Monday, February 23, 2009

Thoughts on the Oscars

As for the show...kind of a meh year. And not just because it was a pretty lousy year for movies. The whole event just felt sort of lazy this year, like they're not even trying to make it entertaining. I'm fine with not having a comic host it, and dispensing with the hackneyed Bruce Vilanch-style "one liners" between all the awards...but I'm not sure the solution is to replace it with cheeseball musical numbers either.

In particular, the Jackman/Beyonce/Mamma Mia thing was just weird and sloppy. They didn't sing more than three words from any one particular song...they were skipping around so much, I had a hard time even figuring out what was even going on. Also, why have Queen Latifah singing over the dead person montage? Just seems disrespectful...If you're going to take time out from the show to remember the deceased, at least do it with some class. Silence or light music, I should think (and ask the audience to please save their applause for the end!)

Also, whose idea was it to have previous winners in the acting categories come out on stage and address this year's nominees directly. It was SO PAINFULLY AWKWARD. The poor nominees didn't seem to know that was going to happen, and weren't quite sure how to react. As if it wasn't self-indulgent enough already for actors to hand golden awards to one another once a year...Hey, I know, let's have other actors who've won the same award get up on stage and talk about how GREAT it is, musing ceaselessly about the COURAGE and WISDOM of themselves and their colleagues. They should just have James Lipton host and give out all the awards next year and be done with it.

A few memorable moments...I thought Ben Stiller's bit as Joaquin Phoenix was pretty amusing, Kate Winslet and Sean Penn gave pretty good acceptance speeches and it was all over quick.

As for the winners obviously had to give Supporting Actor to Ledger, and Slumdog seemed destined to win the evening, so there was a whiff of inevitability to some of the choices. Man on Wire was a deserving win in the Documentary category, though Encounters at the End of the World puts up a strong fight. (It's available streaming on Netflix, I believe, and is otherwise on DVD...check it out...)

I'd have liked to see more The Wrestler love. Though I enjoyed Milk, it really felt like Rourke's year to me. Penn was great, but Rourke's performance is that whole movie, and I'm pretty sure that's my favorite movie of 2008. And I'd have picked Anne Hathaway and Rachel Getting Married over Winslet and The Reader, but if that film was going to come away with ANYTHING, that would be the award.

I'd have replaced 3 of the 5 Best Picture nominees, actually. Swap in Dark Knight, WALL-E and The Wrestler for Frost/Nixon, The Reader and Benjamin Button. Or, for that matter, Vicky Christina Barcelona, Rachel Getting Married and Doubt. Or Encounters at the End of the World, Man on Wire and The Edge of Heaven. The point is, those three feel like fillers. The Reader was not good at all, Frost/Nixon was professional and slickly produced but ultimately not very interesting (and downright poor as history) and Benjamin Button was technically brilliant but dramatically adrift.

Slumdog Millionaire, on the other hand, isn't really a typical Best Picture winner, which I suppose is why it feels right in this year when ideas about change and diversity were dominating the conversation. Out of all the nominated films, it's the rousing crowd-pleaser...those kinds of movies are ALWAYS most popular during dark times. Plus, it's massively entertaining; the entire film has an energy that few filmmakers can manage to capture for more than a sequence at a time.

Consider all the other options. A Holocaust picture. An ambiguous, emotionally distant gothic fantasy. A biopic about intolerance and harsh social divisions, culminating in a political assassination. And a period drama about a corrupt presidential administration.

Those are things people have been trying to forget, not celebrate. What you're left with is a gritty but ultimately uplifting and redemptive romance that soothes us with the comforting thought that things are FATED to work out okay in the end. It's not hard to see why that was an attractive choice for Best Picture. Plus, the only nominated film that was actually BETTER was Milk.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Given My Track Record, Expect a "Reader" Clean Sweep

It seems like whenever there's one movie nominated for an Oscar that I truly disliked, that STANDS OUT to me as one of the year's biggest disappointments of most memorable turkeys, that's the movie that wins.

I thought for sure "Brokeback" had the Oscar all sewn up that year, and then what comes along and topples it? "Crash," the most embarrassing Best Picture winner in decades. Seriously, does anyone continue to watch or discuss that nonsense? It's reign of influence and importance was over before the afterparties disbanded.

So bearing that in mind, I'd bet the farm on "The Reader," because I was at least tolerant of all the other nominees.

I'll be liveblogging the event over at Here are some of the pages we've been prepping: