Welcome to my post-mortem to the 83rd Annual Academy Awards. I say post-mortem because a lot of what happened on that show has left me dead inside. So let’s get straight into it. I was very disappointed in this year’s Oscar ceremony. It was very bland, poorly produced, poorly written, and poorly executed. There were hardly any surprises (with regards to the show or the winners), and for once I can’t fault the people who say they were bored to tears by it. It won’t change my enthusiasm for watching the Oscars going forward, but I’d be lying if I said I was in any way impressed by this year’s show.
I think in recent years the Oscars have suffered greatly because of all the televised awards shows that now precede it. I know the Academy wants to be last because they’re the most important movie awards ceremony, but with the acting categories in particular, we’re now seeing the same 4 people (Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress) win award after award after award on TV, and by the time they finally win their Oscars, there’s no suspense whatsoever. You can even tell most of the time with the audience inside the theater. Now, when an actor wins, the only people who are genuinely excited for him or her are the cast & crew who also worked on that actor’s movie. There are hardly ever any standing ovations (even for genius, once-in-a-lifetime performances like Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood) because these same people have been applauding the same winners for over a month at various other awards ceremonies, and they seem completely indifferent by the time the Oscars roll around. And so too, it seems, is the audience at home.
I don’t have a clear cut solution to this conundrum, but I’d give them a lot of credit if they had the balls to leapfrog the Golden Globes, SAG, DGA, PGA and WGA awards and do the Oscars in mid-January instead of late February/early March. I don’t even know if that’s a good idea, but it’s one way that the winners would be fresh, and it’s a way the Oscars could set the standard as opposed to being reactionary. You don’t have to be the last one out of the gate to have the most prestige. Anyway, nobody can accuse me of not having an idea, dammit. Either way, this is a problem the Oscars need to address soon if they want to be less stale.
Having said all that, let me be clear in that I agree with all 4 of this year’s acting winners. I think the right people won in all 4 categories, and that’s a rare feat for the Oscars. I’m just saying that audiences are tired of seeing the same people win at every show, and that has nothing at all to do with the legitimacy of their victories. I believe in merit and that the best should always win, but that doesn’t change the fact that many people in the general public (and some voters) prefer to see surprises just for the sake of seeing a surprise. I guess the argument there would be that surprises make for better television, and better TV is more important than meritocracy to some (not me).
Probably the biggest reason I love watching the Oscars is the mood it puts me in. I usually come away from the show happy and feeling inspired, with a fresh desire to get back to work on the script that will bust down the door for me and officially begin the career I want so very much. I got very little of that inspiration or joy this year. Sure, Christian Bale and Natalie Portman gave classy speeches (as did Original Screenplay winner David Seidler), but there was nothing all that memorable in the nearly 3 and a half hours of the show. I like to think I’m honest with myself, and if I’m being honest and I were grading the 83rd Academy Awards, I can give it nothing better than a D. Typically, I get annoyed by all the critics and media people and bloggers who spend the days after the Oscars making wisecracks and bitching about various aspects of the show, but this time, I can’t really blame them. The stuff they always bitch about actually were problems this year, and I’m sad to have to admit that.
A few specific notes and reactions:
–James Franco & Anne Hathaway as hosts. Yikes. Turns out this was not a very bright idea. First off, the two had no chemistry together on stage. I’m not even sure Franco even looked at her, which was very strange. If the only reason these two were chosen to host was to somehow attract a younger audience, that was an epic failure. The rest of the show skewed just as ‘old’ as ever. You actually have to give your host(s) interesting, funny things to do. They aren’t there just to introduce presenters. Seriously, other than coming out for 30 seconds dressed as a woman, what did James Franco do other than simple introductions that could have just as easily been done by the P.A. announcer? I mean, besides the opening sequence of the show with the prerecorded Inception spoof, I could have done everything Franco did on that show. That’s not a good sign. He may just be too laid back for this kind of thing. I almost feel like I could see him regretting the decision to do it (though if you were online, it was funny that he was tweeting backstage pictures and video throughout the show). Listen, the dude is a multitalented, wonderful actor and seems like a cool guy, but like many other great creative talents, he doesn’t appear comfortable in that kind of public setting. Hathaway (who I also love as a performer) did a nice job during her little singing segment, but for the majority of the show, she was simply standing next to Franco and giggling at everything he said. And when she wasn’t doing that, she was screaming approval at the presenters like a high school cheerleader. The charisma was, shall we say…lacking.
It was telling when Billy Crystal came out for a cameo appearance and immediately got a standing ovation. It was as if the crowd were begging him to take over hosting duties right then and there, like a middle relief pitcher who has to come into the game in the 4th inning because the starter just got lit up for 7 runs. That couldn’t have been encouraging for Franco & Hathaway. Crystal is a true showman, and his work on the Oscar stage is completely effortless. I know it was their first time hosting, but both the newbies seemed horribly out of place.
By the way, every time Robert Downey Jr. appears at the show, he kills it. There’s a guy who should get a chance at hosting, if the Academy is serious about trying someone new.
-The Kirk Douglas fiasco. What is there to say? That was one of the most awkward things I’ve ever seen. A lot of people are trying to cover for him by saying, “Oh, it was great to see him doing well!” Umm, does that really qualify as “doing well?” Does the simple fact that he’s alive mean he’s doing well? I think the bar should be set a little higher than that, and it’s safe to say no 94-year old should be out on that stage alone for that long. Where was someone from his family or someone at the Academy begging and pleading that this was a terrible idea? I mean, he literally hijacked the show (probably without even realizing it). You couldn’t understand most of what he was saying, there were long, drawn out moments where he didn’t say anything; it was just horrifying to watch. So much so that I literally turned away and covered my ears a couple times. On the plus side (I guess), he’s given the late night talk show hosts enough material for 6 months worth of monologue jokes.
-What was David Fincher‘s problem? He seemed completely miserable and ambivalent to the whole thing. Even when several of his crew won Oscars and graciously thanked him during their speeches, I don’t think he cracked a smile once. Show some pride in your crew, man. If I’m ever lucky enough to be in his position, I’ll be standing and applauding whenever one of my crew won an award. Look at how proud James Cameron was last year of all his guys winning for Avatar. I respected the hell out of that. I love Fincher as much as the next fanboy, but if he was that upset at being there, he shouldn’t have showed up. He pulled a Jay Cutler, sitting emotionless and nonchalant on the sideline like he wasn’t even part of the proceedings. Very disappointing.
-I’m glad they told the audience not to clap for individual people during the In Memoriam clip. It’s always awkward when certain dead people get roaring ovations, and then the next person gets total silence or merely a polite golf clap just because they weren’t a popular, big name actor.
-Then there was the part where Anne Hathaway introduced Hilary Swank, who then immediately introduced Kathryn Bigelow to present Best Director. HUH?! Much as I love Hilary Swank, we probably could have cut out the middle woman on that one, no? There’s 30 seconds of airtime trimmed.
-As much as I worship Steven Spielberg, how many times is he gonna present Best Picture? It seems like he’s done it 5 of the last 10 years. There are no other distinguished veteran actors or filmmakers who are willing to do this? I could list 10 people who’d be suited for it. And no, Kirk Douglas is not one of them.
Quick notes on some of the winners and losers:
–Randy Newman won for a good, but ultimately unmemorable Toy Story 3 song. I think he won because people thought (rightly so) that the other 3 options were similarly unremarkable (though “If I Rise” from 127 Hours is a superior song to Newman’s). If you look at my nominees, the Newman song is probably the weakest of the bunch, and I have 5 nominees, not 4. The Academy voters have NO vision when it comes to choosing original songs. I mean, these boobs didn’t even NOMINATE Bruce Springsteen‘s “The Wrestler” 2 years ago, and that song should have been the hands down winner. They didn’t even nominate it. Lunacy.
–Alice in Wonderland winning for Art Direction and Costume Design. Holy shit. I’ve seen some travesties in my years of watching the Oscars, but this is especially appalling. It’s not quite “Shakespeare in Love beat Saving Private Ryan for Best Picture” bad, but it’s in the top 10. All these talented artists designing and building amazing sets in real life for movies like True Grit, Inception, King’s Speech and Harry Potter, and they give Art Direction to a movie where all the art direction was done on a fuckin computer. That’s insulting. This would be like giving Best Picture to a video game. I don’t know how they screwed that up, I really don’t. And then they give it Costume Design, when really there were only about 5 humans in the movie to begin with. Or did the plurality of Oscar voters really think the digital costumes on the stupid CGI rabbit and the stupid frog butlers in the castle were that brilliant? Give me a break. Alice in Wonderland is basically an animated film. You don’t give animated movies awards for art direction and costumes, unless you want to create categories specifically for that. Best Animated Art Direction to Alice in Wonderland? Fine, have at it. But so long as people are building real sets in the real world, they ought to get first priority in winning awards like this. Obviously!
-As happy as I was for Inception‘s Wally Pfister winning for Cinematography, this really should have been Roger Deakins‘ year. This is now 9 Oscar nominations for Deakins with no wins, and when he finally does work that clearly stood above the rest, he still doesn’t win. I don’t get it.
-Though Inception didn’t get all the nominations it deserved, it was still able to tie The King’s Speech with 4 wins (Cinematography, Sound, Sound Editing, Visual Effects), which is very cool. Someone even called Christopher Nolan his “master”, which I found amusing.
-And since I guess you can’t discuss the Oscars without talking about who wore what, I’ll do my part. I’m no fashion expert, but I know what I like. And I’ve pretty much loved everything Jennifer Lawrence has worn this entire awards season. She did not disappoint in her grand finale:
Kudos also to red carpet hotties Mila Kunis, Scarlett Johansson and Erin Andrews (though who knows why she was there).
Oh fine, one more:
-Finally, I’d like to thank Charlie Sheen for not only being a drunkard drug fiend, but for now being clinically insane on top of it all. Thanks to that epic 20-minute rant he did on that radio show last week, we now have this amazing Charlie Sheen Soundboard to play with (be sure to click on the arrows as there are 4 pages to it). Winning!
The Biggie award winners will be announced tomorrow. I have to get the stench of some of these Oscar results off my hands.
Today’s Recommended Listening? A very nice dance mix I recently heard to Radiohead‘s masterpiece, “Everything In Its Right Place”, done by the great Paul Oakenfold.