Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Inevitable Oscar Post

So for the past 15 years or so, Brian Thomsen and I would get together and dissect the Oscar telecast, sort of cross between old biddies gossiping and a forensic autopsy. Brian would know all the films and and actor and the rumors surrounding them – I’d be lucky to have caught one of the movies nominated for Best Song. We tended to talk about the show, its production values, what worked, and what didn’t.

With Brian’s passing, such discussions are no longer an option for me, and after a day or so of cogitation, I’ve chosen to unload on you guys. Don’t know if I’ll make a habit, but here goes:

The opening felt like the Hugh Jackman audition reel (He sings! He dances! He tells jokes! He shmoozes!), and I had that pit of the stomach worry that it was all going to go horribly wrong with the “recession review” started up. But Anne Hathaway, playing the part of hapless actress pulled from the audience, just won me over. All I can say is Best. Nixon. Ever.

And I can go either way on Hugh Jackman as an actor or a host. He seemed to do a good job. I bear him no ill will for being taller than Wolverine really should be, but then, I thought Michael Keaton did a good job as Batman.

(I have, unfortunately, decided that I am officially too old to win an Oscar in best original screenplay. Looking at winner Dustin Lance Black, all I could wonder was if he was contemporaneous with Harvey Milk. Let my bitterness flow).

On the subject of writing, the whole presentation bit with Tina Fey and Steve Martin? Really looked better on the page than it performed. No, I read the jokes on the page, and it was hilarious. Killer stuff. In realtime it was a little off-putting. Steve Martin is a brilliant comedian, but his current character of a pompous old guy at the award ceremony is not a winner.

However, it did work better than Ben Stiller’s ambling, rambling performance. Yeah, it was later explained to me as being a Joaquin Phoenix riff, but yaknow, it STILL wasn’t funny. I felt sorry for the winners on that one. And whatever karmic debt Natalie Portman has run up from the Clone Wars movies? That’s been paid off by appearing with him. And she should take an indy film out of petty cash.

About the venue – it was smaller and more intimate than previous, which was a good thing. Yeah, you realized that the only stars showing up were those presenting and accepting, but you know, what’s the problem with that? It has been that way for years.

And the multiple presenters for the major acting awards was a great experiment, and let’s not do it again. Here’s why. Some of the presenting performers did cold reads, pretty much what you expect of an awards show, while others seemed to speak from the heart and evoke real emotion. On the other hand, these men and women are the BEST ACTORS AND ACTRESSES in the business - that’s why they’re there in the first place! Of COURSE they would look like they were speaking from the heart. If they do this next year, you will see some competition between the presenters.

Though on the other hand, I really liked Cuba Gooding finally calling out Robert Downey Junior over his role in Tropic Thunder. Downey will be back next year, without a doubt, so him not getting the statue is not a bad thing.

The comedy gods hate Bill Maher. After a tearful celebration of Heath Ledger’s passing, he gets the next gig. I’d say that was proof in the existence of a supreme being.

Loved the music. The musical tribute made no sense whatsoever but Beyonce was wonderful. Ditto Queen Latifah for the tombstone reel. I was called away for the medley of the best songs, and it doesn’t sound like I missed much, there, but the two women were standout performances.

Oh, and the videos of for Animation/ Romance/ Comedy/ Action in 2008? Don’t do that again. Man, I’m watching the set and saying Space Chimps! How the heck did Space Chimps get into the mix?”

And while I’m on the subject of computer animated animals, the idea of surrounding the clips they were showing with blue-ed out clips of other movies would have worked if one of those smaller clips were NOT distracting. You know what I’m talking about, Kung Fu Panda leaping into the air in slow-mo.

And Slumdog Millionaire? Great, go nuts. Out of the collected award winners, I was more charged up for Milk and Frost/Nixon (Ah, Anne Hathaway). And maybe finding out more about The Duchess.

Oh, and one last bit of head-smacking obvious goodness? Ending the show with clips of upcoming films was brilliant. Previous years, they would run clips of the show itself, which was self-congratulatory and reminded you that you’ve lost three hours plus of your life on this. There were actually movies I had not heard about that might ACTUALLY go see this year.

So GG, Oscars.

More later,