Well, the 2008 movie season is now officially over and I managed to correctly predict 16 of the 24 winners - not great, but not that bad either. All in all, I thought the Oscars offered up a well-paced and enteraining show this year. My favourite and least favourite things about it under the cut:
What I Didn’t Like (A Surprisingly Short List):
In Memoriam: It annoys me every year but since it continues to happen every year it obviously still needs to be said that there should be no clapping during the In Memoriam section. How is it that a room full of adults doesn’t know that it is exceedingly tacky to turn the memorial segment into a popularity contest? Of course this year my irritation at the clapping has to compete with the way the memoriam segment was produced, making it the background to a stage performance so that the parade of the dead isn’t even the focus. Next year the AMPAS should look into getting the team that does the year end tribute for TCM, who manage to create beautiful and classy montages each and every year.
Musical Clusterfuck: So, let me get this straight. There’s not enough time to show performances of the 3 nominated songs, but there is enough time for the seemingly endless tribute to songs from past musicals featuring Beyonce and the kids from High School Musical? I’ll just repeat what I said while I was watching it: Why is this happening? I think I may have disliked this even more than that year when Beyonce was brought in to perform all of the nominated songs (because why let the artists who actually worked on them have their moment on stage?).
What I Didn’t Like But Then Totally Liked:
Making Fun of Joaquin Phoenix Will Apparently Never Not Be Funny: My first thought when I saw Ben Stiller as Phoenix was, “This would be funnier if I hadn’t seen the exact same thing yesterday courtesy of The Independent Spirit Awards.” But, to my surprise, it actually turned out to be pretty funny anyway, particularly when he started wandering towards the screen, cracking up co-presenter Natalie Portman.
What I Liked:
Hugh Jackman: I had my doubts but I thought he made a pretty good host. Sure, the jokes were lacking in bite (which leads me to believe that despite rumors to the contrary, Ricky Gervais did not provide Jackman with any material), but I was still generally entertained.
Steve Martin and Tina Fey: Makes me sad that there were only two screenplay Oscars to give out. Although, as I realized later in the show, having one or two presenters give out more than two awards can get tiresome, as in: Will Smith, I like you but why are you still there?
Philippe Petit: You are delightful.
Five Winners Presenting to Five Nominees: I really liked this and I hope they do it again next year. Having five past winners come out to say something about the achievement of each of the nominees really highlights the fact that it is an honor to be nominated and provides a solid moment of recognition to those four that will walk away empty-handed. It also eliminates the need for clips from films, which I find to be generally useless because if a nominee did any yelling in their film, that’s what will be shown in the clip to demonstrate “emotion.” Taken out of the context, yelling is just yelling and not representative of a performance as a whole.
Restraint: I know it must have been hard, but thank you for only cutting to Brad & Angelina once while Jennifer Aniston was onstage. I know that you were probably dying inside but on behalf of those of us who are tired of hearing about this manufactured “feud,” I salute you. I would also like to thank whoever it is that’s in charge of deciding when winners will be played off for not cuing up the music half a second after the winners got on-stage. I hate it when people get played off so I was happy that the winners got to have their say without having to shout it over the orchestra.
Winners For Milk: I was pulling for Courtney Hunt, but I was happy for Dustin Lance Black’s Original Screenplay win, especially in light of his beautiful and emotional acceptance speech. When it came to Best Actor, I was hoping for Sean Penn but half-expecting it to be Mickey Rourke. Even so, when Penn’s name was called I experienced a slight pang of disappointment that we wouldn’t get to hear another of Rourke’s speeches, which have certainly been memorable, only to be glad again when Penn opened with “You commie, homo loving sons of guns.” Well played, sir.
Winners’ Relatives: I think even the most hardened amongst us got a little emotional when Heath Ledger’s family accepted the Supporting Actor Oscar on his behalf. His winning seemed inevitable but the reaction of the audience to the win and in particular to the Ledger family’s tribute to him, was the night’s most authentic moment. I also loved Kate Winslet’s dad whistling to let her know where he was sitting. I realize that putting the celebrities in one part of the auditorium and “the others” in another part makes it easier to do cut-aways to the audience, but it must suck to have to sit a mile away from your kid when they receive the biggest award of their career.
Finally, Just An Observation:
I thought Harvey Weinstein campaigned hard for The Reader, but apparently that’s going to be child’s play compared to how he’ll push Nine. Three of the Best Actress presenters (Sophia Loren, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard) are also co-stars in Nine, which I can’t help but think isn’t a coincidence. Supporting Actress winner Penelope Cruz is also one of the stars of the film and I suppose that her winning this year will make it easier to decide which actress (actresses?) from the film will be pushed in the supporting category next year.