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Tues Top Ten Pt 1: Takeaways from the 84th Oscars

We love to do top tens on Tuesdays and more of them will be coming your way soon. Today's top ten is not strictly ascending, some of these moments I loved and some I decidedly did not but they're ten things that I'm thinking about today and that I imagine will always come up when I think of the 84th Oscars.

Things to remember, for better and for worse, from the 84th Oscars

10 Direction is Everything With Dance
When I first heard they were doing a Cirque Du Soleil number at the Oscars, I groaned. Not that I don't enjoy the odd acrobatic but why at the Oscars? If you want it to be a variety show, stop being so inexcusably high and mighty about the Original Song category (that music branch and those rules. sigh) and start nominating 5 songs each year like in every other category. There are several songs this year that might have made for great ceremony moments. But when it began with that graceful, hypnotic liftoff via North by Northwest, my spirit lifted off with the twinned Cary Grants And then crashed back down to earth when I realized that the guy in the control booth had ADD and felt it necessary to show me closeups during big elaborately choreographed acrobats, which made for entirely confusing moments. Sometimes you couldn't even tell what film clips they were dancing to.

There's a certain cross-section of film critics that have been so cynical and mean spirited about our Best Picture, The Artist, that you'd think it was directed by Ed Wood, Alan Smithee or Michael Bay. They've been so weirdly hyperbolic about their hatred that it's been hard to actually hear an argument within the bile. But the Cirque Du Soleil number only served to illustrate how wise Michel Hazanavicius was with the physicality of The Artist, especially in its last glorious continuous take moments where you could see (wait for it) ENTIRE BODIES DANCING. This is quite possibly the simplest visual performance concept of all, that to understand / absorb / fully enjoy a dance, you have to see the body. It's such a simple concept that 96% of the (modern) time, directors screw it up. Well done Hazanavicius. Should the Oscars choose to ever have musical numbers again, please hire a control booth with less panicy "ohmygodthey'llgetbored" insecurities. It's hardly ever boring to watch great dancing / acrobatics / performances. It's only boring when you can't see them and are forced again and again to look at one particular detail at the expense of the whole.

09 David Fincher's Oscar Stride
With Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall's semi-surprise win in film editing for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (I predicted it as the "spoiler" should there be one and now of course I wish I'd just gone for it fully) they achieved an Oscar miracle: it's the first back-to-back editing Oscar since 1935/1936 when Ralph Dawson took home prizes for A Midsummer Night's Dream and Anthony Adverse. Baxter and Wall won last year for The Social Network and though they really are superb editors, what this most definitely illustrates (along with the great guild showing for Dragon Tattoo) is that David Fincher has really hit his stride with the Academy. It took them a long time to get there but now that they're there expect every one of his films to win nominations in some category or another. It was hard not to view the clip selection for Rooney Mara as the Academy own cheeky response to Fincher's preemptory quipping about his movie's AMPAS fate.

There's too much anal rape in this movie to get nominated."


08 Leggy Angelina
Angelina has always felt a bit like a cartoon version of a movie star, so overripe, so perfectly visual. The best part is that she knows it. Her strut to standing hip swung leg out pose was so deliciously diva that it must be celebrated (and mocked by the next Oscar winner) immediately thereafter.

07 Movie Stars Talking About Movies Is Love.
King Kong Morgan Freeman talking King Kong. Brad's amusing description of The Gargantuans. Adam Sandler talking James Bond and Sean Connery's chest hair and saying "can i please do that?" (um which part?) And most of all Gabby Sidibe marveling over "My Left Foot" (who knew?) we love this sort of thing.

"Nader & Simin" watching Farhadi accept the Oscar

06 Art is Global. Art is Political. Art is Good For the World.
Asghar Farhadi and cast were present and Iran won its first Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. Farhadi got political in his speech and we're glad he did. Though some of the sentiment was lost in his English, we appreciate any reminder that respectful discourse and rich cultural exchange is possible and admirable, especially in the face of so much lowest common denominator politics. So many politicians these days play on people's worst instincts toward hostility and resentment for all, never thinking through the effects of war mongering rhetoric.

But back to the movies. We hope that A Separation marks a turning point and the category that used to give us the Bergmans and the Fellinis of the world will return to its roots and start giving statues to the masterpieces again. What a great start.

FIVE MORE TO GO - from Jessica to Emma Stone.
But what's your take on these five topics?

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Reader Comments (28)

I hope the #1 spot goes to Emma Stone's and Ben Stiller's hilarious exchange. Emma Stone should win an Emmy for this... and get plum roles in great films for years to come.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

Oops! I forgot... I may be wrong... but am I the only one who found that many of the acceptance speeches were more relaxed, amusing and even a bit tongue in cheek than ever before?

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarcos

I don't get the hate Angelina is getting...she was the baddest bitch in that room and she knew it! Let her work it!

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Movie Stars Talking About Movies Was Love at first, but got more and more annoying. As usual, Hollywood rode a good horse to death.
David Fincher's Oscar Stride should be called "weirdest win of the night". How could it happen? Did they think that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is a work in progress, and was it their way of telling Mr. Wall and Mr. Baxter that this film needs a lot more editing?

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

I absolutely hated the talking heads! It got old really fast. And Cirque du Soleil was nice, but really out of place. Watching it the only thing I could think of was WHY?

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn

The Editing Oscar for TGWTDT is probably the most random win of the last ten years or so. Where did the votes come from? Can't speak of its merits since I haven't seen it, but it had seemingly no support. Usually when 'upsets' happen they are thought to be clearly second in line (Streep, Arkin, Crash etc.).

With this and Hugo's Cinematography win (which wasn't that shocking), it is something of a relief to know that you can still win Oscars without winning any precursors.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRax

I love hearing movie stars talk about their art (!), but not really in this context. Way too much and way too long, especially when you cut stuff elswhere that is way more related to this years Oscars (the songs, the honorary Oscars etc.). Also, the choice of people seemed so random... All that is even more true for the Cirque Du Soleil stuff... I am never really interested in their art, but it made me especially angry because it was there at the expense of the Muppets and others. For me, their dancing and acrobatics doesn't have a lot to do with movies. In a way, one could argue that really the opposite is the case.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPatrick

This year I was sleeping through most of the ceremony, so I don't have a strong opinion on any of these issues but I want to say again how grateful I am for having people like you to make the Oscar tradition even more fun that it is.
And yes, for all the negativity that we experience sometimes, I do think it's more fun than it is anything else.

PS: I do have an opinionm on Angelina and her leg and that is: I used to dislike her but now I think it's awesome that some people combine self-destructive tendencies, compassion AND glamour!
She is a plastic star as much as she is a person who has contacted the worse that life has to offer and cares to make some difference in the world.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

I loved the fact that they put the Best Actress category second to last because usually the category goes before Best Director and Best Actor. They finally recognized that the most suspense is on the Best Actress cat. I remember the year where they put Best Actress in the middle of the show which was really stupid.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGolden

That picture of the adapted screenplay winners reminds me of how classless I thought Payne was in his acceptance speech. He made it all about him, didn't let his co-winners talk, and barely even mentioned them in his speech. I was kind of hoping that it would get defeated like what happened (unfortunately) to Jason Reitman for Up in the Air

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames

I like glamor as much as everybody else here but I thought Angelina Jolie with her leg extended and her left hand on the hip looked like she was begging for something to eat. Loved the twitter account that almost instantly popped up.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteradelutza

Rax, in all fairness, TGWTDT's editing had a modicum of support. It was nominated for the Eddie, and it won the BFCAA. Nevertheless, outside of Awardsdaily, it's really hard to claim that this film has the right length.
Hugo's win in cinematography was instantly annoying, particularly since it was Richardson's third Oscar.
Streep's win wasn't an upset. This awards season wasn't a Davis coronation, no matter how many people try to ignore the Globe, the BAFTA, a good deal of the critics awards (including New York), and Meryl's long losing streak.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterWilly

I love Angelina so much, and I think that this meme is one of the funniest in a long time. Love her leg on the Statue of Liberty, crossing the Delaware and on Leonidas as he kicks that guy down the well in 300 and so many others.

Have to totally agree about the spastic editing, its sort of how I feel about Nine. The movie isn't so good, but they go through all that time choreographing those numbers and then cut to this weird close ups and odd angles that I can't appreciate all the work.

Also I hope Emma Stone is on here, the whole time I was just thinking about how badly I want her to be my best friend

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

//It's only boring when you can't see them and are forced again and again to look at one particular detail at the expense of the whole.//

I know you weren't thinking of Baz Luhrmann but I couldn't help thinking of Moulin Rouge when I read that, and it may just be that he's to blame? (And you know I LOVE MR, but....I can't think of any musicals prior to that in which the cutaways from the dancing were so aggressive? In that case, though, I know that he can edit dance and honor the whole body from watching Strictly Ballroom; so I think it was a conscious decision in MR. Whereas with everybody else since, it comes off as either as an annoying tick or a bad habit.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

Jim Rash posing just as Angelina did before him was my favorite moment of the whole awards show, and the only one when I laughed out loud. Unfortunately there was no reaction shot of Angie (or Brad). They were really slow at the director's booth the other night. We almost missed Meryl's kiss to Viola because they were giving us an eternal close-up of Bullock!

You're absolutely right about the need to see the whole bodies when dancing. There's nothing more electric than that! I feel some of us wouldn't love "The Artist" as much as we do without that brilliant final scene.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

AMEN about seeing full bodies dancing! Which is why I have been obsessing about seeing PINA even though it will probably never come near me in CT and I missed my chance in NYC. I really want to see if it lives up to the hype.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Cirque du Soleil is a talented troupe but they don't belong on the Oscars! Honorary award winners do, although it burns me that Oprah Winfrey has an honorary Oscar and Doris Day still does not. They deserve their moment. And if they never have another friggin' montage except for the in memoriam segment it would be a beautiful thing.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

I don't know on which thread best to post this, I just want to say, when I saw Tom Cruise entering that stage I couldn't help thinking wouldn't it be great if he would jump up and down frantically screaming "I love Katie Holmes" a few times before opening that envelope?

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDominik

Someone at my Oscar party yelled "STOP CUTTING AWAY!" during the Cirque performance, so Nathaniel, you weren't the only one pissed with the direction of that part of the show. The direction has been bad the last few years, I think. 2010 was awful - the entire opening number mangled, and then later they cut to a wide shot when Bigelow won after the whole season had been been the Battle of the Exes thing.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjtagliere

Wurk it, Miss Angelina! Loved that pose!

And is it just me, or was Jim Rash kinda hot in that pose and tuxedo?

Oh it's just me? Yeah, that's what I thought.


February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNes

It's not just you, Nes; Jim Rash was/is all kinds of sexy.

And joel6, the Oprah Oscar is an affront. I wanted to throttle John fucking Travolta when he said she should have one for acting!

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

I loved Ms. Jolie embracing exactly what she is, a freaking movie star! I can appreciate that stars want to be appreciated for their skills and craft, but is there anything better than when Angie, Charlize, Nicole, and the like turn up the glamour and really shine? Nope. Shine bright ass stars! We have so few...

I hope Christopher Plummer is in your top 5. His win was the one that had everyone at my gathering smiling with no complaints (everyone loved Beginners to boot). And can we just talk about the run of Supporting Actor!? Bardem, Ledger, Waltz, Bale, and now Plummer! Have any of the other acting categories had such a consistent run of quality wins? I imagine you'd find very few that would complain about any of those wins in their respective years.

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVal

I enjoy Cirque du Soleil. I didn't get the Oscar performance at all. It made less sense then when the dance troupe did interpretative performances of the Original Score nominees two years ago. Remember? When people learned that The Hurt Locker really did have music?

February 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

I hope Emma Stone co-hosts the Oscars some time soon. She 's a true star in the making with her talent and composure. If she had been paired w/ Franco she probably could have just swept him off the stage.

And Angelina rocked. She was telling the world that the bad girl was still alive and kicking even if she now talks endlessly about refugees and war.

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKitCon

I like Reese Witherspoon admitting she loves OVERBOARD lol


February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDavid

Nathaniel, I love your writing and your site and your taste but I'm beginning to find your defense of The Artist a little too much.

I wanted to like Cirque du Soliel but you could barely see what they were doing on the TV screen.

February 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGabriel Oak

Well Gabriel, you don't have to deal with it anymore because the oscar year is over!

February 29, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Val -- that is so true. It's been an amazing run in that category. we're about due for something atrocious ;)

February 29, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R
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