This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
What the hell are the Oscars doing?
The Wheel of Fortune puzzle that broke America.
Get in losers, we’re watching West Side Story.
The tweet of the week.
Did You Know the Oscars Hate You?
To love anything as much as the Academy loves making an Oscars telecast that panders to people who under no circumstances will ever watch the Oscars. Oh, and for making the people who actively appreciate and are invested in the Oscars apoplectically mad along the way. It’s a bold strategy!
Someone over at the Academy was given a shovel when they were put in charge of this year’s show—the one that was supposed to mark the Oscars’ triumphant return to glitz, glam, and the celebration of cinema—and they have absolutely gone to town with it, digging a hole deeper and deeper, pissing off its members, filmmakers, critics, and the show’s fans along the way.
Ridiculous decisions were made in an attempt to salvage the show’s ratings slide and bring new viewers back to the telecast. To keep the ceremony to a tight three hours, eight categories will be presented before the live show. (“Finally, they got rid of that Best Documentary Short category! Now I’ll watch!”) And to presumably attract those who think voters’ tastes are out of touch with mainstream audiences, a Twitter poll was launched to determine a Fan Favorite movie, as well as one to recognize a classic “Cheer Moment” from film history.
These ideas were lambasted when they were announced. Now that the actual details about them are trickling in, there’s no recourse but to just laugh and laugh.
For starters, the embarrassingly pandering decision to do a Twitter poll backfired when, instead of being a barometer for what the general public was enthusiastic about, it was targeted by intense, mobilized fan armies, some of whom are historically criticized for their toxicity, who spammed the voting.
Yes, Spider-Man: No Way Home appears on the list of finalists, as the Academy likely hoped. But no other major Marvel release or studio blockbuster like F9 or No Time to Die did. Instead Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead and DC Comics’ The Suicide Squad, neither of which were hits, made the final cut.
Also raising an eyebrow: the much-maligned Camila Cabello-starring Cinderella and, most confusingly, the Johnny Depp period piece you never heard of called Minanata, which was ostensibly buried amidst his scandals and only just recently scored a domestic release. As Adam B. Vary wrote in Variety, its inclusion here is likely “due to Depp’s highly organized and extremely online fandom, who have rallied to support the actor throughout his career downswing.”
As for the Oscars Cheer Moment finalists, not one film mentioned predates the year 1999. Is this really what the Academy wanted?
Worse, these asinine initiatives are getting a spotlight in the telecast at the expense of hardworking craftspeople, some of whom threatened to boycott the Oscars because of how offensive and demeaning it was to remove their categories from the show. This week, we learned that producers plan to present these awards an hour before the live telecast starts, and then edit the speeches into the show. Sounds like a lot of work when they could… just… put the awards in the TV show that is about handing out awards.
In any case, if there is one small silver lining to any of this, it’s that it’s fired up Oscar fans to suggest their own ideas for how to fix this shitshow. Some are serious, like this Twitter thread you should definitely click and read all the way through. Others, blessedly, just make me laugh.
Just Another Feather in Your Lap
People giving real dumbass answers on game shows is one of my favorite genres of internet clips. When I scroll through my Instagram, there’s usually at least three a day I can rely on of someone saying something outrageously stupid on Family Feud while Steve Harvey loses his shit. But it’s rare for one of those game show fails to generate as much attention as one did this week from Wheel of Fortune.
At first blush, there’s nothing that different about this gaffe. The puzzle is obvious, and you’re on your couch screaming because you know the answer. In this case, the solve was “another feather in your cap.” But inexplicably, the three contestants keep missing it. Over and over again. It’s two minutes of astonishing TV, but also absolute torture to watch.
But what could have been a crazy viral moment has had a second life, as one of those contestants has publicly addressed the “trolls” and his critics, apparently unhappy that his intelligence is being questioned.
“You go up there. Half of you don’t even have public speaking skills. You go on Wheel of Fortune and go into the shoes of where we were standing. And then it will be a whole another conversation when they are trending and making donkeys of themselves,” player Christopher Coleman said. “Just go easy on me and the other contestants because we are very educated people, and we don’t want to be put in a situation where we are being cackled and publicly humiliated on a show that was a lifelong dream.”
Like, sure. Fair point. But also, it’s not that serious! Anyway, watch the clip here and be prepared to scream in frustrated agony, but entertainment-value ecstasy.
I Beg of You, Watch a Good Movie This Weekend
It is my public service to inform you that the two best films nominated for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars, West Side Story and Drive My Car, are available to stream right now. At this very moment, you could sign off for the day and watch! Your boss will understand! It’s for the sake of cinema!
West Side Story is currently on both Disney+ and HBO Max, while the latter is also streaming Drive My Car. I don’t have to tell you what West Side Story is, but I will scream at you IT IS SENSATIONAL, MY GOD, YOU NEED TO WATCH IT. The nation’s collective crushes on Mike Faist and David Alvarez aren’t burning nearly hot enough, and not enough of us understand why Ariana DeBose is coming for that Oscar. (If you’re an O.G. 1961 West Side Story purist, great news: that’s on HBO Max, too.)
And I almost don’t want to tell you more about Drive My Car (a three-hour Japanese film about grief with English subtitles) because I’m worried it would deter you. But don’t let it. If you can give up three hours for yet another godforsaken Batman movie—yep, that’s the running time of the new Robert Pattinson joint—then you can devote it to something as good as Drive My Car, too.
Who’s Excited for Lady Gaga?
We will be unpacking this moment in history for the rest of our lifetimes. I never want to make light of it. That said, I have not and likely won’t stop thinking about this stan account tweet.
What to watch this week:
The Batman: If three hours of Batmanning is your thing, live it up this weekend. (Fri. in theaters)
Lucy and Desi: A Lucille Ball documentary that’ll hopefully lobotomize you from that other Lucy movie. (Fri. on Amazon Prime)
After Yang: A gorgeous film about identity and connection, and Colin Farrell’s sensational abs. (Fri. in theaters and on Showtime)
What to skip this week:
Fresh: With all apologies to my husband, Sebastian Stan, I really hated this one. (Fri. on Hulu)
The Masked Singer: Stop enabling this travesty! (Wed. on Fox)