Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Oscars Recap

Ah, my little “Hurt Locker” – I knew you had it in you. But I didn’t know how much! Picture, director, and editing, sure, I was expecting that—but who’da thunk you’d take screenplay and both sound awards as well? Your mini-sweep cost me my Oscars pool this year! I can’t begrudge you that, however; I’m too happy for you.

Otherwise, I can’t say the Oscars left me feeling much of anything except numb. For a history-making night, the ceremony felt fairly staid and blah. And long—very long, clocking in at 3 1/2 hours. I don’t think it was just because there were ten Best Pic nominees this year rather than five. After all, there weren’t nearly as many “whoopee, let’s look at this genre over the years!” montages as last year, there was no Irving Thalberg award, and I don’t remember anyone’s acceptance speech going deep into O/T. But somehow the night just dragged on and on, although it wasn’t without its share of bright moments—and weird ones.

THE GOOD:

Kathryn Bigelow becoming the first female director (yessss!) to win Best Director. And Picture to boot! “The Hurt Locker” may not have been my favorite film of the year, but there’s no question it was a tremendously effective and well-crafted piece of cinema that deserved its accolades. (Though “Strange Days” remains my favorite Bigelow movie.)

Co-hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin – score! I loved Hugh Jackman’s song-and-dance-oriented patter last year (his musical opening was better than Neil Patrick Harris’, much as I heart NPH), but I’m all for mixing it up from one year to the next. This year the producers decided to give us something old and something new—and it worked, even if it felt at times like a very belated ad for “It’s Complicated.” The duo had an easy, engaging rapport, and launched some funny zingers, though Martin had the edge in delivery and timing. After all, the man’s a practiced stand-up comedian, and was one of the better hosts of Oscars past. It was great to see him back on this stage.

The tribute to John Hughes: Thoughtfully edited and appropriately nostalgia-inducing, even if it was a little depressing to see how ungracefully some of the Brat Pack have aged.

Ben Stiller: I don’t care much for him in movies, but I generally enjoy his Oscars schtick, whether it’s clowning around in a green body suit, doing a wicked Joaquin Phoenix impersonation, or appearing in full Na’vi get-up and coming as close as anyone in the room dared to mocking James Cameron. (Still wish I could see the skit with Brüno that was reportedly excised to avoid offending the notoriously thin-skinned director. I mean really, what is this, lèse majesté? Give me a break.)

Sandra Bullock’s acceptance of Best Actress: while I still don’t think she deserved to win, her speech showed exactly why everyone, including me, loves her. It was classy, deadpan-funny (“my lover Meryl Streep”), endearingly self-deprecating (“did I just wear you all down?”), and full of controlled emotion. Plus she looked gorgeous and at least a decade younger than her 45 years. She and Bigelow must drink from the same fountain – they need to bottle that stuff and sell it: Bigelow and Bullock's Better than Botox Formula. I'd buy some.

Jeff Bridges’s acceptance of Best Actor: Loved seeing him embrace his long-earned moment of glory, and remind us all that the Dude abides.

THE BAD

Weird pacing. So much of the show felt interminable and then the last 5-10 minutes were an awkward gallop to the big finish.

Swapping out actual performances of the nominated scores and songs for a dance number with no distinguishing features. I love dance and I understand that it doesn’t need to be directly representational or have a narrative to be, um, “interpretive,” but this just didn’t work for me.

The introduction of each nominee for Best Actor/Actress by a colleague in the industry: This was a modification of last year’s main innovation, in which the previous years’ nominees each presented one of the current nominees. I liked that this year they at least gave presentation duties to someone who could speak from personal experience with the nominee, but I’m still not a fan of the format. It just feels canned – though some were less so than others – and sucks up waaaay too much time, especially when you’re already past the three-hour mark. Let’s just go back to clips, please?

Having Barbara Streisand present Best Director – practically telegraphing that History was About to be Made. I mean, really, what would they have done if Bigelow hadn’t won? If I hadn’t wanted her to win so much, I would almost have enjoyed watching Babs deflate as she discovered the time had not yet come.

THE UGLY

Zoe Saldana’s dress, or more specifically the bottom half of it. To quote one fashion commentator, “I loved Saldana's bodice and greatly wished it did not turn into an intergalactic cancan skirt down below.” Indeed. On the flip side, for above-the-waist mishaps, the runner-up booby prize (literally) has to go to Charlize Theron and her giant rose satin nipples.

WTF?

Didn’t think I’d forget the lady swathed in purple who Kanye’d the winner of the best documentary short, did you? That was hands-down the most bizarre moment of the evening. Turns out the woman was in fact official co-winners with the director (the dude she interrupted) - she'd been a producer on the film but had quit over a year ago, due to “creative differences” with him. There was even a lawsuit that settled, leaving her name in the credits, but didn’t put the bad blood to rest. Evidently. Best part: She's claiming that she was late to the stage because the director's mother had stuck out a cane to block her while the director rushed up to accept the award. He denies this, of course. But did you ever hear anything so crazy?

The tribute to horror: Since when are “Twilight” and “Edward Scissorhands” considered horror movies? I did love Baldwin and Martin’s spoof of “Paranormal Activity,” though.

What on earth was Sean Penn saying when he presented Best Actress? I didn’t understand a word.

PERSONAL FAVORITE MOMENTS

Mo’Nique thanking her attorneys. As a lawyer in a roomful of lawyers, I can say we were all tickled by that shoutout.

Costume designer Sandy “I already have two of these” Powell effectively saying “thanks, but no thanks” to the Academy for her third Oscar (this one for “The Young Victoria”). To be fair, she seemed to be calling them out for their fetish with period costume and saying they should recognize less obviously Oscar-baity work. But then there was that punchline: “So this is for you [the overlooked], but I’m going to take it home tonight.” Oh, snap!

All in all, not one of the worst Oscars shows, but not one of the best, either. Happy about most of the outcomes, not happy that there was so little else that stood out about the ceremony except its length. Still, what would the Oscars be without a heaping dose of self-indulgence? Sometimes you gotta respect tradition.

Till next year – au revoir, Os-car!

4 Comments:

Blogger Pub said...

I'm sure in 6 months the world will be awash in Navi kids costumes. Thanks Ben! Hopefully the kids will leave the suites behind.

4:58 PM  
Blogger Pub said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:59 PM  
Blogger LVJeff said...

Yay, I pretty much agree with every part of your assessment. Though I also thought the John Hughes tribute, though nicely done, was weirdly out of place (when has Oscar ever honored anything done by John Hughes?). And of course, there was the In Memoriam snafu of leaving out Farrah.

All in all, one of the lesser productions of the Oscars. I thought the pacing was just terrible. Sorry, Shankman and Mechanic need to go, but just because the ratings were up this time, they'll probably be invited back.

12:42 PM  
Blogger 緣分 said...

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8:53 AM  

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