Entries in Oscars (11) (327)
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.
TOP TEN TAKEAWAYS
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.
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?
Alexa here. When my friend Mike found out that I would be making a pie in honor of this year's Oscars, he made some quick guesses as to the theme:
- Black and white for The Artist?
- Pineapple coconut for The Descendants?
- Ringling Bros clown cream pie for Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close?
- Humble Pie by Alabama for The Help?
- A Trip To The Moon cheesecake for Hugo?
- French Silk pie for Midnight in Paris?
- Baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Chevrolet for Moneyball?
- Pi for The Tree of Life?
- Cowpie for War Horse?
I quickly wished I had the energy to make nine pies instead of just one. In that spirit, here are some great Oscar-themed goodies I've seen around the web, along with the pie I ended up with. Feel free to share your own menu cleverness in the comments.
Of all the Oscar recipe ideas I've seen, I thought these Oscar-themed dogs were best (but then again I'm from Chicago, where encased meat is king). From the top: The Help Southern fried chicken sausage dog, The Artist old-time Hollywood dog, Midnight in Paris Parisian Pâté dog, The Descendants Hawaii dog with grilled Pineapple and Sriracha, Hugo watch dog, War Horse bruised and bleeding dog, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close NYC dog with mustard and sauerkraut, The Tree of Life dog with spinach, and a simple ballpark dog for Moneyball.
My own personal history with the Oscar stretches back to the early 80s but there's so much self-mythologizing about it that I sometimes get confused about when I finally figured out What It Was. I know with certainty that the first ceremony I was aware of was in Spring 1983 because I had seen Gandhi, Tootsie and E.T. with my parents. But if I watched I remember nothing from that ceremony. My first sure Oscar ceremony memory was watching Shirley Maclaine win Best Actress for Terms of Endearment (which I hadn't seen). I remember being excited for Maclaine who I already loved but I don't remember why (probably TV airings of musicals?) and I remember being super excited by Meryl's Silkwood clip. Before I ever knew Meryl Streep as an actress -- her movies were always rated R and I wasn't allowed to see them -- I knew her as The Great Oscar Winning Actress. I think my first Meryl movie in the theater was Out of Africa (1985) and I desperately wanted her to win her third Oscar now that we were well acquainted.
When they called my name I had this feeling I could hear half of America going 'OH nooooo, oh come on. why Her? Again?' You know? But whatever.
First, I'm going to thank Don because when you thank your husband at the end of the speech they play him out with the music and I want him to know that everything I value most in our lives you've given me. And now secondly, my other partner, 37 years ago my first play in NYC i met the great hairstylist and makeup artist Roy Helland and we worked together pretty continuously since the day we clapped eyes on each other. His first film with me was Sophie's Choice and all the way up to tonight when he won for his beautiful work on The Iron Lady thirty years later EVERY SINGLE MOVIE IN BETWEEN. And I just want to thank Roy but also I want to thank -- because I really understand I'll never be up here again -- I really want to thank all my colleagues, all my friends. I look out here and I see my life before my eyes. My old friends. My new friends.
Really this is such a great honor but the thing that counts the most with me is the friendship and the love and the sheer joy we have shared making movies together. My friends thank you, all of you, departed and here for this, you know, inexplicably wonderful career. Thank you so much. Thank you.
I waited and waited and waited and waited and waited. I waited through backlashes, box office poison, comebacks, astounding technical biopic work (Cry in the Dark), and mysteriously moving original creations (The Hours), through thrilling musical/comedy (Postcards from the Edge), improbable rebirth as box office mega-sensation (Devil Wears Prada), less thrilling musical/comedy (Mamma Mia!). I wasn't always rooting for her but I was always rooting for her if you know what I mean.
My heart danced a bit when she spoke, just a bit since I was upset. And I laughed at her psychic opening (you know that's true!) and teared up at what sounded like a lifetime achievement speech which is what it essentially was. Meryl finally won her third.
Be careful what you wish for.
Though I've desperately wanted Meryl Streep to have a third Oscar -- who deserved a third more? -- it became suddenly tied up with my single biggest Oscar pet peeve (the Academy's relentless all-devouring soul-crushing belief that biopic mimicry is the highest form of acting) and tied up with the defeat of a new(ish) actress who I genuinely think is one of the greats... just without the roles to continue proving it.
Though I find roughly half of the regular charges of racism levelled at the Academy tiresome and ill thought out (it has to be about the movies that are released and the performances inside of them or it holds no water -- that's all Oscar has to choose from!) it's hard not to look at Viola's loss and bemoan Oscar's (and Hollywood's) resistance to women of color.
Here we had a great actress headlining a major blockbuster hit, giving an astoundingly deep, moving performance and singlehandedly elevating her movie into the substantive kind that gets nominated for Best Picture (we can argue all we like about how "substantive" The Help is and how much other actresses contributed but it's Viola that gave the movie its only sharp edges and its soul and made it however substantive that it is). She also managed to win a few key awards and stay in the press for months and months and months on end.
It's hard to imagine all those plusses and still coming up empty-handed on Oscar night, especially in favor of a previous winner in a movie that no one likes. It's also hard to imagine a year like Viola had not being followed by major offers for major roles but so far... crickets. And this last is more anger-making than an Oscar loss, and something we'd all hoped an Oscar win might've helped to overcome... though this is perhaps wishful thinking; Hollywood is as resistant to great black actresses as the Oscars which reflect them.
In some ways you can argue that it's just the luck of the draw. Meryl was always going to win a third. It was just a question of when. But it's hard to look at the way Meryl's third was shoved aside for a Movie Star Queen doing her best but hardly statue-worthy work just two years ago, and it's hard to look at other performers who've sailed to Oscars with ease that aren't anything like Viola Davis's caliber.
In Halle Berry's Monster's Ball Oscar-winning speech she spoke movingly of her historic moment as the first Best Actress of color.
This moment is for Dorothy Dandrige, Lena Horne, Diahann Carroll. It's for the women who stand beside me Jada Pinkett, Angela Bassett, Vivica Fox, and it's for every nameless faceless woman of color that now has a chance because this door tonight has been opened."
Did the door quietly swing closed again?
1. Open (Gold) Thread! What's one thing you most want to discuss in the post-mortem?
Besides the [ahem] obvious. Here's the schedule...
Tonight & Tomorrow
Key Moments, Internal Conflict, Good Speech, Final Takeaway
Fashion Wrap up.
2. Billy's Return?
One of the online Oscar sports each year is arguing about how well the Oscar Host did? I confess that this isn't an area that ever sparks much from me in terms of critique or conversation since The Host(s) isn't at all why I watch the show. But how'd you think he did?
I thought Reasonably Fine Not Special though there was an awful lot of asking for assurance that he was 'reasonably fine,' right? A lot of "wasn't that amazing/beautiful/special?" Um... if you say so, Billy.
3. How'd you do on your predictions?
I scored a not-embarrassing but hardly statue worthy 17/24. I assume this puts me outside the "shortlist" of Best Predictors, no medals for me. Not even bronze. I've been snubbed... by myself and my wishful / pessimistic thinking stumbles (either can get you into trouble). If you beat me, feel free to brag about it in the comments.