Monday, March 7, 2011

2011 Oscar Wrap Up


Loose Thoughts

Before writing about this year's Oscar ceremony, I thought I should take a moment to review what I said last year.  As it turns out, I came out pretty negatively about last year's show.  Which is strange because while I was watching this year, I kept wishing it were as good as last year.  Lesson learned.  Despite my overall negative feelings about the Oscars this year, the passage of time will probably leave me with a better feeling about it.  In that spirit, I'd like to focus on the positive.

Shorter.  Last year's telecast rolled straight to 9 o'clock Pacific, midnight Eastern.  That's never necessary.  This year's show weighed in 20 minutes lighter, despite the strange addition of a lip synching children's choir at the end.  Remember, Academy, less is more.  Let's see if we can wrap it up by 8 next year.

Kirk Douglas.  Look, I couldn't understand half of what the guy was saying.  But he still seems really sharp despite being a post-stroke 94-year-old.  Once he got on a roll, he provided one of the few moments of spontaneity the whole night.  We could have used a few more Kirk Douglas moments.

Melissa Leo.  Another one of the more spontaneous moments.  She and Kirk Douglas were the only people to get bleeped during the night.  Thanks for giving us something to talk about.

Christian Bale.  Somehow didn't get bleeped, but still gave us something to talk about by delivering one of the most heartfelt -- but not blubbering -- speeches of the night.  He gave due respect to the man his role was based on, and then got choked up when he thanked his wife.  "I didn't think I was like this," he said.  We didn't either, Christian, but it's nice to see that you are.

The Writers.  Both of the screenplay writers gave excellent speeches.  And while you might expect writers to be apparently good with words, speaking in front of one of the world's biggest crowds isn't always the most comfortable place for them.  Aaron Sorkin and David Seidler both came through.

Best live-action short.  "God of Love" wasn't my prediction to win, but it's easy to see why it did - it's probably the most casually entertaining of the five nominees.  Luke Matheny's acceptance speech demonstrated exactly that.  Funny and relaxed while still respectful and appreciative (and short!), it's what every awards speech should aspire to be.


Randy Newman.  Not bogging down his speech with countless thank yous, Newman riffed humorously on his history with the Oscars (20 nominations and only two wins) and poked fun at the whole Oscar process.

In Memoriam.  This may have been the single most respectful year for the In Memoriam segment.  The audience was asked to hold all applause until the end, so the historically crass "popularity contest" aspect was removed.  Furthermore, unlike last year, the camera only cut to the singer a couple of time, and this was obviously planned around moments when the video roll for the deceased was put on hold so that the home viewer wouldn't miss anything.

Spielberg.  Not just because he's Spielberg, but because of the introduction he gave before he announced the Best Picture winner.  "One of these ten movies will join a list that includes On the Waterfront, Midnight Cowboy, The Godfather and The Deer Hunter.  The other nine will join a list that includes The Grapes of Wrath, Citizen Kane, The Graduate and Raging Bull.  Either way, congratulations.  You're all in very good company."  Well said.  With all the griping that follows the Academy Awards every year, it's best to remember that it's ultimately meaningless.  We love the movies that we love, and we'll keep watching them for decades to come.


And now, the griping.  Come on, you didn't think I'd let this whole thing pass without complaining, did you?

You'll notice I didn't have much to say about the hosts in the "positives" section.  They were sort of a void in the evening's proceedings.  Some commentators have come out in favor of one over the other, but no, they were both pretty bad.  I've always liked Franco and Hathaway (well, post-Princess Diaries), and I don't blame them.  They shouldn't have been asked to host.  I think we, the viewing audience, would do best to forgive and, especially, forget.

Tom Hooper.  In his acceptance speech, he told the story of how his mom saw the stage version of "The King's Speech" and told him he should make it a movie.  "The moral of the story is to listen to your mother," he said.  Cell phones across Los Angeles lit up, as mothers told their aspiring-filmmaker children that they should heed Hooper's advice.  Well, mom, as soon as you start delivering me Oscar-worthy material, we'll talk.

The stage.  Apparently a lot of people liked it.  I found it distracting.  It brought the show to a dead halt when the presenters pointed out that it was changing in front of our eyes.  And then those magma colors would pulsate in the background during the acceptance speeches.  No good.

Lifetime achievements.  One of the most venerated directors of the last 40 years, one of the hardest working character actors of the last 60 years, and one of the biggest figures in silent film restoration and preservation won distinguished awards this year.  And they were allowed onto the stage, as a group, for about five seconds to give a quick wave and then were sent on their way.  If the Oscar stage isn't the place for people like these to be recognized, then where is?

I'll leave it at that.  I could go -- and on -- but we're trying to keep it positive.

My Score Sheet

This year, I made predictions in 24 categories.  I got 14 right.  It's more than half, but still not a great average.  I'll have to try harder next year.

In Summary

While some news organization were citing this year as the first official Twitter Oscars, I already made that call last year... and I still agree with myself on that.  Last year, people taking their real-time Oscar commentary to the Twitter-verse seemed inspired, and their giddiness showed.  This year, it felt like most people were doing it out of obligation.  Not particularly inspired, going through the motions, doing it simply because they thought they were supposed to.

And that pretty much describes the Oscars overall this year.  Oh well; still happy to have them around.  And let's just be optimistic that next year's ceremony will be better. Grade: D-

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