Friday, February 23, 2007

Oprah's Oscar Special

Did any of you watch it? I was mesmerized but not because I thought it was good. I love celebrities as much as anyone but there's something about Oprah's specials that puts me on edge. It's the overkill factor. Too much fame in the room too much celebration of said fame. At least with Oscar there's a sea of tiny beloved faces and nobody gets more than a couple of minutes to be worshipped. It's a fame free-for-all. In TV specials like this one, the stars are expected to be worshipped in detail: their every banal statement should be received as profundity. They bathe together in celebrity fabulousness, wash each others backs with collective ego, towel off with comforting wealth and then exfoliate their pampered beauty with a loofah full of self entitlement. On their way out the door...perhaps a gift bag? They deserve it.

There were two really fascinating things in the special though.

The first was the ability to see two types of stardom thrown into sharp relief. The first interview paired Julia Roberts and George Clooney, both of the charm offensive school of celebrity: self assured (haters might say "cocky"), prone to laughter, warm and amicable --easily radiating the illusion that they're friendly enough to let you hang around. This type of celebrity is personality based (even if they also happen to be talented) and is, unsurprisingly, wildly loved. The second interview was like a splash of cold water in comparison. It paired two chilly charismatic stars Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman from an entirely different school of celebrity. This kind of star the public finds fascinating but also possibly intimidating and more than a little unknowable: aliens as it were. This type of fame is based on talent or at least on the specificity of careers. Crowe is seen as a belligerent difficult genius. Kidman as an enigmatic beauty. Neither would have ever become stars solely by chatting up the press (Julia and George on the other hand...) One can't imagine kicking back and talking through the night with them. The appeal is decidedly non-verbal.

The shock of that transition... With Roberts and Clooney one wants, no EXPECTS, to sit in the room as they chatter away with conciliatory nudges and winks. With Kidman and Crowe, the primary feeling when you get this close is discomfort. It's just as easy to imagine them world famous in the 20s, when the magnitude of stardom was amplified by our remove. They don't sit as easily in today's 24-7 "celebrity" atmosphere. The familiarity of television didn't do Crowe and Kidman any favors but that coupled transition was still mighty interesting to witness.

The last interview brought Sidney Poitier and Jamie Foxx together with Oprah joining in at the end. The takeaway here was watching Poitier try to hold his humility and dignity in place while Jamie and Oprah tried numerous times to place him on the pedestal that he is prone to gracefully, gingerly sidestep. He's one of the greats but unlike Halle "the vessel" Berry he seems to understand his significant place in history without ever demanding all the credit for it or royalties from everything good that ever happened to anyone thereafter. He's a class act but deep down maybe he's an odd fit for Oprah's way with the endless back-patting.

24 comments:

Kamikaze Camel said...

Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman are an interesting couple to pair. I mean, they have so much history. You're right in that they're in the "i don't know why, but i can't stop staring" variety while the others are of the "my, your teeth are so white can we have sex?" variety.

Was i right in hearing Oprah say she's being a "matchmaker" by bringing Russ and Nicole together. WTF?

What sort of Oscar show was that though? None of them are nominated and only George has a film in contention (and a very tiny form of contention too).

How strange.

Nick Davis said...

Good point, Glenn.

I didn't see the special, but every single thing you say about it sounds completely convincing, Nat, and matches my expectations entirely. Oprah is by now a sort of madwoman; the law of averages dictates that anyone with this many intentions is bound to have some good ones, but she's the rare third type of celebrity: the star as self-appointed theological entity.

Still, I live in Chicago now, and it's not entirely safe for me to speak like this, so I have to stop.

Anonymous said...

I watched the Special, and it was just...bleh. I enjoyed the Kidman and Crowe part, and it's always nice to see Poitier. Foxx, Roberts and the big O on the other hand...well....I hate them. They are huge phonies, yes I realize most celebrities probably are but, these 3 even moreso. If only everyone in the world could see the "real Oprah", she wouldn't be nearly as loved or successful.

Piper said...

I saw bits and pieces of the special.

Clooney and Roberts seem like true friends. There was a comfort there. Julia seemed more comfortable and Clooney did more of his usual look down and glance up periodically. I think they were the most interesting to watch.

Crowe and Kidman seemed awkward.

And I agree with you about Poitier. He is a classic star and I think it's interesting that Oprah joined them and not the others. Didn't see the part where she joined them though so I can't completely comment on it.

Anonymous said...

I agree Nat, Kidman and Crowe do not fit into today's celebrity world but to be honest, I love the Kidman/Crowe part the best. Kidman is just too melancholy (something most people don't know about her) to be grinning inanely at the camera or somebody and Crowe is not the "face the camera and smile" kind of guy, they are both too ridiculously serious even in humour. These are 2 friends of close to 20 years who have supported each other in the most private times, it is too intimate a relationship to have any kind of breeze. And I have never known either of them do okay with interviews, they are always guarded, not evasive but guarded.

I already figured the Clooney/Roberts pairing would be something like the breeze, a cute friendship. Compared to the Kidman/Crowe segment, they were less serious and have enough quips for US Weekly and Star.

Poitier is in a class of his own, period :) and I could have done without Foxx.

Kidman has a film in contention - Happy Feet!

Anonymous said...

' They don't sit as easily in today's 24-7 "celebrity" atmosphere. '

That's my impression too about Kidman and Crowe. I remember an interview with a young, teenage Nicole and she said she can understand why people become hermits and that she might not handle fame very well.
She's interesting because she seems to be someone who seems to be caught in the middle or maybe she can't decide. She's definitely more Russell than Julia but it also looks like she's also being pulled into "mainstream-celebrity-moviestar" territory. It reflects in her movie choices. She can do Bewitched, The Interpreter, Stepford Wives. But then we have Birth, Dogville, Fur, The Blue Room (there has to be a law to make her just keep doing this type of work , but I don't know if can hold up her sanity :)) She admires Emir Kusturica, von Trier, Wong Kar Wai... Russell doesn't even have her kind of filmography. But certainly both of them are better actors than celebrities. Julia and George are the other way around. Sunshine and happiness, both of them. Dark, distant, and unpredictable are more fascinating to me though.

luke said...

The Kidman/Crowe part was the best part. I've never seen them so open. Loved them. Julia/George was annoying and Sydney/Jamie was boring.

Burbanked said...

I think it's significant that you'd use the word "alien" in describing the Kidman/Crowe match-up, because Kidman certainly resembles something not of this world.

The special was fine, no surprises or innovations. I would have like to have seen more discussion about the actual Oscars, the history and phenomenon, this year's nominees, etc. The special is billed as an "Oscar" special, and they certainly covered it in more depth in the Praise Sidney segment but virtually no where else.

Gerry said...

Foxx has a film in contention as well. ;)

Though I do concede it's a rather odd grouping for an "Oscar special".

All that said, I really enjoyed your post, Nat. Observed but rarely stated are these distinctions.

And, yes, Poitier is class.

Anonymous said...

Well, I must say that I LOVED the pairing of Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman, two of my favorite actors (Crowe being my all time favorite). They were so collected, calm and themselves. Some could say they looked stiff or out of their element, but I disagree. They are true friends and it showed in the way they treated one another, conversed with one another as only real freinds can, deeply and emotionally. I can't for the life of me understand why everyone hates Crowe for throwing a temper tantrum every now and again. I say, more power to him for not being the same ol Hollywood pushover!

As far as the Clooney / Roberts thing was concerned, they just come across fake to me, too happy go lucky to be real. That's just me. I respect them as actors although I feel that Clooney's win was a shame, but personally they drove me nuts...they just didn't seem to take anything serious and even had to include Brad Pitt into the mix to make it the least bit interesting. All they did was throw around issues of People Magazine and cook hamburgers. At least Russell and Nicole took the time to talk to each other.

And don't get me started on the Foxx / Poitier thing. They aren't even in the same league. At least with Russell and Nicole they both are brilliant actors, and with Clooney and Julia they both are talents with big personallities that Hollywood seems to adore, but Poitier is/was a brilliant actor who is humble beyond humble and Foxx is a regretably decent actor who let one good impersonation go to his head and now views himself as the best of the best. Pairing them together was an insult to Poitier, and then having Oprah come and join them was an insult to the other four actors in the program.

Honestly I only watched this to see Russell Crowe, and for that I'm happy I did, but it also helped me see the fakeness of other celebs...

What was up with Foxx and the piano...

Oh yeah, and I love Oprah...but she is a bit full of herself...well, more than a bit...a lot more than a bit!

Michael Parsons said...

Oprah, Smoprah.

I took a wicked picture of 'That who's name shall not be mentioned' and put it on my blog to celebrate the season Nat.

Ben said...

I thought it was a gloriously wonderful utter mess. Julia and George seemed fairly genuine and aware of how silly the whole concept was and as a result, just talked about trashy stuff, which I found to be a weird sort of meta-commentary about celebrity. It was kind of fascinating to watch. How many times did Julia ASK if George was dating?

Russell and Nicole took the whole affair seriously, which was... well, it gave it its own aesthetic, I guess. Meh. It was pretty dry, but they were genuinely interested in talking with each other, it seemed.

Jaime and Sydney were what we wanted from the other two segments. Pairings where one's a legend and the the other is an admirer. That's more interesting to see.

Oprah's batshit crazy and I love her. Her little segments in between were God-awful and I loved every second. That crazy "I'm just watching here in my living room, y'all" was SO AWKWARD. She's so obviously NOT watching in her living room. My favorite, though, was "Julia. George. Y'all are FUNNY."

Priceless. Absolutely priceless.

Craig Hickman said...

"I watched the Special, and it was just...bleh. I enjoyed the Kidman and Crowe part, and it's always nice to see Poitier. Foxx, Roberts and the big O on the other hand...well....I hate them. They are huge phonies, yes I realize most celebrities probably are but, these 3 even moreso. If only everyone in the world could see the "real Oprah", she wouldn't be nearly as loved or successful. "

--anonymous

I have no horse in this race, for I could take them all or leave them all. (Well, Nicole and George and Russell do nothing whatsoever for me, but still...)

But do you know these three people intimately? If you don't, how can you say they are phony, even if that is simply your perception? And who is the "real" Oprah?

Inquiring mind wants to know.

Jeremy said...

I didn't see the special, but based on your description I want to go it. Toweling off with wealth? Pampering myself with self-entitlement? Sign me up!

Kamikaze Camel said...

lol, I forget that Foxx was in Dreamgirls. That's how good he was.

If Nicole and Russell seemed awkward there may still be some bad blood between them relating to Eucalyptus and Australia.

JimmyB said...

Julia Roberts - blech....ditto w/ Jamie Foxx. I stay away when either of their names pop up. I don't think either of these actors are really oscar-worthy. I am still po'd that Julia somehow beat ellen burstyn - waht an unbelieveable farce, but i digress. I would have much preferred seeing Streisand, Hoffman, al pacino interviews Keaton, Julie Andrews, streep talks w/ eastwood, maybe even the c-word, Cher talks w/ dukakis, patty duke compares notes w/ tatum o'neal - of course they're all dinosaurs who tv viewers (18-34) don't know. Jon Voight interviews Angelina. Paul Newman interviews Joanne Woodward. No, taht's fun...I'd be g.l.u.e.d!!!!

abby said...

for those who didn't see the special want to see the Nicole/Russell interview go here:

http://justjared.buzznet.com/2007/02/23/nicole-kidman-russell-crowe-oprah-oscars-special/#comments

For those wanting to see the Julia/George interview go here:

http://justjared.buzznet.com/2007/02/23/julia-roberts-george-clooney-oprah-oscars-special/#comments

adam k. said...

It's this weirdly schmoozy personality thing that turns me off of George Clooney. I just don't like him. But then, I rarely like the typically popular types. I'd probably like him more if I knew him for real.

NOT so much with Julia Roberts, though. Don't wanna know that bitch for real.

I'll take enigma over weird fake charm any day.

NATHANIEL R said...

abby thanks for the links.

Anonymous said...

Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe saved Oprah's special from being a complete waste of time. It didn't help that their segment was far too short, though.
Roberts and Clooney were a joke. They weren't funny and didn't seem at all like they were enjoying it. It seemed very fake and sarcastic.

Anonymous said...

i don't know watch Osacar specials, but I wanted 2 catch something new and different.
G/J were fun and tehy really seem like friends. I enjoyed it. Very casual.
R/N formal and uneasy. did she have botox? facially a little frozen. wasn't interested, plus am not the least bit a Russell Crowe fan.
Sidney/J. Fox should not be even be in the same room with Mr. Poitier. Would watch any movie he was in, will never on purpose watch a JF movie. really am not interested in anything he has to say. Good idea Oprah, just wrong last 4 selections.

OKonheim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
OKonheim said...

Having Julia Roberts interview Geroge Clooney was rediculous. I had a much less forgiving write-up at sophomorecritic.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Craig Hickman -- asked how a person can know a celebrity is phony w.o. deep personal knowledge.

It's like plastic surgery - spend a little time in Hollywood and you quickly learn the signs.