Monday, February 23, 2009


Oscar post-mortem

By Edward Copeland
They promised a "new" Oscarcast, determined to enliven a moribund show and (hopefully) attract those long sought-after young viewers. Did they succeed? The show may have been a Rorschach test, because skimming comments from average folks, it seems split (as it always is) with some loving it and some hating it. My opinion: eh.

First off, it was clear Billy Crystal wasn't there or he would have rushed the stage and kicked Hugh Jackman in the balls as he did a variation of his best picture medley bit, only adding props that included Anne Hathaway.

Hugh Jackman was fine and personable and served as a really good Tony Awards host. Unfortunately, the Oscars were the awards being handed out. Now, I've complained for years about the production numbers surrounding the song nominees, but what's the point of condensing the songs into a four minute or so segment if you are gonna kill more time that that with a completely irrelevant number with Jackman, Beyonce, a couple of those High School Musical kids and the young lovers from Mamma Mia! under the premise that "The musical is back!" at which point all the young viewers either turned their Wiis back on or started fantasizing about the new Grand Theft Auto.

Producer Bill Condon also said at one point that supposedly this Oscarcast was supposed to have a narrative, to tell a sort of story. If anyone out there noticed one, please let me know. The clip packages usually defied reason and because of the staging and camerawork were sometimes impossible to read. My dad asked me after the show what was up for best picture, because he couldn't tell from the clip montage.

My big question was what the hell Butch Cassidy had to do with Benjamin Button.

In the In Memoriam section, you couldn't even see some of the names, let alone figure out the plentiful list of notables they left off. As with every year, I have to complain that they don't turn off the mics in the audience so it turns into a popularity contest. More applause for Paul Newman means they like him more than that other dead guy. Also, while in theory I don't mind the idea of someone singing a song, is "I'll Be Seeing You" the right choice? Not unless you are barely hanging on and are seeing the white light.

I was surprised Jerry Lewis gave such a short speech. I couldn't tell if he was in pain or pissed off. Sean Penn and Dustin Lance Black gave the best speeches of the night. I haven't seen Waltz with Bashir, but I don't know why everyone was so surprised it lost. Where did it belong? Foreign film? Documentary? Animated feature? All three? If it can't be easily categorized, it's too difficult for the voters to wrap their heads around.

I did enjoy the Judd Apatow short, if only because I think people should be laughing uproariously at parts of The Reader.

As for Jackman as a host, for the most part, he did what I think a host should: Open the show and then stay mostly the hell out of the way the rest of the night. Why do the Oscars even need a host? The Globes do without one. Want to save some time? No host. Announcer introduces presenters. They give awards. That's it.

Of course, the usual critics whine about categories they don't care about: the shorts, makeup, etc. However, the true Oscarphiles such as myself love each category. The Academy and the network it can't tear itself away from would be better served if they stopped obsessing about expanding their audience and worried about catering to the audience they already have before they give up the Oscars in exasperation. Movie buffs and those obsessed with celebs and fashion always will be there. Your average youngster never will be and why would you even want them? You make the same mistake that most newspaper publishers and editors make: You seek an audience that doesn't exist.

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One thing I did like was the way they presented the acting categories - it was nice that each nominee got a little mini-tribute, and I didn't miss the super-abbrieviated five-to-ten second clips at all (it was also fun to see many of their reactions).

I'm a bad gay. During Dustin Lance Black's moving and poignant speech, I was totally just crusing him.

I got the narrative structure thing - it's why they did the screenplay awards so early, going through each step of the process in chronological order - but it didn't seem particularly neccessary, and it was done very selectively (the acting categories were still spread out across the evening, and docs and shorts and stuff were all just shoved here and there - so it wasn't consistent, structurally speaking).

Apart from Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, I haven't seen so much lyp-synching since Liza last played The Palace.

Is it required by law that anyone who wins an award off Meryl Streep has to give a shout-out to Meryl Streep? Yes, she's terrific, but enough already. It's because so predicatble it's downright cleche for the winning actress to stop mid-speech to suck Meryl's dick (Paltrow is the first one I can remember having done it, so let's blame her). Someone think of a new angle.

Reese Witherspoon has become so aggressively perky as her offscreen self that she really does scare me. She came off as the world's most annoying children's show performer; her bit had Blue's Clues kinda vibe ("Hey kids, let's find out who won Best Director! And then eat ice cream! Yaaaay!!")

I am not pissed off by any of the winners this year. However, I am still REALLY pissed off by Cotillard's win last year, so I am unable to enjoy the fact that I am not pissed off by any of the winners this year. My glass, for now and evermore, remains half fucking full.
During the live blog when Cotillard showed up on the red carpet, I said that I just had a strange flashback that Julie Christie had lost the Oscar to her last year but that couldn't have possibly have been true, right?
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