Monday, March 06, 2006

Oscar Observations

Nice little Oscar get-together at Jess and Andrew's house last night. A fun time was had by all.

Jon Stewart was a hoot - least I thought so. The audience only seemed to really be giving him the "polite laughter" treatment, and probably found some of his cracks hit a little too close to the mark. While commenting on the number of remakes this year, Stewart mentioned "War of the Worlds, King Kong, Walk The Line....Ray with white people." When they cut to Joaquin Phoenix's facel, he didn't look pleased at all.

Given that most of the nominees this year were for independant pictures that most people still haven't seen unless they've got an art house theater close to them, they tried to bridge the gap a little by having most of the awards presented by women who had been the cover of Maxim, and men who had starred in high-grossing pull-my-finger comedies: Jessica Alba, Jennifer Aniston, Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, etc. One of the high points of the evening was seeing the Wilson Brothers walk onstage and namedrop Bottle Rocket before they presented the award for Best Short Film.

Lots of montages - could have done with less montages. There was a montage of noir clips, biopic clips, gay cowboy clips (although I gotta admit, historically speaking, Red River lays claim to being the first gay western in history), and a themeless array of snippets from "classic" movies with a reminder from the President of the Academey of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to get off our asses and go see movies on the big screen. Thanks a lot, dude. Maybe if a remastered print of Ben Hur was playing at my local cineplex instead of The Last Holiday, I might.

Phillip Seymor Hoffman got Best Actor for Capote. I wasn't wild about the film, but it was a very well-crafted and admirable little picture that I can definatley respect. While I'd have been happier to see Ledger or Strathairn win, Hoffman's award seems to be more for a terrific and highly under-appreciated body of work over the past decade, which is great by me.

King Kong got its much-deserved Best Visual Effects award, as well as Sound Mixing and Soudn Editing. I'm certainly glad to see this happen, but a little dismayed that I will not get to watch a video of my esteemed colleague Mr. Jules "Kojiro Abe" Cazzorra eat his shoe, as he said he would if Kong walked away empty handed.

Land of the Dead undoubtedly has better makeup than Chronicles of Narnia, but as it happens, most of the respectable members of the Academy just aren't that keen on horror films. Whatever floats their boat. Memoirs of a Geisha, got three wins for Cinematography, Art Direction and Costume Design. I didn't see it. From the clips they showed, it looked pretty beautiful, but was it The New World beautiful? It looked like a big budget adaptation of The Mikado to me.

George Clooney got Best Supporting Actor for Syriana. I can't tell you how much I love this guy. Even if he wasn't so admirably outspoken about his politics and had been in some great movies to boot, he's got more of that Old Hollywood Clark Gableish/Cary Grantian charm than a thousand pretty-faced boys today. What a cool guy.

A lot of things which I pretty much expected to happen happened. Some I was very happy about, such as Ang Lee's Best Director win and Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit getting Best Animated Feature. Some others I was less pleased about - I found the not-even-nominated Grizzly Man and Ballet Russes to be far better documentaries than March of the Penguins, but what're you gonna do? And while we're on that subjetct...

Reese Witherspoon took home the Best Actress award for her June Carter impersonation, gushing, crying, stammering and yammering as she accepted her award before clearing the stage. There was never a single doubt in my mind that she wouldn't, because, as was the case with Jamie Foxx, the Oscars love young kids who try their hand at Serious Acting after years of making movies like Booty Call and Sweet Home Alabama. It's like awarding a baby for taking a crap his potty instead of in his diaper. I don't really care; to tell the truth, I'm pretty indifferent to all the Best Actress nominees. Most of them are pretty girls who up and starred in a Miramax costume drama, and Judi Dench seemed to squeak by exclusively on the being Judi Dench. I'd rather have seen either Michelle Williams or Naomi Watts get the award, but one was nominated for the wrong category and the other wasn't nominated at all.

Best Moment of the Whole Eveing: Robert Altman's Honorary Oscar speech. I know some people consider it something of a gyp and/or an ass-covering attempt to give out Honorary Oscars, but I think it's actually quite sweet. Better to award a frequently neglected great filmmaker for his body of work than for a mediocre later movie, and I hope Scorsese gets one too. Altman's likening filmmaking to building a sand castle - you get all your friends down to the beach, you build a beautiful structure, and then you sit back, and let the tide take it away and do what they will with it - was so beautiful I came close to tears. I also really liked his final comment about having 40 more years in him due to his heart transplant. What a guy.

As predicted, Munich, the real best movie of the year, didn't even win so much as a stuffed panda. They cut to Speilberg in the audience a bunch of times and the poor guy just looked like he wanted to go home and put his feet up. The general Academy Attitute towards him seems to be that he made Schindler's List, his big, prestigious, "something to say" film, and now he's only good for making popcorn flicks for mass summertime consumption, which anyone who's seen Munich can tell you is definatley not true. I'm not worried, though, because I think in 10 to 20 years, Munich will have endured as a true classic, whereas Crash........oh yeah....Crash.

Crash won Best Picture, which I've got to say, really surprised me. No, I haven't seen it yet - I've heard hugely mixed things from equally intelligent people - but I was certain it would go to Brokeback Mountain. The only explainations I can think of are that everyone who was in Crashvoted for it and told their friends to vote for it too, or, maybe Hollywood isn't quite as much of an open-minded, liberal place as some of us might have thought. All I know is, that Jess's cat Elijah came to sit on my lap during Jack Nicholson's intro, and when the winner was announced, both Jess and Drew shouted "NOOOO!" so loud he jumped off my lap and dived out of the room. It's definatley one that people are devided about - Ebert put it at #1 on his list of movies from last year, but both Jess and Andrew and a whole bunch of other people I know have called it the worst Best Picture winner since Cleopatra. At the very least, I'm intrigued to see it just to find out what all the fuss is about.

Good to see that no single film hogged all the awards, and all-in-all, a nice and not hugely surprising evening.


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