Monday, February 23, 2009

Some Thoughts on That Awards Show

Yes, today were the 81st Academy Awards and I am very happy. Oh, sure, the Slumdog Millionaire sweep is ridiculous and utterly absurd, but I'm not as actively annoyed by it as I may have been if the show itself wasn't so well produced. Bill Condon did a bang up job when it came to the way it was set up. The stage and the theatre in general looked great. Wonderful colours and use of space, as opposed to the garish emptiness that usually plague them. The Oscars don't need 50ft tall Oscar statues, revolving staircases to nowhere and so much space it takes five minutes to walk across stage to the microphone. I also liked the way the categories flowed together, using the same people and so on. There was a great rhythm to it that only got lost a few times throughout the show.

And then there is Hugh Jackman, who worked a treat. Thankfully the revolving door of comedians slowed down and they let in a true professional entertainer. I hope the Academy keep this team together for next year's ceremony. Keep Jackman, especially, and turn him into something to rely on when all else looks worrisome. No surprises in the winners? You'll tune in to see Jackman. Worried about a dreaded sweep by a movie you don't like? You'll tune in to see Jackman. He was underused at times, but overall he was great. His opening song and dance routine was great - the part about The Reader was particularly hilarious, "The Reader / I haven't seen The Reader" - and even the sure-to-be-maligned Baz Luhrmann piece half way through was nice. Although the "Dancing Queen" stuff was a bit much. Did anybody even notice the Efron/Hudgins/Seyfried/Cooper stuff on stage?

It was great to FINALLY watch an Oscar telecast that was in love with MODERN movies. I don't mind watching movie montages if they're about the year they're there to celebrate, but we don't need yet another montage of Best Picture winners, nor do we need a montage showing off the numerous ways trees have been utilised in cinema or whatever other wacky theme the producers could come up with. Sure, the animation one was useless - showing Space Chimps and Star Wars: Clone Wars, but not Waltz with Bashir or $9.99? - and the comedy one just proved what a dire year for Hollywood comedy 2008 was. Although I did love the Franco/Rogen pair up laughing at Doubt and The Reader. That was funnier than the depressing sight of The Love Guru and Don't Mess With the Zohan on an Oscar telecast. They had no place being there. Why not just show The Hottie and the Nottie?

In regards to the presenting, they were on to another winner. At first the history of Oscar winners presenting the current winner made me unsure, but by the time the lead categories came around it had clicked and it was actually quite moving. It's nice to see actors really express their love for their craft instead of just reading poorly-scripted auto cues (I'm looking at you Zac Efron and Alicia Keys). I also thought it was quite funny how many references to the lack of people seeing the movies. I counted about five jokes, the best was still the weird spandex-clad Reader dancers in the opening dance number. Nobody had seen the movie to tell them it was about the Holocaust (in general) and not a science fiction gym movie. Brilliant stuff.

My favourite non-award moment was Janusz Kaminski's "Suck it Anthony Dod Mantle!" moment on stage with James Franco and Seth Rogen. I wonder who he voted for? Philippe Petit balancing an Oscar on his chin was great too, although considering the man walked a tightrope between the World Trade Center towers in New York, it was probably a piece o' cake. The worst moment was that dreadful medley of Best Original Song nominees. AR Rahman brutally destroying his own songs, turning them into a ghastly mess. John Legend meanwhile is not fit to even be in the same room as Peter Gabriel let alone sing one of his songs. And that moment at the end where Rahman and Legend just warbled over one another like two cat-fighting divas? Excruciating.

Onto the winners though and... well, I guess I'm happy. Obviously I would have preferred Slumdog Millionaire didn't sweep - it won Picture, Director, Screenplay and five technical categories - but even in those wins there are positives to be found. That a man so instrumental in the success of Dogme '95 has now won a Best Cinematography Oscar is quite hilarious, really. And I just hope that Danny Boyle royally screws with all his new-found fans and makes something like Trainspotting, Shallow Grave or a horror title like 28 Days Later.

Sean Penn really is ridiculously good looking when he scrubs himself up. Really.

The acting wins were all very good though. I'm glad Kate Winslet finally has her Oscar now - and a Lead one at that - and can now just go back to making movies and not have everyone expecting it to be the second coming of Christ. The Heath Ledger moment was beautiful, so glad he won. Also super excited for Academy Award-Winner Penelope Cruz. Excellent stuff there.

I was really glad Sean Penn won, too. As I've said before, I'm not emotionally invested in Mickey Rourke's comeback since I was never around for his initial out of fame. The best speech of the evening, however, went to Penn's Milk writer Dustin Lance Blank. I got choked up, I admit. Emotional and wonderful moment. In fact, I found a lot of the speeches quite fine. Nothing particularly embarrassing and only some of the tech-men from Benjamin Button had boring speeches, which can be excused. I really wish Wall-E had won more than just Best Animated Feature though. That one really stuff. At least it lost Sound Editing to The Dark Knight and not, heaven forbid, Slumdog.

All in all it was a great afternoon watching the awards. Sure, the winners were predictable as hell - I tried for some upsets, alas I failed in all of them - but it was the best show I've seen, probably, since I started watching them. Great energy, great stage, some great winners and a general celebration of cinema in 2008. Case closed.

COMING SOON: When I have time I plan to do a fashion... thing (Angelina as Vampira! That's a biopic I want to see) and predictions for NEXT year's awards. Oh yes. I start early (and then forget them until around January). But who knows when I'll have the time, to be honest.

1 comment:

Dame James Henry said...

"Did anybody even notice the Efron/Hudgins/Seyfried/Cooper stuff on stage?"

No, because BEYONCE made sure it was all about her throughout the entire performance. We'd get a glimpse of the youngsters but then she would do something crazy to draw the attention towards her again. God, I love her!