Monday, February 25, 2013

Oscar thoughts? I Have Several...

So that is that, as they say, as a particularly interminable Oscar ceremony wheezed to a close, running all the way until midnight and including little in the way of serviceable filler between each award (here's a link to see all of the winners, in case you missed it). One thing that I've always loved about the Oscars is that they present each and every award during the ceremony, even if its the smaller, unsexy kind (like, for instance, all of the short film categories). In an awards race that had several races still up in the air, the award winners managed to produce several surprises (in the end, I ended up scoring a respectable but still mediocre 14/24 on my final predictions), while still giving off the feeling that everything went the way that it was supposed to. Here are a few thoughts that I had while watching last night:

Seth MacFarlane, Not Terrible
Not that that's saying much, but for the most part I enjoyed his schtick. I even loved the self-aware skit at the beginning of the show (after all, the host is always going to get blamed for the laborious efforts of the show's producers - too often, the host is the one catching heat for this every year). MacFarlane didn't reinvent the wheel, but his jokes were funny enough by middlebrow Oscar host standards, and the few zingers that he did bring hit home pretty well (his line before the Best Actress award was probably best in show). As much as I don't want to say this, if he were to come back to host a second time, I don't think I would mind.

Christoph Waltz, A Huge 'DUH!' in Retrospect 
I even wrote this in my predictions piece, but even I overlooked it. Waltz had won most of the awards going into last night's ceremony (including the Golden Globe and the BAFTA). But for some reason most people could not get past the raging hype that was supporting Tommy Lee Jones (who did win the SAG award, after all) and the somewhat charming, somewhat sentimental storyline that it would be nice to give Robert DeNiro a third Oscar for his first fully realized performance in what felt like forever. In the end, I think it was Waltz' very recent first win that turned most people away from him actually predicting him. Django Unchained actually had a better night than most expected, when Quentin Tarantino picked up his second Oscar for Original Screenplay (another thing most people weren't predicting), and went on to give a speech which I'm sure ingratiated and pissed people off in equal measure.

Why Are We Being Forced To Tribute These Specific Musicals?
In one of several overwrought sequences that didn't have anything to do with the actual awards, the Academy decided to honor Hollywood musicals. But for some reason, they only decided to honor musicals from the last ten years and, even more specifically, only three films: Chicago, Dreamgirls, and the night's Best Picture nominee Les Miserables. Why the honoring period was only limited to ten years (cutting out Moulin Rouge) and why no other musicals from that period were recognized (apparently, Once just didn't have enough fancy sets and costumes), we will never know. The purpose of this whole sequence was COMPLETELY lost on me. That is, until this tweet started making the rounds on Twitter during the ceremony (so there's that):

Ang Lee? Yeah, Ang Lee
I was saying that Best Director was so completely up in the air that no one would surprise me if they won. Yet, Ang Lee's win still was probably the biggest surprise of the night. Life of Pi seemed relegated to a few tech awards, but it managed to sneak away with Director and Cinematography, amongst four total awards. Ang Lee, a terrific filmmaker, certainly created a stunning visual spectacle in Life of Pi, but that film didn't seem to hold the same amount of enthusiasm of the films like Argo, Lincoln and Silver Linings Playbook. Even Zero Dark Thirty seemed to have more juice to it where the buzz comes in. But obviously, the Academy liked it a whole lot more than us prognosticators did, and considering Paul Thomas Anderson wasn't even nominated, I can't think of this as much of a travesty. Just a pretty surprising turn.

The Night of the Long, Greasy-Haired Tech Men 
Perhaps it was the fact that they won in such short succession, but there was a moment when it seemed like the Academy was only going to award tech statues to guys looking like they were heading to a throwback Whitesnake concert after the show. First there was Claudio Miranda, who won Best Cinematography for Life of Pi and gave an emotionally charged speech in which he gripped the statue like it was a fleshlight. Then there was the pesky tie for Best Sound Editing, in which Paul N.J. Ottosson (Zero Dark Thirty) and Per Hallberg (Skyfall) gave separate speeches with their flowing blonde locks in full display. 

From left to right, clockwise: Ottosson, Hallberg and Miranda. Who wore it best? I'm going to go with Hallberg, since Miranda looked like a character from 'Game of Thrones' and Ottosson looks eerily like Eric Stoltz in 'Mask'. 

'Viva la Riva!' Goes The Way of The Resistance in Les Miserables (AKA Go Jennifer Lawrence!)
The one award that I was rooting hard for (Emmanuelle Riva for Amour) did not pan out the way that I would have liked it to. The Best Actress Award instead went to Jennifer Lawrence for Silver Linings Playbook. Lawrence was otherworldly in Silver Linings and really gives the film that edge that pushes it from a terrific romantic comedy to one of the best movies of the year. But I was REALLY rooting for Riva here, and it was a bummer to see her lose. So, now the pressure's on Lawrence to avoid the usual trend of young actors/actresses winning and not delivering afterward (for the record, I don't think that's what's going to happen here - she seems like someone who's going to be super awesome for the long haul). Riva, the legendary French actress, will not likely have another opportunity to win this award, which is sad, while we might be seeing Jennifer Lawrence here for a while (remember, this was already her second nomination going into the show and she's only twenty-two - good gravy).

Ben Affleck's Second Oscar Speech Not Unlike His First 
In a surprise to no one, Argo ended up walking away with Best Picture. What was surprising was the presenter: Michelle Obama. In an obviously planned appearance, the ceremony cut to Obama via satellite. I can't see the point of this other than further strengthening the alliance Hollywood has always had with liberal politics, and further alienating Republican Academy members. The move smacked of unnecessary politicization posed as patriotism and it was a unorthodox beginning to announcing Ben Affleck as the night's true winner. Affleck's speech was heartfelt and came sprinkled with the knowledge that the film industry loves awarding you one minute and kicking you in the groin the next. Personally, I liked how much the middle of his speech harkened back to the frantic pace of his previous win in 1997. Really, this is just an excuse to post one of my favorite speeches:

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