Blogging the Oscars: Part 2
Welcome to Part 2 of the first (annual? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here) I'd Rather Be Watching Movies Oscar Liveblog. (Part one is here if you're interested.) I’m going to watch the entire Oscars telecast and blog about it in real time (despite my not being a person who’s usually that interested in the Oscars), because I figured if I can handle a whole season of The Hills in one day, I can handle the a couple of hours of Hollywood self-congratulation.
Before I get started, I just want to say up front that I will not be watching, covering or talking about in any way any of the “red carpet” stuff. Which basically means I won't be talking about what anybody’s wearing, unless what they’re wearing is so distracting or awesome (or distractingly awesome) that I can’t not discuss it. I’m not interested in the clothes or the parties. I’m interested in the movies and the spectacle of possibly watching Mickey Rourke embarrass himself on live television in front of an audience of billions.
Apparently this year they're trying out a lot of crazy new things to make the show more watchable (and, presumably, also to cut time and costs). I’ve heard one of the ways in which they’re doing this is to have some sort of story that is told over the course of the night via the awards? It sounds wacky enough to be a spectacular failure, but I guess we'll see how it all shakes out.
8:30 pm ET
The show begins. Hugh Jackman is hosting, and gosh is he handsome.
I haven’t watched the Oscars from the beginning in a very long time. Is the opening montage always this weirdly insulting to the movies? And a room full of multimillionaires laughing at jokes about how the recession means they had to cut costs is actually pretty insulting if you think about it (which I probably shouldn’t be). But it was pretty funny, particularly the Dark Knight/“what does a superhero movie have to do to get nominated?” bit.
Jackman’s actually pretty funny, which I don't really find all that surprising; he's got a background in theatre, so he should be a natural out there. And he hosted the Tony Awards not long ago, and I heard he did a good job on that show. But to give you an idea of how much the Oscars are just not on my radar these days, I’m a fairly huge Daily Show fan, and I couldn’t even be bothered to watch when they got Jon Stewart to host. But so far Jackman’s got an easy, affable vibe that bodes well for what’s usually a long, plodding show.
I guess this year one of the new things they're trying is Gang Presenters, in which each of the presenters (a past winner in that same category, evidently chosen at random from the annals of Oscar history) recites an awkwardly personal-sounding love letter to one of the nominees. It’s...weird.
Penelope Cruz wins for Vicky Cristina Barcelona, one of the few nominated performances/movies I’ve seen. It’s the first time I’ve ever enjoyed her in anything, so I’m glad she won, even though it means I’m already 0-1 on the night. And I guess this means if Katie Holmes dumps Tom Cruise she gets an Oscar in a few years? Also, Penelope Cruz is apparently still talking.
My pick was: Marisa Tomei
I am: Wrong. 0-1.
Steve Martin and Tina Fey are out to present the screenplay awards. Scientology jokes are a lot funnier when you know that a chunk of the audience actually believes that stuff.
Here’s something I don’t get: If they’re smart enough to realize that Steve Martin and Tina Fey are funny, why didn’t they realize that, given this fact, the two of them reading stage directions from a script that’s meant to be serious is actually just distracting and weird. It sounds like they’re making fun of them. But like any self-respecting geek, I have a crush on Tina Fey, and am content to just ogle her for the remainder of this segment.
Dustin Lance Black wins best original screenplay for Milk. The only thing I know about Dustin Lance Black is that his name was boldly emblazoned on Milk’s trailer, despite my not having the faintest idea who he is. But good for him.
Simon Beaufoy wins best adapted screenplay for Slumdog Millionaire, the first in what I (and many others) assume will be many awards for Danny Boyle’s popular movie, which I have not seen and am somehow already a bit sick of.
Another thing people don’t like about the Oscars that will never change: in-jokes (Jack Black and Jennifer Aniston are telling jokes about Pixar’s animation rivalry with DreamWorks...it’s funny if you’re a loyal Variety reader, I suspect). And this montage of the year’s animated movies just uncomfortably confirms what I’ve been saying for years: give Hollywood the tools to produce photo-realistic animation, and they crank out dozens upon dozens of talking-animal movies. There was so much more to “Animation 2008” than this montage would have you believe that I don’t even know where to begin. And hey, another animation Oscar, another Pixar win. Good for Wall-E (which I also have not yet seen, but unlike most Pixar movies, I'm actually kind of interested in checking it out).
I guess to cut costs they’re having several awards presented by the same people this year, because Jack Black and Jennifer Aniston are still on my television. Oh! I just realized they keep showing Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt not because she was his co-star in Kung Fu Panda, but because Brad Pitt used to be married to Jennifer Aniston. I hate Hollywood.
Kunio Kato, who just won best animated short for La Maison en Petits Cubes, just thanked in broken English (among other things) his pencil as well as animation (in general, I assume), and closed with “Domo arigato, Mister Roboto.” I predict now with utter certainty that this will be the best acceptance speech of the night.
Ah, now I get it. The “story” is that they’re ostensibly following the production of a movie from screenwriter’s idea to production, because production design is next. I’m disappointed that the story thing wasn’t more silly and ridiculous, although the set backdrop, meant to emulate an old-fashioned studio soundstage, makes it look like the presenters are handing out Oscars in a barn. And for a professional actor, Daniel Craig seems about as comfortable and natural as I did during a Grade 4 oral presentation about bobcats.
Oh hey, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button just won for best production design. I’m trying to care, but falling considerably short. (Is David Fincher dating Miley Cyrus?)
The Duchess wins best costume design. Truly, dear reader, we are in the depths of the Awards Nobody Cares About. If they really want to cut these awards down, cut this thing down to the five to seven awards people actually care about (the acting awards, directing, best picture and the screenplay awards), and have the thing over and done with inside two hours. But that makes too much sense. (And I like production design.)
Benjamin Button wins best makeup, knocking Hellboy 2 out of the one Oscar is was up for. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed; say what you will about the movie itself, but the makeup in Hellboy 2 is genuinely astounding. But turning one of the most handsome men on the planet into a crotchety old man is Oscar-worthy, I think.
Oh my god I want to punch that Twilight douchebag in the face!
Ben Stiller’s Joaquin Phoenix impersonation actually makes me laugh despite myself. It’s trying a bit too hard to be topical, but Natalie Portman does a great job of selling it. She seems a little too cool for someone as pretty and talented as she is.
The Slumdog Millionaire train keeps a-rolling with a win for best cinematography. (Danny Boyle looks like Morrissey. I’m surely not the first person who has noticed this.)
I gotta say, this show is bopping along so fast I can’t really complain about the length. At this rate we’ll be done in an hour (a full hour before the show’s scheduled to end). I can’t wait to see what the big time-sink will turn out to be, because there’s no way the show can maintain this brisk pace.
Special award for Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull. Revenge of the geeks! Oh wait, it was just a one-minute presentation by Jessica Biel. (Do they make a point of finding the hottest actresses they can to host the geeks dinner? I think Alba hosted it last year.) I was ready to watch one of those little retrospectives on Catmull’s career (which I would have actually been quite interested in watching), but instead we just got Biel telling us about the retrospective he received a night or two earlier, the revenge of the geeks having apparently been deemed unfit for television.
How does one even see a live-action short? Let's say, for argument's sake, I desperately wanted to see one of these short films, how the hell would I go about doing so? And I love how best supporting actor is being touted by the announcer as “one of the most talked-about awards of the evening.” I guess that’s the translation of “the award mostly obviously a foregone conclusion.” I almost want them to give it to someone other than Heath Ledger – not because I want to have to dance a jig for the Internet; quite the opposite I assure you – just because of the monumental display of balls that would require.
Oh no. It’s the moment I’ve been dreading all night. The inevitable Hugh Jackman Musical Number. Beyoncé just showed up to lip-synch along. Right now, in case any of you are wondering, as Hugh Jackman and Beyoncé are leading a bunch of top hat- and tails-wearing dancers through a medley of Broadway standards, I am trapped in a personal hell (a personal hell, evidently, of Baz Lurhmann’s creation). And literally two seconds after typing that sentence, two of the little plastic people from High School Musical turn up to make me wish I had a gun barrel to snack on. Sadly, Doritos will have to suffice.
Best supporting actor's next. This is a big award for me, as I promised in Part 1 of this post to dance a jig and upload the video if Heath Ledger doesn't win. Alan Arkin, Cuba Gooding Jr., Christopher Walken, Kevin Kline and Joel Grey are out to give the award to Ledger. But these weirdly personal addresses from the presenters to the nominees continue to be distracting and odd. It’s also weird watching these nominees pretend they have a shot in hell of winning. (Arkin starts saying “Heath Ledger” before he even has the card out of the envelope.) But hell, it’s not like he doesn’t deserve it, and the comic geek in me is still sort of amazed that an Oscar was given to someone for playing the Joker in a Batman movie. Jig-dancing: AVERTED.
My pick was: Heath Ledger
I am: Right. 1-1.
Bill Maher presents the best documentary award (he makes a bitter crack about Religulous not being nominated; the fact that he made a similar joke on the season premiere of his HBO show earlier in the weekend, and will go on to make another before announcing the winner, suggests he’s a lot more sore about it than he probably wants us all to know), which Man On Wire wins. I’ve heard pretty great things about this movie, and I guess this is good enough reason as any to check it out.
This action montage is a pretty cool collection of footage of cars flipping and smashing through things. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button wins for best visual effects, confirming my earlier suspicions that its receiving the most nominations was more of an acknowledgment of its technical achievements (rather than for being a good movie).
The Dark Knight wins its second Oscar of the night for best sound editing. And The Dark Knight’s sound editing is pretty rad, so that’s fair. I think this is the first award that Slumdog Millionaire was up for that it didn’t win. And of course as soon as I type that, Slumdog Millionaire wins for best sound mixing. Poor Danny Boyle looks so excited for everyone else winning awards for this movie, and I don’t think he’ll win best director.
Slumdog Millionaire wins for best editing. Chris Dickens wins Most Honest Thank-You of the night for “Thank you to all the people who voted for me.” He's not thanking “the Academy,” he’s only thanking the members who voted for him. Awesome.
Eddie Murphy presents Jerry Lewis with the Hersholt Humanitarian Award. I don't know if Jerry Lewis has health issues these days, but all I can think of is how much he reminds me of Jeff Conaway on Celebrity Rehab.
Slumdog Millionaire wins for best score. Danny Boyle looks like a proud, beaming father every time someone from his movie wins. Also, it’s just occurred to me that Hugh Jackman hasn’t been on my television in quite some time. Maybe Will Smith’s joke about him taking a nap backstage wasn’t a joke after all.
Slumdog wins best song as well, for “Jai Ho.” This A.R. Rahman seems like a pretty cool cat; I guess he’s used to the attention by now. I like his acceptance speeches. Very zen.
Director Yojiro Takita, winner of best foreign language film for Departures, seems pretty happy about winning. That’s two charming Japanese filmmakers winning Oscars tonight. One of the great things about the “minor” categories like best live-action short: these people are genuinely stoked to be winning these awards, whereas the shots of Mickey Rourke through this show have left me quite sure he’s assuming he’s going to win tonight.
I have figured out a big part of the reason for the show’s slowing down in the middle; all the musical numbers and pointless montages. And now it’s the annual Dead Person Montage, only now Queen Latifah is singing along live. The really uncomfortable part of this each year is the way in which this tribute always becomes a ghoulish competition to see which person who died gets the biggest round of applause. So far it’s Roy Scheider (who also illustrates the other part of this montage, the people who I forgot had died. Like Ricardo Montalban). And Paul Newman closes it off with the biggest ovation of the night. Can’t say he doesn’t deserve it. (Eat it, Charlton Heston!)
Jackman’s really keeping it light and doing a good job, but aside from the musical numbers at the beginning and then midway through the show, he hasn't had anything to do, really. It’s probably for the best considering that “show hosting” isn’t necessarily his forté.
I’m wrong again: Danny Boyle just won best director for Slumdog Millionaire. I’m stunned but holy crap, good for him. While I’m now sort of ashamed I haven’t seen this movie yet, Boyle’s one of the most talented and diverse filmmakers out there, so him winning an Oscar is great news. He seems so genuinely joyous about his movie and so happy for everyone else that it’s really infectious. And seriously, the guy who resuscitated the zombie movie just won an Oscar. On the same night as someone won an Oscar for playing the Joker. My geek-mind = blown.
My pick was: Gus Van Sant
I am: Wrong. 1-2.
Anne Hathaway seems pretty moved by Shirley MacLaine’s speech to her, despite the fact that she's clearly reading off a cue card. Five minutes later Kate Winslet makes me 2-2, winning best actress for The Reader. I’m glad not only because she’s a great actress who deserves it (or so I assume; like Hugh Jackman cheerfully sang in the opening musical number, I also haven’t seen The Reader), but also because if she’d lost again she would have become an unfortunate shorthand for the nominee who deserves it but never seems to win.
My pick was: Kate Winslet
I am: Right. 2-2.
Wow. Adrien Brody totally looks like the bad guy from a western or pirate movie. Also, kudos to Richard Jenkins, a veteran character actor specializing in showing up as “hey, it’s THAT guy!” in movies, for getting an Oscar nomination. I always love it when guys like that get recognition for their work. The most recent thing I saw him in was Burn After Reading, in which he’s possibly the closest thing to a genuinely likeable character in the entire film.
Sean Penn just won best actor for Milk, making me wrong again. I'm sure he deserves it – I’ve heard nothing but incredible praise for his work in the movie – but I thought Mickey Rourke was as almost as much of a shoo-in as Heath Ledger was, so clearly I don't know anything about anything. I’m a bit disappointed Rourke didn’t win (not because I predicted he would, but because I think he deserves it), but Penn is clearly one of the best actors ever, so it’s not like Rourke was robbed, exactly. Though if I had to hazard a guess as to which of the two is more likely to have more nominations in his future, I’d take Penn in a heartbeat. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to Rourke’s career now. If his acceptance award from the Independent Spirit Awards last night is any indication, he’s already teetering on the precipice of madness (if in fact he ever backed away from it).
My pick was: Mickey Rourke
I am: Wrong. 2-3.
Slumdog Millionaire finishes its sweep, complete with heartwarming shot of about two-dozen people of all ages, shapes, sizes and colours crowded onstage to accept the award. It’s a nice image, and one I might appreciate more if I’d seen the movie. But Slumdog Millionaire’s success makes for a great little little story, and I’m happy for all involved.
My pick was: Slumdog Millionaire
I am: Right. 3-3.
The show is officially over, 30 minutes later than scheduled, clocking in at almost three-and-a-half hours. I broke even with my predictions, which, if I’m being honest, is quite a bit better than I expected to do. It wasn’t as painful as I expected it to be, but it wasn’t really all that interesting either. The parts that made for actual compelling TV were few and far between, and aside from my being shocked that Danny Boyle won best director (for some reason I assumed this year of all years the Academy would use its time-tested technique of splitting the best picture and best director categories across two films), and Mickey Rourke getting snubbed for The Wrestler, there were almost no surprises. The “new format” seemed quite similar to formats past, but they promise a brand new show every year, and every year it’s pretty much the same as the year before, at least on TV.
Maybe it’s the crop of movies this year (many of which I haven’t seen, but I refuse to believe any of them are as brilliant as last year’s well-deserved big winner, No Country for Old Men) or a less glitzy show due to the recession (I doubt the latter, however, as “glitzy” has never really been my thing), but the show seemed oddly inert. This isn’t a knock on Hugh Jackman, who I think did a fine job, but there wasn’t the same sense of fun, of beautiful, glamorous people having fun that the Golden Globes have, and the Oscars long ago gave up any pretense of being a Serious Film Awards Show, so the result is something in between. A celebration of Hollywood glamour that can’t be too glamorous, lest it seem insensitive or crass in the current economic climate. An awards show where the most interesting awards were all decided in advance (Slumdog Millionaire, Heath Ledger). It was a show that didn’t bore me quite as much as I expected (though I had jotting down my own thoughts to keep myself amused), but still didn’t really entertain me. Better luck next year, I guess.
A blog about movies, by a guy who probably watches too many.