My Oscar Autopsy

Oh, looks like Joan Rivers fell down...

Sunday night was Oscar Night, or “Rich People High-Fiving Each Other on TV.” Actually, I’d like to see that show. Jeeves! Get me Mark Burnett on the phone!

I am embarrassed to discover I do not have a butler. Moving on.

Despite many complaints to the contrary, I felt the show was fine. Not the greatest, nor was it the worst. It did its job, and, until the home stretch, seemed to click along at a decent pace. Here’s a breakdown of some of the highlights and lowlights, based on the best memory I have of these events (which can sometimes be minimal).

The Show Itself: Queta and I had a fine time with the program, by and large. The Neil Patrick Harris opening could have been better, and there were a couple of major hiccups that will be discussed later, but we thought Alec and Steve had some good rapport, and I thought they should have been used more. They were on for, what, maybe ten minutes? And I’m always a fan of accusing Meryl Streep of having a vast collection of Hitler memorabilia. They could have taken the easy way out and leveled that accusation toward Christoph Waltz (who Yahoo! did a favor for by listing him as “Christopher Waltz” on our ballot. Spell-check, Yahoodiots!).

Something's wrong with this guy, Hitler or not. There's your bingo.

The show breezed along just fine, until they decided to spend 20 GODDAMN MINUTES giving out two lead acting awards. Now, on paper, the producers seemed to show restraint, as I believe they did the “intervention/circle jerk” style presentation with all the acting nominees last year, including the supporters. (I may be wrong, and oh well in that case.) But, to make up for it, each actor/actress’ intro took FOREVER.

OK, here’s our plan, think of the most boring anecdote for your particular honoree, pad it out, and say it with the stilted enthusiasm of someone whose family is off camera with rifles leveled against their heads.

So, they’ll probably do that again next year. But, all things considered, I thought it went OK, at least.

Winners: As everyone has been saying, this was one of the least surprising years in Oscar history. Almost every frontrunner won his/her award: Bridges, Mo’Nique, Bullock (really? OK), Waltz, and so forth. The big surprise for me was Hurt Locker‘s Picture win. [Editor’s note: I almost typed “Hurt Licker.”] I still thought everyone would be in the tank for Avatar. But, couple that with the Director win, and some other technical awards, and the message from the Academy seemed clear: “FUCK CAMERON.” With all the worry that he was trying to buy Oscars (and I’m not saying that was his intentional goal, just the fears some had), the fact that a film with, at most, 1/30th the budget of Avatar beat it at its own game was pretty incredible.

Also, like others have said, White Ribbon‘s loss fucked up my Oscar ballot. It was the one foreign film people had heard of; how did it lose?

Up in the Air: Before moving on to the documentary-related elephant in the Kodak Theatre, I want to sidetrack about Up in the Air. It’s always fun watching the ebb and flow of awards season, when the balls-out favorite in December becomes an afterthought by February. UitA was that favorite at the end of the year, with Clooney “giving his greatest performance ever” (doesn’t it seem like every movie he does, the critics say that?) and the film being “a document of our times,” or some such shit. Then Avatar came out, and everyone’s focus shifted away. It had 6 nominations, and didn’t win a thing, but well before Oscar night it was clear it wouldn’t.

Also, it didn’t help that, by many accounts, Jason Reitman is a giant butthole.

At this point, Wes Anderson seems less insufferable.

The Kanye Moment: OK, now to the OMGWTFLOLBYOBBQ!!1! moment of the show. When Music for Prudence won for Documentary Short, the director’s speech was interrupted by what seemed like a drunk Anne Meara. It was actually one of the producers, who had a bitter falling out with the director over the direction of the final piece.

Now, I’ve read the Salon piece about this, and I can see both sides of this story. If he didn’t work with her properly regarding official channels to settle their dispute, that would be upsetting. However, it appears that both of them agree that she left the project of her own accord, so I don’t know how much credit and input she expected. As it stands, I have to say the director edges out onto the winning side, since he wasn’t the one who bumrushed the stage babbling like your grandma off her meds. However, they both lose, since, after making a lovely-looking film, they look like spoiled children fighting over a toy. On international television. Who’s going to work with either of these idiots now?

Also, I don’t see the security firm getting their contract renewed next year. They couldn’t stop a 60-ish-year-old woman from rushing the podium? Was Paul Blart in charge? (Thank you, I’ll be here all my life…)

The Horror Montage: First major hiccup of the night. This was a half-assed clip show basically done to say, “Hey, horror films! Sorry you so often suck. Here’s a chance to say you were on the Oscars!”

And Kristen Stewart: are you ever excited by ANYTHING? I know you’re “too cool for school,” and “hip with the kids,” and “unreasonably annoying in real life,” but you are presenting a segment at the OSCARS, for fuck’s sake. You aren’t even nominated, nor have you ever been. This could be a cool moment; act like it. Smile, for once in your fucking life.

See, it's possible for you to smile!

Breakdancing: The second, and biggest, hiccup. We can blame producer Adam Shankman for this, though we can also blame the network for bringing the producer of So You Think You Can Dance to the goddamn Oscars. Now, everyone always complained about the interpretive dance numbers in the past, and they were shelved for a while. So the obvious solution was, of course, INTERPRETIVE BREAKDANCING.

I love how the dancers highlighted the robot character from Up in their routine. (Oops, dancers, you’re late by one Pixar movie.) And how, like with the rest of the nominated films, there were a lot of Adidas tracksuits and slides.

This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy breakdancing; I really do. But Hans Zimmer’s score for Sherlock Holmes wasn’t lacking for want of Jabbawockeez.

10 Nominees: I will wager that as soon as next year, we will be back to five Picture nominees. It was a noble aim – to allow more popular films into the fold – but it backfired as soon as the award season really kicked off. If the goal was to get more crowd-pleasers in, Avatar‘s critical success would have guaranteed a slot in the Big 5 anyhow, so 10 became somewhat meaningless. And let’s be honest: the Oscar race is really ever only between two or three films per year. The remaining films, though it’s nice that they’re there, never have a shot. So why increase the remainders from two or three to seven? So five more movies can slap a “BEST PICTURE NOMINEE” sticker on their DVDs? That’s like being a Top 10 Student at a school with twelve students; that just means you don’t suck (theoretically).

And honestly, I’ve never agreed with the idea that the Oscars are flawed because they were full of arthouse pictures no one in Middle America saw. If straight-up popularity and box office draw were the main factors, here are your five nominees:

  • Avatar
  • Transformers 2
  • Harry Potter 6
  • New Moon
  • Up

Sure, two of those made the cut, but should the other three really be there? Just because everyone saw something, does it make it the best in its field? Look, I’m sorry New Moon didn’t make it as Best Picture, but it’s not. And people who write off the Oscars because they’re “out of touch with real people’s tastes” should probably consider whether “real people” are choosing the best of the bunch. Oscar isn’t perfect, but neither is pure populism.

Again, the show wasn’t stunning, and I think the Academy has some changes to make, but we watched through to the end. Let’s see what happens next year.

About Louis

This entry was posted in Projected Pixels and Emulsion and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to My Oscar Autopsy

  1. Blake says:

    For rich people high-fiving each other on TV, watch any NBA or MLB broadcast. Also the NFL, but there seems to be more high-fives in the other two.

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