Wednesday, February 25, 2009

2009 Oscar Wrap-Up

Soon after the 81st Annual Academy Awards ceremony wrapped up, I began to wonder how memorable this one would be. Hugh Jackman had done a fine job, but was his opening Sweatin' to the Movies number going to be as memorable as Billy Crystal inserting himself into the year's best pictures? Were any of his punchlines going to become catchphrases? Were any of his routines going to... did he have any actual routines?

I found myself wondering all the more when, the next morning, I listened to the latest edition of one of my favorite podcasts, Battleship Pretension. The hosts of that show made brief mention of the year Ellen DeGeneres hosted the Oscars and I realized... I have absolutely no memory of Ellen DeGeneres hosting the Oscars. I remember that she'd been an Emmy host one year. And I know I watch the Oscars every year. But Ellen and Oscars do not combine anywhere in my brain.

Maybe that's a good thing. After all, what makes a good Oscar host? Perhaps it's better for the host to be forgettable, as the night is meant to focus on the movies themselves. (Actually, the night is probably more about the celebrities rather than the movies they're in.)

One odd thing about Jackman's hosting performance was how little he actually appeared on screen. He had a big opening number, and then another number halfway through. Other than that, he only seemed to pop up once every half hour or so, and only for a few seconds at a time. Will Smith probably had more total screen time than Jackman. (After presenting three consecutive awards, Smith joked about still being on stage to do a fourth, saying that Jackman was backstage taking a nap.)

Historically, I think most great Oscar memories either unusual acceptance speeches or great host jokes. Will Jackman be memorable has a host? Will he make it into future Oscar highlight reels? The thing that sticks in my head the most is when he stuck his face through a wall of reverse-aging Benjamin Button bodies. We'll probably see replays of that in future years. We also might see replays of Jackman proclaiming "the musical is back" after the next few years prove that the musical is not, in fact, back. (Shouldn't the year to proclaim the return of the musical have been the year Chicago won Best Picture -- which I still consider a tremendous error.)

Overall, I think Hugh Jackman did a perfectly fine job hosting. But I missed the quick reactionary quips and jibes that comedian hosts like Steve Martin, Jon Stewart and Chris Rock have provided in past years.

My Score Sheet

Of the 21 categories I placed guesses on this year, I got 12 right and 9 wrong. Not terrible, but not great. My biggest misses were in the acting categories. I missed both of the actresses. (Why oh why didn't I bet on Kate Winslet in a holocaust film?!) And I'm still surprised that Mickey Rourke didn't grab Best Actor. Although, as I noted in my Oscar predictions post, Sean Penn definitely deserved it. (Loved his acceptance speech, too.)

I would be remiss if I didn't announce that my girlfriend Helen outguessed me in our Oscar pool. Damn those actress categories!

A category I completely deserved to win: Wall-E for sound editing.

In Summary

When all is said and done, there were few surprises this year. The telecast was enjoyable to watch. And, in an unusual turn of events, it actually stuck to its schedule and ended on time! Now that we know it can be done, future telecasts have no excuse.

The name of the game this year was balance. There were political speeches, but they didn't lean too heavy. There was humor, but not too much. There was singing and dancing, but not too much. Nothing was extremely bad, nor extremely great. It was just... nice.

I give this year's Oscars a B+.