Monday, February 23, 2009
Oscar Thoughts (While I'm Still Awake)
Overall, I give the entire production a solid B+. Jackman was fun, breezy, and awful nice to look at. And any Oscar ceremony that clocks in before midnight in New York is doing something right. I was dubious when I heard all the stuff about the ceremony this year "telling a story" and re-grouping the awards, but in practice, the decision to hand out the writing awards, design awards, and post-production awards in bunches (with one presenter for 2-4 categories) was a great, time-saving idea. The singing during the In Memorian montage wasn't as big a problem as I'd made it out to be in my head (is the Shawshank Redemption score really all that more austere?), though the elusive camerawork that made it hard to read the names was kinda shitty. I also thought the montages were all well done (especially the comedy one) and fit what I think the Oscars should always be: a scrapbook of the year in film.
No so good was that dance number, which didn't appear to have any reason to exist beyond the fact that they had Hugh Jackman and they felt obligated. I was happy to see Amanda Seyfried and Dominic Cooper get some time to shine, even if they were overshadowed by Zac and the Hudge.
As for the unique way the acting awards were presented, I thought that was ultimately a better idea in theory than in practice. It was indeed very cool to see five previous winners in each category emerge like the final five Cylons and all, but five little tribute speeches per category made them all run too long, and the tributes themselves were either watery, pompous, or insincere. There are very few things that I would accept as substitutes for clips from the nominated performances, and this definitely was not one of those things.
Very, VERY boring fashion this year, with everyone deciding on silver, sparkly dresses or satiny earth tones. Thank god for colorful outliers like Viola Davis, Amy Adams, and Amanda Seyfried. Unfortunately, though My Girl Reese Witherspoon opted for color, she didn't exactly opt well. Best Dressed, Non-Color Division goes to Kate Winslet (more on her in a paragraph or two). Worst Dressed, Hilariously So Division goes to Sophia Loren, who scared the shit out of me no less than five times.
As for the winners? Totally expected, which was both good and bad. Being totally prepared for the Slumdog near-sweep made it easier to distance my fannish tendencies and be happy for artists I really love, like Danny Boyle and Anthony Dod Mantle. The Acting categories, which seemed like such interesting toss-ups, all went to frontrunners, which would have been annoying if I didn't love Penn, Cruz, Ledger, and Winslet. Great speeches from Cruz and Penn, too; I'm choosing not to hold it against them that they couldn't think of anything as awesome as "Domo Aregato, Mister Roboto."
As for Kate Winslet: her best speech this season my a country mile. Great moment with her dad, heartfelt, grateful, and one hell of a kicker with that "suck it up" nod to Streep. Well done, and I am SO glad she won. Maybe now, with the hysteria of the season behind us, people can back off their totally over-the-top bitchiness about her and realize that one of our best working actresses has an Oscar, and that's a good thing.
Overall, a fine Oscar ceremony that will undoubtedly get terrible ratings and everyone will blame The Reader and feel all superior about the fact that they didn't see any movies that didn't make a billion dollars, and we'll spend the next year wondering how we can trim/dumb down the ceremony enough to salvage ratings. But as a fan of the Oscars, I enjoyed these ones. Even if I fell two short-film categories short of winning the pool.