Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Oscars 2013: In defense of Seth MacFarlane...

...of whom I had very, very low expectations going into Oscars night:

in my humble opinion,

-he did not flame out
-his opening monologue was actually pretty funny (though, like the night overall, it went on too long)
-he has a nice voice, and is rather easy on the eyes
-those jokes he made that have been decried as sexist, bigoted, etc., struck me at the time as being satirical and (perhaps overly) meta, continuing the theme set by the Shatner-from-the-future gag. As in "ta-daah, here are all your WORST FEARS of what I'd say/do as Oscars host!"

That said, on that last point: it's one thing to be meta or satirical, it's another to be, you know, funny. And for the most part, after his monologue, his jokes through the rest of the night were not funny. Ergo, not worth the risk of pissing off half of Hollywood and the media (many of whom already had their knives out for MacFarlane before he even got on the stage).

To be fair, as the night dragged on interminably it was hard to tell whether it was MacFarlane's delivery falling flat, or the material, or simply fatigue brought on by the fact that by 10:00 pm we seemed to be less than a third of a way through the awards. (I did laugh at the "Sound of Music" joke.)

At the end of the day, I think that under the circumstances MacFarlane did as well as he could have done with what he was given. Which is more than I can say of some past hosts (cough cough JAMES FRANCO cough cough).

Other random observations:

-Some very tight races, and a few real surprises, plus many musical numbers (which I normally love) somehow did not conceal the fact that it was a rather dull night. The crowd I was with mostly tuned out the acceptance speeches after about 15 seconds. One exception: Daniel Day-Lewis, who was unexpectedly funny and charming.

-I could have watched Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron dance for, well, pretty much the rest of the night.

-Many awesome women-in-song, which I'd normally approve, except they contributed to the overall LENGTH of the ceremony. Still, kudos to all of them, and apologies to the great Shirley Bassett on behalf of my friends, who mostly talked through her Bond tribute performance. From what I could tell, she started out kind of rough but finished strong.

-What was with all the long-locked male Oscar winners? It was like a collection of Lord of the Rings elves - or the clan of Lucius Malfoy.

-I don't care what anyone says, I love Anne Hathaway. But I do wish she had picked a different dress.

-Fashions generally: unremarkable. My hat's off to the lovely Naomi Watts for taking a risk with her space-agey dress, which, I gotta say, kind of worked for her. And how adorable was little Quvenzhane Wallis and her little puppy purse? Darling.

-"Jaws" music to wave off overly loquacious winners? Genius. Though as always, it's annoying how unequally grace time is allotted to winners depending on their general status/level of fame.

-First Lady's appearance: if that's what she wants to do with her free time, that's her prerogative; it's not like *she's* the one who's got a nation to run. But it was still very random. Were the show's producers trying to one-up the Golden Globes appearance of Bill Clinton?

Also, I don't know what it says about me that rather than being indignant at any supposed frivolity on MObama's part, any (very mild) annoyance I felt was rooted in a vague sense that she wasn't the right person to present the Best Picture award, that it should have been someone with deeper connections to the movie industry. That she was, in short, an interloper, albeit a cool one. Which probably just shows I take the Oscars too seriously.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Oscars predictions: Mostly up in the air

This year's Oscars race has been an unusually turbulent one, which makes predicting winners more of a fool's errand than usual. Right from the start, the nominations up-ended most people's expectations with the surprise double snub of Ben Affleck and Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director. At the time, conventional wisdom dictated that this doomed "Argo"'s and "Zero Dark Thirty"'s chances of winning Best Picture, and momentum shifted to "Lincoln" as the film to beat.

But then a funny thing happened: Academy members, apparently moved by either shock or guilt at Affleck's omission, began throwing all the precursor awards (Producers Guild, Screen Actors Guild, even the Directors Guild) at "Argo." (Why their sympathy didn't extend to Bigelow is an interesting question: I chalk it up to a combination of the torture-related controversy that dogged "Zero Dark Thirty" and the fact that she'd already won a director Oscar just a few years ago, for "The Hurt Locker.") And suddenly, improbably, "Argo" became the front-runner for Best Picture. However, the ripple effect of these shifts was to throw the director race (as well as screenplay) into complete uncertainty. Meanwhile, the acting races have been a little more stable, but at least two of them are close calls.

With these caveats, here are my predictions for the eight major awards:


Will win: ARGO (although I worry that voters may have tired of its comeback arc)

Could win: "Silver Linings Playbook" - never underestimate the persuasive powers of Harvey Weinstein. I will say I'll be unhappy if this happens, as SLP is in my opinion the second weakest of the nominees. (Weakest: "Les Mis.")

Should win: "Argo." I've been hearing a fair amount of blowback about its presumptive victory - not so much outrage as vaguely discontented grumbling (it's ok-to-good, not great; superficial; nothing new; changes the real story too much; "Lincoln" is so much better!). To which I say, totally amiably, "Argo fuck yourself." In the words of Roger Ebert, "This film takes first place on my best [2012] movie list because it is above all else a movie - pure, strong and sound. It has the classic values of a Hollywood thriller." I see nothing wrong with awarding this.


Will win: At this time, I'm going with SPIELBERG, by a nose.

Could win: Really any of them except for Benh Zeitlin, but Ang Lee ("Life of Pi") is probably Spielberg's closest competition.

Should win: Haneke ("Amour")


Will win: DANIEL DAY-LEWIS. This one's a lock.

Could win: Nope, no one else.

Should win: Haven't seen Denzel in "Flight," but among the others - and call me contrarian - I'd give it to Joaquin Phoenix. "The Master" was no masterpiece, but he was damned powerful.


Will win: JENNIFER LAWRENCE ("Silver Linings Playbook"), for reasons I can't quite fathom. Because she's young and the hot new thing? Don't get me wrong, she's talented; I just don't think Oscar-worthy. Not for this movie, anyway.

Could win: Jessica Chastain ("Zero Dark Thirty"), although Emmanuelle Riva ("Amour") has been picking up momentum recently which I, for one, am hoping will translate into an upset. Also did you know the Oscars will fall on her 86th birthday?

Should win: Caveat that I haven't seen Naomi Watts' film ("The Impossible"), but of the other four, without a doubt, Riva. Her performance will break your heart.


Will win: TOMMY LEE JONES ("Lincoln")

Could win: De Niro ("Silver Linings Playbook")

Should win: While all the nominated performances were solid, they were not even close to being my favorites of the year. Where is Jude Law for "Anna Karenina"? or Michael Fassbender for "Prometheus"? or Bruce Willis for "Moonrise Kingdom"? or if we're going with "Django," either Samuel L. Jackson or Leonardo di Caprio?


Will win: ANNE HATHAWAY ("Les Mis") - a virtual lock

Could win: Tiny chance of an upset by Sally Field ("Lincoln")

Should win: Didn't see Helen Hunt in "The Sessions," but among the others, Hathaway deserves her front-runner status.


Will win: This is a close one, but I'm going with AMOUR

Could win: "Zero Dark Thirty"

Should win: Haven't seen "Flight," but all the others are worthy nominees. If "Django Unchained" had just cut off that last 20-30 minutes, it would have the edge.


Will win: An even closer one, but at this time I'll go with ARGO

Could win: "Lincoln"

Should win: I know everyone loves "Lincoln" because "omg, Tony Kushner!" But it was a tad too stagey for me, it didn't integrate the political and personal/family storylines all that well, and the opening scene was beyond cheeseballs. (maybe it was just how Spielberg shot it, but I don't think it was good writing, either.) I'm gonna have to go with "Argo" again.

Again, I've never been so uncertain of my Oscars predictions in my life...but these are pretty conservative picks, so if I'm wrong, so are a lot of other people! We'll see what more surprises the Academy has in store for us tomorrow night...