22 February 2009

Oscars, taquitos, and champagne

So...that Oscar prediction post never happened. Instead, I cleaned up the apartment for our Oscar party, designed excessively elaborate ballots, and read a really good AV Club primer on Mickey Rourke's career. (I highly recommend it if you have 20 minutes to spare.)

Despite some fearful moments with our moody digital converter box, we watched the show, ate taquitos, drank champagne, and had a good time. And as it turns out, I suck at making Oscar predictions, selecting the correct winner in only 7 out of 24 categories.

But I do have some random thoughts about last night's Oscars:

- I thought Hugh Jackman did a decent job. He's talented and energetic, and I guess that's about as much as I expect from the host. Jon Stewart was obviously funnier and more self-deprecating toward Hollywood, which I enjoyed. But I can see where others didn't, so whatever, Jackman was fine. I thought his opening number was the best of the evening. Conversely, I felt the movie-musicals-are-back song and dance routine was pretty pathetic. Are High School Musical and MAMMA MIA! really the best examples they could find of the genre's vibrancy?

- I wasn't impressed in general by the big changes that were promised in the lead-up to ceremony. It seemed like the same old montages to me. And the most notable change was the introduction of the acting nominations by past winners. I thought it came off as forced sentimentality. The script was written to sound impromptu, but the speakers were clearly reading off a teleprompter. The whole routine lacked authenticity and dragged down the cadence of the show. And as Emily noted, why not show clips of the nominated performances?

- Another of the promised changes was a narrative to drive the broadcast -- I guess that came in the form of going through a movie's production stages to make the technical awards more interesting. I thought it only worked for the screenplay awards, which was due to the comedic abilities of Tina Fey and Steve Martin.

- But here's something positive: the tightness of the audience to the stage. It made everything more intimate, and I think it would have really worked if Jon Stewart (or someone similarly adept at impromptu comedy) was the host.

- I would love to see the Academy Awards hosted by Sasha Baron Cohen.

- I was disappointed Viola Davis from Doubt didn't win, but I liked Penelope Cruz in Vicky Christina Barcelona, and Cruz had one of the better acceptance speeches of the night.

- While I'm on the subject, I'm pretty disappointed that Doubt wasn't more prevalent overall. I felt the same way two years ago about The Queen and three years ago about Good Night, and Good Luck. Eh. I know Doubt wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but the material and acting were so strong and layered. I love movies that take a fundamental theme and layer the hell out of that theme in a narrative driven by strong characters. I feel the same way about Frost/Nixon. I guess my taste in movies doesn't jive perfectly with the Academy, and that's cool. I know that a lot more marketing and show biz goes on behind the scenes.

- Yay for Kate Winslet! (I guess the no more boobies thing has officially started...sad face.) Kate was gracious and poised and beautiful and smart, which is why she's a great actress. (And why I love her.)

- And the anticipated nice moment with Heath Ledger happened. And it was nice and sweet.

- I thought Sean Penn did a fine job in Milk, but I still think Mickey Rourke deserved that award. And what annoys me most is that Penn's win is, in my opinion, overtly political. I support gay rights and was pissed about Prop 8 in California, but taking a stand at the Oscars isn't really going to make a difference. Beyond any of that, though, Rourke's performance in The Wrestler was simply amazing. No, it was more than that. Fucking amazing. A warrior in the twilight of his life. Sad. Powerful. It was simply a better acting role than Harvey Milk.

- Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens shouldn't stay up past their bedtime.

- A friend of mine recently said that Slumdog Millionaire is what "going to the cinema is all about." That statement about sums it up for me. Is some of the love around the movie originating from a desire for catharsis and hope? Yes. But that's art and its role in our world.

- Another of the memes leading up to the ceremony: "How will it be glamorous in a time of economic downturn and uncertainty?" Was the expectation that everyone would show up in tattered clothing? No. Was there some kind of expectation for appropriate gloominess at the Super Bowl? No. These people are Hollywood stars and live more lavishly than most of us. We know that, and they can't fool us into thinking otherwise. If they tried, it'd be insulting.

- The big reward at the end? Watching 10-second clips of upcoming movies that I can see online or in the theatre! Way to go Oscar producers!

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