Tuesday, February 26, 2013

85th Academy Awards: A Review

Boob Meets Tube

Seth and Destroy

What do we have to remember from the 85th Annual Academy Awards? Neither the disaster or snooze-fest predicted, we had genuinely shocking wins, predictable moments, and at least for one winner, a most unexpected trip.

I went 15 out of 24, which is remarkably good for me.   Quick discussion of my predictions and outcomes before we tackle the show itself.  Red indicates inaccurate predictions with correct winners noted.

ACTOR: Daniel Day-Lewis (Lincoln)
ACTRESS: Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook)
SUPPORTING ACTOR: Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln(Christoph Waltz: Django Unchained)
SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables)
DIRECTOR: Steven Spielberg (Lincoln) (Ang Lee: Life of Pi)
ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) (Chris Terrio: Argo)
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Michael Haneke (Amour)
(Quentin Tarantino: Django Unchained
DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: How to Survive a Plague (Searching for Sugar Man)
ANIMATED FEATURE: Wreck-It-Ralph (Brave)
MAKEUP: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Les Misérables)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Anna Karenina (Lincoln)
SOUND MIXING: Les Misérables
SOUND EDITING: Zero Dark Thirty * (Tie with Skyfall)
ORIGINAL SONG: Skyfall (Skyfall)

Some were not big surprises.  Lee's win wasn't totally unexpected (and would have been my choice).  Searching for Sugar Man is a rare time the Academy went for a positive film rather than the "America is to blame for everything" advocacy film they favor (Bowling for Columbine, An Inconvenient Truth).  Some, however, were genuine stunners.

The Academy goes Deutsch...
Best Supporting Actor was the first award presented, and of the five nominees, Christoph Waltz was always at or near the bottom of choices to win.  Thus when his name was announced it was a shocking moment.  In how things can change quickly from nomination to win, Argo's Chris Terrio and Django Unchained's Quentin Tarantino's went from "not gonna happen" to "it just happened".  Back on Nomination Day, both Lincoln's Tony Kushner and Zero Dark Thirty's Mark Boal were practically assured victories.   Nothing like a little controversy to shift momentum away from you.

My biggest non-Skyfall disappointment was Brave's win for Best Animated Feature.  I thought it pretty-looking but a weak film with a rather unpleasant main character, always whining and treating her parents badly.  I still hold that Wreck-It-Ralph was the best of the five nominated and find its loss puzzling.

From Abduction to Absolution...


My biggest joy was with Shawn Christensen's win for Best Live-Action Short Film for Curfew. I now fully forgive you from your sin of writing Abduction, so let us never speak of it again. It just proves my theory that if people are exposed to these films (Animated, Live-Action, and Documentary Shorts) people would discover a breath of quality work that puts bigger-budgeted films to shame.

Most of the other wins were predetermined.  When it came to Daniel Day-Lewis' inevitable third Best Actor Oscar (a new record), I'm not sure presenter Meryl Streep even bothered to open the envelope.  For those who know how I detest Skyfall, I'll get to it in a bit.  However, I've digressed enough, so let us now look over the show.

When you get the mind behind Family Guy to host, you have only yourself to blame that said host decided to write a Family Guy Oscar Special rather than for the Academy Awards.  Seth MacFarlane started out all right (the Tommy Lee Jones joke went over well), but it took only five minutes for things to turn ugly.  MacFarlane made a Rihanna/Chris Brown joke apparently making light of the assault she suffered at his hands that wasn't funny, and then it all pretty much went downhill from there.

You need...color...ful...metaphors...for the...show...

William Shatner's appearance as Captain James T. Kirk was...odd.  My friend Raoul, who was watching with me at the extremely sparsely-attended Oscar Party of mine (and who is an unapologetic Trekkie...he calls himself that) asked why didn't they go with Chris Pine instead of Shatner.  It would have made more sense to promote Star Trek Into Darkness than subject us all to a long and boring schtick that seems to reveal that despite his swagger and crassness Seth MacFarlane appears to be a highly insecure man, desperate for approval.  Why else build a whole routine about how bad your reviews were going to be...unless you saw the material (Flight with sock puppets, a song about boobs) and knew it was going to bomb. 

Good Grief that Boob Song.  While I enjoyed his takedown of Kate Winslet (an actress who is remarkably haughty and imagines herself a grande dame of the screen despite going topless more often than your average stripper), the song appeared to come from a Family Guy episode rather than the Academy Awards.  If the godless MacFarlane had any guts, he would have sung it straight AT the audience rather than hide behind the "this is from the future" gimmick, then cut to said actresses reaction to the lyrics.  It was clear Naomi Watts, Jennifer Lawrence (J-Law to me) and Charlize Theron were in on the joke, but I wonder what Streep, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Helen Hunt, Scarlett Johannsen and the rest thought of being so publicly mocked for their choices.  Some, like Hunt, were not gratuitous (she does play a sex surrogate), and some, like Johannsen, were unintended.  MacFarlane laughing at ScarJo being hacked and having the pictures meant for her then-husband Ryan Reynolds put out for the world to see was in retrospect especially low.  

The BIG question about the Boob Song is, given that he was backed up by the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, what exactly do gay men know about women's breasts and why should they care about them?  Wouldn't they get more excited about Channing Tatum's nipples than Anne Hathaway's?  

Speaking of...The Way You Look Tonight has never been made so redundant.  What was the point of this song-and-dance (except for MacFarlane to showcase his own singing)? 

And Tatum, even while dancing, still looks like an imbecile who needs cue cards to know which foot to use.

On and on it went, culminating in the FOURTH musical numbers in the first twenty minutes (or one every five minutes) with Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Daniel Radcliffe joining in the 'fun'.  While Radcliffe is no stranger to musicals (he did great in a Broadway revival How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying) and Gordon-Levitt can do anything (if ever I had a man-crush...), again, it's taking up far too much time.

Some of his jokes bombed even worse.  When he cracked about Lincoln, "I would argue that the actor who really got into Lincoln's head was John Wilkes Booth," he was met with a surprisingly loud number of groans amid the silence.

Somehow, quips about assassinating Presidents just don't get the laughs one expects.

Another crack about Zero Dark Thirty's female heroine also fell flat. 

He just couldn't find a balance between being edgy and being audience-appropriate.  MacFarlane wanted to laugh at the audiences and at the same time please them. 

There were also skits that bombed.  Spoofing The Sound of Music was already bad enough (not because it's a sacred film, but because it wasn't funny), but having it come right after his animated character Ted's Jewish jokes (meeting at a 'secret synagogue') just seemed a coda of bad taste.  

What else sank the show?  How about a lengthy tribute to current-day musicals?  It was all right to feature Les Misérables (seeing as it was a nominee), but the All That Jazz and the And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going numbers from Chicago and Dreamgirls respectively seemed to come from another show altogether.

Will you join in our crusade for Oscar gold?

The Miz Medley had some good things (Eddie Redmayne proves to be a shockingly good singer, and anyone with proper hearing can tell Samantha Banks sings better than Anne Hathaway and should be a star).  Hearing Russell Crowe briefly was also good, so I guess that should be a highlight too (if only because we were spared Crowe's growl).  The bad thing is that we got only a brief clip of Suddenly, the Oscar-nominated song, rather than hearing the whole thing.    

I may be taller than Mark Ruffalo & Jeremy Renner,
and I'm 5'8".

Few presenters seemed like they were having a good time.  Paul Rudd & Melissa McCarthy were made to look unfunny (well, sometimes they can be, but their Best Animated Short and Feature presentation was embarrassing), and the five Avengers looked confused (which is usually Chris Evans' normal look, but I digress).  It does seem to solidify that Renner might have no real sense of humor.

As we know, some of the winners were already expected, but what they did or wore was not.  At the top of horrifying choices was Anne Hathaway's entire appearance.  First, her Oscar clip consisted of I Dreamed A Dream (verifying my view that her one big showstopping song is the only thing anyone remembers from her performance), but dear God I could not focus on anything other than her nipples.

She showed us her boobs...
In what could only be one of the worse coincidences in Oscar history, Anne Hathaway accepts her Best Supporting Actress Oscar in a dress where her nipples were clearly visible after the show opens with a song about women (including Hathaway) bearing their breasts.  I had to rewatch her acceptance speech because frankly I kept focusing on the indentations her nipples were leaving on her gown.  

I'm sorry, Annie, but I couldn't focus on how one song got you an Oscar.  I was too focused on your nipples. 

Congratulations, QT. You get an Oscar
for writing "ni---r" 112 times...

In terms of biggest disappointment, it has to be the much-vaunted James Bond 50th Anniversary tribute.  It was the epitome of the bad clip reel, with nothing that spoke of what has made the James Bond series so popular and in some cases, so good.  No mention of Nobody Does It Better or For Your Eyes Only, or the glories that are the Bond Girls (where was Pussy or Honey Rider or Tiffany Case or Xenia Onatopp) or those great Villains like Blofeld or Goldfinger.  If you can't find room in a Bond tribute for Rosa Klebb's shoe-blade, you can't call yourself a respectable James Bond Tribute.

Adele, let me show you what a
REAL Bond Song sounds like.

However, it lead to one of the three highlights of the evening.  76-year-old Dame Shirley Bassey emerged at the end of the Bond Clip Reel to belt out her signature song (and damn the other critics, the BEST Bond Song Ever), Goldfinger (sorry, Adele, but to quote your song, when it comes between you and Shirley Bassey, you're "a million miles and poles apart").

Granted, we can't expect a 76-year-old to have the force she had almost half a century ago.  However, for her age she is remarkable, and that last note puts Miss Adkins' bombastic warbling to shame.  It is also curious that the producers didn't go for the obvious segway from the Bond Clip Reel to having Adele sing Skyfall.  After all, isn't Skyfall suppose to be the Greatest Song Ever Written in the History of Mankind (how can Skyfall be mentioned in the same breath as those crappy, forgettable winners like Over The Rainbow or White Christmas)?  I am the only one who thinks Skyfall is The Funeral Theme for The Dark Bond Rises, but I'm left scratching my head.  Here, at what is suppose to be this great tribute to 007, no one picked the "greatest Bond Theme in history".  Instead, they went with the never-nominated Goldfinger

Curious that.  

However, I am convinced that despite what my brother critics say, it's Goldfinger, it's For Your Eyes Only, it's Live and Let Die, it's Nobody Does It Better from The Spy Who Loved Me, and probably A View to A Kill that will be remembered as definitive Bond Themes fifty years from now, not Skyfall.   Five years, ten years, twenty-five years hence, people will still be able to hum or sing all those songs but won't be able to recall a note from Skyfall.    

People will remember my song like they remember
Sweet Leilani and It Goes Like It Goes!

Speaking of Skyfall, I hope now that people have heard it, they realize what a boring song it is.  Again, to her credit she kept the bombast she can devour a song with to a minimum, but the general consensus I heard from my co-workers was "boring" and "nowhere near the best Bond Song".   This Funeral Theme to The Dark Bond Rises has lousy lyrics and is melodically sleep-inducing.  "Skyfall is where we start".  What does that mean?

I think that in my defense, I might not hate it so much if it weren't being so fanatically promoted as The BEST Bond Song Ever...or perhaps as the Best Best Original Song Ever Written.  Having heard it again, her performance was pretty bad: I thought she struggled to sing at all, at one point even looking pretty bored.  Note she got no standing ovation, unlike Dame Shirley Bassey. 

Coincidence?  I Think Not.   

Nobody Did It Better.
Thanks, Marv.
The second highlight of the Oscars was the end of the In Memoriam section.  The fact that my Brother Gabe had no idea who Celeste Holm was is a failure on my part.  The fact he had no idea who Adam Yauch was is a failure on his.  The comments I heard was that Larry Hagman was left out, but I was surprised that Ann Rutherford, star from the Andy Hardy films and one of the last surviving castmembers of Gone With the Wind, was left out. 

The last name mentioned was the much-missed Marvin Hamlisch, and at the end Barbra Streisand emerged to sing a beautiful version of The Way We Were.  I'm not a fan of Babs, but it was something that Seth MacFarlane lacked during his entire performance: a touch of class.  Hamlisch was truly one of the greats, and having him sung into history with one of the most beautiful love songs is a fitting tribute.  Even at 70, Streisand still has A Voice. 

How interesting that the 70-year-old Barbra Streisand and 76-year-old Shirley Bassey received standing ovations for their performances, but 24-year-old Adele Adkins didn't.  How interesting that two women old enough to be her grandmother could outsing our Cockney chanteuse.

This one's for La Raza!
The third best moment was Ben Affleck's acceptance speech for Best Picture (well-deserved in my view).  He already had earned points when he shot back at MacFarlane's snide comments at Affleck's expense.  "I thought the show's been going pretty well, but maybe you'll turn that around," Affleck quipped before presenting Best Documentary Feature.  However, Affleck was fully aware of how his fortunes had turned.  A few years ago, he was written off, compared (always unfavorably) to his Good Will Hunting writing partner Matt Damon (let us not forget Family Guy had ridiculed Affleck, suggesting Damon did all the work and Affleck's only contribution to the GWH script was a fart in between pot use).   While Damon was winning praise for such films as The Talented Mr. Ripley and the Bourne films, Affleck was floundering in such things as Daredevil, The Sum of All Fears, and Gigli, lost in a sea of tabloid excess with Bennifer.  Now, he'd gone from a perennial Razzie nominee to an Oscar winner.

"You have to work harder than you think you possibly can.  Can't hold grudges...and it doesn't matter how you get knocked down in life, cause that's gonna happen. All that matters is that you gotta get up".  

Affleck's speech was humble and gracious.  I have never been a fan of Ben Affleck.  I think he's a second-rate actor.  I also HIGHLY criticize his decision to cast himself as a Hispanic in Argo.  Having said all that, I respect him as a filmmaker, and my opinion of him has gone up considerably...not that he cares, but it has.

He deserved to win. 

Well, that's the long-winded review for the 85th Annual Academy Awards.  It was fun while it lasted, but I suspect that somewhere, James Franco and Snow White are waiting for an apology...

This pretty much sums up the 85th Annual Academy Awards...

What's all this rubbish about
"liberal Hollywood"?
No Les Misérables life for Lady O.
As for the rest of us...
Wonder what Madame Obama thought of Django Unchained...

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