.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

What Would People Think?

Monday, March 06, 2006

Random, Shallow Oscar Commentary!

Yes, I watched the entire 3 and a half hours of Oscars. I didn't even have the excuse of an Oscar Party to make it a social occasion to draw me away from my massive workload. I'm that much of a movie nerd.

I decided to post all my random thoughts, including the kind of shallow commentary on fashion which I usually consider beneath me. So, veering into Full Shallow Mode, let's start with...

Fashion: I'm not what you would call a fashion expert. I've been known to wear Mickey Mouse t-shirts. So, I'm the least qualified person to discuss Oscar fashion. But I'm writing this blog, so what are you going to do about it, punk?

Good fashion - Selma Hayek (always GORGEOUS, but especially stunning this night), Hilary Swank, Ludacris (Dude, his all-black suit looked awesome!), Jennifer Garner (well, I might be saying this about her b/c she got an abundance of good vibes from me after nearly tripping on her way to the microphone and quipping "I do all my own stunts". I love self-deprecation.).

Bad fashion - Charlize Theron (what the heck WAS that on her shoulder? A couch pillow?).

Jon Stewart: Interesting that he's getting post-Oscar raves. I was initially unimpressed. After a hilarious intro involving all the past Oscar hosts turning down the chance to host and Stewart dreaming about Halle Berry and George Clooney, his opening monologue fell flat. There were far too many jokes that elicited only sympathy laughter from 1/10 of the audience. (On Munich and Schindler's List: "I know I speak for all Jews when I say I can't wait to see what happens to us next!" Mild laughter. "Trilogy!" Milder laughter.) I don't know. Perhaps that was just my impression. Some lines I remember falling flat sounded more successful when I heard them on the morning radio.

Stewart picked up the pace as the show went on. A lot of his off-the-cuff remarks were great. ("For those of you keeping track at home, that's Martin Scorsese - zero Oscars. Three-Six Mafia - One." "I can't wait for the Oscar montage on Oscar montages!" "If you're trying to escape a burning car, I don't recommend you move in slow motion." last one's a paraphrase). And the "political ads" for Best Actress nominees was drop-dead hilarious! My laughing corpse was then jolted back to laughing life by the "political ads" redux for Best Sound Effects editing nominees.

Dance: I henceforth declare a moratorium on all interpretive dance at Oscar ceremonies! Especially when they re-enacted scenes from Crash while Kathleen "Bird" York sang "In The Deep." You do NOT re-enact a scene of a cop molesting a woman in slow-motion interpretive dance! That was wrong! So wrong. So very wrong.

The dancing veered from pretentious/very, very wrong to ridiculous when the Three-Six Mafia and Taraji P. Henson sang "It's Hard Out There For A Pimp." What is this? Hustle & Flow interpreted through the lens of Guys and Dolls?

Songs: The Oscars are not the Grammy (sp?) Awards and you can usually tell through the song selection for best movie song (or whatever they call it). This year I was pleasantly surprised by 2 of the nominees.

First, the bad - "Into the Deep"....actually, I need to listen to this again. I just didn't pay much attention to the song because I was too annoyed at the very, very, very wrong interpretive dancing.

Second, Dolly Parton's "Traveling Through." Dolly's appearance remains bizarre. She evokes images of Barbie - complete with the freakishly impossible figure and the face that appears to be made out of plastic. But somehow she made it past this handicap. It certainly helped that she wasn't backed by interpretive dancers. But it was more than that. The moment she came on stage shouting something like "straight from Dollywood to Hollywood, y'all!", the infectious enthusiasm of her performance charmed me. She just strutted back and forth across that stage and sang her charming little ditty with gusto. I can't deny that the openly Christian nature of the song may have influenced my opinion...but even Christianity cannot make me like, say, the last decade's worth of work by Michael W. Smith.

Third, the Oscar winner and oddly joyful "It's Hard Out There For A Pimp" from Hustle & Flow (think of the movie as Rocky for pimps who are wanna-be rappers). The content of the song is straight cliche gangsta rap...not my favorite style. So why do I like this song? Perhaps the catchy chorus, sung by Taraji P. Henson from the movie. (Who cleans up nice from the somewhat homely character she plays in the movie.) Perhaps it's just the fact that a rap song won an Oscar. (Although that's not actually a first. It's just that Eminem never showed up to the ceremony for "Lose Yourself".) Whatever the case, I still find myself humming this song to myself and I also loved the enthusiasm with which the Three-Six Mafia accepted their Oscars.

George Clooney: Some people liked his acceptance speech for being political yet classy. To me, it just came off as self-congratulatory, elitist, and self-righteous. And I AGREE with Clooney's politics!

Montages: You want to know how to reduce the length of Oscar ceremonies? Not by rudely playing off the winners enjoying their spotlight. (Okay, some get too annoyingly long. But come on! They started playing music before the thank yous even began! They played off the best picture winner, fer cryin' out loud! Poor "Crash" producer Cathy Schulman got so nervous she thanked her husband AND her wife!)

You can shorten the Oscars by eliminating the doggone montages! They were so damn pointless. Yes, I really wanted to know about all the biographical pictures that have been made. Thanks so much for contributing to my life Mr. Montage Person. That had everything to do with the current awards and all! Stewart was right...I'm waiting for the montage on montages.

I would allow the "people who passed away this year" montage. It's a touching tribute. But that montage led me into another movie geek rant. When the showed that writer/producer Debra Hill had died, the movie they associated her with was Adventures in Babysitting. Adventures in freakin' Babysitting! Hey Mr. Montage Person....if you are going to recognize a relatively unknown writer-producer, how about pointing out her greatest contribution to pop culture: Halloween! Yeah,that's right, Halloween. She co-wrote it with John Carpenter and produced it. Halloween's only the movie that every teen horror flick for the past 27 years has been trying to copy! It's also one of perhaps half-a-dozen of those flicks that is actually good. (Though its impact is sadly reduced by being de-sensitized to all the scares and cliches that it invented.) Seriously, Montage Person, just for that mistake you should be forced to watch Adventures in Babysitting 2010 times. One for each time I would like to kick you for such a stupid mistake, plus another 10 times as punishment for making an Oscar montage.

Oscar speeches I found touching: The South African guy who won for Tsotsi. Philip Seymour Hoffman (finally recognized for the genius he is!) thanking his mom. Reese Witherspoon thanking her parents.

Altman-esque: Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep (2 members of the old guard of fantastic actors among the generally young presenters) did a great job of simulating what a Robert Altman movie is like. They meandered and talked over each other a lot. I'm not a massive fan of Altman, but I confess I haven't seen his full work. I've seen Nashville (which I think I would like if I saw it a 2nd time and was able to keep track of the 20-30 main characters and make out what they were saying), Cookie's Fortune (yawn), and Gosford Park (which I enjoyed but which also was by far his most conventional flick...so I'm told). Altman's known as the pioneer of large casts. So if I have Robert Altman to thank for the works for Paul Thomas Anderson, I guess I'll be thankful.

Ok, that's all I have for now. It's probably too much. Comment away.


  • Thanks for the ridiculously long post to occupy my time while I wait for my ridiculously long test to run.

    I actually missed the Oscars other than the first 15 minutes. (I know, it's hard to believe since I haven't missed them once since 1997, but Dan's in town, I made my choice). But I did watch about half the pre-show and saw supporting actor, which brings two facts to mind: 1) Salma Hayek remains the single most beautiful woman in the history of time (except for the woman I will marry who I haven't met yet, of course) and 2) George Clooney is far cooler than you or I can ever hope to be. I thought his acceptance speech had a wonderful self-deprecating tone (the "there goes director" line was fantastic) and his point at the end was not only political without being offensive but also 100% true.

    Agreed on Jon Stewart, though I loved the Jews line about trilogy and the gay western montage. I'd guess that his solid quips as the night wore on washed the taste of the slow start out of everyone's mouth to the point of giving him overall high marks. The Scorsese-Three 6 Mafia line is absolutely classic.

    I also agree on the interpretive dance. What you describe sounds not only totally unnecessary and unentertaining (as interpretive dance tends to be), but also horrifying.

    I also saw "Hustle & Flow" and really liked it, and in spite of my general dislike for rap, I can't think of a song more deserving this year.

    100% agree on the Oscar montages. There should be exactly 2 every show: one for the people who passed on, and one that showcases films by the Lifetime Achievement winner. I can occasionally allow others if they have large humor value, like the gay western montage. But that is all.

    The only Altman flick I've seen is "Gosford". That's right, haven't even seen "M*A*S*H". How pathetic is that?

    I'd really like to see video of some of the acceptance speeches. Any idea if that's possible and where I could see them?

    Phew. Hopefully my tests are done by now.

    By Blogger Mike, at 3/06/2006 2:12 PM  

  • Fashion--Salma Hayek was definitely gorgeous, I thought Rachel Weisz also deserved crediit.

    Charlize not only looked ridiculous, she looked downright dour. Look, sometimes you'll be nominated and know you have no shot of winning. You could grouch the whole time or you could be like Keira Knightly and have fun. I prefer Keira.

    Jon was a little stiff, some of the lines were outstanding. My favorite was "Bjork was getting dressed to come, and Dick Cheney shot her"

    I agree about the montages and the interpretive dance (shudder). I LOVE "travelin' thru", and you should know that you can download it for free off itunes.

    Clooney will always be a love for me. So cute. Arrogant, what? I couldn't hear you over the hotness.

    By Anonymous Amy, at 3/06/2006 2:52 PM  

  • First off, I thought Jon was great and blame the weak opening on the audience. It was his style of stuff, they just didn't know how to react. I enjoyed him the whole time through.

    Second, I got not problem with the length - it seemed about right for me. And I enjoy the montages. But we learned one thing for sure from the montages we saw last night - or rather from the montage we didn't see last night. The Academy does not recognize comedy as a legitimate genre. Which is really too bad, since many think it's the toughest kind of acting.

    Finally, I'm pretty sure that if you had looked closely, right above the more eye-catching "Adventures in Babysitting" there was also the more subtle title of "Halloween". I remember thinking to myself "She was responsible for both of those movies? Blech."

    By Blogger Matthew B. Novak, at 3/06/2006 4:13 PM  

  • Yes, I'm running another test at the moment.

    Just as a brief response to Matt, you're right that in general the academy fails to recognize comedy. However, I wanted to make a few points:

    1) "Shakespeare in Love", a wonderful comedy, was the undeserving winner in a year that also featured one of the best war pictures ever, "Saving Private Ryan". So the Academy does not fail to recognize comedy so much as it does so minimally and usually at the expense of more deserving films.

    2) Good comedies are extremely hard to find these days. The funniest movie this past year was "The 40-Year-Old Virgin", which leads to my third point...

    3) Comedies deserving of best picture recognition are even fewer and far between than good comedies. At the same time, the last three that readily spring to mind, which are "Almost Famous", "State and Main", and "South Park", were all passed up almost across the board. The last year in which a comedy was deserving not only of the nomination but also the award (other than "Almost Famous") was 1996, when "Fargo" was beaten out by "The English Patient". And which one do people still talk about again?

    I'm not sure I really had anything meaningful to say. Just wanted to add my two cents to the point about the academy's relationship with comedy.

    By Blogger Mike, at 3/06/2006 4:44 PM  

  • Actually, I think if you're going to talk about the Academey and comedy you need to look not at the films, but at the actors. Oscar-worthy comedies are few and far between, and so the fact that few are nominated and that fewer win isn't what troubles me.

    What troubles me is when brilliant acting performaces are dismissed because they're in the comedy genre. For example, Jim Carrey has not even been nominated, despite brilliant performances in The Truman Show, Man on the Moon, and Eternal Sunshine. Comedic actors and actresses are totally deprived of recognition.

    Plus, it's tough to think that the academy is just overlooking these performances, since they're obviously well-known and get plenty of recognition from other places. It's almost as if the academy is trying to punish these actors for doing comedy. And that just makes me angry.

    By Blogger Matthew B. Novak, at 3/06/2006 6:36 PM  

  • Hey Ben, I liked your Slant article that you linked to, particularly the line from the Princess Bride. But I can also say, as a devoted tanner, that it when it comes to girl's swimsuits and not actually swimming, there is a method to the madness.

    By Anonymous Erin, at 3/06/2006 10:31 PM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home