Monday, February 23, 2009

Let's Put on a Show (Oscar Night Review -Pt 1 of 3)

What's that line from The Age of Innocence? Something about that the audience
wants to get away from amusement even more quickly than they want to get to it.
Excuse me If I've stolen it before. But isn't that the way many of us feel after the Best Picture prize has been handed out. It's like [pantomimes wiping hands] 'That's that! Done. On to next year"

Hugh's opening number. A faux shoestring charm offensive

But I do want to say a few things about what turned out to be a surprisingly fun wrap to the lengthy awards season. This particular season was at turns satisfying (mostly on the acting / awards show side) and unimaginatively monotonous (The world was Slumdogging it from Toronto onwards). I squawked earlier on these pages about the continual leaks that they were going to be messing with the Oscar format. I worried that they didn't care enough about Oscar's true fans, the millions who still tune in every year eager to see favorite annual traditions reenacted. Who wants Christmas without a tree or Thanksgiving without the turkey? If Oscar is your favorite holiday (it's mine. Duh) you want the traditions.

Read the Rest...
Parts 2 (acting presentations) & 3 (fashions) coming tomorrow


RC said...

i really appreciated your thoughts...especially about queen latifa, steven spielberg, and beyonce.

i forgot about the meryl on steroids bit until you mentioned...i'm glad you reminded me!

Anonymous said...

I wish your Oscar coverage would go on forever (you really are good at this)...
Re: Sean Penn's shout out at human rights, I don't know, isn't he a bit of a hypocrite, acting like a normal, decent human being at the Academy Awards podium yet every other time sucking up to Hugo Chavez -and hence Fidel Castro-, two of the biggest homophobes and human rights' violators currently alive?
He's a wonderful actor and can be really charming sometimes (like at the beginning of his speech, admitting he makes it difficult for people to like him most of the time, and at the closing of his speech, paying his respects to mickey rourke), but his support for those horrible people is misguided at best.
Oh, and don't even get me started on the "being proud of being in a country where creative artists are allowed to be" (I'm paraphrasing, but you know what I'm saying)... guess in which third world countries artists aren't allowed to be because of the dictators in power?

Robert said...

Let me shout out the Pineapple Express segment. But it worked as a bit and not as a film montage.

The montages failed so spectacularly I think because for each genre they seemed to settle on 7 movies and just rotate in clips of them. So for Action/Adventure we get 5 different scenes from Wanted but not a single moment of The Fall. What gives? AMPAS still seems unaware that more than 30 movies come out each year.

BeRightBack said...

I'm bitching all over the internet today about the montages that edited other best pics into the nominees, so bear with me. But I just think it was such a confoundingly bad idea. The one that got me was Schindler's List mixed into The Reader, but Braveheart mixed into Milk was also bad, now that you mention it.

Anonymous said...

Not to seem contrarian or anything, but why is Braveheart one of the most homophobic bp winners?

adam k. said...

What is this "Meryl on steroids" thing? I don't recall. She looked GREAT, though.

Kate Winslet has definitely found her footing with the speeches throughout the season. I was saying back at the beginning how she was new at the speech-giving (having never won anything) so you can't expect her to become a pro overnight. But she's gotten much better. The whistling and her reaction to it were adorable.

Also, when has Sean Penn sucked up to Chavez and Castro? Maybe I'm just not up on all his various shenanigans, but I don't remember hearing about this. I thought his speech was great. And I'm glad he won.

Anonymous said...

was the record for the most performances at the Oscars? cause whatever it is, Beyonce is trying her hardest to top it.

Agustin said...

you should add the kaminsky sketch as a highlight

Glenn said...

Adam, Jackman made a joke that Meryl is on steroids because of how many nominations she's had.

I agree on Beyonce. She's not a movie star at all. As much as she'd like us to think otherwise.

I get that montages are a necessary evil with the Oscars and so they didn't bother me as much although the clip selections were odd. Where was Australia and The Fall and a few others from the action one, where as Waltz with Bashir in animation, why not a foreign one?

My favourite moment from the telecast was Janusz Kaminski's "Suck on that Anthony Dod Mantle!" Hah. Brilliant. Also, this telecase featured Werner Herzog and Janusz Kaminski quite prominantly as well as Francois Truffaut getting a shoutout from the host. Amazing.

Totally agreed with you about the host. I'd much rather an entertainer than a comedian who gives a lot of politics jokes or just mean spiritedness.

Glenn said...

Oh: This is my theory about the people bitching about the ceremony.

They don't actually want a ceremony. Well, they do, but only so they can talk about them. They don't actually care about them and no matter what they do some people will just not be happy.

First people don't want a comedian and then they do. First they think the presentation of categories is stale and then they think they tinkered with it too much. They don't want musical numbers - omg embarrassing and lame - but if there weren't any they'd complain that it was just too boring. They don't like montages but get rid of them and they'd complain because there's nothing to break up the awards all of which are boring and monotonous because "nobody cares about the sound editing".


Basically they want to get rid of everything except the major awards and then if they did that they'd say "i wanted something different!" aaaagh! People are so frustrating.

Anonymous said...

The two things I cannot stop laughing about,
Hugh jackman trying not to laugh when singing "I havenbt seen the reader" and Anne Hathaway's "Oh Frost"

Sally Belle said...

Really great review so far. I forgot about that Best Picture montage. I think I forcibly blocked it out of my head. What the fuck, was all I could think as I watched it. And I was feeling really bad for Stephen Daldry.

Oh and yes, how refreshing to see Janusz Kaminski treated like the star he is! I'd like to see more of that type of thing. I don't care if Kansas doesn't know who he is.

O. Andrew D said...

I thought Queen Singing was great
It was beautiful and seeing as how last night's OScar's were all about honoring fellow artists, her tribute was very nice.

Brian Darr said...

I think Queen Latifah's song was an attempt to prevent attendees from clapping at their favorite dead people. Too bad it didn't work that way. (Also too bad that Ann Savage, Youssef Chahine, Rudy Ray Moore, Alain Robbe-Grillet etc. got left out.)

adam k. said...

Oh, I remember now. About the steroids thing. That was funny.

Sam Brooks said...

I really don't want to see Beyonce if it isn't involving Single Ladies.

John T said...

Beyonce is clearly just out to get her own Oscar-she's mugging harder than Renee did for it, and without the acting talent. I mean, she's been in what was supposed to be a Best Picture nominee, and this past year she was in a biopic. $10 says in the next two years she goes deglam.

And I think one of the reasons this ceremony worked was that it was about movies-not current affairs, or tabloid gossip (even with Brad/Ang/Jen in the house), or one-liners, but about the experience of the cinema. In a year that was probably one of the worst (quality-wise) in a long time at the movies, the ceremony itself reminded us why we love the movies in the first place.

Anonymous said...

@ chispa: THAT'S SOOOOO TRUE! I hate it when they're all like "my country's so great bc artists can say this". So now all other countries are dictatorships? In Europe people can say more than in the US ...

Janice said...

I've only seen bits and pieces so far (a friend has recorded it and will be sending a copy to me soon) but I have to admit I missed your liveblogging it, Nathanial. I know why you didn't/couldn't, but the next morning I was searching for someone who had blogged the night before and could capture the charm and absurdity with wit and affection - basically, I was looking for you. And no one is you on the blogosphere.

So please - bring back the live blogging next year IF you are able. But if not, these afterward essays will do nicely.

Personally from what I've seen I have enjoyed the more "intimate" feel of the Oscars, and it really did feel more intimate than years past. Instead of the awards show happening to them, the actors in the audience were part of the show, and seemed more open with their feelings than years past. Or perhaps that was just the effect of the smaller venue and the focus.

I loved Dustin Lance Black's speech , loved Kate's unforced excitement, I've never liked Penelope so much as I did in that moment, Meryl is GORGEOUS (poor Amy Adams. To sit next to Meryl means nobody is looking at you) , Nicole is still a goddess (in her cool way - god what actressexuality!)

The only clip I've seen so far that disappointed me is the Musicals are back bit - it seemed tone deaf to me. Too fussy and busy visually and aurally, it didn't give me that thrill or lift that even modest song and dance numbers often can and do. And then I found it out it was from Baz and I'm beginning to wonder - has he truly run out of ideas? He seemed to be recycling himself (when Beyonce came out in costume I immediately thought "Satine") and not in a good way.

Hugh's joke about himself at the beginning ("An Australian playing an Australian in a movie called Australia") was aces, as was the bit with Anne Hathaway. Stars who can sing - someone please put them in a musical, now?

The acknowledgements of movies and the movie year ("why don't comic book movies get nominated?" "I haven't gotten around to seeing the reader" etc) were terrific too. Why gear the show toward capturing "everyone" in America, including those who don't give a damn about movies? The clips I saw felt more geared toward those in the auditorium and those outside of it who actually know and love films, and that's how it should be, I think.

Especially with a zillion precursors now.

Janice said...

Oh, and bring back Hugh next year, pretty please - or better yet, let Anne co-host. I don't know if she's a great actress (she underwhelmed me in Brokeback in an "add notes!" way - borrowing from you, Nathaniel - but I haven't seen RGM.) But she definitely can sing and ham it up in front of a live audience, and that's a surprisingly hard to find among screen actors, who oftentimes wouldn't know what to do without their script or teleprompter.

Anonymous said...

Huge improvement from last year. Was it great? No.

Hugh Jackman is a Man - what a talent!
I love the idea of tributes to each acting nominee.
Jackman and Beyonce musical montage, but Efron and co. were horrible.
Steve Martin, Tina Fey and Will Smith - guys and gal knows how to entertain.
Jerry Lewis finally getting his due.
No The Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus.

Some weird presenters (Robert Pattinson, Reese Witherspoon presenting best director - How about Oliver Stone, James L. Brooks, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen instead of her?)
Romance, Animation and Action montage - I've seen better clips on YouTube.
No Honorary Oscar recipient.
Lack of Jackman.
Showing Angelina Jolie while Jennifer Aniston was on stage presenting an award to catch her reaction- it's the Oscars not TMZ. How about some class?
And most importantly, how could they forgot to include silent screen Legend Anita Page (1910-2008) In Memoriam tribute?
Not only she was one of the biggest stars of the 20s-30s, but she was also the last living attendee of the very first Academy Awards in 1929 and the stat of The Broadway Melody (1929) - the first sound film to win Oscar Best Picture.
Outrages omissions: Mel Ferrer, Eartha Kitt, Beverly Garland, Edie Adams, Ann Savage, George Carlin, Robert Prosky, Patrick MacGoohan, Estelle Getty and Harvey Korman - and that only from acting branch. They even forgot Don LaFontaine and he was the announcer of The 79th Annual Academy Awards (2007)!
Nothing against Queen Latifah, I felt she was singing from her heart, but the cinematography was horrible. How I supposed to be moved when I couldn't see a thing with he camera kept moving so fast that I couldn't see the names of who were remembered? Whoever was in charge - shame on you! If cant get it right just borrow the clip from TCM.

Anonymous said...

I see you took one last chance to piss all over "Slumdog Millionaire". Whatever. The film was excellent, and it earned every single one of its Oscars.


anon 10:50

actually i think i did the right thing by mostly ignoring it ;) ...but again I'm happy that the movie made other people happy. I'm not angry that it won. The only time I'm angry when something wins is if its truly terrible or if it's not passionately loved and beats something that is for stupid reasons... neither of which were the case this year...

there was really oonly that one sentence in my coverage and that sentence is true. It's been winning awards and its been the talk of the town since the early fall. some of us got bored is all.

Anonymous said...

I so agree, Nathaniel, you are really good and delightful at this Oscar coverage!

Of course, I say this partly because I agree with almost everything you said.

I loved, loved, LOVED the acting awards being presented by 5 previous winners. I so agree that it is the BEST way I've ever seen of giving each nominee a moment of true recognition which is so great for us movie lovers and for all the rest of the world too. I think it helps convey the value of the nominations for all the other awards as well.

I thought it was amazing how different it was between the female and the male actors though. Jesus, sometimes I so hate the stalwart, unemotional shit of being masculine. It was like hot and cold almost - and God how I love the hot, emotional, openness of those actress goddesses! We need actors again like Jack Lemmon who had the courage to be emotionally available. I mean, surely the actors presenting understood that their "role" was to create an emotionally meaningful acknowledgment of their nominated colleagues. At least DeNiro could make it personally meaningful for himself and Penn because they are friends.

That brings me to a major concern I have about the other presenters. The guy from Twilight might be a big heartthrob at the moment, but Jesus, if he can't present as if he gives a damn, then boot him off the goddamn stage. I don't care if that's how his nerves manifested themselves - if he can't fake it enough to co-present an award, then he should take his handsome face and go do porn! And, although he was the worst, he wasn't the only "young" person who seemed to have trouble being appropriate.

And if you aren't going to advertise ahead of time that these young "stars" are going to be presenting, then why bother? It isn't like they contribute that much to the show (maybe they should come out in bathing suits since that's all some of them seem to be able to offer in this situation).

Next year, I sure would like to see a little more real star power in more of the presentations. And if you're not going to get superstars, then get people like Fey and Martin who have the intelligence and class to be fantastic! I even thought Will Smith and his aw shucks attitude got a little boring. Team him with a good looking woman next time and don't let him give 3 awards! And you're right - I like Spielberg when he's being all nerdy and emotional, but he just doesn't play as the grand poobah of Hollywood - he just doesn't convey that much personal charisma.

I loved having all the really top nominated stars in the front row circling the thrust. I don't ever remember seeing so many shots over the shoulder at the audience like this year and I loved it. It made me feel like I was almost there on stage!

And I agree about the montages - there have been some in past shows that have been truly moving and/or thrilling. The ones this year all seemed to go by without a point of view or focus. You would think people doing the Oscars would know how to create a montage that achieved something? And all that intercutting movies from the past with this year's films - wtf?

I thought Hugh Jackman was great - even when the number saluting movie musicals didn't quite work. He seems so effortlessly charming and is so handsome and really has star quality so he makes it all kind of nice and casual and friendly while at the same time you realize you're hanging out with a profoundly talented and gorgeous star!

YES - no more Beyonce! I realize that Amy Adams and Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep were all nominated, but there have got to be other real movie actors out there who can dance and sing. What fun to see that at the Oscars! Hell, I'd even rather watch Glenn Close then Beyonce (and that's saying something for me).

Next year I'd prefer they get rid of all but one really effective montage and spend a little more time on clips from the nominated films? I don't want to totally make the Oscars about the acting nominees (although it pretty much is, for most of the general public, don't you think?) but I would love to continue the 5 winners adoring the 5 nominee format but also add longer clips from the nominated performances.

I also loved the "story" from script to post-production format but I wish they had actually been a little more interesting in how they presented the technical categories. I remember in years past, there have been great examples from various shows where they tried to convey the nature of the technical work. I wish they could have found a fun way to do that for more of the aspects of film making.

I so want Meryl Streep to end her career with 5 Oscars - 4 best actress and 1 supporting actress wins. So I want everyone who reads this blog to assure me that it will happen.

However, that said, I am, in fact, thrilled that Kate Winslet won. It was long overdue, she is a tremendous talent, and she was so gracious and charming in her win. (I'm still trying to figure out exactly what she said to Meryl - something about sucking it up - I know it was meant in a flattering way but I didn't quite get it! Help!)

Of course, I do NOT want Meryl to be up for Best Actress next year. Next year, please God, needs to be left open for Michelle Pfeiffer! Michelle all the way! (NOT Hilary Swank for a third! I think I'd vomit blood if that happened!)

I thought the Apatow clip was courageouos and I am a big fan of both actors (especially Franco!!), but it just didn't work for me. Again, it seemed unclear what the goal of the clip was - it certainly didn't seem worshipful but it also didn't seem clearly irreverent. Although it was great as a vehicle to provide Kaminski his moment on screen! That part of the clip was fresh and fun!

I got so angry during the In Memorium sequence when the damn camera kept pulling back to show Latifah! That was so rude and inappropriate and frustrating. I don't mind if they want words instead of just music over the images (that is a hauntingly beautiful song and she sang it OK) but you've got to keep the camera up close and steady on the people who've passed. Will, I agree -- shame on them!

Despite all these gripes, I did think this was one of the better Oscar telecasts in recent memory. It still dragged in the middle but it had great moments and seemed appropriate - not too formal or awkwardly casual. And I think Janice is right when she says it felt more intimate. Maybe that was partly because of all the major nominees being in row 1 around the stage, partly because of the POV camera angles, and partly because Hugh, as an entertainer, felt comfortable in his role and therefore more accessible. In any case, I hope the same team comes back next year (for Michelle's win!)

Once again, congratulations Nathaniel on a great blog!

Anonymous said...

"I so want Meryl Streep to end her career with 5 Oscars - 4 best actress and 1 supporting actress wins. "
It will happen.

And Nathaniel, billybil reminded me, kudos for an excellent blog.

Anonymous said...

Most enjoyable ceremony I've seen. Hugh was terrific and I loved the way the acting awards were presented.

I don't think the musical tribute piece really worked though I think a lot of people missed the point. It was meant to be in he style of Moulin Rouge, the movie that really brought back the movie musical and a movie that shamelessly borrowed from past great musicals. Beyonce was deliberately dressed like Satine. But the HSM kids looked nervous and the Mama Mia kids looked out of their depth. Should have ditiched the kids and Beyonce and had the "Sparkling Diamond" herself do the piece with Hugh. Wonder if they asked her...

Anonymous said...

Thanks Lara!

At least you and I are willing to dream HUGE for Meryl!!