Monday, March 8, 2010

Reactions to the Oscars


Okay, so to start, I guess I better get the embarrassing part out of the way. For the second straight year, I had my worst year ever predicting the Oscars. Normally, I am somewhere around 20/24, but last year I did horribly and only got 17/24. This year was even worse, with a miserable 15/24. I missed Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay, Costume Design, Art Direction, Sound Editing, Live Action Short, Animated Short, Documentary Short and Foreign Language Film. I assume that if you wanted to know the winners, you already found them, so I’m not going to waste the space.

In fairness to me I did think that Original Screenplay, Cinematography, Costume Design, Sound Editing, Live Action Short and Animated Short were tight races that could go one of two ways – and I just guessed the wrong way. In predicting Oscars, you have to be lucky to be good, and this year, I was not lucky. I did also have a feeling that The Secret of Their Eyes would pull off the upset in Foreign Language Film, just like Departures did last year, but I chickened out on actually calling it. Again, you got to be brave to be good, and on that one, I wasn’t. The win for Precious in Adapted Screenplay and Music by Prudence in Documentary Short were complete stunners to me though, and I do not feel bad about my predictions in those categories. If you picked either one of them, I have a feeling it was more blind luck than anything else.

So, I will issue a warning for next year – stick with me when I make the nomination predictions – I am great at those – but then go to someone else for the winners. I am a long way removed from the great years I had from 1999-2007 where I did great (I am still proud of that fact that I am the only one I know who picked Adrian Brody to win in 2002 – and I have the videotape to prove it!).

The Show

I thought Neil Patrick Harris’ opening musical number was okay. You knew with Adam Shankman producing, they would have a big musical number, and unless it involved the banjo, then the hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin wouldn’t be involved. Harris is a natural entertainer, and he delivered the song with gusto – but I thought the song was kind of lame – the jokes fell flat, and the lyrics were uninspired. All in all, Harris sold it well, but was undone by the material he had.

Moving onto the hosts, I think Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin actually did quite well together. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I think they should come back year after year, but I do think that the two hosts thing worked quite well. It allowed each of them to have someone to play off of, mainly having Baldwin as the straight man to Martin’s one liners. The opening monologue was amusing and enjoyable, and didn’t go on too long, and they came back throughout the show and did good little bits. They were very good together, and if they end up being brought back again, I wouldn’t be upset. Then again, I though Hugh Jackman and Jon Stewart also did great jobs – so what do I know.

The John Hughes tribute confused me. I have nothing against the man, who was obviously loved by the people who were delivering the tribute, but what exactly was it then merited Hughes getting a tribute in the first place? Especially when you consider in the past few years true legends like Paul Newman, Marlon Brando and Robert Altman only got shout outs in the in memoriam package? Was it that he was only 59 when he died? I don’t know, but it seems kind of odd to devote that much time to a director who only made a handful of films that people actually still watch (seriously, other than The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Planes, Trains and Automobiles, how often does anyone watch his other films? Werid Science???? Come on!). And while we’re speaking of this, didn’t Judd Nelson look like some crazy guy who would normally see ranting on the subway that they just slapped a tuxedo on? Considering that Roger Corman and Lauren Bacall – two people who have had a WAY bigger impact on American movies than Hughes had won honorary Oscars, and were shunted aside in about 30 seconds, this seemed especially egregious.

Speaking on the In Memoriam package, it was better than last year, when you couldn’t tell who they were remembering because the director just zoomed on in on the big screen in the auditorium. The first two people were like that, before they switched over, and we got a look at the people and their work. So no complaints there.

My least favorite part of the show was the idiotic interpretative dances to the score nominees. I thought the Academy wisely put an end that nearly a decade ago, and it was an unwelcome return. Of course, with Adam “So You Think You Can Dance” Shakman at the helm, we knew we’d get a dance number, but is it too much to ask that the dance actually match the music? No matter how quiet or melancholy the scores were, we had jackasses flipping all around the stage. And what the hell was that guy doing the robot for during the Up score? Am I wrong in thinking that perhaps the dances should have reflected the movies in some way? News flash, Wall-E was Pixar’s movie last year about a robot. Up was about an old guy travelling to South America. Idiots.

Most of the presenters did an okay job. Nothing too memorable – either positively or negatively to report on them. I know Ben Stiller’s Avatar spoof has caught some slack today, but I found it to be enjoyable and funny. The rest, I don’t have much of an opinion on.

This year, unlike last year, I did enjoy the five people coming out to speak about the nominees for the lead acting categories. I liked how they didn’t do it for all four categories, just the leads, and that they selected people who actually had a connection to the nominees, just simply past winners. Not all the tributes were great, but I did enjoy Colin Farrell speaking about Jeremy Renner, Tim Robbins speaking about Morgan Freeman and Oprah talking about Gaborey Sidibie. The best though, was by far Stanley Tucci talking about Meryl Streep. All in all, I liked it.

Overall, I don’t think I would ask the producers of this show back. What went right was the things that go right every year. What went wrong – the musical numbers, the Hughes tribute, and the Horror Clipfest (which was a big WTF moment for me, especially since they said it had 37 years since The Exorcist won two Oscars, and then went on to have The Silence of the Lambs – which won 5 Oscars in 1991 in the fest) were clearly on their shoulders.

The Speeches

In terms of the acting winners, Christophe Waltz delivered his best speech of the year. That isn’t saying much as normally, he was droned on endlessly without really saying anything. But he managed to thank a lot of people without just giving a laundry list of names, so that’s something. Mo’Nique’s was emotional, and from the heart, and did well. Jeff Bridges seemed to not want to get off the stage, and also seemed to have nothing prepared, as he just sat up there calling everyone man. But hey, he’s earned his moment – 5 nominations over a 40 year span, and his first win. But was it just me, or did it look like Bridges was preparing for a Colonel Sanders biopic with that facial hair? Sandra Bullock knew she was going to win, and so he had a speech prepared, and delivered it well. It was funny and emotional, and helped a little to wash the bad taste out of my mouth by the fact that her average performance won in the first place.

As for the rest of the speeches, I though Kathryn Bigelow was gracious in her director win, not laying it on heavy at all that a woman finally won the award. The best picture speech wasn’t quite as good. Gregory Fletcher was obviously stunned by winning for his Precious screenplay, and his speech was an emotional highlight. I thought the producer of Music by Prudence was a dick interrupting her director with a tired old joke that would be called sexist if a man said it about a woman. The rest were fine.


So now it is time to put Oscar to bed for another year. Or, more realistically, for about 6 months. The Toronto Film Festival will kick off the Oscar season in early September, which starts 3 months of idle speculation, following by two months of precursors, which ends with the Oscar Nominations, then another month of speculation over who will win. This season seemed to drag on a little for me, probably because it was slightly longer than in recent years (because of the Olympics). But I’ll be back next year. I don’t take the Oscar that seriously, but I have a lot of fun with them every year.

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