Sunday, February 27, 2011

Ten thoughts on Oscars now that I'm home from the party (but not yet in my PJ's)

So... sipping on a beer and contemplating what I just watch, yet another presentation by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences annual Self-Blow-Job.  But hey, at least they usually pick good-to-great films for awards right?  Eh?

1) This year the big winners were pretty much what I expected... pretty much in that the irrational part of me wanted two particular wins for the evening as preferences- David Fincher for Director of The Social Network, and Mike Leigh for Screenplay for Another Year (if only because it was my 2nd favorite film of 2010) - and they didn't materialize.  Leigh of course was just a preference, much the same way was Roger Deakins for True Grit's cinematography, albeit that leans more towards being just an outright snub in my opinion (as he's always been for all of his nominations, instead it went to the decent but bland cinematography by Wally Pfister for Christopher Nolan's Inception, which mostly picked up technical awards in sound vfx).

But for Fincher I was really pulling for him, this despite the fact that Tom Hooper got the DGA award and almost always the DGA winner gets the Oscar.  It's not that Hooper's direction was even bad, indeed it was elegant and carried some emotional heft.  But more than Fincher?  Or Aronofsky or the Coens or even David O. Russell for that matter?  It was a safe pick amongst other safe picks, the bulk of which were predictable.

2) Kirk Douglas... STILL THE MAN!

3) A minor note, but they should have grouped all of the songs for Best Song together to be done at once.  Was it such a rush for commercials?  They could have actually condensed some times (if bled a few extra eardrums - sorry, Gwyneth) if they just had all four songs back to back and given Randy Newman his "perk up your sad panda face" award.

4) As much as I do genuinely love Pixar's last four films, and of course others as well, the Academy needs to just give them a Lifetime Oscar award and never nominate them again.  Only in the following year is there the chance they might possibly, maybe, not be nominated and as it's for Cars 2 (the original Cars didn't win in 2006, so why the fuck for Cars 2?), and another animated film of the likes of the wonderful How to Train Your Dragon and The Illusionist (or the not nominated Tangled) have a shot.

5) James Franco had a lot of charm and had some genuinely awesome facial expressions, kind of like a piece of performance art unto itself.  Though at times he also seemed tired, which is understandable as he is an insomniac who is going for three Masters degrees, acting his ass off in movies and General Hospital, and possibly is directing and performing humanitarian work on Mars as well.  Anne Hathaway, as a result, seemed to carry more of the traditional host duties, while Franco was the shaggy comic relief.

6) The academy missed out on giving the award to Banksy/Exit through the Gift Shop.  Inside Job was deserved, a fantastic doc, but it was still expected, safe.  Giving it to Bansky would have upped the ante of excitement.

7) I didn't really register it while watching it- it seemed decent if a little too little and also too much at once- but the tribute segments to old movies and Oscar history were random and haphazard this year.  I was caught unawares that it was a Gone with the Wind tribute until the soft-meandering orchestral music directed me to it and Tom Hanks read off the film's (obvious?) credentials.  And then also for the first Oscar history and Bob Hope tribute, they were both just... weak, I dunno.  Maybe there wasn't much that could have been done with them, except to, you know, cut them, or do a different tribute to movies in general instead of just focusing on Gone with the Fucking Wind.

8) Other strange musical choices - the Celine Dion song during the usual Obit-ceremony (also, one significant name left out: Eric Rohmer - why mention Claude Chabrol but not Rohmer?  The guy has been NOMINATED before for Oscars! whatever).  It was, as with the previous year when they had Queen Latifah singing, distracting.  Just have some sad music or something.  No, better yet, transfer over the Beethoven's 7th music (one of the best things ever recorded... yet also the most over-played as well, though not overrated, makes everything automatically dramatic and them some) and make that the mourning music instead of the music over yet ANOTHER montage of Best Pic Nominees when there was already a wonderful montage near the start of the awards show.

9) The Kids at the End of the Show... up until then I was actually really digging the show on the whole: some good presenters, fun banter between the likes of Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis, and a fine Billy Crystal cameo... but this?  Why not just END THE FUCKING SHOW!?  It's how it always go: Best Picture wins, that's the end of the show.  What's with the kids (who may be all well and good singers for little kids) singing "Over the Rainbow" and then, THEN, having the audacity to have all of the winners of the show come on stage with the kids and... I dunno, sing with them(?)  Maybe I was just looking at Melissa Leo, who might have still been on her (well deserved) high from winning for Mother Ward in The Fighter.  If I were one of the nominees who didn't win, I'd be kind of flabbergasted- and just offended and sickened- by the last minute dose of cute sentimentality on display at the end.  Where's the bar when you need it?

Oh yeah, it's Hollywood for ya.

10) Now that the Lifetime Achievement awards are from now on(?) at the Governor's Ball ceremony, we don't get a big speech from a Master or Titan of cinema; now we just get a brief montage of what happened (and unless you follow shit like I do on IMDb, where they posted the video from the Governor's ball from speeches given for Kevin Brownlow, Eli Wallach, Jean-Luc Godard and Francis-Ford Coppola, you wouldn't see what they had to say or what other said about them).  Kids who might watch the Oscars just for Toy Story 3 or Inception could have gotten a decent speech from Coppola upon his winning the Thalberg award.  But nay, he's just brought on stage to get some applause, and yep, that's it.

BONUS THOUGHT: It's been somewhat toned down from the past couple of years, but the Oscars need to cut out two things: first, the actors need to stop having their asses extra-kissed.  The first year they did this in 2009 it was the worst, as actors would individually come on stage and give a long spiel about each of the five nominees before handing out the award - FOR ALL OF THE ACTING NOMINEES (not just leads but supporting).  Bullshit.  Just show a clip, that's it.  Pictures speak more than words, and in this case you're showing the clips that speak to what was special (or at least notable) about a performance.  The Oscars have enough kiss-ass going on without this malarkey.  Last year they kept it to just the lead actors, and this year it was just a couple of sentences given to each of the acting nominees... but it's still annoying, and it also now feeds into a conspiracy theory I have that the real reason Hailee Steinfeld wasn't nominated for Best Actress (and don't give me that crap cause she's a protagonist) is because Jeff Bridges, as the one presenting the award, would have had to give his main co-star the extra kissing-of-the-toosh.  Grr.

Secondly the 10 nominees, which was done in theory because of the snub of The Dark Knight for best picture (and I say to you now, dear readers, wahh), need to be brought back to five.  In the 1930's and 40's there were 10, but then it was a different time when also black people weren't allowed at the front of the bus and people found Bob Hope funny.  It was a savage time.  Now we're in an era where we've had the five nominees and, frankly, looking at the list this year and last, it's always very clear which of the nominess would be there if there were just the five.  On top of this- perhaps a life lesson in the style of George Carlin though I imagine not intentionally- there are a few winners, A WHOLE LOT MORE LOSERS.  Looking especially at this year, there were four nominees for picture that went home with nothing.  Zero.  Zilch.  At least if it was five nominees then the rest would just be content with losing the other awards.  One look at the Coen brothers faces- whose great film was up for ten awards tonight, joining a pantheon of the likes of The Thin Red Line and Gangs of New York for most nominations without a win- and they looked bored out of their minds.

So yeah.... Kirk Douglas:

And this is what the kids should have been singing in a righteous world:

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