Sunday, March 05, 2006

Oscar Blog

8:00 -- I feel an overwhelming amount of gratitude at this moment to whoever invented the blog. I can't believe I get to annoy all of you as if you were sitting in my living room with me. (OK, I live in New York, so that's a bit flowery: as if you were sitting in my room other than my bedroom with me.)

Not sure quite how this will work, but it should be fun. My opening thought is that, if there's any moral justice in the universe, when we collectively turn in for the night across the planet, no one stares at their ceiling with a hotter-burning sense of self-hatred than Billy Bush.

Let's do this.

8:10 -- Is Keira Knightley there with Jack Nicholson? If so, I'm going to spend the rest of the night trying to determine if that's disgusting or impressive. Or both.

8:14 -- Stewart's scoring, in my book, at least. His joke about L.A. being an "atheistic pleasuredome" was great, and this gay cowboy montage is killing.

8:18 -- As I suspected, Bad Movie Club is going to be way more productive than me tonight, and Jason is doing what he said he would -- listing movies in which you can see presenters and nominees naked. He's a national treasure, he is.

8:19 -- Best Supporting Actor. Jake Gyllenhaal has to win this award. Anything else would be absurd. Drumroll... Clooney. Good lord. This could be a long night. Although, it sounds like they've started the music to boot him off the stage before he's even started his acceptance speech. So that's pretty good.

8:22 -- Clooney's been gracious and funny. Now he's turning political. Pass the Maalox.

8:26 -- Personally, I like when hosts beat a dead horse all night (I even liked Letterman's Oprah-Uma deal), and if Stewart's is going to be how Clooney gets laid more than he does, I'm all for that.

8:29 -- Hey, didn't they used to start the show with Supporting Actress rather than Actor? What's going on? And is this a gain or a setback for feminism? Discuss.

8:31 -- Ben Stiller's shtick as a presenter is almost a perfect microcosm of his last 20 movies: Funny for 30 seconds, then incredibly painful. (Oh, the award he presented is some technical thing that King Kong wins. A few stone-faced middle-aged nerds take the stage to accept.)

8:34 -- In accepting the award for Wallace & Grommit for Best Animated Feature, Nick Park gives a shout-out to Helena Bonham Carter, who was a voice in the movie. He just defeated her husband, Tim Burton, in the category. (Burton was up for Corpse Bride.) I think this might set up the first brawl at the Governors' Ball later tonight, if either of them seemed capable of throwing a punch.

8:37 -- Does it strike anyone else as odd that Dolly Parton is singing the song nominated from a movie about a woman who becomes a man, accompanied on stage only by her national-monument breasts? Also, the song seems to be composed of pleas to God and Jesus, punctuated by several series of "ooo wee ooo"s.

8:46 -- Celebrated playwright Martin McDonagh wins for a short-form film. There's an article about him in this week's New Yorker, but it's not available online. So I can't be as usefully interactive as I'd like.

8:50 -- Really, they're starting the background music as soon as winners get on stage. Ignoring the Tom Hanks joke about it earlier, I'm curious to see how they'll mark the moment when people should wrap it up. I'm hoping the quiet orchestration gives way to an auditorium-rattling "Back in Black."

8:51 -- Jennifer Aniston comes out to present for Best Costumes. That's the kind of demotion you get when you make lame movies based on something sacred like The Graduate. I used to love her so.

OK, fine. I still do.

8:52 -- Oy, this costumes woman can't speak. Where's the AC/DC, people?!

8:56 -- They're showing a montage of famous people, and actors who have played them on screen. It's not fair to just spring Lou Gehrig's "luckiest man" moment on me like that. A guy's got to be prepared.

9:00 -- The latest Star Wars movie (The Revenge of Indifference, or something) is up for a make-up award. This movie can't be honored in any way, can it? Drumroll... no, thank God. Chronicles of Narnia wins it.

9:03 -- Stewart makes fun of Russell Crowe. Then he acknowledges it will get him "pummeled later tonight," so I don't have to.

9:04 -- Wow. In introducing Rachel McAdams, Stewart makes a subtle joke about her recent refusal to appear on Vanity Fair's cover in the nude. Media nerds (aka, Gawker fans) must be excited. McAdams is beautiful, but boy, off screen she seems to have the charisma of bowling shoes.

9:06 -- Ah, Best Supporting Actress, my first strong opinion. Oh, wait, my second. Amy Adams, please. Though Michelle Williams was really great in Brokeback. Drumroll... (Wait, Frances McDormand looks nervous, as if she has a chance to win for North Country. That's cute. Oh, and Rachel Weisz is obsession-worthy.) Ok, drumroll... Rachel wins. She was good, she was. But still. See Junebug, if you haven't. Adams is great in it.

9:09 -- I'm not retracting my "obsession-worthy" comment about Weisz even though she just described someone as "brimming over with humanity." That's saying something.

9:14 -- I was about to make a crude joke about Lauren Bacall, but now she's having trouble (a lot of it, it seems) reading her lines, so I'll abstain. I've also hit the mute button, because it's too painful to hear. I'm listening to "Homeward" by The Sundays instead.

9:19 -- This series of fake attack ads by Best Actress campaigns is awesome. A touch of the Daily Show during the Oscars -- thank you, Mr. Stewart.

9:21 -- I'm with Jason at the Bad Movie Club, who earlier tonight suggested that theaters show these decorated short films (documentary and fiction) before features, in place of mind-numbing commercials. But it's WAY too good an idea to take hold in that industry.

9:23 -- Charlize Theron just asked, "What is truth? What is fiction? What is memoir?" and pronounced memoir, "mem-wah." She sounded like the priest from The Princess Bride. She's introducing Best Documentary. Grizzly Man was robbed out of a nomination. Penguins has to win, right? It does. The crew takes the stage holding stuffed penguins, and then tries to make a serious statement about preserving Antarctica. Choose one, guys.

9:26 -- J. Lo's description of Crash before its nominated song is performed perfectly capsulizes what was facile and annoying about the movie. Good job, J. Lo.

And this song. Eek. Between this and Parton's number, the category isn't wowing me. It's being sung by a woman who looks familiar. I need to do some quick research...

Ah, it's actress Kathleen York, but she sings under the name Bird York. I'm not kidding. Here's an excerpt from an online interview with her:
Music can be a less linear expression than film, though, depending on the part. The stranger the character or role, the better, and the more I find that I can get very creative expressing what I see as the "human condition." I have found that a lot of directors, and especially TV producers, want non-threatening versions of people, especially the female characters. I personally think that everyone is crazy, in one way or another (I actually have a new song called "Everybody's Crazy")...Anyway, I love any form of communication. I could be making a mosaic out of salt and pepper and paper napkin pieces on a restaurant table, and it could compete with the feeling of expressing a character or writing a piece of music. I don't see any separation in the forms of communication. It's all my heart hurling itself through the third dimension.
Kathleen "Bird" York, ladies and gentlemen.

9:35 -- I think Keanu Reeves is going to look really creepy as an old man. Just a passing thought.

9:40 -- We're in full self-congratulation mode now, with a weepy montage of scenes from "message movies" -- To Kill a Mockingbird, The Pianist, Born on the Fourth of July, and numerous others. It builds to a liberal-orgiastic crescendo!! And it also includes, much to my delight, a clip from The Day After Tomorrow, a popcorn-fueled cheesefest that involved the glacier ice caps melting and flooding New York City in the span of about 20 minutes. I wish they would include -- and Jason knows what I'm about to say -- a clip from Volcano, a movie in which Tommy Lee Jones and others stop the flow of volcanic lava through downtown L.A. by knocking down skyscrapers and leaving their wreckage in its path. By far the best asinine plot twist I've ever seen from Hollywood.

Awesome. Stewart caps the montage with: "And none of those issues was ever a problem again." I'm giving him an A so far, especially given the nature of the task.

9:48 -- Salma Hayek just seems to get hotter and hotter, and less and less proficient in English. It's a remarkable trajectory to witness.

9:51 -- Best Score, and John Williams is up for two of them. I'm just saying. But really, I think Brokeback deserves this. And it gets it.

10:03 -- It's past 10 o'clock, and we're only up to "Sound Mixing"? I need to work in the morning, people.

10:04 -- Jessica Alba just pronounced "memoir" the same way Theron did. What the hell is going on? Can someone please make an announcement to the crowd that the R at the end is not silent?

10:08 -- Quick note to my mother, if she's reading this: Mom, don't visit Jason's site. Please.

10:08 -- It's almost impossible to tell if Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin are: a) performing a complicated written comedy bit, or b) coked up to their eyeballs.

10:10 -- They're honoring Robert Altman. I haven't seen it in years, but I remember thinking The Player was one of the most over-rated movies I've ever seen. I've liked some of the rest of his stuff, though I Netflix-ed McCabe and Mrs. Miller recently, and thought it was a snoozefest. I write these criticisms as everyone at the Oscars gives him a standing O. The power of the blog!

10:22 -- Thousands of bloggers worldwide just simultaneously discovered that there's nothing to add about the performance of "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" on the Oscars.

10:30 -- Jennifer Garner nearly trips on her way to the mic. Does it make her less adorable? No. No, it does not.

10:31 -- King Kong wins for Sound Editing, and I think we're almost done with all but the major awards. One hopes. One desperately, desperately hopes.

10:32 -- Clooney's introducing the "In Memoriam" montage. This is always good. Mr. Miyagi...I'm welling up already. They end with Richard Pryor. Nice.

10:42 -- Jon Stewart is awesome.

10:43 -- I take it back about getting to serious awards. We're on Film Editing. Crash seems like a lock here, to me. (Weak) drumroll... Yep. Crash. Hmm, might this thing actually win Best Picture? So far, no real Brokeback momentum. More on my feelings about this movie (Crash) later.

10:46 -- Wow. Best Actor. Snuck up on me, as much as something can sneak up on me over the course of three hours. Hoffman was so, so good in Capote, but I've talked myself into rooting for Ledger. I'm sure in vain. Drumroll... Hoffman. Predictable, and he was great. I can't complain. Too bad for Ledger, though, who would have won in another year, I think. (No one really talked about Joaquin Phoenix in this category, but he was phenomenal.)

10:52 -- Going to commercial, they just announced that John Travolta and Jamie Foxx are "standing by" to appear. That would normally be my cue to "run for the hills," but I can't miss the big awards. How many entertainers have outworn their welcome faster than Foxx? Have you seen his music video? Egad. I knew I was conflicted about getting cable for a reason.

10:57 -- Cinematography absolutely has to go to Brokeback. Nope. Memoirs of a Geisha. I have a bad feeling about Brokeback's chances for the big prize. Maybe a big surprise win by Capote?

The cinematographer winner just thanked his son, Axl. Must be a big G n' R fan.

10:59 -- Best Actress, presented by Mr. Foxx. It's easy to make fun of Keira Knightley, but I've heard she's actually really good in P&P. (Don't get mad, LFW.) Plus, she's flat-out gorgeous. I don't like Felicity Huffman, even though she was on the great, short-lived TV show, Sports Night. I think Reese wins this one, deservingly. Drumroll... She does.

She's very pretty, but that is the weirdest dent in the middle of her forehead. OK, that's an unfair thing to focus on at this moment. I'll focus instead on her bizarre insistence in her speech that June Carter was "a real woman" -- is this a dig at Felicity Huffman's character?

She profusely thanks Joaquin, which is nice. Then she thanks her husband, the B-team player in the marriage, Ryan Phillippe.

Oh, God. Now she's really prattling on about "trying to matter." Reese, you were great in the movie, now get off the stage.

11:08 -- While we're at commercial, just a thought about Crash. I'm not too worried that it will win Best Picture, because Matt Dillon didn't win (and if it wasn't going to be Gyllenhaal, it might as well have been Dillon). I'm actually starting to think it might be Capote. Anyway, the problem I had with Crash -- which I've probably written about before on this site --

(Interjection, sorry -- almost no one annoys me more, off screen, than Dustin Hoffman. What an insufferable jackass.)

-- my problem with Crash is not that it's a self-satisfied, pious piece of racial manipulation (though it is, at times), because I actually enjoyed watching it. But in the end, it's hard to swallow the ridiculously contrived coincidences that the filmmaker, Paul Haggis, relies on to push that piety. The performances were great, and the cinematography was impressive, but the total result was just too silly too often.

11:13 -- Brokeback wins Best Adapted Screenplay. If it hadn't won that, it would not only have been denied Best Picture, its nomination might have been rescinded.

11:16 -- Crash wins for Best Original Screenplay Full of Contrivances. There's still real drama building here for Best Picture. I suppose Best Director might tip the Academy's hand. That's up next.

11:22 -- Best Director. Drumroll... Ang Lee. Whew. That's a good sign. The guy's a genius, despite how he butchered my favorite comic book with The Hulk.

11:24 -- OK, they're bringing out the big guns for Best Picture -- Jack Nicholson. Drumroll... Oh, dear. Crash. I think that will look quite silly 10 years from now. But that's so often true of the Oscars, which somehow suck me into caring every year, despite their inherent absurdity. Oh, well -- Crash wasn't a terrible movie, but it was a deeply flawed and overly ambitious one, and I suppose there are worse things. Plus, now Dezmond can smugly crow in the comments section. Congrats, Dezmond -- you've been vindicated by the same group of people who honored Titanic.

I think that's a wrap. Stewart -- who, along with his Daily Show colleagues, was great -- will come back and say goodnight. He should do this every year, without doubt. Me, I'm not sure. I hope there were a few enjoyable nuggets for you. See you again tomorrow with regular blogging -- less real-time, but just as inconsequential.

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12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

omg this reminds me of a lit prof i had who said he kept a stack of blank notecards next to his tv and couldn't get through an episode of seinfeld without scribbling on hundreds of them. he eventually had a nervous breakdown during a lecture and had to take some time off. his breakdown was notable for the fact that he is said to have removed his wristwatch and thrown it out the open door of the lecture hall.

8:57 AM  
Blogger JMW said...

If I wore a wristwatch, the signs might be clearer.

11:44 AM  
Blogger Dezmond said...

Great running commentary. I am usually interested in the actual races, so from that perspective, I thought this year was better than most. Since there was no "Titanic" to dominate everything, you had some real suspense in some of these races.

The telecast was typical highs and lows. I really like Clooney, even though I usually get irritated with Hollywood types trying to tell me how to view politics. One of the reasons I usually don't mind him is that in the past, he also mentions how silly it is for stars to be discussing politics (and then discusses them, but at least he is self-aware). But last night, is acceptance speech really was annoying. If not for Hollywood and the academy, we would have never progressed with race relations, etc. Whatever, dude.

Lauren Bacall...that was painful to watch.

Why wasn't Don Knotts in the In Memorium? I guess they cut it off before last week, and he'll be included next year?

Jon Stewart: definitely gets an "A" for his hosting job. The best in years. Just the right amount of outsider sarcasm (key moment: after the self-congratulatory montage is "message" movies, he says "And those issues are no longer problems". Very funny, especially after Clooney's speech).

Crash vs. Brokeback. I liked both films a lot, but I was glad to see Crash take it. I don't deny it has problems. But the situations are necessarily contrived to get the points across. I liked how it confronted some stereotypes, acknowledged that there are validity in many stereotypes, but also showed the complexities underneath them. I liked how it showed racism and stereotypes amongst many different groups towards different groups vs. the typical depiction of whites being racists towards minorities. If you have worked amongst groups different than yourself (I have, when I taught high school for a couple of years), you realize that white folks aren't the only group of people with pre-concieved notions about "others". I though Crash showed that more effectively than most other films. Terence Howard's whole storyline/dilemma really was strong, I thought.

I saw it with some friends (one black, another who works in real estate and is a landlord and deals with many tenants of different backgrounds), and we had one of the best post-movie conversations I've ever had after walking out of Crash. That alone is worth a lot these days.

So, with its structural flaws and contrivances, those can be forgiven for the attitudes and issues it brings up in effective ways.

I've got a friend (and I've read a critic say the same thing) who reacted very negatively to the Matt Dillon character, how he can molest her and then be redeemed later when he conveniently saves her. Fine, a convenient plot device. But they were offended that it came out that way, almost like since the showed Dillon as an A-hole earlier, it is offensive to show him do something noble later. I liked that. Life, and people, are complicated. I think the same people are capable of both offensive and noble behavior.

More than most movies this year were able to get across.

And yes, "Grizzly Man" was robbed for not even getting nominated!

12:39 PM  
Anonymous lfw said...

It’s probably just bait, but I guess I’m not above taking it. Even the vague suggestion that Crash is as bad a film as Titanic is hugely insulting. Crash, whatever your personal opinion of the result, at least wrestled with really important issues and asked tough questions about class, sex and race. James Cameron just spent an exorbitant amount of money to turn a tragic and inherently dramatic historical event into a trite love story with a really impressive extended action sequence at the end.

I was pleased that Crash won Best Picture because it is the antithesis of a typical Hollywood film in so many ways. (It occurred to me while watching the awards last night that the five nominees for Best Picture were all extremely thougtful films. No escapist entertainment to be found—kind of impressive.)

I don’t want to go into my personal reasons for thinking Crash was a successful film because I wouldn’t purport to change your opinion, which you’re obviously allowed. And this segues nicely into the main point I want to make here. I quite enjoyed Brokeback Mountain, as you know, and I would have been equally satisfied had it won Best Picture. To decide which film I personally liked better—Crash or Brokeback Mountain—seems impossible to me, let alone for the Academy to christen one of them “THE BEST PICTURE OF THE YEAR,” as if that’s something that can be objectively measured. It’s just like your records list, which you appropriately titled “My Favorite Records” and not “The 25 Best Records of All Time.” That would be absurd.

As fun as it is to throw around our opinions about albums, movies, songs, etc., there’s no way to objectively compare them. Art is subjective. (Duh.) This is why I don’t get into the competition aspects of the Oscars. It’s all marketing and politics and silliness. And even if it wasn’t—even if the voting process was as pure and earnest as it could be—it would still just be a group of people voting for their preferences. Perhaps they should rename the categories “The Academy’s Favorite Performance by an Actor in a Lead Role” and so on. Can you imagine an annual awards ceremony like the Oscars or the Grammys for a different genre of art: “Best Performance by a Solo Violinist.” “Best Oil Painting.” Please.

No, I just watch for the dresses and to see who makes an ass of themselves.

[Nice point about Gyllenhall nominated in the supporting category. I hadn’t realized the oddness of that until you pointed it out.]

[If it’s not clear to you that Streep and Tomlin are geniuses and stand out among the rest of the pretty people who can barely read two sentences of easy copy off the teleprompter, let alone execute a complicated and extended double-act with such finesse, you’re crazy! But of course, that’s just my subjective opinion.]

2:00 PM  
Blogger Dezmond said...

I believe all art can be objectively measured and categorized. It is my life's work. All things can be reduced to a list.

2:25 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

I made that comment about Streep and Tomlin because I wasn't paying a lot of attention to what they were doing. But I've read elsewhere that it was kind of brilliant. So... fair enough.

2:54 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

By the by, unlike the clinically insane Dezmond, I don't believe art can be judged objectively with perfection. But come on, LFW, if someone tried to tell you that Keira Knightly was a brilliant actress, and that you couldn't rebut that because it was an opinion, and therefore as valid as any that you have, your head would explode. Personally, when I compare Brokeback and Crash, one is a very fully realized, efficiently crafted, honest-to-itself piece of work, while the other is a sprawling, faux-earnest testament to a view of race relations that could be held by anyone with an eighth of a brain in his or her head. (And of course, the big problem isn't just with the race relations, which, OK, are "provocative." It's with the movie's ridiculous view of itself as a work about how people are "so alienated that they literally have to crash into each other for human contact" -- I'm paraphrasing, but very similar things were said in the movie's promotional materials -- and how that plays itself out in the movie. And in a word, that's goofy.) Also, the Crash guy wrote the script for Million Dollar Baby, which I found fairly abominable. (More on that later.) But listen: in full confessional mode, I'm not sure I didn't enjoy my two hours watching Crash more than my two hours watching Brokeback on some level. But only in the same way I might "enjoy" a radio single, at any given moment, more than the Brandenburg Concertos.

3:09 PM  
Blogger helen_boyd said...

you got the transamerica transperson backward: felicity huffman played a person raised male whose target gender was female.

that's tranny PC speech for - a man who became a woman.

dolly parton's boobs are fake. as is her hair. but she jokes about it, which i find pretty funny. & both she & felicity huffman have been quite nice about saying decent things about trans folks.

yeah, if this isn't the most predictable comment i've ever made in anyone's blog... oy.

2:13 AM  
Anonymous lfw said...

[I tried to post this yesterday, but the blogspot server was screwed up for a long while.]

Of course some opinions are more easily defended--you won't find many people who would call J-Lo a better actress than Meryl Streep. (And if you do find someone, please don't tell me. The world is a dark enough place already.)

The problem arises when you try to compare actors or films as they get closer together in quality. You can't just have a long ladder, with Streep (just for this example's sake) on the top rung, Judi Dench one below, then Laura Linney one below that, and all the way down to Keira Knightley at the very bottom (not just for this example's sake, but as the universal truth that it is.) It doesn't work that way. Not everyone can be ranked like in a tennis tournament. (Sorry, Ray.)

Five actors are nominated for five unique performances, and they can't be measured against each other in order for one to be deemed 'The Best'. It's absurd. Yes, The Godfather is a better film than The Burbs. But which is the better film - Annie Hall or The Godfather? Why should that even be a question? Do you see what I'm saying? Apples and oranges.

11:36 AM  
Blogger JMW said...

Well said, LFW, and I agree completely. The thing is, we just disagree about where Crash and Brokeback are on your metaphorical (and useful) ladder. I don't think they're on rungs close enough to make it an example of apples and oranges. That's all.

11:49 AM  
Blogger Dezmond said...

'The Godfather'.

10:59 PM  
Blogger JMW said...

Helen, apologies.

Dezmond, very funny.

12:19 AM  

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