February 9, 2020



It’s time to gather for the 2020 Academy Awards, which… may be the most boring in recent memory.  The favorites currently seem to be overwhelming, and with no host to carry us through the proceedings, if 1917, Sam Mendes, Joaquin Phoenix, Renee Zellweger, Brad Pitt and Laura Dern win, it’s going to be a long night.  Let’s all hope for some surprises, or at least some flubs.

Note:  All times Pacific

5:02PM:  We’re kicking off with a Janelle Monae/Billy Porter production number that began with A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood and, well, is currently featuring The Midsommar Dancers.

5:06PM:  That got things started with a burst of energy, and as she noted from a black queer artist.

5:07PM:  Steve Martin and Chris Rock are essentially doing the job that hosts do, giving a full-fledged opening monologue.  Prompting one to wonder why they weren’t just made the hosts. 

5:14PM:  The montage intercutting the nominees’ performances is a nice little innovation. 

5:15PM:  Beet Supporting Actor will not be tonight’s surprise.  Brad Pitt has his Oscar. 

5:16PM:  A little politics from Mr. Pitt.  And some advocacy for stuntmen. 

5:21PM:  Look for lots and lots of For Life promos tonight, as ABC is launching it in just 2 days.

5:22PM:  The first potential upset of the night:  will Toy Story 4 beat insurgents Klaus and I Lost My Body?

5:23PM:  Yes.

5:25PM:  Animated short to Hair Love, also as expected. 

5:28PM:  Josh Gad has a Travolta/Idina Menzel gag as part of his intro to Frozen 2’s song nominee. 

5:33PM:  Disney never sleeps:  the Frozen 2 song, with its chorus of international Elsas, is followed immediately by a promo for Disney+. 

5:37PM:  Diane Keaton looks like she may be auditioning for a role in The Invisible Man. 

5:38PM:  Original Screenplay goes to Parasite, keeping hope alive for an upset later on.

5:43PM:  Adapted Screenplay to Jojo Rabbit, also the expected choice.  This was Greta Gerwig’s chance for a make-up to compensate for her Director snub, but it was not to be. 

5:48PM:  Live Action Short goes to The Neighbor’s Widow, yet another favorite. 

5:53PM:  Maya Rudolph and Kristin Wiig to try and keep everyone awake. 

5:56PM:  Production Design gives Once Upon A Time In Hollywood another prize.  The notable thing here is that both 1917 and Parasite lost, although neither were overwhelming favorites here.

6PM:  Little Women gets on the board with Costume Design, the one award it was expected to win.

6:02PM:  ABC is compelled to provide a platform for NBC’s This Is Us star Chrissy Metz as the singer of the nominated song I’m Standing With You, from the inspirational (Christian) title Breakthrough. 

6:09PM:  It’s Documentary time, and the Academy would like you to know how many of them were directed at least in part by women.  Because they’d like you to forget how many of the scripted nominees are.

6:11PM:  Documentary Feature goes to the favorite, American Factory, executive produced by a couple named Obama.

6:13PM:  Learning To Skateboard In a War Zone (If You’re A Girl) takes Documentary Short, another favorite.

6:16PM:  Supporting Actress concludes the Laura Dern coronation. 

6:24PM:  A lovely speech.  And now there are 9 awards (+ several Best Song performances, + In Memoriam) before we pick up the major categories again. 

6:27PM:  Oh, and a clip package celebrating movie songs.

6:29PM:  You can almost feel Twitter poised to designate all the songs whose omissions are scandalous/infuriating/offensive. 

6:30PM:  And it all culminates into a live performance by… Enimen?  With all due respect, huh?

6:32:  The reaction shot of Scorsese looking like a Depression-era dad hearing The Beatles for the first time was priceless.

6:37PM:  Time for the sound awards.  Editing is first (creating the sounds), and goes to Ford vs. Ferrari, which really only competed with 1917. 

6:41PM:  Sound Mixing, though, goes to 1917.

6:48PM:  Did someone think the Oscars needed padding?  Following on the heels of the Eminem number is a rap recap of the show’s first 108 minutes.

6:51PM:  Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who just coincidentally have a movie opening this week, are here to give out Cinematography, which goes to the year’s shoo-in, Roger Deakins. 

6:53PM:  Deakins had gone something like 0-for-13 at the Oscars, and now he’s won his 2nd.  1917 was as much of a cinematography showcase as one can imagine with its “single-shot” conceit. 

6:55PM:  Film Editing goes to Ford vs Ferrari, which is a bit of a blow to the Parasite camp.

6:58PM:  Academy President time, which is blessedly short as he yields his time to Tom Hanks, who charmingly does a promo for the Academy Museum, which now has an opening date on December 14, 2020. 

7:05PM:  Another Best Song performance by way of a Zazie Beetz introduction:  Cynthia Errivo, in amazing voice, who’s hoping for an EGOT tonight.  (Her fans could have watched her in The Outsider on HBO and quickly switched in time for her number.)  But the Academy has held Elton John for last. 

7:13PM:  You have to give some credit to James Corden and Rebel Wilson for going all-in on a Cats gag. 

7:15PM:  Visual Effects goes to 1917.

7:17PM:  Make-up/Hair goes to Bombshell, mostly because of its remarkable transformation of Charlize Theron into Megyn Kelly. 

7:25PM;  International Film, in perhaps the most inevitable result of the night, goes to Parasite.  The question is whether this will be the last of its evening.

7:28PM:  And here’s Elton. 

7:34PM:  No one does synergy like Disney, Chapter 435:  Elton John’s Oscar performance is followed almost immediately by an American Idol promo scored to “Tiny Dancer.”

7:36PM:  A trio of female action stars–Sigourney Weaver, Brie Larson and Gal Gadot–appear to announce that a female conductor is handling the baton for the medley of Best Score selections.  Um, why not for the entire telecast?

7:43PM:  Joker takes the Oscar for Original Score, which was expected, so not a sign for more than Joaquin Phoenix’s likely win. 

7:46PM:  Original Song goes to Elton John’s song, yet another sure-thing that was. 

7:51PM:  Spike Lee, wearing a tux honoring Kobe Bryant, presents the first genuine upset of the night:  Bong Joon-Ho wins Best Director!

7:56PM:  Boon gives a notably gracious speech praising his fellow nominees.  And now it’s possible that his night isn’t over. 

7:58PM:  Steven Spielberg introduces Billie Eilish to sing “Yesterday” for the roll of the departed.  (Again, Twitter waits to pounce.)

8:03PM:  Not great timing for the star of 1917 to be showcased.  But here comes Queen Olivia Colman to give out Best Actor. 

8:05PM:  Olivia Colman is a great awards presenter (and recipient). 

8:06PM:  Joaquin Phoenix takes his award.  No one will ever accuse him of not writing his own acceptance speeches. 

8:11PM:  Rami Malek and Renee Zellweger aren’t Olivia Colman and Joaquin Phoenix. 

8:19PM:  Zellweger’s speech is very gracious, hits all the notes about empowerment and the legacy of Judy Garland.  But sine Boon won Director, the universal focus has been on what’s about to happen now. 

8:22PM:  Best Picture presentation time requires a Living Legend, and this year it’s Jane Fonda. 

8:26PM:  History has been made:  for the first time in 91 years of Oscars, a foreign-language film has won Best Picture. 

What a strange Academy we have right now!  From Moonlight to Green Book to Parasite in 4 years time, utterly mainstream to completely indie.  Who knows where its wind will blow next?  It certainly made for an interesting evening. 




About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."