Monday, February 27, 2012

One Constant That Is True

I tried to get Angelina’s right leg to write this piece with me but it was off doing a podcast. Oh well.

The oncoming rush of time is something I find myself thinking about on occasion which is probably why at one point during this year’s Academy Awards it occurred to me how the first time Billy Crystal hosted the show, way back in 1990 when DRIVING MISS DAISY took Best Picture, George Clooney who is now firmly established as The Most Respected Hollywood Star wasn’t on the radar, wasn’t anywhere close to being on the radar. But there he is at this year’s ceremony in the front row where we used to expect to see Jack Nicholson and time keeps moving, unstoppable, and in some ways that was what I kept thinking while watching Billy Crystal host the 2012 Oscars. Even in the much anticipated opening montage that would insert him into some of the nominated films (cute, but nothing all that surprising) I briefly mused, “Hmmm, blackface in this day and age, I don’t know,” upon his appearance as Sammy Davis, Jr. Of course I recognized it as a bit he used to do on Saturday Night Love but it didn’t hit me until later on when I saw a few mentions on my Twitter feed that there are probably more than a few twentysomethings out there who had never seen him do Sammy, who were just seeing this as, well, somebody doing blackface. In 2012. I’m not even sure why it was ok back in the 80s but, hey, with Reagan and all that cocaine around most people weren’t in their right minds.

Whether it was part of the design or a frenzy to whip something into shape after the whole Brett Ratner/Eddie Murphy kurfuffle the overriding feel this year’s show seemed to have was to just keep this thing moving, do what had worked before and the things that work can maybe be expanded on next time around. Maybe. Things felt efficient, moving along at a decent pace with Billy Crystal offering a comfortable old chair quality to his presence, a favorite uncle showing up at Thanksgiving for the first time in a while, that sense of Academy Awards of the past which may never have lived up to their best moments (or maybe just our memories of those moments) but was still kind of pleasant. The theme of the show, I guess, was “Let’s Go To The Movies” and the joy that experience can provide but, putting aside the fact that the glory of going to the movies doesn’t really mean all that much to most people anymore, what about the actual movies? Which seems to be something I wind up asking about every year. Instead of sitting through all the red carpet nonsense I spent much of the pre-show coverage taking a walk and then when I returned home realized that FATAL INSTINCT was on HBO so I watched some of that. Seemed like a good use of my time. So I missed seeing Sasha Baron Cohen spill those ashes on Ryan Seacrest live but I did see enough on ABC to just assume that Tim Gunn has never seen a movie in his life. Funny thing is, this is one of those years where there are various nominated and winning films I still haven’t seen. Maybe I never will. And remember that MELANCHOLIA, which really was the best film of the year, got zero nominations so there was very little point in getting upset about any of the results. Anyway, thoughts:

Putting aside the questionable taste of the Sammy appearance as well as the later line about having to drive 45 minutes out of Beverly Hills to find any black women I thought much of Crystal’s material was…ok. The sort of stuff that put a smile on my face at least partly because it was nice to see him even if I wasn’t always laughing. Doing a song parody involving EXTREMELY LOUD & INCREDIBLY CLOSE isn’t something I’d advise someone to try to do anyway but it was nice to see how much Martin Scorsese seemed to enjoy the HUGO bit. There was also a refreshing lack of “How could THE ARTIST be nominated for screenplay? It had no dialogue!”—level gags that you wouldn’t blame anyone for expecting and you could sense at times how much Crystal really wanted to make the audience laugh, like his line about Tom Sherak whipping the audience into a frenzy, a pretty old joke because, hey, why not, right? But a little too often what he had to work with seemed to be missing the punch it needed while some of the rest of the comedy bits seemed to be just kind of there. I’m still not sure what Tom Hanks talking about a veteran seat filler was all about and I forgot all about the Robert Downey Jr. annoying Gwyneth Paltrow with his documentary shoot until I was reading some reviews of the show. Will Ferrell and Zach Galafanakis presenting Best Original Score was cute, but not something anyone’s going to be looking up on Youtube.

Oh yeah, there was a montage showing the history of the movies and how great they are, or something which was not only a little confusing and poorly organized but also didn’t include anything made before 1969 (MIDNIGHT COWBOY, if you were paying attention), basically saying that anything before then has been shoved into irrelevancy, old, forgotten, which seems all the more ironic considering how the two presumed front runners were about that past and it’s easy to imagine that something could have been done with that. It’s too bad they didn’t try.

As for Jennifer Lopez and Cameron Diaz, what can I say. Cute giggling girls are sometimes cute but I’m still not sure what they were trying to do.

There’s Melanie Griffith, sitting in the audience, practically not even noticed by the camera. Kind of sad.

Well, at least we got to hear from movie stars about how much they like older movies. Incidentally, did you notice that Streisand was sitting at the Streisand-approved side angle, not directly facing the camera like everyone else? I catch these things, what can I say.

Sandra Bullock standing in front of a giant world map showing where the foreign films came from made in look like she was in a Bond villain’s lair.

Jessica Chastain sure is fetching. I hope she’s in a dozen movies this year too.

And I still haven’t seen THE HELP but congratulations to Octavia Spencer whose win has to have been the most emotional moment of the whole night which makes it all the more of a shame that they played her off so fast.

Sheila E.! Sheila E.! She’s just about my favorite thing on this show.

Nice to see a Christopher Guest short and a Fred Willard appearance is always welcome but it should really be said: All Hail Bob Balaban.

And I loved those GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO editors who clearly weren’t expecting to win and just decided to get out of there. This show needed surprises. Every David Fincher movie should probably win for editing anyway.

There’s a joke somewhere in how HUGO, so hyped as being in 3D, won awards for sound but I haven’t quite figured it out yet. And due respect to Mr. Scorsese, I preferred seeing the movie in 2D.

I was hoping that someone would start live-tweeting WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? on TCM when it started during the show. Didn’t happen.

That brief bit with the Muppets felt like the equivalent of the Academy saying, “Happy, Pappy?” to the internet campaign of people trying to get the Muppets to host. I love the Muppets but don’t think I’d need or want three hours of them on this night.

The one time the program seemed to acknowledge Hollywood history with clips of older films was, um, Cirque de Soleil. Better than nothing, I guess, although I’m still not sure what Cirque de Soleil has to do with movies.

Seeing Max Von Sydow out there in the audience it struck me that he should be one of the leads in HANGOVER 3. Just because.

No Jude Law mention from Chris Rock, which seems like a missed opportunity.

Emma Stone is awfully cute but I hope they’ve surgically removed that thing from her shoulder by now.

So RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES lost effects to HUGO, another one of the few surprises. Between this and the snubbing of TINTIN (which turned up in the opening anyway, making me wonder if work on the sequence began when they just assumed it would get a nomination) maybe the Academy really does have a problem with mo-cap. Or maybe HUGO just got a trickle down effect from its other nominations.

That bit with mentioning the HARRY POTTER series had ended leading into something completely unrelated was a little weird, as if maybe at one point there was actually going to be a section paying tribute to it but it got cut. Just an observation.

Melissa Leo does a lot of acting, even when she’s just presenting.

Christopher Plummer is simply cool. I can’t think of a single problem with him winning or his speech.

Proving that I’m just easy when it comes to these things sometimes, Billy Crystal revealing what Martin Scorsese and Nick Nolte were thinking honestly gave me some of the biggest laughs of the night.

If Uggie the dog got to be there, then there really should have been an appearance by one of the dinosaurs from TREE OF LIFE.

I hope everyone watching the show over at Kim Novak’s house enjoyed themselves. I imagine the set was shut off for a few moments while Best Score was presented.

Worst part about the Best Song nominees not being performed: makes it more difficult to go make food in the middle of the show.

Jason Segal, sitting there desperately waiting to be thanked as Bret McKenzie gave his speech.

Incidentally, Bret having an Oscar but not Jemaine should make an awkward band meeting for Flight of the Conchords. I wonder what Murray’s gonna do about that.
Popcorn girls! Because….I’m really not sure.

And here comes Angelina and her leg.

Alexander Payne won another Oscar! Not only that, Dean Pelton won an Oscar!!!! That makes me happy. Everyone watch COMMUNITY when it returns.

We all know Woody doesn’t care but I think his getting Best Original Screenplay for MIDNIGHT IN PARIS was my favorite win of the night.

After Angelina left I still kept thinking of her leg.

I know it's what everyone's thinking but here goes--Werner Herzog should host next year.

Hey, Milla Jovovich. How YOU doin'?

I liked BRIDESMAIDS the movie. The bits that the Bridesmaids do during awards shows, not so much.

What do you think Dick Smith and Oprah Winfrey were talking about while they were seated up there together?

I guess I need to do my annual complaint about the Montage of Death. First the good: I would never in a million years have expected to see George Kuchar here. And if they were going to give only a few of them a few extra seconds for a sound bit I’m glad one of them was Sidney Lumet. As for the rest of it, the simple Apple Store-level quality to the design seemed to lack any sort of feeling or emotion as opposed to the film clips which have come to be the norm for this segment. And the people who were snubbed: the great Harry Morgan, Michael Sarrazin, Bill McKinney, Michael Gough, costume designer Eiko Ishioka who won the Oscar for Coppola’s DRACULA and none of the people who may have missed the cutoff date a year ago like Maria Schneider, Kenneth Mars and Betty Garrett. Plus no Charles Napier. I’ll repeat that—NO CHARLES NAPIER. Nothing more needs to be said.

Anyone else surprised that Natalie Portman didn’t mention THE PROFESSIONAL when she gave her testimonial to Gary Oldman? (Yes, everyone. EVERYONE)

Jean Dujardin is terrific. Go see the OSS 117 films.

Since I haven’t seen THE IRON LADY or THE HELP and don’t have much of an opinion on what went down there all I’ll say is: Roooooooooney. LOOK AT HER.

As we moved into the end I suddenly found myself wondering if this show had been missing a surprise appearance by…somebody. I’m just not sure who.

THE ARTIST won. I like the movie. It didn’t even make it on my ten-best list but I like the movie. And director Michel Hazanavicius thanked Billy Wilder at the end so he’s a-ok with me. I’m good. And let’s not forget that Jean Dujardin thanked Douglas Fairbanks in his own acceptance speech. It seems likely that if Martin Scorsese had won he would have done his part by prominently mentioning Georges Méliès in his speech but either way, the director and star of the film that won Best Picture did what the rest of the Academy Awards didn’t do. Honor the past.

And with the end of the show, I opened up the hard liquor. I don’t think this Academy Awards ceremony was a train wreck at all. By now the show is what it is so maybe we may as well accept it and the sense of comfort it gives us. You can certainly give it credit for not trying to pander to the younger demographics the way it has in the past, cameo by Bieber which was joking about this very thing aside. The Oscars are what they are. And the past is gone. You can’t stop what’s coming. I just wish the show would be willing to take an extra moment to remember that past, remember that glamour, remember some of those films and the people who made them which is such a big part of why we’re watching in the first place. And to see Billy Crystal do that song and dance at the beginning. The rush of time can’t stop everything. Now if you’ll excuse me, Angelina’s leg cancelled our date to have drinks at the Dresden so I’m going to sit down and watch my Blu-ray of KISS ME DEADLY again. Somebody needs to remember these films.

No comments: