God love Tom Shales and this Tweet last night: “For the first time ever the Oscar show is worse than the Red Carpet crap that preceded it.”
For anyone who does not regularly rejoice in the work of the former Washington Post TV critic and Pulitzer Prize winner, he blogs here. For fear of suddenly sounding a whole lot smarter than I have a right to, I haven’t yet read a word of it, beyond his blog headline and this Tweet. Soon as this is posted I plan to luxuriate in Shales’ gentle, dove-like tones, since we seem to have seen the same show.
One of the hundreds of tidbits the Academy chummed to its ravenous readers was an interview with the show’s producers, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (Chicago, The Bucket List, Footloose) who confessed that for years, they’d been dying to stage the Oscars since they’d knew exactly what they’d do, “But no one asked us.”
Then, for better or worse, they were asked.
Let’s go with the best first. The awards themselves, over which they had no control, were wide-ranging and generous (if your name isn’t Steven Spielberg.) It seems almost impossible not to love Ang Lee, people seem to beam in his presence, and he returns the favor. The whole theatre seemed to love his winning Best Director for Life of Pi, a seemingly impossible-to-pull-off, spiritually charged and breathtaking film.
The next most popular favorite, David O. Russell had gathered armloads of awards for Silver Linings Playbook on Saturday, over at whatever they call the Independent Spirit Awards these days, and Jennifer Lawrence was, eventually, on the podium in a dress that was 5′ across, to represent the team, so he could hardly complain.
(Oh, how I would have loved to see and hear Emmanuelle Riva with that Oscar in her hands, but ask yourself how many voting members saw Amour — and how many will rush out to fix that situation after the particular clip they chose to show? Sheesh, guys!)
That left out her co-star, the very good Bradley Cooper, but he could have had no illusions about his chances against Daniel Day-Lewis, and besides, he has The Place Beyond the Pines up his sleeve in March. Oh my! And, as my astute film companion points out, he’s a movie star.
Day-Lewis himself was there to get his due, and to remind us all why you just cannot beat the Brits at acceptance speeches, unless you’re old enough to remember Laurence Olivier’s at the 1978 Oscars — which unfortunately, I do. It is a piece of work, but you be the judge.
Finally — I’m skimming here — there was the Best Picture win for Argo, and the generosity of Ben Affleck’s fellow producers in letting their director have center stage (to the point of co-producer George Clooney’s having no mike time at all. Doubt he’ll brood over it.) It’s worth checking out his speech at YouTube.
The Oscars producers also had a nice way with this year’s Roll of the Dead, which actually included some of the industry’s worker bees in addition to the more high profile names, and gave a hint about what any of them did.
Now: to the horror, the horror, which began with the Zadan/Meron choice as the host. If I seem to be tap dancing around Seth MacFarlane, I am, because revisiting his crude, ugly, witless, racist view of the world is almost as bad as being in it the first time.
An opening number bringing tired old Captain Kirk down to tell Seth how badly his jokes were tanking? Repeatedly? Anyone, at home or in vast Dolbyville could have told him that. A musical number called “We Saw Your Boobs,” a handy list for teenage boys of movies in which an actress’s breasts could be glimpsed. Really?? How old is MacFarlane anyway? Racist date-rape jokes, with Django Unchained as their springboard? Cringe-worthy jokes about not understanding Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayeck, because of their accents?
Who was it, MacFarlane or the Zadan/Merons who thought how hilarious it would be to have presenter Dustin Hoffman paired with Charlize Theron, in her highest heels, and why did Hoffman let them? (Because he’s a class act among the classless, that’s why.)
Enough. This is making my head hurt. No one needs to trudge through sludge more than once.
Here are two unassailably great things to take away from the Oscars — and the Independent Spirit Awards the day before.
One: Indie voters know a wrong when they see it, so even if it meant crushing the supposed front runner, Bradley Cooper’s only chance at an acting award for the weekend (see above), they gave their Best Actor award to John Hawkes’ sublime performance in The Sessions. Way to go, Spirit folks!!
And two: in a sea of froth and trip-inducing Oscar dresses, one smoky silvery gown which seemed to be channeling cinema art itself, was unparalleled. The dress is by Indian designer Naeem Khan, the poise and ebullience are entirely Michelle Obama’s.