Oh, boy. This was the year that I wasn’t interested enough in the Oscars to write 10,000 words about the upcoming awards and my predictions for the winners.
This was the year I wasn’t interested enough to even post a list of predictions.
This! My friends! Was the year when, after I realized that the Oscars were on ABC and not CBS, I gave it a little bit of thought and then decided to just DVR the show and watch plain-old Episode Two of “The Amazing Race” instead.
Yes. I am saying things to you that are quite true.
I was sort of on the fence this afternoon. You know what finally pushed me over? The fact that the producers claimed they didn’t have enough time to allow for performances of the Best Song categories…but hey, they had plenty of time to have Cirque du (goddamn) Soleil perform.
(There were only two Best Song nominees. two.)
I have nothing against circuses, French-Canadians, or even the basic concept of pretentious twerps jumping around dressed as some sort of shrub/stewardess hybrids. I just remember a time in this millennium when the Oscars were actually exciting and interesting and they seemed to have more value than they do today.
I look around for something to blame for this downward trend. If the producers themselves were bouncing around on bungee cords and miming some sort of rot about how this fitness ball they’re juggling with their feet is Their Heart And Hope, I suppose I’d be singling them out but alas, the only people on stage will be Cirque du ****ing Soleil.
All in all, I was just more excited by The Amazing Race.
And then — oh, dear — I flipped over to something else. I couldn’t get interested.
So instead, I saved it on the DVR for this morning and after watching all three hours and nine minutes, I know I made the right call. This was another Lithium-stabilized telecast, with no real highs or lows. The producers put fresh batteries in, switched it on, set it on the ground, and then it rolled in a straight line at walking speed until it ran out of juice and stopped.
Yes, it’s the Thrill of the Movies, ladies and gentlemen!
I can’t dislike the Oscars, however. Without the Academy Awards telecast, the Turner Classic Movies channel wouldn’t have run thirty days of programming in which every single movie is an Oscar nominee. The airing of the telecast signals the end of that series and, finally, the end of the temptation to stay in bed and watch movies all day long.
I’m a little sad to see the telecast sink so low in my esteem. For much of my adult life I’ve been setting aside time in my work schedule every February to write lots and lots of stuff about the Oscars. I’ve learned, however, that it’s important to do things that you’re legitimately enthusiastic about instead of numbly doing things out of morose routine.
So I’m letting go of the Oscars. Instead, maybe I’ll just spend February writing about actual movies. If the Oscars telecast refuses to celebrate filmmaking — seriously: just two nominees. You could have made time for those just out of the loose time in your pockets, producers! — then there’s nothing stopping us film fans from picking up that banner and running with it.
And now, the live-to-tape-blog:
Morgan Freeman kicks things off. Which, as a regular movie-watcher, I can only associate with an extended flashback.
Cool! I’m not sure that George Clooney would have rearranged his schedule and kissed last year’s host on the mouth.
Couldn’t get Jonah Hill to reprise his “Moneyball” role…he’s way too skinny now!
Okay, a Tom Cruise cameo is a pretty cool deal. I think it shows he’s a great sport.
TinTin…missed opportunity fr a Martin Short Ed Grimley appearance.
Billy Crystal does look nice in a tux.
Tuxedo Watch. This is a controversial part of my annual Oscarcast. My audience is split down the middle on whether I should spend any time nitpicking over men’s formalwear: I’m for it and the audience is against it. But I know I’m doing God’s work here.
(Strikes heroic pose, lit by golden sunset as eagle perches on shoulder.)
Two point on Billy’s tails. First, white tie is, I think, supposed to be worn with an open collar. And secondly…hmm…he doesn’t appear to be wearing an undershirt. The pink of his skin is showing through the front of his shirt.
But he is wearing proper white microphone.
Running down all of the Best Picture nominees in his medley points out how silly the new nominations process has become. Nine nominees? Ugh. Honestly, it’s like March Madness. If everyone is in the finals, then what’s the point?
Scorsese either brought one of his
grandkids kids (that’s his daughter? Well, awright, Marty!) with him to the show as his Plus One, or else he’s paying a silent tribute to the late career of Woody Allen.
Tony Bennett! Dig that!
Tom Hanks takes the stage, in proper black tie.
Waste of time with a seat-filler gag that Hanks clearly doesn’t believe in and has to (in an affable Tom Hanks way) disavow.
Best Cinematography. This is one of my favorite categories; the point is to look at the movie as an artfully-composed photo. “Hugo” was the obvious choice; a team of that level of skill working with a canvas where they can control every element? They had complete freedom and it showed.
Winner is wearing a proper tux except for the white cravat. Black tie = bowtie.
Makes a slight dig against the producers for putting the Cinematography category first. “It can only go up from here!” Hmm. But normally, it gets buried in the show’s “dead zone,” where the audience is just zapping through and waiting for the Best Actor and Best Picture final runs. By putting Cinematography in the first act, more people than ever will see it. That’s why traditionally they’ve done Best Supporting Actor awards in that slot.
(Also: the show has yet to start to run short on time…so you can almost take as long as you want to say your thank yous. The finger on the “PLAY HIM OFF. NOW” switch is by no means itchy.)
But the next award is “Best Art Direction.” Mmmaybe there’s something to this idea that the producers have decided that “boring categories that are only about highly skilled and experienced behind-the professionals working behind the camera at the top of their art”
Art Direction goes to “Hugo” — another clearly-deserved win.
Co-winner is standing off to the side. See, this I mean: if Art Direction had been presented later in the show, there is no way that the director wouldn’t have played him off at full volume and cut away before she got to step up to the microphone and give her short and very sweet thank you to Scorsese and to Italy (which are kind of the same thing, right?)
The guy is wearing a proper tux.
Show wastes (to my eye) time with a tease for Meryl Streep’s nomination, and an extended skycam shot of the drummers in the house orchestra. This is why the producers couldn’t find any time to perform the two — two Best Song nominees.
Montage of clips from the lat 40 years of movies. I don’t get why they do this. It has no focus, no real point…it’s channel-surfing.
Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez (whom used to do movies before the industry stopped allowing her to do so).
Best Costume Design. OK, I’m with the Cinematographer: this feels like “Let’s get all of these behind-the-camera nominees on and off the stage early. Honestly, next year let’s just give them a dinner or something, okay?”
Winner is “The Artist.” Note that the award-winning costume designer is wearing a proper tuxedo: black jacket and pants, white shirt with black onyx studs, black bowtie. Nice.
Best Makeup: J.Lo and Can-Di come back from a respectful presentation package posing with their butts to the camera. Yeah, real respectful, ladies. Oh, and J.Lo: we can totally see your nipples.
“Iron Lady” wins. Nice win. It’s amazing how effectively they achieved that Margaret Thatcher effect with such little apparent makeup. Streep has a 40-year relationship with one of those makeup artists.
First major male formalwear fail: he’s wearing a black shirt and a black cravat.
Adam Sandler sharing his favorite movie memories: also more important than presenting the Best Song nominees.
Sandra Bullock, looking very sharp. Doing a funny bit about the international audience. Few people on the Oscar stage can handle deadpan humor well. Yes, I’m looking at you, Ben Stiller.
Presenting of course Best Foreign Language Film. Yay! The film from Iran won!
(No, I didn’t see it.)
I actually prefer most of these “non-celebrity” categories. You’re seeing people who seem more genuinely pleased and proud than the over-composed and over-rehearsed celebs.
Winner reads a very nice speech about warfare.
Also: he’s wearing a black cravat instead of a proper bowtie. If you wear a black jacket and pants and a white shirt and a black cravat, you are wearing a Blues Brothers costume. You are not wearing proper formal attire.
Christian Bale. Black cravat and black shirt. If this makes it into the “Oscar moments” clip package in twenty years, he’s going to look as classy as the guys in the crushed-brown-velvet tuxedoes from the Seventies Oscarcasts.
Presenting Best Supporting Actress. Supporting categories are fun because they’re wide-open. Voters are just as likely to give the award to a someone’s first major role, or to someone in a comedic role. Otherwise, they don’t consider comedic roles to be “acting.”
Octavia Spencer wins for “The Help.” Another nice thing about giving an Oscar to someone early in his or her career: they really appreciate it. They get up there and they start thinking about how their families are out there watching this happen and boom, there go the waterworks.
(An Oscar is a big deal! It’s wonderful to see nominees who aren’t too cool to show they think it’s a Big Deal, too.)
I must say it: the Oscars set looks like an iPad app. Which is to say that it’s more akin to what would have been designed for the Oscarcast before HD and cable TV…gotta make everything BIG and obvious, so that it’ll “read” on those screens.
Cool, the Christopher Guest Repertory Company doing a bit about the focus group for “Wizard Of Oz.”
If you’re going to stop the Oscars for something that isn’t related to the awards…you gotta shoot for the moon. Funny bit but it probably went on a bit too long.
Bradley Cooper and Tina Fey. Bradley is wearing a proper tuxedo. Tina Fey demonstrates that classy dresses work great, too. J.Lo? J…? Yeah, you’re already in your Escalade, aren’t you.
Best Film Editing. Another category that I love. I’m fascinated by the process of assembling a film from elements. The director shoots, shoots, shoots, the actors act, act, act…but we see the story that the editor chooses to tell.
“Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.” Won by Jake and Elwood Blues. Hit us with a few bars of “Rawhide,” will you, boys?
They could also make a decent living as Matt Damon and Ben Stiller impersonators.
Best Sound Editing goes to “Hugo.” The favorite here would probably have been “Drive” for its more obvious applications for sound effects.
Shout out to Thelma Schoonmaker and Marty Scorsese. One winner in proper tuxedo, the other gets a solid 9/10 for wearing a black bowtie with an open collar.
Best Sound Mixing, also goes to “Hugo.” If memory serves, “Mixing” means the overall sound picture and “Editing” means the “special effects,” as it were.
I’m liking the “behind the camera” Oscars coming first. They have my full attention and nobody’s impatient. You get the sweetest speeches.
One proper tux. One black cravat, but he’s wearing a waistcoat so the Jake Blues effect is mitigated, at least…9/10. Also because of his extremely kind-hearted acceptance speech.
Annnd we’re back from commercial, with The Muppets!
In an opera box? Yes, to hide the puppeteers but isn’t that Statler and Waldorf’s gig?
Doesn’t sound like Frank Oz voicing Miss Piggy…?
ANother little presentation on “what it’s like to go to the movies.” Oh, it’s the “Cirque du Soleil” crap.
Which the producers thought was way more important than performing the “Best Song” nominees.
And we see a couple of men in the same suits as Cary Grant in “North By Northwest” bouncing around on tethers.
Now we see a dozen guys in suits doing the same boring Cirque crap that they haul out all the time.
No relevance whatsoever to movies at all. This is just a free ad for Cirque.
Yeah, see, for me, Cirque absolutely doesn’t work out of its original context. If it’s meant to be saying something or enhancing something else, it completely fails. It’s just acrobats tumbling. Yes, they’re at the top of that art, but why not just get the top three pitchers and the top three batters in Major League Baseball up on stage and have them throw and hit batting practice?
That’s also an art, also at the top of their game, and has just as much relevance to the proceedings at hand.
Annnd the Cirque du Soleil crap is swept off the stage.
“We’ve got puppets, acrobats…we’re a pony away from being a Bar Mitzvah” says Billy Crystal. Spot-on.
He hasn’t had much to say by the way of on-the-cuff jokes yet.
Talking about the age of the nominees. “Next year, this will be called the Flomax Theater.” Another spot-on joke. But it’s fab to see Christopher Plummer doing such great work at any age.
Robert Downey Jr. Wearing a black tux shirt and a silvery bowtie that I imagine is a nod to “Iron Man.” Doing an extended comedy riff where he’s filming a documentary about being an awards presenter. Mmm. Didn’t really land.
Also risky as an intro to Best Documentary. The show literally cuts straight from The Wacky to a clip from the story of a soldier severely wounded in combat returning to family, rehabilitation, and civilian life.
“Undefeated” wins. Correct tux, correct tux, Blues Brothers, Blues Brothers, Blues Brothers, correct tux with silver bowtie (9/10).
I field-promote one of the Blues Brothers to 10/10 for cursing during his acceptance speech. Can’t really make out what it was but there was a minor gasp.
They keep thanking people until the director mutes the mic.
Best Animated Feature, presented by Chris Rock in a proper tux, leading off with a good joke about how black actors wind up voicing donkeys and zebras.
Lesson to Oscarcast producers: actors with standup experience will, more often than not, kill it as presenters.
Becomes a very interesting category when Pixar doesn’t walk away with it. I kind of wish all of the categories could see this same variety of films. I’m hoping for “Rango.”
And it wins! Great. Beautiful lighting and movement in this one, and a very, very funny movie. The first pass at the voice track was done “live,” so to speak: they got the actors on a stage and they played their parts like they were in the little stage at a high school. I’m keen to see more animated movies recorded this way. I have no complaints about “Toy Story 3,” for example, but there’s definitely a different energy when the actors are actually moving and actually playing off of each other, instead of reading each line twenty times.
(Director is wearing proper black tie.)
Clips from upcoming nominees. From the right angles, Glenn Close as “Mr. Dobbs” looks like Billy Crystal.
HD trailer for Pixar’s “Brave” forces me to cancel the fast-forward and rewind. It…it seems unlikely that any other animated movie will have any kind of chance at the Oscar next year.
Back from commercial. Billy Crystal finally changes into a proper tux. Starting off with a bit of lame comedy that mostly shows off how bad Billy’s hair dye (and hair replacement system) look on him.
(He’s a great looking guy…but he’s this guy in his sixties who looks like he’s in his eighties because he’s trying to look like he’s in his twenties.)
Ben Stiller and…can’t place her…follow up the lame schtick with some more lame schtick. I think Stiller is 2 for 2 in presenting absolutely interminably long presenter comedy that doesn’t at all work.
(And he’s in a Blues Brothers costume.)
I’m just going to take a moment here to point out that this schtick was more important to the producers than performances of the Best Song nominees.
I’m also getting annoyed by how these behind-the-scenes awards are being presented. Will they precede “Best Director” with five minutes of schtick? Oh, hell, no.
But at least each movie/nominee gets a good twenty seconds of talk about the thinking behind the effects.
It has to go to “Hugo,” right?
Annnd it does!
(1 proper tux, two Blues Brothers take the stage to accept their statuettes.)
Oh, dear: closeup reveals that one of the Blues Brothers is wearing a checked cravat. Jeeves would most assuredly not approve. At the end of the story, Bertie would be instructing Jeeves to get rid of that tie and would be told that he had given it away to a hotel porter that morning.
Best Supporting Actor. Well what do you know: introduced with a short, classy tribute to this field of endeavor.
I’m so happy that Jonah Hill got nominated. He’s been working, working, working for years and doing exceptional work in roles that don’t conventionally attract awards attention.
It tends to attract nominees at both ends of their careers. Christopher Plummer and Max Von Sydow could win as a functional “cap off a brilliant career” award.
And it’s Plummer. Receives a standing ovation in addition to the Oscar. “Beginners” is almost a “Best Actor” role; looks like the studio lobbied tactically for a less-competitive category.
(Moneyball, indeed: millions of dollars are spent on a Best Actor campaign.)
Plummer is wearing a proper tux. It…might…be black velvet but I’ll give him a pass. I’m not sure if I should nitpick about fabrics. So long as it isn’t an Isaac Hayes fake bearskin sort of thing.
Back from commercial with another comedy bit. Billy putting words in the mouths of the nominees in the front rows. Not…bad…but it feels more like a “Crap, one of the Cirque du Soleil guys has fallen to his death backstage. Billy, can you stretch for a few minutes while we toss him in a bag and get him out of the theater?”
Owen Wilson-Blues and Penelope Cruz (in best gown of the night so far) present Best Original Score, after a bizarre bit where the whole show stops and everyone focuses on the stage while a large screen in the shape of a movie score rises up.
(Ironically, the producers think this is more important than presenting the two Best Original Song nominees.)
Award goes to “The Artist.” Very classy: Ludovic Bource (in proper black tie) stops to shake John Williams’ hand and say a word or two on his way to the stage.
Pro Tip: if you’re respectful and speak adorable, halting English, the Oscarcast director will probably let you keep talking.
Will Ferrell and Zak Galifanakis. Presenting “Best Song.” Now I think the producers are truly ****ing with this catgory. Or, maybe one of the nominees was ****ig with the producer’s wife and this is all just payback.
“Man Or Muppet” wins. Composer gets off some good jokes and then thanks the right people (including Jim Henson). Cutaways to Jason Segel, who looks immensely proud (justly so). And he’s wearing a proper tux.
Time to spend half a minute broadcasting costumed ladies handing out popcorn to the audience. Which was more important than actually playing the Best Original Song nominees.
Angelina Jolie presenting a writing award. Apparently she’s signed on as a spokesperson for the Right Leg Marketing Board, as she’s making sure the product is out of her dress and facing the camera at all times.
Best Adapted Screenplay. I think it’s got to be Hugo; it’s a magnet movie. Gotta say that I love the arty fake movie posters (silkscreen-style) that they commissioned for the playback of the nominees montage. A great designer can reduce a 2 hour movie to a simple graphical element.
Winner is “The Descendents.” Three men in proper tuxedoes.
Quite the sausage fest, innit?
Pro Tip for all nominees: if a previous winner brought his Mom to the Oscars and dedicates his award to her, please re-think your “wacky” acceptance speech. You’ll look extra-extra-dopey.
Best Original Screenplay. Goes to Woody Allen! Interesting! Shows how much he’s respected; if you establish that solid and consistent a track record — and you don’t break any actual laws — it doesn’t even matter that you never show up to collect your awards.
Another interview montage. Again, we get to hear Adam Sandler (unshaven, in his tennis gear) talk about himself. Instead of hearing the Best Original Song nominees.
I’m not annoyed by the mere fact that they’re using these clips packages. I’m annoyed that they’re doing it so poorly. What do we get from people speaking for five or ten seconds?
Time for a recap of the Technical Awards. Very pleased that the presenter introduced it with complete respect and dignity. Shameful, how they’ve treated these awards in the past (“And now, the moment everybody’s been waiting for…ha ha!”).
Cast of “The Bridesmaids” takes the stage. Introducing Short Films with a bunch of dick jokes. Well done, ladies!
Best Documentary Short. Jesus. They do a Drinking Game joke in which they pull snorters out of their bras and chug. Christ almighty. It’s as if the producers are completely unaware that in twenty seconds, they’re going to cut to footage of people being machine-gunned in Iraq, images of Pakistani women who had been set on fire by religious maniacs, and a village being wiped off the face of the planet by a tsunami.
What a complete lack of taste and class. Idiots! (Here I’m specifically talking about the producers, but the presenters should also have been canny enough to bail out.
Best Animated Short. Good to see a castmember of “Reno: 911” on the Oscars. (No sarcasm there.)
“Fantastic Flying Books” wins. Both wearing proper tuxes. One of them was wise to wear a bowtie instead of a Blues Brothers cravat, given that he’s got thick-rimmed black glasses and is wearing a porkpie hat.
Another exceptionally sweet and sincere acceptance speech.
Michael Douglas presenting Best Director. Gosh, are we that far into the list?
(I forgot: now there are 38 Best Picture nominees. Probably still another three hours left to go.)
Wearing a very classy tuxedo.
Oscar goes to Michel Hazanavicus for “The Artist.” (In a proper tux). Adorable halting English, and it’s a top-tier category. He can talk all the way through the start time for “Good Morning America” if he wants.
Meryl Streep. Billy Crystal mentions her 17 nominations and 2 wins. Gads, I hope she doesn’t become the Susan Lucci of the Oscars. Funny, isn’t it, how a decades-spanning career of consistently fine performances can so easily and gently turn into something to poke fun at.
The Governors’ Awards presented as a clips package. I’m not sure the producers know what they’re doing. Who wouldn’t want to see James Earl Jones or Oprah or even Dick Smith on stage, with a live microphone for thirty seconds?
Buuuut no. We got to see Cirque du Soleil Jumping Around Randomly Crap that looks no different from any other Cirque performance.
They did something similar recently, where they had Pilobolus (I think) do a running series of shadow-performances, in which a Cirque-like Gang Of People In Leotards tumbled and then formed a shadow that approximated something from a Best Picture nominee.
Failure Point 1: It was moderately interesting the first time, it was ok the second time, but as the evening dragged on and the screen descended before a commercial, the only rational reaction from an viewer was “Ugh, more of this.”
Also: lame as the concept was, how doubly-lame was it that they would use little cardboard cutouts to incorporate details (like the heel of a shoe) that they couldn’t do with body parts? Bad idea, lamely executed. At best it made the show longer for no benefit and at worst, it took time away from real winners.
Memorial montage. Never any complaints about this one. I like that they use live music to back this with.
Yes, Whitney Houston got a card.
And Steve Jobs! Complete with the “Stay hungry, stay foolish” line from his commencement speech. Good pick. Hard to think about where Pixar would have wound up without his support, hard to think about where the industry would be without Apple computers and software.
Liz Taylor gets the honored final spot. Seems obvious. Was she the last of the old-style Big Hollywood Superstars? We should probably define that as the sort of stars who made it big and finished their careers before it was possible to get every detail of their lives through social media and news sites.
Best Actor. Another facet that makes me think the producers need to be removed by the National Guard. Presentation of the nominees is better this year than in years past, when a stage full of celebrities would take turns praising each of the nominees individually. Super-awkward and interminable. “How nice that this man who gets $10,000,000 a picture and regularly described as ‘The Sexiest Man Alive’ is getting an ego boost,” we think.
It’s still the ego boost testimonial, but at least they’re all being done by the presenter.
Still! Why not just present clips from the performances and let the work speak for itself?
George Clooney, incidentally, is indeed looking eminently wonderful in a lovely tuxedo. Brad Pitt: perfect tux. Gary Oldman: perfect tux.
In fact, the Oscar goes to the one actor not wearing a proper tuxedo: Jean Dujardin. 9/10 for wearing a black tie with an open collar.
But it’s a lovely, charmind speech that ends with a tapdance…that’s about the best way to go out.
And! He keeps pacing the stage in excitement instead of leaving! Formidable!
Best Actress. Colin Firth sings “Happy Birthday” to each of the nominees, so to speak. That’s almost the most awkward situation you can put someone in: make ’em sit in full view while you lob a very long series of compliments at them. You want to look grateful, but not like you’re lapping all of this up; reserved, but not like you’re impatient for this person to hurry up…nightmare!
The best was his accolade to his “Mamma Mia!” castmate, Meryl Streep.
And it goes to Meryl Streep! Lovely. She’s honored so frequently with nominations that one might guess that the Academy doesn’t think it’s so important to give her the Oscar.
(The statuette marches her gown exactly.)
Points in favor, for this wager: it’s a flashy performance and the whole movie is this character. It’s a historical drama. Against: “The Iron Lady” really didn’t make much money or attract much attention.
But it’s great to see someone with her class and dignity getting the big hardware. I’ve no doubt that there are consultants who get five figures to coach a nominee on how to prepare an Oscars speech. If they’re worth half the money, they’ll burn that speech onto a DVD and make their clients watch it over and over again. Lovely speech about her family and her industry.
Her affection for her hairstylist is no joke. She was on “Fresh Air” a few weeks ago and spoke at length about their working relationship.
Best Picture. All 82 nominees get clips. It runs through about three commercial breaks but no, this doesn’t cheapen things at all and how dare you suggest otherwise.
I don’t like it, no. The significance of nominating a movie like “The Artist” or “Moneyball” is diminished when there’s room for so many on the list. When there were only five, the announcement of the nominees was exciting in and of itself: why did the quirky comedy get nominated for Best Picture, but not the intense, highly-regarded drama that made lots of money?
Producers say, I think, that it broadens the appeal of the show. If that’s the point, it’s not working: ratings are still flat. It just cheapens the whole thing and makes it far more ordinary.
Winner is “The Artist.” Director thanks Billy Wilder three times. Highly apropos!