Monday, February 28, 2011


I'm a partner in an abusive relationship

By Edward Copeland
It's not easy for me to make this confession, especially to the masses around the world in cyberspace, but it's true. I have been involved in a relationship that has gone on now for more than 30 years. I've taken steps to sever my ties with it, because it's not healthy, but I keep crawling back, no matter how many times my partner abuses me. I can't even call my feelings love anymore. It's just habit, bordering on obsession, and because my partner was there for me during a few years of dark times, I can't sever ties completely, even though each year she treats me worse and worse. Her name is Oscar and after last night's debacle, I felt compelled to issue this plea for help.

I took a big step last year, when the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, under constant pressure from ABC and its parent company Disney kept making idiotic changes to the award to try to boost rating and attract a more youthful demographic. When they doubled the best picture nominees to 10 and, even worse, kicked the presentation of honorary awards, usually the broadcast's highlight, to a nontelevised dinner in November, as they tried to deny that film history began any earlier than the Reagan administration. Similarly stupid moves by the other awards I follow, the Tonys for Broadway and the Emmys for television, prompted me to write the post A pox on all your award shows. I swore I would no longer promote any of these awards. No predictions, surveys, etc. I've been pretty good at keeping my word.

However, that temptress known as Twitter sucked me in and actually created a more bearable way to watch the travesty. Since I'm bedridden anyway, I could watch the show at the same time I snarked to the world about the ceremonies as they went on. Honestly, the Twittering has become more satisfying than the shows themselves, which I had a bad feeling about when they announced that the hosts would be James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Huh? I started to get sucked in though when every critics' group and even the waiter and florists selected my choice for the best film of 2010, The Social Network, as best picture. I thought for the first time in a long time Oscar might actually pick my choice as best film as their best picture. Then that evil man known as Harvey Weinstein reared his head for the first time in a long time as his company released The King's Speech, which suddenly started scoring guild wins. First, it took the Producer's Guild Award, but they are flaky (they picked Little Miss Sunshine), so I wasn't concerned. Then, Tom Hooper (who I imagine most people still can't pick out of a lineup) won the Director's Guild Award for The King's Speech. As my friend Josh R said last night, his mother could have done a better job directing The King's Speech and she doesn't know how to program the VCR. It's worth noting that before this film, Hooper's work was almost entirely on television and TV directors make up a majority of DGA voters now. Weinstein, being the grade-A asshole that he is, reportedly told Scott Rudin, one of the producers of The Social Network, that he can go ahead and win the critics' awards, he'll take the big one. When the Screen Actors Guild handed out its awards, The King's Speech won ensemble, which people keep mistakenly equating as a picture prize when it's an acting prize and when their history is that their ensemble prize has not gone on to win the Oscar more times than it has. (The count is now 9 to 8.) Since it is an acting prize, it should have lost based on Timothy Spall's awful performance as Churchill and casting Guy Pearce as Colin Firth's older brother when the actor, only seven years younger, looked as if he could be Firth's son in some scenes. Having never sold my soul to Satan, I have no idea how these deals work, but Weinstein has been getting away with it for a long time. Remember when he used his talent to push quality films such as Pulp Fiction and The Crying Game? What happened to that Harvey who now bullies and buys his way to victory with middlebrow mediocrities such as The King's Speech, a Harvey who has so little respect for the art that he is cutting one small scene of profanity where the stuttering royal repeats the "F" word so he can get a PG-13 rating and, presumably, bigger audiences and more money. Come on Satan, when are you coming for him to pay up for his deal with a suitably long sentence in Hell?

Then came Oscar night. Resolved that Harvey would get his way, I didn't even put much though into predictions like I used to. I just didn't care anymore. I started to get excited though, despite the fact that the show itself was a bore. Category after category where I predicted The King's Speech, it kept losing. Could this be? The Social Network started winning. No, this was just an elaborate trick. The only solace I could take was that The King's Speech did not win the most Oscars. It tied with Inception with four wins, though all of that film's prizes were technical ones. The King's Speech took best picture, but it will be one of those forgotten winners, and the inexplicable director winner Tom Hooper will follow in the footsteps of winners Delbert Mann, John G. Avildsen and Michael Cimino and never be nominated again. Further, I fear the man who should have won, David Fincher, will now win at some point for a film that he won't deserve to win for. That's the way this abusive wench works.

Now on to the broadcast itself. I do have to give it some kudos. FINALLY, after years of my complaining, they muted the audience microphones during the In Memoriam segment so you didn't hear the audience applauding at different levels as if it were a contest for who was the most popular dead person. The show seemed to have no structure, rhyme or reason. Anne Hathaway seemed eager to please but James Franco appeared stoned most of the time. I've suggested this before. Why do they need a host? Just have an announcer introduce presenters and hand out the awards. Has anyone interested in the Oscars ever decided to watch or not to watch based on who was hosting? Think how much time you'd save without a host. The Billy Crystal bit resurrecting Bob Hope seemed fairly pointless, as did that bit where they had characters from films appear to be singing songs (I forget the phrase already. I guess this is a common YouTube game. I believe a better name would be Timewaster). Speaking of songs, it's high time that that category go the way of title writing. There aren't that many (if any) original movie musicals being made any more and very few of the songs end up being integral to the films, instead being relegated to playing over the credits as you leave the theater. This category once had a point, just like when they had a reason to divide cinematography into color and black and white divisions. However, that day has long since passed. Kill it. Also, kill the ridiculous pre-show, which they expanded to 90 minutes this year for some reason. How about cutting that and staring the show earlier. Use the extra time to bring back the honorary awards, which have provided most of the best moments in recent years. The worst news was when they announced that ABC renewed their contract to carry the Oscars through 2020. All the changes they've forced on the Academy have been for the worse. They need to realize: NETWORK TELEVISION IS DEAD. They will never regain the ratings they had when there were limited viewing audiences. They need to stop trying to cater to youthful demographics and viewers who won't watch and to the movie geeks like me who will. They have to accept that the Oscars are niche programming. Honestly, I think the best solution is to have people such as me who actually give a damn about movies and film history produce the show and keep the clueless away. After a night like last night, I think I might have to go to a shelter for abused Oscar spouses. Think your ratings drop now? See what happens if you lose us. The Oscars are about movies, but quality? Reflecting the best No. They are a long ad for an industry, a trade show for its worst habits where sometimes, the deserving accidentally win. Film lovers can love film without taking this annual pummelling from this serially abuser.

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The only two categories I cared about were Cinematography and Supporting Actress, so my emotional investment went out the window after 30 minutes. I wanted Hailee to win (and Leo to lose) regardless of the right category; as for Pfister, he's a fine cameraman (his best work to date is "The Prestige"), and thank God "The King's Speech" didn't take that category. But it's Deakins, c'mon already. The only plausible explanation for why he's never won is jealousy.

Kirk Douglas was equal parts senile and sadistic, the worst presentation of an Oscar since Bette Davis's grandstanding over Paul Newman (who wisely didn't show up). The longer Douglas protracted things, the deeper Helena Bonham Carter sank into her seat. Following his antics, I retreated to another room for an hour with a book.
The highlight for me was Trent Reznor winning for Best Score. Amazing stuff and he looked genuinely surprised and appreciative.

Oh yeah, and Robert Downey and Jude Law's banter was excellent. They shoulda hosted.
I'm have to go with Craig - Kirk Douglas is a living legend, who has given some wonderful performances...but it's time to for Mike and the other kids to push him out to sea on an ice floe. His presenting duties were painful to watch - but hey, now that Steiger and Brando are dead, and Rooney seems to have gone into hiding, I suppose we need a dilapidated legend to pick up the mantle of Town Crazy.

I always agree with Ed - Oscar is the worst boyfriend ever. I pretty much summed up my feelings about The Academy Awards in my review of The King's Speech (a workmanlike, uninspired piece of filmmaking that Ed and I are pretty much in agreement about), so there's no need to go into it all again here - if I can't muster the same degree of lasting outrage as Ed does (although I was mighty bummed for about 10 minutes by Hooper's win), it's just because the Oscars are too absurd for me to take seriously at this point - and really, in 10 to 20 years, no won will remember or care what won anyway, and the reputations of both films will change (I suspect Social Speech are gonna have a Citizen Kane-How Green was My Valley type relationship...or at least a Goodfellas-Dances with Wolves one.)

I will just add that I don't necessarily feel that Harvey deserves all the credit for the win - part of it had to do with ageism, and perhaps a vote against The Social Network was really a vote against youth and the culture of Facebook. Harvey is certainly evil...but probably no more so than Louis B. Mayer, Daryl F. Zanuck or Harry Cohn. It's easy to take a misty-eyed view of the golden age when The Oscars were ostensibly a classy, above-board affair - but in truth, they never were, and the backroom, under-the-table deals that go on now aren't a whole lot different than the kind that were going on back then. In short, Oscar was ALWAYS a bad boyfriend.
Yeah, if they wanted to go with an actor from the old guard I wish they'd picked Eli Wallach. He's funny and charming and, based on his demeanor last night and recent performances, still seems to have a few marbles left. The producers of the show seem downright schizo in how they veer between a youthful hepcat broadcast and one with Old Hollywood gloss.
thx for informing me that the audience mics were muted during the In Memoriam section. I was amazed that no one seemed to care that Tony Curtis was gone.
Otherwise I agree with your comments. We don't need a host. We don't need presenters to introduce the presentors.

It's telling that the best hosting segment was Bob Hope via hologram. He did a better job from the grave than the two the Academy hired.
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