Monday, February 28, 2011

Nights Like This

And with that, another Academy Awards ceremony is over and done with. And what can I say. I suppose there are a few things but I’m not sure if any of them really go anywhere. Kind of like the show. Near the end of that opening montage we suddenly go at random from our hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway interacting in movies from the past year into footage from BACK TO THE FUTURE where they…well, they don’t really do anything, so the lack of a joke in the joke is just left to hang there. Around the midway point we get an extremely welcome appearance by Billy Crystal who seems about to launch into a routine but then introduces a spruced-up clip of Bob Hope (apparently partly voiced by Dave Thomas!) who itself introduces the stars who will announce the visual effects award…and it’s all left to hang there. A few times we get some sort of old Hollywood related intro which momentarily causes confusion—are they trying to say that Tom Hanks was in GONE WITH THE WIND?—but the whole thing seems like it was dropped by a certain point…so it’s all left to hang there. And so goes the 83rd Academy Awards. Not a particularly good Oscar telecast and made all the worse what with having in THE KING’S SPEECH what might be the weakest Best Picture winner since….CRASH? A BEAUTIFUL MIND? DRIVING MISS DAISY? I’d name a few others but it would all start to upset somebody up there so I’ll let that hang there myself. And I don’t even dislike THE KING’S SPEECH but I look at it receiving this kind of honors and I think…really? Is that the best you’ve got? Have you been drinking heavily? At least we got a Natalie Portman win. And an Aaron Sorkin win, which was of course marred by how they played music over half his speech. Which they didn’t do with the guy who wrote THE KING’S SPEECH. The whole thing was rigged, I tell ya, rigged.

I don’t know what to do about the Oscars anymore. Does anyone? Is there any brilliant solution to the conundrum of this show that would satisfy people? Out of curiosity, the night before I read the piece I wrote on last year’s show—the one hosted by Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin—where I actually called it terrible but am I really supposed to remember why? I honestly wonder if it’s at all jumping the gun to call it the worst ever like some are doing, since it’s easy to imagine that a fair amount of it will blend together into all the others anyway. Is there any way to fix this thing, to make it something again? Is there any shred of actual Hollywoodness to take from it? As I watched the red carpet stuff with lots of TV actors being interviewed I kept wondering, are there any movie stars anymore? Do they even want to be movie stars? I think other years I’ve wondered this but by now I’m not even sure that I care anymore. Still, it even seemed like there weren’t even all that many out there in the audience unless they just weren’t cutting to them. Jack Nicholson seems to have abdicated the throne of his position in the front row from this sort of thing and any number of names you or I could mention seemed to be nowhere to be found, presumably having found something more enjoyable to do. There was hardly much attention paid to Warren Beatty, husband of nominee Annette Bening and once a huge star who also won an Oscar for Best Director in case anyone forgot. But I guess he’s no longer a celebrity now. There did seem to be a conscious attempt by those in charge to make nods towards old Hollywood but it all came off as a little half-baked, resulting in oddities like Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin dressed up as waiters at the Hollywood Roosevelt, and maybe it was all just too much in the abstract. Not much of it seemed to be about the actual movies so it all remained on the surface.

As for the much publicized hosts who seemed intriguing to me if only on a what-the-hell-are-they-going-to-do level I have a suspicion that James Franco was focusing his attention more on whatever experimental video project this is ultimately going to be a part of than the actual hosting—I’m sure somebody else noticed him filming the audience when he and Hathaway came out at the beginning. Possibly a better fit with traditional comedy, Anne Hathaway was cute, energetic, apparently waiting for the script to come and wore lots of dresses. I’m sure somebody out there was keeping count. Between the two of them there was really no chemistry at all and not much in the way of good jokes but Hathaway remained likeable all the way through which helped immensely. Before I continue going through the broadcast, for anyone who read what I was saying on Twitter and Facebook at the time you’ve seen some of this, so I apologize. Incidentally, I also spent a fair amount of the show flipping over to TCM where ANNIE HALL was airing and tweeting what was going on there as well. Really, this show deserved no better. But here are some thoughts:

I think I liked the opening a little better than some people out there (hey, I guess I’m just easy sometimes when it comes to these things) but maybe the novelty of having hosts interact with footage from nominated films is just gone and since it all ended in that BACK TO THE FUTURE clip for no real reason it seemed to be building to a punchline that never really happened like an expected cameo didn’t come through. However, I did like how Alec Baldwin’s participation (“Please. Call me Mr. Baldwin.”) gave a whole new level to that INCEPTION joke on 30 ROCK from a few weeks ago.

Kirk Douglas was to me absolutely wonderful as well as a genuine surprise considering how his lack of visibility in recent months during his son Michael’s troubles made me wonder how he was doing. Maybe the way he made a meal out of every second he was up there was too much for some. I don’t care. I thought it was a joy to see and it was hard not to love Anne Hathaway’s response to him as well. As weak as he might be and as difficult as it might be for him to speak, it’s clear that in his mind and spirit he can do the greatest tap dance you’ve ever seen with an enthusiasm was totally infectious. And I’m surprised to see there are some out there so down on him being there. Maybe they’re just afraid of old people and think when they’re past a certain age they should be hidden in a closet somewhere. I don’t know. And maybe his energy and embrace of the moment wasn’t quite the ideal fit with who was about to win and Melissa Leo was apparently playing the moment as if she thought she might be eligible for another Oscar for how she reacted but she was who I was rooting for anyway (and, unlike Hailee Steinfeld, was actually playing a supporting role) so it didn’t bug me too much. And damn it, she knew enough to bow to Kirk Douglas so she has my respect for that. I only wish she hadn’t been bleeped when she said whatever she said because coming from her it would have seemed somehow right. Oh, I also would have liked if she’d been followed up to the stage by all those screaming sisters from THE FIGHTER, but never mind. So the two pieces didn’t quite go together—and really, how is it possible to plan that sort of thing so they do which was part of its raggedy charm--but it was still honestly maybe my favorite stretch of the entire night.

On the other hand, if Hailee Steinfeld had won and Best Actress had eventually gone to someone who was actually playing a supporting role (Annette Bening, maybe?) that right there would have driven home how absurd all this really is.

I’ve said this before, but Mila Kunis deserved a BLACK SWAN nomination if only for the way she said ‘danke shoen’ when the waiter brought her that cheeseburger. I’m totally serious.

Nothing really to say about TOY STORY 3 getting Best Animated Feature. I’m still glad it won. I always am when a Pixar film gets it.

Loved seeing Aaron Sorkin win. As I already said, I hated that they played over him. Good for him for continuing. He’s Aaron Sorkin. He knows to mention the name Paddy Chayefsky, so he’s allowed.

We went from James Franco wearing a dress to Russell Brand coming out…gee, I’m really not sure which is worse.

The hope that Christian Bale also dropping an F-bomb was so obvious that he even joked about it. I still wish he had. Like mother, like son and all that.

Yeah, I don’t really get that bit with Tom Sherak either. Guess they were just tooting their own horn.

SOCIAL NETWORK winning for score. So there’s something else good. I think I’ll go listen to my CD of it again right now.

Matthew McConaghey was really, really tan.

TRON: LEGACY clip on the Oscars! Just wanted to point that out.

As for Scarlett Johansson, my mother called me during commercial to complain about her hair. I pretty much zoned out on whatever she was saying but you know what? It really does look like she only woke up a few minutes before she came out.

Marisa Tomei seems really, really nice. I want to ask her out for pie and coffee or something.

Based on her response to the clip from THE WOLFMAN, I have an idea for a new game show: GROSS OUT CATE BLANCHETT.

Hang on—weren’t we missing some kind of comedy bit featuring members from that whole Stiller/Wilson/Black/Ferrell/Carell contingent that would be replayed on Youtube endlessly? Where were they this year?

I guess that clip package of people discussing their favorite Best Song winner proves that people love terrible songs. But at least we got a .5 second clip from CASABLANCA in there. I pretty much didn’t pay attention to any of the new songs being performed either, so I really have nothing to say about them.

Around this point in the show ANNIE HALL had started on TCM so maybe you should put it on in the background while you read this.

Amy Adams seemed kind of dazed. Maybe she was nervous. She’d already lost by that point. I’ll leave her alone.

And there was that Auto Tunes thing. Maybe I’m just old but I still say that this segment was probably the worst idea in the long, sad history of bad ideas (to bring another viewpoint into this, someone I know told me they loved this which I guess says that I really am out of touch).

That random cutaway to the Coen Brothers sitting there bored and scratching their ears while Oprah yammered on about how documentaries ‘illuminate the human condition’ was the second best thing on the show, after Kirk Douglas.

Billy Crystal was beyond welcome and brought such an undeniable lift to the room, as if everyone just wanted him to stay out there that for a few minutes I forgot how he can be a little much at times. If he had been hosting would he have made a running thing out of Kirk Douglas a la Jack Palance? I just wish he’d been out a little longer than three minutes and had done something other than just set up an intro for a Bob Hope clip. The show is long anyway, nothing wrong with giving the guy a little time to make us all happy.

"Oh, there's the winner of the Truman Capote lookalike contest." Sorry, by this point I was going over to ANNIE HALL during every commercial break.

Remember when Randy Newman had been nominated a zillion times but never won? He’s kind of crazy, but I’m ok with that.

And now for the annual complaint about the montage of death. There’s no real way to win with this one, is there. They seemed to move through it faster than usual, I assume to get a few more names in. It was a pretty brutal year, after all. Still, my prediction I made a year ago that plans were already underway to no include Peter Graves proved sadly accurate. Eric Rohmer wasn’t in there either, nor were Ingrid Pitt, John Forsythe, Albert Brooks’ longtime cowriter Monica Johnson and Lisa Blount—yes, the actress from AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN but also the producer of the 2002 Best Short winner (apologies if I’m forgetting anyone while I’m at it). As for the two more famous names not included and I ask this with all total respect--was anyone really expecting Tura Satana or Corey Haim to be mentioned? I definitely wouldn’t have complained, but was anyone surprised? And in terms of Maria Schneider, Betty Garrett and Kenneth Mars was there a date cutoff? Is there actually a valid reason for this date cutoff? Not to mention, well, insert complaint about Celine Dion here. And as welcome as Halle Berry was, spotlighting Lena Horne made it seem like they were giving short shrift to somebody like Tony Curtis who definitely deserved more than three seconds but again, there really is no way to win with this one.

"Wonderful, then why don't you get William F. Buckley to kill the spider?"

Nice to see Kathryn Bigelow again. Just felt like saying that.

Looking at the tape, it’s clear that Tom Hooper reallllly wanted his name to be called. I won’t say anything about him winning. But just remember, he has an Oscar and Tobe Hooper doesn’t. I would still like to see the Tobe Hooper version of THE KING’S SPEECH.

Awww, Annie's singing "Seems Like Old Times". Something nice in the world.

Jeff Bridges is still awesome.

Portman. Portman. That’s really all I’m going to say. PORTMAN. PORTMAN POWER.

Even when Anne Hathaway briefly messes up, it’s kind of charming.

Sandra Bullock is pretty charming too, for that matter.

It looks to me like Alvy and Annie broke up around here.

Maybe I missed something, but Colin Firth may have been the only actor to thank the person who actually wrote his film so…Respect.

“Max, are we driving through plutonium?”

As for that whole montage presenting the ten nominees for Best Picture I actually thought it was a rather elegantly assembled piece but then I began to notice how it had placed KING’S SPPECH dialogue over the whole thing. Whether intentional or not it basically told us who was about to win, emphasizing that film at the expense of all the others being honored that night and completely disrespectful to them as well. For me it was probably the low point of the entire night. Of course, maybe that was actually all those kids coming out for the finale to sing, but they’re kids so I’ll leave them alone.

And I missed the end of ANNIE HALL.

One segment I didn’t mention was the recap of last November’s Governors Awards but then again the show didn’t seem to pay much attention to them either so as a result we had Eli Wallach, Francis Ford Coppola and Kevin Brownlow (no Godard, of course) standing out there doing nothing, saying nothing. Tuco was there! And he didn’t get to speak! I’m sure everyone who goes to that dinner where they actually spend time honoring these people have a wonderful time but it doesn’t do much for those of us who for years loved the pure emotion that came from such legends being honored on the actual telecast. And this method of discarding the true history—not that old glamour of Hollywood stuff—is where it falters. Remind us why we love the movies. Make us want to love them more. You know how to do that? Remind us of what Francis Ford Coppola did. Tell us who Eli Wallach is. Tell us who Godard is. Spend maybe a minute to show why you’re actually honoring Kevin Brownlow. Everyone’s watching the show already. You can deal with the fashions and the Kardashians going to the Vanity Fair party later. These are the movies. It should be why we’re watching this show. And yes,I know this would only make the show longer. I don’t have all the answers. If I did, I’d probably be doing something other than writing this right now. But there has to be a better way.

Honestly, I don’t dislike THE KING’S SPEECH, it just doesn’t resonate much at all with me on any level and I don’t have any need to see it ever again. But at least it’s a serious film aimed at adults which is doing great business and, like the similar box office success of THE SOCIAL NETWORK, BLACK SWAN, TRUE GRIT among others this is a very good thing at a point in time when the studios seem to be openly flaunting how they have zero interest in such things. I won’t even bother bitching about it anymore but I am skeptical of who’s going to care about THE KING’S SPEECH after it leaves theaters and I wonder if in ten years Tom Hooper’s career will be where the career of SHAKSPEARE IN LOVE director John Madden is now—even if he didn’t win the Oscar himself the point seems valid. But the movies that matter, the ones that make us want to be this passionate, will survive. THE SOCIAL NETWORK will survive. BLACK SWAN will survive, as will Natalie Portman’s performance. Those final moments of TRUE GRIT which bring me to tears will survive. Maybe to keep some of that passion going they should just have Kirk Douglas host next year, maybe with Anne Hathaway, and have him give out each of the awards since I suspect that’s what lots of people out there right now would like anyway. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch my DVD of THE SOCIAL NETWORK once again. Peace.


Rupert Pupkin said...

I wondered who that Bob Hope voice fill-in was. I love Dave Thomas, but that didn't quite work for me.

Michael lear said...

Amen, brother. Amen. Every year I tune in and every year the Academy makes the wrong best director and best movie choice and I pull my hair out and wonder why I care. Totally agree about Kings Speech. A nice movie. Firth was great. Rush was great, as he always is. But Best Picture? Really? Social Network will join the long list of classic passed over films and again, why do I care about awards? Maybe it would be better to just scrap the whole thing. Films shouldn't be in competition with each other anyway.

Mr. Peel aka Peter Avellino said...

Thanks very much. Why do I care? Do I even care? Maybe because it can be something to get worked up over and, after all, it's a Hollywood tradition. Like a lot of people, I guess I just can't help myself. I've sometimes said that as long as they don't burn the negatives of the films that lose in the parking lot afterwards, I won't get too upset.

Maybe I'll go watch some of SOCIAL NETWORK now. They didn't take my DVD away at least.