Whether he’s suggesting Paul Giamatti’s fans have “pinot envy” or asking Martha Stewart how Paris Hilton might benefit from prison, Bridgehampton comedian, film critic and podcaster Bill McCuddy has a knack for creating unforgettable red carpet moments. His spontaneous wit and incisive humor—known for reviving actors after dozens of uninspired press junket interviews—have served the broadcaster well in a career that’s taken him from 15 years in the New York advertising world, to more than a decade at the Fox News Channel, to commercial voiceover work, writing gigs for shows such as Saturday Night Live, and now as co-host of the Sitting Around Talking Movies podcast with fellow critic Neil Rosen.
As advertised, each week on the podcast, McCuddy and Rosen get together to discuss movies, streaming television and the hottest pop culture topics for about 30 minutes, usually with plenty of laughs and legitimate insights from the well-informed hosts. This film-world acumen is never on display more than during awards season, especially leading up to Oscar Night.
Throughout a recent one-hour chat at The Spur in Southampton, McCuddy proved that he really knows his stuff, particularly when it comes to Hollywood’s biggest night. Between acerbic jokes, red carpet memories and anecdotes from the press junket merry-go-round, he offered wry observations about this year’s Oscar hopefuls, the complexities of Academy Awards voting, and how he expects the whole, gold-gilded spool of thread to unfurl this Sunday, February 24.
“I’ve been doing film criticism for as long as I’ve been at Fox News,” McCuddy says, explaining that part of his job was watching movies so he could interview the stars. “If I liked [the movie], I went back and talked about it,” he says. “And that evolved into movie criticism.” McCuddy left Fox News in 2009 after 12 years of writing, co-producing and hosting hundreds of entertainment-based programs and specials. “I quit right after they fired me,” he quips. “I can’t stay in a hostile environment.”
Sitting Around Talking Movies started as a supplemental podcast following episodes of Talking Pictures, a NY1 show he did with Rosen and critic Lisa Rosman of the “Signs and Sirens” blog, from 2012 to 2017. When that program ended, McCuddy and Rosen continued the podcast, recording at various events, interviewing celebrities and, of course, talking film.
“Mostly we just make fun of each other,” McCuddy says. “I don’t ever agree with Neil. He never agrees with me. He doesn’t seem to realize I’m making fun of him, which is great for me.”
The formula worked, attracting a weekly listenership of about 5,000 to 10,000, depending on the subject. Naturally, their Academy Awards predictions, and all the disagreement and fighting that come with them, are always a big draw. With this in mind, Rosen, Rosman and McCuddy will be chatting about the Oscar nominees on the first episode of Talking Movies, a new monthly television show on CUNY TV, premiering throughout the Tri-State area on Friday, February 22.
Despite his good fortune in the business, McCuddy points out that shows like Talking Movies are among the last bastions of true film criticism.
“There are no critics anymore,” he says. “Social media has made everyone a critic, whether they have the credentials or not,” McCuddy continues. “I’m the first to admit that almost anybody can be a critic, and I’m certainly living proof of that, but the idea that there’s somebody on the Today Show, somebody on Good Morning America, somebody on the CBS Morning Show or Fox—that doesn’t exist anymore,” he explains. “Joel Segal died, Siskel and Ebert are dead, and nobody is replacing those people because the critical mass is replacing them. Rotten Tomatoes is replacing them. Small markets and some publications still have critics, but that’s it.”
His outlook seems a bit bleak, but McCuddy loves what he does and, somehow, the scarcity of true critics makes those in his profession that much more special. “It’s kind of a dying art, but we’re keeping it alive,” he says, noting that he and other critics have found a voice on sites like GoldDerby.com—“kind of like a much better educated Rotten Tomatoes”—where about 30 of the nation’s top written and broadcast critics review films and come up with a consensus about the Oscars every year. “We have it on life support.”
McCuddy doesn’t always stick to the consensus, as can be seen from his picks to win this year’s Academy Awards. Here’s what he had to say about the nominees for the Oscars’ most talked about categories:
Best Actor in a Leading Role:
Christian Bale, Vice
Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born
Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate
Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
Viggo Mortensen, Green Book
“Bohemian Rhapsody is another one that I thought was an OK movie, not great. It’s made so much money, and now Rami Malek looks like he’s going to win. We weren’t thinking that for a while. It was Christian Bale for Vice, but Vice is so divided. People either love it or hate it.
Vigo [Mortensen] for me, and not for everybody, but for me, is doing a little Welcome Back, Kotter impression in Green Book. I love Green Book and some people don’t. I have a theory about why that’s going to win Best Picture.”
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Mahershala Ali, Green Book
Adam Driver, BlacKkKlansman
Sam Elliott, A Star Is Born
Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
Sam Rockwell, Vice
“Mahershala Ali was great [in Green Book], and he’s been winning everything, so if there’s going to be an upset on Oscar Night, it’s going to be Richard E. Grant, who’s going to win for Can You Ever Forgive Me?. I love that movie.”
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Yalitza Aparicio, Roma
Glenn Close, The Wife
Olivia Colman, The Favourite
Lady Gaga, A Star Is Born
Melissa McCarthy, Can You Ever Forgive Me?
“Melissa McCarthy—that’s my should-win, but gonna-win is going to be Glenn Close. I don’t love that film [The Wife], but I think she’s overdue. Glenn Close says, ‘I’m often confused for Meryl Streep, except on Oscar Night.’ Meryl Streep’s not up for anything, so we think Glenn Close is going to win.”
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams, Vice
Marina de Tavira, Roma
Regina King, If Beale Street Could Talk
Emma Stone, The Favourite
Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
“The problem with Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz is they kind of knock each other out. I think that’s probably Regina King and/or Amy Adams. The big surprise there, if they want an ingenue, will be Marina de Tavira from Roma, but I think it’s Regina King’s. The speeches she’s given so far are the kind of speeches they like at the Oscars.”
“Everybody just assumed it was going to be Incredibles 2. The funniest one is Ralph Breaks the Internet, but that’s too low rent for the Academy, so it’s going to be Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse because it’s cool and funny and nobody expected it.”
Best Documentary Feature
Hale County This Morning
Minding the Gap Of Fathers and Sons
“My favorite film of the year was a documentary called Science Fair. That didn’t get nominated, so I hope Free Solo wins. because I like the two directors who made that, and I think the guy that it’s about is crazy. But, more likely from a political standpoint, RBG is probably going to win there.”
Best Foreign Language Film
Never Look Away
“Maybe Cold War will win Best Foreign Picture. If it does that, we’ll know automatically that Roma wins Best Picture. But if Roma wins Best Foreign Picture, then we don’t know how it’s going to end. I like a year when we’re not exactly sure. It’s nice.”
Best Original Song
“All the Stars,” Black Panther
“I’ll Fight,” RBG
“The Place Where Lost Things Go,” Mary Poppins Returns
“Shallow,” A Star Is Born
“When A Cowboy Trades His Spurs For Wings,” The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
“Lady Gaga will definitely win for ‘Shallow.’ Other than that, they have not been kind to A Star Is Born, which is a complete turnaround, because when it came out, everyone said it was going to sweep the Oscars.”
“Bradley Cooper didn’t get nominated [for A Star Is Born] because directors nominate directors. And that’s an old school group that’s not going to let a first-timer who dates supermodels into the show. If he keeps making movies, he’ll get in, but this year, no.”
“I think Alfonso [Cuarón of Roma] is going to win absolutely Best Director.”
A Star Is Born
“Here’s the Best Picture in a nutshell. You either love Roma or you don’t. If you love Roma, you’ll probably put Green Book as your number two or number three when you vote. Remember, they vote in a weighted system. They’re supposed to list all eight in an order that they like, from favorite to least favorite. Most voters don’t get beyond three or four—they don’t bother writing after four…if they don’t like Roma, it’s not even in their top five, and that’s going to hurt it. So, if they don’t like Roma, Green Book is number one and Roma is number eight, so Roma doesn’t even show up on those ballots. And that’s why I think Green Book is going to win.
Roma is a home security video camera, black and white, that runs for two hours and 15 minutes as far as I’m concerned. It’s stunning to look at and it’s got some great acting in it, especially by some newcomers, but there’s no there there. There’s no movie there to me. It takes a revolution, literally, for something to happen in that movie.”
“I really like Green Book. It pushes a lot of the Oscar buttons, but it’s also a movie I really just enjoyed. I had a smile on my face the whole time.”
Get all the 2019 Oscar results when the 91st Academy Awards airs on ABC this Sunday, February 24 at 8 p.m.