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Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - March 18th, ’23
March 18th, 2023
The Future of TV is Up in the Air
Broadcasters are betting that antennas and modern DVRs will help them stay relevant. But a stalled transition to ATSC 3.0 and massive growth of linear streaming services could throw a wrench into those plans.
Antenna television is back. In recent years, millions of cord-cutters have rediscovered antennas as a reliable way to watch broadcast networks like ABC, NBC, and FOX, all for free — and now, broadcasters are eager to get the rest of us hooked. They’ve been marching ahead with the deployment of ATSC 3.0, a next-generation broadcast format that supports 4K, HDR, Dolby Atmos audio, and even interactive apps over the air, no cable or streaming subscription required.
A little over a year ago, one of the country’s biggest broadcasters made an unexpected acquisition to help bolster the transition: The E.W. Scripps Company, which operates dozens of ABC, NBC and Fox stations as well as a handful of nationwide broadcast networks, quietly bought Nuvyyo, a Canadian startup best known for its Tablo DVR devices for cord-cutters. The acquisition, which hasn’t been previously reported, is part of Scripps’ multibillion-dollar bet on acquiring stations, networks, and spectrum for an ATSC 3.0-powered antenna TV future.
But the transition to ATSC 3.0 has been anything but smooth. Five years after its launch, the format is still not available in many major markets. Support from TV makers has been limited, and some of the promised features likely won’t be available for years to come. Meanwhile, free streaming TV channels are growing by leaps and bounds and are quickly becoming a viable alternative to both cable and antenna TV. As it stands, the future of broadcast TV is looking remarkably fuzzy.
A big promise, a small start
ATSC 3.0 is to broadcast television what 5G was to mobile a few years ago: a mixture of buzzwords and real innovation, something that’s definitely coming, but no one really quite knows yet what its true impact will be. And on paper, there’s a lot to like about it: the standard allows broadcasters to transmit TV signals with up to 4K HDR and better audio. ATSC 3.0 also includes data transmission features for better program guides, interactive apps and, eventually, advertising services.
Most people aren’t currently able to watch over-the-air broadcasts in ATSC 3.0
The first tests of ATSC 3.0 began a decade ago. The FCC gave the full go-ahead for the new standard in 2017, and local broadcasters have gradually been adding ATSC 3.0 feeds ever since. In early 2023, broadcasters were utilizing ATSC 3.0 in around 50 local markets, including Los Angeles, Portland, and Washington, DC. By the end of the year, 75 percent of US households will have access to ATSC 3.0, according to Pearl TV, a broadcaster group that’s promoting the standard under the Nextgen TV moniker.
Consumer adoption is another story. Most people aren’t currently able to watch over-the-air broadcasts in ATSC 3.0, even if they live in a market where it has been rolled out. While any existing antenna can receive ATSC 3.0 signals, the same isn’t true for TVs. ATSC 3.0 is not backward-compatible with ATSC 1.0, the current broadcast standard, and most existing TVs can only receive ATSC 1.0 signals. Manufacturers like Samsung and LG began equipping some of their higher-end TV sets with ATSC 3.0 tuners in recent years, and Sony is even building a tuner for the new format into every new TV sold in the United States.
However, adding ATSC 3.0 compatibility raises the component costs of a TV, which is why many makers of budget-priced TV sets have so far been shunning the new format. “The current VIZIO TVs on the market do not include ATSC 3.0 tuners,” a Vizio spokesperson told us after CES in January. TCL, known for its low-price Roku TVs, also remains on the sidelines. “We will not incorporate ATSC 3.0 in (the) first half of 2023, as consumer demand for the functionality is still low,” a spokesperson told us. “We will continue to watch the market and adjust when needed.”
How new hardware can help
With most TVs not supporting ATSC 3.0 out of the box, external hardware could be key to the adoption of the format. That’s where Nuvyyo, a small Canadian startup best known for its Tablo DVRs, comes in. Regulatory filings show that Scripps acquired Nuvyyo for less than $14 million in cash in January of 2022; the startup had raised $10 million over two rounds since it was founded a decade earlier. The modest price tag speaks to how difficult it is to innovate in the over-the-air television space.
Nuvyyo’s Tablo DVRs have become a favorite among cord cutting enthusiasts, but Tablo’s value proposition has been harder to explain to the average consumer. Most of Tablo’s devices don’t directly connect to a TV but instead capture over-the-air TV signals and then serve the resulting recordings over Wi-Fi. This whole-home DVR setup makes it possible to stream recorded TV shows to a wide range of devices, including phones and tablets, on the go, but it also is a lot more complicated than just hooking up a Roku to your TV.
The fact that Tablo charges a monthly service fee for access to its program guide hasn’t exactly helped with adoption. Over 10 years, Nuvyyo has shipped just over 200,000 Tablos, and the company currently has around 80,000 active customers, according to the LinkedIn bio of its VP of finance.
“Not everyone wants to change their TV for new technology.”
Still, Scripps has big plans for Tablo DVRs. “It’s a very important project to us,” said Scripps Networks chief distribution officer Jeffrey Wolf in a conversation with The Verge. Wolf didn’t share any details on how exactly Scripps plans to use Tablo going forward but said that it was “a critical piece” of the company’s push towards broader over-the-air adoption — a push that also includes a marketing campaign dubbed The Free TV Project.
Wolf argued that an over-the-air DVR could make cord cutting more convenient and help over-the-air networks compete with streaming services. “It allows viewers to watch over-the-air content essentially on demand,” as Wolf put it.
Perhaps just as important is that Nuvyyo has been working on tech to make its DVRs and existing TV sets futureproof. The startup experimented with a cloud DVR in the past and in early 2022 announced its first device supporting the new ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard. Wolf didn’t want to spill the beans on how exactly his company intends to use Tablo, but he hinted at plans to use the company’s future devices to aid the transition to ATSC 3.0. “Not everyone wants to change their TV for new technology,” he said. “Converters or dongles are going to be important pieces of the success of that transition.”
4K support is still MIA
There are other reasons consumer adoption is lagging. Even viewers who happen to have a compatible TV and live in a market where ATSC 3.0 is available quickly find that the broadcasts aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. ATSC 3.0 may, in theory, support 4K HDR, but at this point, 4K broadcasts are virtually nonexistent in the United States.
One reason for this is that the FCC decided against a hard transition to ATSC 3.0 that would have left everyone without a compatible device in the dark. “We have to both offer our current services (ATSC 1.0) while also offering the 3.0 signal,” explained Alex Siciliano, a spokesperson for the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB). The FCC currently mandates that stations transitioning to ATSC 3.0 keep their legacy signals up and running for at least five years, but it could extend that timeline.
The transition to ATSC 3.0 is “stalled” and “in peril,” broadcasters say
To achieve dual support with a limited amount of spectrum, broadcasters partner with each other in local markets. A local ABC affiliate may, for instance, switch to ATSC 3.0 and also carry the local NBC and FOX stations in the new format. In exchange, those stations will continue to broadcast the ABC station’s signal in the legacy ATSC 1.0 format — an approach known in the industry as “lighthousing” that simply doesn’t leave enough bandwidth for 4K signals. “We are spectrum-constrained,” admitted Pearl TV’s managing director, Anne Schelle.
The transition to ATSC 3.0 is “stalled” and “in peril” due to regulatory inaction, the NAB wrote in a letter to the FCC earlier this year. Highlighting the 4K issue, broadcasters called for “a plan to eventually end the wasteful dual transmission in both ATSC 1.0 and ATSC 3.0” and suggested that an FCC task force should come up with a firmer transition timeline.
“It is time for the FCC to take a more active role,” said Siciliano, adding that it wasn’t in the commission’s interest to “leave behind viewers — especially those that rely solely on over-the-air TV for their news and information.”
Free streaming channels are booming
Antenna usage remains popular, especially among lower-income and immigrant households. Eighteen percent of TV viewers told market researchers last year that they owned an antenna. Among Latinx audiences, one in four viewers said they owned an antenna. The Consumer Technology Association estimates that there will be around 8.5 million antenna sales this year alone.
Those numbers have prompted Scripps to bet big on over-the-air television. With cable TV audiences declining, over-the-air seemed like the best bet to reach millions of eyeballs that the company can then monetize with advertising. In addition to buying up dozens of local broadcast stations, the company spent around $300 million on broadcast-only BET competitor Bounce in 2017, followed by the $2.65 billion acquisition of the over-the-air networks Ion as well as associated spectrum in 2020.
But while Scripps was busy pouring billions into broadcast networks and infrastructure, another way to watch linear television emerged: free, ad-supported streaming channels. Turn on any smart TV these days, and you’ll find program guides with hundreds of TV channels featuring familiar names like AMC, NBC and FOX, with no need to pay for cable or hook up an antenna.
These free linear channels have been a big hit with audiences and advertisers: Samsung alone claims to stream more than 3 billion hours of free linear programming to its smart TVs per year, and advertisers are expected to spend more than $4 billion on domestic linear streaming services this year — ad revenue that directly benefits TV makers, unlike those costly ATSC 3.0 tuners.
Today, many media companies still use these so-called FAST channels as a way to make some extra money with older shows. AMC, for instance, doesn’t stream its cable channel to smart TV viewers, in part because it has exclusive deals with cable TV services. Instead, it has dedicated FAST channels for back-to-back The Walking Dead and Portlandia reruns.
However, some broadcasters have begun to retransmit their linear feeds as FAST channels. Scripps, for instance, has been streaming its Ion and Bounce broadcast networks in their entirety, and the explosive growth of FAST is not lost on the company. “When we track audience levels for over the air, we’re generally looking at how we’re doing year over year because it’s kind of a slower-moving train at this point,” said Scripps Networks chief research officer Jon Marks. “When we look at FAST, we’re looking at it quarter by quarter because that’s how fast it’s growing.”
In light of these changes, Scripps is hedging its bets. The company plans to keep promoting over-the-air viewing and also talk more publicly about its plans for Tablo in the coming months. Scripps also remains committed to ATSC 3.0, which will be a quality improvement even without 4K. “Our networks right now are mostly SD,” Wolf said. “The ability to put our product out there in HD will change the value of our proposition.”
But it’s also looking to invest more into free streaming. For the first time, the company aims to launch a new TV network on FAST services this spring and then bring it to antenna audiences if it does well with streamers. Marks still doesn’t expect linear streaming to overtake over the air from an audience size perspective any time soon. Then again, with the transition to ATSC 3.0 moving as slow as it is, it’s possible that free streaming will eventually leapfrog over-the-air broadcasting and turn into the de facto future of free TV while antennas slowly become irrelevant.
“Right now, the best use of our spectrum is building over-the-air broadcast networks,” said Wolf. “Is that the path of the future? Time will tell.”
Vinyl Outsold CDs for the First Time Since 1987
The resilient format raked in $1.2 billion in 2022, outselling CDs by nearly 8 million units.
Gone are the days of shimmery plastic CDs and chunky jewel cases, the past is making a comeback in a back way. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has revealed in its annual revenue report that vinyl sales have outpaced CD sales for the first time since 1987.
Sales of physical music formats, like vinyl, CDs, and cassette tapes, saw a 4% increase from 2021 to 2022, but last year vinyl made up $1.2 billion of the $1.7 billion in physical media sales according to the report. In physical units, records outsold CDs 41.3 million to 33.4 million, respectively—RIAA says this is vinyl’s sixteenth consecutive year of growth. CD sales actually fell 18% from $585 million to $482 million in revenue between 2021 to 2022, but the report suggests that 2021 saw a rebound in sales after 2020 took a chunk out of CD manufacturing and sales.
So vinyl is officially booming again, and it may have something to do with the pandemic. The height of the covid-19 pandemic forced concert venues to shut down over health concerns and saw artists and their labels rethinking their music release strategies. Vinyl may have offered a special experience without consumers ever having to leave their homes, and it was an untapped stream of income for artists and labels.
“I think that it was something that labels saw as a ‘We can do this to generate some income [during the pandemic],’” Lyndsey Havens, a senior editor at Billboard, told Gizmodo in a February interview. “That’s why you see a lot of live albums that were rereleased on vinyl or pressed on vinyl for the first time. It’s just a really good way to generate some extra income and then I think fans were responding well to that and now they’re demanding it from their favorite artists.”
While vinyl is a titan of the physical music industry, streaming is still king overall. RIAA’s report says that physical media only made up 11% of music revenue in 2022—streaming services made up 84%. That 84% equals about $13.3 billion in sales from streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, but RIAA also lists sources like social media platforms, digital radio, and even fitness apps.
2024 Ford Mustang Drops AM Radio From Infotainment
More and more new cars are doing without the old-school AM radio. Now, Ford’s iconic pony car is among them.
Over the years, Ford's pony car has gained performance and sophistication, sometimes at the expense of old-school character. Now, the new 2024 Ford Mustang is getting further from its roots by losing its AM radio receiver as controversy over the technology's future in new cars escalates.
The AM radio's discontinuation was discovered in an order guide for the new Mustang that circulated on the Mustang7G forum. A Ford spokesperson confirmed the feature's deletion to The Drive, citing that "countries and automakers globally are modernizing radio by offering internet streaming through mobile apps, FM, or digital."
This makes the Mustang the second Ford product after the 2023 F-150 Lightning to drop the function.
The availability of AM radio in new cars has declined over the last decade with shifts in media consumption habits, with AM radio's audience evaporating in Europe and accounting for only a small minority of the U.S. population. Naturally, automakers seeking to cut costs are removing what's now a niche piece of equipment. AM has already disappeared from many European cars, and is beginning to fall out of favor with American makes too—as shown by the aforementioned Fords.
It's a trend of concern to current and former U.S. emergency officials, who recently wrote the Secretary of Transportation a letter advising action on AM radio's disappearance. AM radio is a crucial component of the U.S.'s national alert network, with just 75 stations reaching more than 90 percent of the country's population. Officials are concerned that AM receivers' decreasing availability in new cars could compromise their ability to reach citizens during emergencies.
However, standalone AM radios remain an affordable way to negate the absence of a receiver in one's vehicle.
Gen Zers are Bookworms but Say they're Shunning E-Books Because of Eye Strain, Digital Detoxing, and their Love for Libraries
Gen Z is choosing to read paperback books over e-books, data and interviews indicate.
• The phone-obsessed Gen Z is surprisingly a sucker for paperback books.
• Three Gen Zers gave their reasons for preferring printed editions over e-books.
• One Oxford University student said real books strained his eyes less and allowed him to focus more.
There's no doubt that Gen Z loves to read.
This generation, defined as people born between 1997 and 2015, is often considered phone-obsessed and addicted to technology. But when it comes to reading, Gen Zers say they prefer to pick up a printed book over an e-book.
Book sales in the US and the UK have boomed in the past two years, the management consultancy McKinsey found. Sales in the US hit a record of more than 843 million units in 2021, while last year had the second-highest number sales, at almost 789 million. This increasing popularity was partly because of Gen Z and its social-media trends, including the hashtag #BookTok on TikTok, McKinsey said.
Perhaps the most surprising trend is not Gen Zers' love of books but the way they consume them. While their pastimes usually involve a screen, data and interviews with Insider suggest this doesn't apply to books. They're choosing to ditch digital formats and opt for the timeless paperback book.
For UK book buyers ages 13 to 24, print books were the most popular way to read between November 2021 and November 2022, as they accounted for 80% of purchases, research from Nielsen BookData found. That's compared with e-books making up 14% of sales from this age group in the same period, according to the data.
"There is nothing like opening up a real book on a couch or beach," Madalyn Boyd, a 23-year-old from Michigan, told Insider. She said while e-books were affordable and great for traveling, her preference was printed books.
"The smell of real books is so personal," Boyd said, adding that she loved visiting libraries and shopping in bookstores.
Wang Sum Luk, a 21-year-old student studying English at Oxford University, said he'd used an e-book in the past but found it impractical. While e-books may seem more convenient, Luk prefers a print edition, he said.
"I don't feel as much eye strain reading them, and I find myself focusing more when reading from a printed book with my computer off," Luk, who reads at least half a dozen books a week, said.
He said he also liked using the university library for books.
In a survey of Americans by Pew Research between January 2021 and February 2021, almost 70% of respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 said they read print books, while 42% said they read e-books. Overall, more than 80% of them said they read a book in any format — the highest percentage out of all age groups surveyed, according to Pew Research.
Lili Dewrance, a 23-year-old in London, told Insider that reading an e-book didn't let her take a break from the screen, or "digitally detox."
"There's pleasure in treating myself to a new novel, and I enjoy supporting my local bookstore — it feels like a treat, and you can't replicate this experience by simply downloading it onto a digital device," Dewrance said.
What to Know about the Cable Piracy Case Against Popular YouTuber ‘Omi in a Hellcat’
Bill Omar Carrasquillo, 36, was sentenced to 5½ years in federal prison and ordered to forfeit $30 million in assets Tuesday.
Patricia Madej and Jeremy Roebuck
This week, a popular Philadelphia-area YouTuber known as “Omi in a Hellcat” was sentenced to more than five years in federal prison for running one of the most successful TV piracy schemes ever prosecuted by federal officials.
Bill Omar Carrasquillo pleaded guilty to charges including copyright infringement and tax fraud last year. His punishment was announced Tuesday and included an order to forfeit more than $30 million in assets. In court, Carrasquillo apologized to his family, employees, and the companies he scammed, and said he “didn’t know the significance of this crime” until he was arrested by the FBI.
“Thirty million dollars is a lot of money [but] tangible objects aren’t everything,” U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III said. “You have a large following and there may be people who think if you can get away with it, they can too.”
Here’s a look at the case, Carrasquillo’s rags-to-riches story and what landed him in prison.
Who is ‘Omi in a Hellcat’?
Carrasquillo, 36, is the man behind the popular YouTube channel “Omi in a Hellcat,” where he shares slickly produced videos set to hip-hop beats in which he shows off his collection of diamond-encrusted bling, his spacious Swedesboro home, and a fleet of 57 high-end sports and luxury cars parked out front. His YouTube channel has attracted more than 1 million views and 800,000 followers.
What is ‘Omi in a Hellcat’s’ background?
Carrasquillo grew up in North Philadelphia and was raised as one of 38 children. In his videos, he’s often spoken about his troubled upbringing. His mother died of an overdose. He’s described his father as a drug kingpin who taught him how to cook crack-cocaine at age 12. As a child, Carrasquillo bounced between the care of relatives, foster parents and his father when he was out of jail. He has said that at one point he was staying with a caretaker who had him committed to a mental health institution solely for access to prescription narcotics that his guardian planned to later sell on the streets.
It’s no wonder, his attorney told the judge during the sentencing Tuesday, that Carrasquillo got into drug dealing in his teenage years and beyond and spent time in and out of jail before swearing off the trade in his late 20s and turning his attention to the business that would eventually land him in federal prison.
What crime did ‘Omi in a Hellcat’ commit?
Carrasquillo was indicted in September 2021 for running a multimillion-dollar business known at various points as Gears TV and Gears Reloaded through which he and two other defendants opened dozens of accounts with cable companies like Comcast and Verizon FiOS, hacked the encrypted cable boxes, and then streamed and resold the copyrighted content transmitted through them, like on-demand movies and TV shows, to their own subscribers over the internet for as low as $15 a month.
So-called illegal IPTV services — or internet protocol television — have grown into a $1 billion-a-year industry in the U.S., according to recent studies, with as many as 7% of North American households subscribing through hardware widely available online and preloaded with apps to access copyrighted content.
But Carrasquillo’s crime is one of the most brazen and successful cable TV piracy schemes ever prosecuted by the Justice Department — attracting more than 100,000 subscribers and generating more than $34 million in profits before it was shut down by federal authorities in 2019.
How will ‘Omi in a Hellcat’ pay off the debts he owes from his sentencing?
In addition to the five-and-a-half-year prison term, Bartle, the judge, ordered Carrasquillo to forfeit more than $30 million in assets — the money he personally took home from his business — as well as pay nearly $11 million in restitution to the cable companies he pirated. Because Carrasquillo failed to report to the IRS any of the money he or his business was making between 2016 and 2019, he owes an additional $5.7 million in back taxes.
Money to cover some of these debts will come from selling off assets that federal authorities seized during a 2019 raid. They froze multiple bank accounts opened by Carrasquillo and his codefendants and seized Carrasquillo’s collection of Lamborghinis, Porsches, Bentleys, and McLarens and a portfolio of more than four dozen properties he’d amassed across Philadelphia and its suburbs.
His Swedesboro mansion is also being sold off as well. He told the judge Tuesday he and his family plan to move to smaller home they are building in Upland Borough, Delaware County.
“I’m only guilty of making money,” Carrasquillo said in a video posted at the time of the raids under the title “THE FBI SEIZED EVERYTHING FROM ME.” “I ain’t guilty of nothing else.”
He’s said he’s since had a change of heart, admitting to his YouTube audience — and in court Tuesday — that he’d committed several felony crimes
“It just sucks,” he said in a video last year. “It sucks to lose my house, to lose properties, money, all my cars, my jewelry. It’s an embarrassment.”
Is ‘Omi in a Hellcat’ in prison?
The judge gave Carrasquillo until May 8 to begin serving his sentence. Until then, he remains free on bail and, so far, he seems to be taking his looming incarceration well.
Prosecutors had sought to imprison him for more than a decade, and in an Instagram post after the hearing he said a sentence of less than half of that was a good outcome.
Prison, he quipped, “may be a salvation for my fat ass to lose some weight anyway.”
One Loser in ‘Everything Everywhere’ Romp: Oscar Bait
When Daniel Kwan was accepting one of the many awards for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” at Sunday night’s Academy Awards, he took a moment to assure his young son that what was happening was, to be sure, odd.
“This is not normal,” said Kwan, who directed the film with his creative partner, Daniel Scheinert. “This is kind of crazy.”
“Not normal” and “kind of crazy” are, increasingly, reasonable ways to describe Oscar best picture winners. Three years ago, Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite,” a masterful Korean genre movie and class satire, became the first non-English language film to win Hollywood’s top prize. Last year, “CODA,” a modest and heartwarming indie drama released in August, took best picture, making history for the deaf community.
If those films set out with little expectation of Oscar glory, the googly-eye-paved road for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” was even more unlikely. It’s not a hard and fast rule, but, historically speaking, movies with butt plug fights and hot dog fingers don’t win Oscars. They certainly don’t win seven of them.
As a story about family and immigrant life, “Everything Everywhere All at Once” may be just as sentimental and old-fashioned, at heart, as plenty of Oscar winners before it. But it might be — and proudly so — the weirdest best-picture winner in the 95-year history of the Academy Awards. It’s a long ways from “Patton,” at least.
There was much to reflect on what has and hasn’t changed in movies since that 1971 best picture winner during a ceremony that opened with Navy fighter jets flying overhead and saw best supporting actor winner Ke Huy Quan, whose family fled Vietnam as war refugees, emotionally speak about the surrealism of the American dream.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once,” for which Michelle Yeoh became the first Asian best actress winner, is unquestionably an Asian American milestone. But for many reasons it’s a distinctly un-Oscar-like movie that, like “CODA” and “Parasite,” never — in any multiverse — expected any of this.
“It feels like we’re in our movie sometimes,” Scheinert said in an interview ahead of the Oscars. “At some point we’re going to get pulled out of this joke and be back to our own lives and be like, ‘Oh, wouldn’t that be cool? Too bad.’”
Yet it was striking just how resoundingly the blissfully bonkers “Everything Everywhere All at Once” trounced the competition. With acting wins for Yeoh, Quan and Jamie Lee Curtis, it’s just the third film to win three acting Oscars, along with “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Network.” No film has ever won more “above the line” Academy Awards.
At the same time, much of the old guard was either absent or went home emptyhanded. Tom Cruise, whose “Top Gun: Maverick” was nominated for best picture, was a no show. So was James Cameron, whose “Avatar: The Way of Water” wasn’t considered a real challenger. Twenty-five years ago, it was Cameron who was “king of the world” at the Oscars, with “Titanic.”
“Maverick” won just for sound, “Avatar” for effects. The puny results for two films that have together collected nearly $4 billion in box office might have taken some viewers out of the broadcast. Academy voters signaled early in the ceremony that blockbusters weren’t on the menu, picking Curtis for supporting actress over Angela Bassett (“Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”), who would have been the first Marvel performer to win an Oscar.
Steven Spielberg and “The Fabelmans” was also entirely shutout. Though nominated for seven awards, his most autobiographical film and the one he campaigned hardest for, didn’t win anything. Best director went to the Daniels, who at 35, are the second-youngest winners ever.
The Oscars, more than ever, belong to underdogs. And the biggest loser might be Oscar bait.
Certainly, many of the winners were conventional academy picks. Best actor winner Brendan Fraser’s prosthetic-aided comeback performance in “The Whale” ticked many of the standard boxes. And it would be unfair to label Spielberg thoughtful memory piece — which somehow lost the “mom” narrative to the Daniels’ film — as awards-driven.
But Sunday’s Oscars suggested Hollywood — at least for the time being — is looking for Oscar movies that don’t seem too much like Oscar movies. Some of that could be attributed to the changed makeup of the academy, which has diversified and now numbers more than 10,000. That includes far more international voters, a subtle sea change that likely helped push the German-language WWI saga “All Quiet on the Western Front” to four Oscars and “Naatu Naatu” of the Indian sensation “RRR” to best song.
But even the acting winners, while Hollywood veterans, were all first timers. The wins for Yeoh, Quan and Fraser may have all partly been to redress past wrongs to them by the industry. Fraser had been largely forgotten, and a victim of alleged abuse by a prominent Hollywood Foreign Press Association member. Yeoh, a massive star in Hong Kong, had found herself pigeonholed in Hollywood. Quan, an indelible face of the 1980s, had given up acting after years of struggle to find work.
The Oscar telecast, emceed by Jimmy Kimmel, was fairly traditional, as the academy looked to quell the drama of last year’s show. So it would be easy to miss that the ground underneath the Academy Awards is shifting — and not just the carpet formerly colored red.
But it’s more than a quirky blip when a couple of idiosyncratic, sensitive guys with an absurdist sense of humor win best picture for their only feature film beside the farting corpse one. “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” the Daniels’ second film after 2016’s “Swiss Army Man,” may have struck a chord because of how it channels our dizzying digital overload into multiple dimensions.
“The world is changing rapidly and I fear our stories are not keeping that pace,” Kwan said on the Dolby Theatre stage, referring to the speed of the internet versus the slow-moving apparatus of cinema.
The Oscars tend to seesaw between trends. The much-debated 2018 winner “Green Book” followed the landmark win for “Moonlight” the year prior. Barry Jenkins’ film was the first A24 best-picture winner, and now “Everything Everywhere All at Once” — A24′s biggest box-office hit with $107.4 million in box office — is the specialty label’s second. A24 swept all of the top awards Sunday, a first for any studio in Oscar history.
Backstage at the Oscars, Kwan told reporters that their “shotgun blast of joy and absurdity and creativity” ultimately comes out of his own navigation through dark times and depression.
“And I really hope that the next generation can watch a movie like ours and be just, like, oh, there’s another way to look at the bleakness and another way to kind of face it head on,” said Kwan.
The victory for “Everything Everywhere All at Once” came as Hollywood and the Oscars continue to find their footing after several years of pandemic and the scandal of last year’s broadcast. While the industry has tried to revive moviegoing, originality has been in short supply in theaters. On Oscar weekend at the box office, a “VI” defeated a “III.”
But “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” a mad rush of originality with “Raccacoonie” strapped to its head, is surely beloved for daring to be different. And at the Oscars, its win might not be “not normal,” as Kwan said, after all. It might be the new normal.
Until next week,
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|Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - January 16th, '10||JackSpratts||Peer to Peer||0||13-01-10 09:02 AM|
|Peer-To-Peer News - The Week In Review - December 5th, '09||JackSpratts||Peer to Peer||0||02-12-09 08:32 AM|