Monday, February 23, 2009

The Oscars: Pros and Cons

I had a decidedly "meh" feeling about Bill Condon's stylish revamp of the Academy Awards.

PROS
-Hugh Jackman. Wonderful job as host, high energy, gave the show exactly what he promised. His opening bit was sublime.
-Good pace.
-They actually said really profound things about the technical categories.
-The winners all gave good speeches.
-The set was terrific
-The orchestra.
-The dizzying salute to musicals. Baz Luhrmann can deliver.
-Judd Apatow's short film. James Franco watching James Franco kiss Sean Penn was reflexive bliss.
- The Slumdog kids/Danny Boyle.  I know I told myself I was tired of seeing them be charming and happy all the frickin' time, but every cutaway to Danny Boyle's beaming face was great.  His hopping across the stage like Tigger, his bringing the kids up on stage with him at the end, the immense happiness and gratitude of everyone involved - they really are a class act, that crew.
-They actually found a good way to present the Screenplays! Too bad they grouped them together early on in the show to get them out of the way so we can focus on THE ACTORS!!
-Heath Ledger's win.  Wonderful speech from his family, wonderful ovation from the theater.

CONS
-The awful, tedious, over-long, self-indulgent way they presented the acting categories.
-Because they did this, all the tech categories got mushed together (Will Smith knocked 4 of them out in 10 minutes, while we spend 10 minutes alone on Best Supporting Actress. C'mon. Just give us more presenters, don't randomly pull winners from years ago for no apparent reason)
-The original song medley. Holy crap, that was awful.  Why couldn't we give each song performance time?
-The lack of Hugh Jackman. He made a stunning impression in the first hour and then disappeared.
-The montages that felt like a cloying way to say "hey look, we like mainstream movies. We just don't nominate them."
-The stupid way they presented Best Picture by trying to link it to other Oscar movies. Why couldn't we have the introductions of each throughout the night - it's something I look forward to.
-Ben Stiller being awkward.
-How everything related to actors.  This bugs me every year. And this year they took it almost as far as 2004 (when all the noms in the tech categories had to stand on stage to cut down time). When they presented tech categories, they related each of them to "helping the actors," the lead acting categories were AFTER Best Director. Directors didn't get personal addresses from past winners, why?  

It was a noble attempt that turned derivative.  Spread out the cool stuff, guys!  Everything got jammed into the first hour.  After Ledger's win, I can't remember liking anything in the show and just wanted them to get on with it.  They could have placed Jackman's 2nd number later, spread out the Song nominees, the Apatow video, or given Jackman something else to do. He is host, after all.  While I know the techs aren't that important to the people watching at home, there are only 4 acting categories.  I like that they tried to speak profoundly of the techs, I really do, it made very happy, but the way they rushed through them and lumped them together felt awkward for me, as if they HAD to make room for the gushing, over-the-top acting presentations.

Didn't do it for me.  The winners were predictable, but they all gave good speeches and whatnot.  Extremely predictable year.  Only surprise was in Foreign Language.  Moving on.

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