made by the production company of President Obama and his wife Michelle.

Best Promo: The one in which the current “Bachelor” re-created the scene from “Ghost” involving clay was funny. But I still won’t watch the show.

Sports Report: Matthew A. Cherry, who won an Oscar for best animated short film for "Hair Love," gave a shout-out to the late Kobe Bryant for his second act in entertainment. Cherry is having a second act himself. He played college football at the University of Akron and reportedly was cut by several NFL teams before turning to filmmaking.

Eyeing Eilish: Billie Eilish, the Grammy winner, scored in two ways. Her quizzical look during Rudolph and Wiig’s appearance went viral. And she did a beautiful, low-key and low-wattage edition of “Yesterday” during the “In Memoriam” segment honoring entertainment figures who died in the last year.

Watch this "Uncut" Speech: I wish Adam Sandler had been nominated for his performance in “Uncut Gems” even more after watching his hilarious acceptance speech after winning an Independent Spirit Award Saturday night. However, almost all of it would have been cut by ABC because it was loaded with expletives. My advice for those who aren’t easily offended: Watch it on YouTube.

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