A Live Oscar Recap

Well, tonight’s the night.  Tonight is that magical night in which many in the movie industry discover and gain the respect of their peers.  Many dreams will be made-some people have been dreaming of this moment since childhood.  Others will be shattered-do you think that the losers simply go home happy? But ultimately, what the Oscar ceremony proves is that auto fellatio is possible, but hideously expensive. Just ask any winner who’s speech went on a little too long.

Every year, before the ceremony even closes, insiders and critics decry the winners as undeserving.  In some cases, winning the award is actually a burden rather than a gift.  In some cases, it forever means that that particular film “stole” the Oscar from a much more deserving candidate.  Has Reds aged better than Raging Bull?  Has How Green Was My Valley aged nearly as well as Citizen Kane? Has Crash aged well at all?  None have. They are forever the illegitimate winners, forgotten by society.  Others have gone on to greater success.  The Oscar ceremony is something that means many different things to many different people.  But, whatever your opinion may be, it is impossible to ignore.

I will be updating this blog live as winners are called and as the ceremony continues.  With ten nominees, I may very well be here till two in the morning.  But that does not matter.  This is the night more than any other that will live in the memory of the cineaste, as it does every year.  This is merely my small contribution to this enormous, shared experience.

Red Carpet Ceremony-This is the one portion of the Oscar ceremony I never understand.  Actors, directors, writers, editors-these are human beings.  Yet each year, we parade them like circus animals dressed in Armani suits.  They become exhibits stripped of all dignity. This year is no exception. Yet the celebrities are not entirely without blame.  In this age of economic instability, showing off gaudy trinkets that do nothing but display wealth are not going to endear them to their fans.  The opening is absolutely gaudy and awkward.  “Tonight, the magic is about to happen again…”  yes, it will happen in thirty minutes.  Do not waste my time, Kathy Ireland.  And the interviews with the Best Supporting Actresses: a waste of time.  It is shallow, and offers no information about them or their performances.  Just “how they are feeling.”  Well, they are thinking about whether they remembered to take the garbage out, of course.  Oh, and why are we giving focus to the proles that “are there to see their favorite movie stars?” I don’t know.  We are getting glimpses of some of the presenters-and more asinine questions.  And Matthew Broderick going gray-how can such an icon of youth fall victim to the ravages of time?  I am very frightened for the future now.  I cannot continue with this-I feel the death of many brain cells as the minutes tick by. I will see you at the opening ceremony.

Opening Act-Two hosts this year.  At least Alan Carr is not producing these any more.  Actually, this opening ceremony is interesting.  It starts with the nominees for actors and actresses rather than going straight to the hosts.  A very classy touch, if I do say so myself.  And then Neil Patrick Harris shows up.  Forgive my earlier pst in which I predicted he wouldn’t show up.  I do like Neil Patrick Harris.  He is a very funny actor who, no matter what role he is in, radiates a wonderfully infectious energy.  Why not just get him to host?  Harris even jokes about this-“I fired my agent cuz one of them (the hosts) isn’t me.”  One day, Mr. Harris, I will be happy to see you host the Academy Awards.

The actual speech of Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin is a touch awkward.  It does not contain the energy that Neil Patrick Harris showed.  There are some funny moments and there does appear to be a camaraderie present.  Steve Martin is a very funny man.  His jokes about Meryl Streep (she has the most losses in history) is a genuinely great moment.  But it is not nearly as infectious as Neil Patrick Harris.  Oh well-at least they are competent together.  Maybe this two host thing will catch on.  I would not mind-just so long as the hosts share the same talent.  And the bar has not been set very high by these two titans.  Which is unfortunate, but is not altogether a travesty.

Oh and yes, the Avatar joke is somewhat funny.  But it demonstrates what is wrong with their delivery.  You can see where it is coming from a mile away and the result is not memorable.

First Award-Penelope Cruz is presenting the award for best supporting actor.  It’s going to Christoph Waltz.  That has been guaranteed for months now.  And his performance in Inglourious Basterds is deserving. And he wins.  No one was surprised to hear this.  I am pleased that such an unknown actor has rocketed to virtual superstardom in such a short time.  And Christoph Waltz gives a fabulous speech-his first line is in character (That’s an uber-bingo).  I cannot wait to see more of him in the future.  Maybe I can find some of his German speaking films to review.

Hmm, Ryan Reynolds presenting The Blind Side? A very interesting choice.  I have not seen The Blind Side as of this writing.  I must confess, the clips do seem a little run of the mill.  Perhaps they should select better ones.

Second Award-I am sorry to use numbers like this.  As we get to the last awards I will not have to.  Please bear with me.  Anyway, Cameron Diaz and Steve Carrel are presenting the Best Animated film category. I also enjoy the way they handled this-interviewing the animated characters rather than showing clips.  Likely, Up will win.  I would have loved to see Coraline win myself, but that is not to detract from Up. And frankly, to see Dug again is to bring happiness to the hearts of everyone.   And the winner is Up. Does Pixar just decorate their walls with Oscars at this point?

Third Award-I have no idea why Miley Cyrus was even invited.  Do you need a pro-abortion arguing point?  Look no further than her.  She has done nothing noteworthy and makes more money in a day than you will see in your lifetime. I am normally all for rewarding talent, but this is rewarding a talentless hack.  She (and Mamma Mia’s Amanda Seyfried) are presenting Best Original Song.  So, Princess and the Frog.  A group of characterless songs-with the exception of one that was not nominated (Friends on the Other Side).  Whatever, I am sure it will win for “Almost There.”  I merely hope Nine does not win-I am still disturbed by the premise. Fellini does not need to be a musical.  Honestly though, I have no idea.  And the song from Crazy Heart wins.  You know, the last song I was glad to win was “Lose Yourself” from 8 Mile.  Now, I am not a supporter of rap, but I do enjoy the fact that the Academy responded to popular tastes and awarded a very well written song.  These days, they ignore it.  They are worse than the Grammys.
Chris Pine introduces District 9. Now, I did enjoy the film and feel that I must revisit it.  But I am not sure if it should be nominated for Best Picture.  But then, it is a good film from a genre that is usually ignored.  I am going to view the glass as half full.  Besides, it is a dark horse and has not, to my knowledge, been predicted to win by anyone.

Fourth Award-Robert Downey Jr. and Tina Fey present.  Alec Baldwin kisses up to Tina.  Very expected. They do a wonderful job parodying the jobs of actors.  And they are presenting the award for Best Original Screenplay.  I say Inglourious Basterds. Or The Hurt Locker.  Tarantino is a wonderfully talented writer-you can see his words as the actors speak them.  Few writers can keep their talents present in a screenplay.  And, as an amateur screenwriter myself (I have written four and am working on a fifth one) I enjoy these categories and seeing brilliant writing awarded.  And the winner is The Hurt Locker.  Hopefully this leads to a Best Picture and Best Director win.  But I am not sure about this award.  Frankly, the power of the film was in the editing, the performances, the direction, and the execution.  The writing was good, but not the ultimate strength of the film.  The writer thanks the director- again, not an uncommon item.  Still, congratulations to The Hurt Locker.

Matthew Broderick and Molly Ringwald introduce a tribute section.  They discuss John Hughes.  To hear them discuss his life makes me truly sad all over again.  Amazing how a man like Hughes had such a far reaching impact on the Hollywood community, and even the tech savy, jaded, depressed members of Generation Y (such as myself). They have an interview clip from Hughes himself-something very rare in and of itself.  We love you  and miss you, Mr. Hughes. And they even bring out members of the Brat Pack.

Samuel L Jackson introduces Up. The clip is of the most brilliant segment of the film-in which they go through the life of the main character.  Notably, very little Dug.  He was the best part of the film-they managed to take a dog and truly give him accurate speech.  My family has a golden retriever-they all act like that.  It is why I love dogs.  Humans wag their tongues, dogs wag their tails.

Fifth Award-One of these presenters is Carey Mulligan, nominated for her performance in An Education.   The introduce Best Animated Short Film.  Again, this is a category I am not familiar with.  I am not going to try to give a prediction.  I wish theaters would still show these films.  Why do we need to view commercials?  I would rather view these. And they have many past winners discussing their experiences making their films.  This is what the Oscars are all about.  I do appreciate John Lasseter’s quote-“they are a tool box of story telling.”  And the winner is Logorama. The clips definitely make me want to view the film.  Ronald McDonald driving a motorcycle-what a delightful display of anarchy.

Sixth Award-Best Documentary Short.  Same two presenters.  Again, I am sadly unfamiliar with this category.  I would imagine The Last Truck will win.  It displays our own insecurities.  And the winner is Music By Prudence which just makes me thing of a Beatles recording, or Siouxsie and the Banshees.   But I am in no position to critique the film properly.  So I will merely say congratulations to the winner.

Seventh Award-Best Live Action short.  I do not know why there is a desperation to get through these awards.  Perhaps this is the part of the broadcast where the ratings taper off.  The winner is The New Tenants. Again, congratulations to all.

Ben Stiller is up to introduce….holy God, why is he dressed like one of the aliens in Avatar? I am for more frightened than amused.

Best Makeup-Avatar is not nominated, making Stiller’s antics that much more eccentric.  Hmm…Star Trek? I enjoy make up effects (and special effects) that create characters that could not possibly exist.  That is what makes them “special.”  Aging make up is impressive, but does not cause the awe.  And the winner is….well Stiller can’t open the envelope with his make up.  Anyway, now that the clowning is over, the winner is Star Trek. Yes, I am pleased.  And I will be even more pleased when Stiller kindly exits the stage.

Jeff Bridges introduces A Serious Man. A Coen vet, Bridges was the natural choice.  This is another dark horse-it was nominated to pad out the nominations.  Again, I have not seen the film as of this writing.  But it is not noteworthy enough to be in the running according to the rest of the insiders.

Best Adapted Screenplay-Rachel McAdams and Jake Gyllenhaal present.  I want Up in the Air to win.  Precious may win.  Up in the Air contains a more broad portrait of the working man.  This would have been something that would not have been out of place in the 1930s.   And the winner is-Precious. This is another film that fell under the radar for me.  The trailers looked, well, let me put it this way-I am tired of constantly hearing about the plight of inner city youth.  It is not a topic that has been unexplored.  The writer seems quite flabbergasted at his win.  He can barely speak.  In other words, he sounds like me if I won the award.

Honorary Oscar-Queen Latifah presents.  Steve Martin makes a joke about how they were in a movie together.  That was seven years ago.  We have moved on.  Anyway, Roger Corman was awarded this at a private ceremony late last year.  Lauren Bacall wins as well.  This is…Roger Corman was a purveyor of schlock throughout his career.  He famously turned down the Waterworld script, saying it would cost him $3 million to make.  But they do not get to make a speech.

Best Supporting Actress-Robin Williams present.  Neither an Actress nor a Supporter, he devours any film that he is in. He makes a phallic reference.  Is anyone surprised?  Williams is no longer cutting edge. Anyway,  Mo’Nique is the favorite to win. Who am I to argue?  Why are clips from Nine being shown?  Show me 8 1/2. Please.  Aside from that, the clips feel like a formality, although I did enjoy Kendrick’s performance in Up in the Air. And the winner is Mo’Nique.  It is as everyone guessed.  Can I get one upset in the ceremony? And let’s not mention Tyler Perry.  He is a screenwriter in the same sense Dean Koontz is a novelist-technically correct, but ultimately quite demeaning.

Colin Firth introduces An Education. Nothing else to say really.

Best Art Direction-OK , Sigourney Weaver introduces it.  She jokes about AlienAvatar will win.  I do not mind it winning the technical awards.  It was a magnificent technical achievement, something few will ever do in their lifetimes.  And Avatar is the winner.  Weaver reads the winner as though she was expecting it.  This is a problem.  Why on earth read the winner as though you are a bored hostess of a bad party?  This is a big night for the winners.  Emote, Weaver.

Best Costume Design-Tom Ford and Sarah Jessica Parker present.  I would like to see a Terry Gilliam film win.  But Nine will win, if only because Coleen Atwood designed.  And the winner is The Young Victorian for Sandy Powell.  We are reminded she won for Shakespeare in Love. Thank God for that; we need to be reminded of that amazing film and her contributions. I hope the sarcasm is apparent.  She also tries to pass her win off as not an achievement (I already have two these).  Good for you…spread the wealth.

Charlize Theron introduces Precious. The clips they show, again, simply look like items that we have seen before.  It seems to be a film made to win Oscars. Again, I have not seen the entire film.  But the clips do not impress me.  I am sure it is a well executed piece.  But I prefer filmmakers who try something new rather than show us a world that we have seen many times before.  This is, of course, based on the clips.  Maybe the film is a masterpiece.  Maybe not.

OK, Baldwin and Martin’s home video is funny.  Not quite horror though.

Horror Tribute-Kristen Stewart and Taylor-whatever-his-name-is introduce the tribute.  Again, these two are fads who have no business at the ceremony.  And horror, when it is done correctly, is my favorite genre.  We get clips of Jaws, The Exorcist, Psycho, Halloween, Poltergeist, The Shining, Saw, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Rosemary’s Baby.  The background music is more incredible: bits from Young Frankenstein and Re-Animator.  Why though did two such mediocre actors have to introduce this.  It is a wonderfully chilling group of clips.  That fact alone trivializes the tribute.

Best Sound Editing Award-Zac Efron and Anna Kendrick introduce, with Morgan Freeman reading a narration.  He jokes about the fact he narrates everything.  Yet there is a reason for this.  His authoritative yet soothing tones resonate with viewers.  Again, why not just introduce the award by himself?  Anyway, Avatar will likely win again.  And the winner is The Hurt Locker. Incredible.  Again, I hope this means that The Hurt Locker will win the top awards.  To have David beat Goliath-actually quite rare for the Oscars.  Yet it is always appreciated.

Best Sound Mixing Award-Same presenters.  Considering the previous winner, this is up in the air (no pun intended).  The winner is The Hurt Locker. Good for them-take as many awards from Avatar as possible.  I am glad that there was a pan to Kathryn Bigelow.  I cannot wait to see what her acceptance speech might be.

Elizabeth Banks shows a tribute of the Sci-Tech awards.  There is a picture of the winners. That is all.

John Travolta introduces Inglourious Basterds.  Again, a vet of Tarantino films.  I do greatly enjoy the Basterds. But Pulp Fiction did not win.  I doubt Inglourious Basterds will be so lucky.  Still, Tarantino has inspired more filmmakers than any other writer/director in the past twenty five years.  He will always be respected.

Best Cinematography-Sandra Bullock presents the award.  She jokes about how she wants to make sure she looks good on camera.  Avatar is nominated, but I would rather The Hurt Locker win.  But Avatar wins.  Again, I don’t care how many technical awards Avatar wins.  Although can the camera really work if the movie is more or less animated?  I wouldn’t think so, but apparently they can. As a side note, James Cameron looks exactly the same as he did twenty years ago.  Just put a white wig on him.

Demi Moore presents James Taylor presents the Honorary segment where they show clips of those who had died in the past year.  I feel this segment is just as much of an award as any of the Oscars.  Thank you to you all for making the world a brighter place. Yes, Michael Jackson makes an appearance, but refreshingly, it is not turned into a giant showcase of his work.  That was for music; this is for films.  So the brief mention does make sense. He is mentioned and they move on.   Eric Rohmer died?  I had forgotten that.  Rest in Peace to all the departed.

Best Original Score-Sam Worthington and Jennifer Lopez (sorry-Henn-ifer Ho-pez) present this award.  This is another category I enjoy.  But this year…my God.  This is pointless to have dancers act out the scores.  The scores are meant to only compliment the films.  To try a Cirque de Solei style performance is inappropriate.  Remember the tap dancers who danced to Saving Private Ryan? Same effect.  Although, I must admit, The Hurt Locker’s score is quite good, if only because Marco Beltrami is involved.  Up is also quite good at delivering its ballads.  Avatar sounds like  b-side from Paul Simon’s Graceland, not quite Oscar caliber. The clip is from the first ten minutes of the film.  I do enjoy his evocative emoting with his ballads.  To see it in this manner makes the winner impossible to determine.  The dancers are a distraction.  Show the clips next year.  And the winner is Up. Wow, I must admit I am quite surprised.  But frankly, the theme to Up is the only theme I would listen to over and over again.

Best Visual Effects-Bradley Cooper and Gerard Butler present this.  Avatar is a definite win, isn’t it?  This is the only category I am honestly rooting for James Cameron’s turgid opus.  My second choice would be District 9. And the winner is Avatar. No reason to discuss this further.  Except it is hilarious to see James Cameron applaud someone else.  His ego is such that recognizing other people is impossible.

Jason Bateman introduces Up in the Air. I am surprised that ten nominees do not seem to be slowing the ceremony down.  That was a big fear for many.  Although we are approaching 11 o’clock.  Yet we still have documentary and the big nominees to go.

Best Documentary-Matt Damon presents.  Alec Baldwin points out he is the only screenwriter to get regular sex.  I am still surprised This is It was not nominated.  It seemed like the sure thing for a while.  The Cove looks pathetically worthless.  Food Inc will likely win.  That seems to be the hot topic of today’s society.  It also seems to be the most relevant to today’s society.  We keep reopening the wounds of Vietnam.  Is there a reason? We have progressed greatly since then.  It is important not to forget our past.  But this is one piece we are not forgetting.  And the winner is The Cove. Damn.  Another “green” film simply attempts to make us feel guilty as a species.  Why discuss dolphins on an emotional level?  There are so much more to the story.  Whatever, take your award and go. And give it to a dolphin.

Best Film Editing-Tyler Perry presents.  He accurately states that this will be the only time his name will be said at the ceremony.  He tries to explain what a film editor does, very poorly.  This is again an award I hope The Hurt Locker wins.  It feels like a documentary.  The editing is powerful and helps the film dramatically.  And the winner is The Hurt Locker. The winners mention they originally edited the films of Sam Raimi.  It is truly amazing where people get started.

Keanu Reeves introduces The Hurt Locker. Another man whose name will never be called at an Oscar ceremony again.  Just sit back and watch the clips-The Hurt Locker was the best film of 2009.

Best Foreign Language Film-Quentin Tarantino and Pedro Almodovar introduce.  Sorry for stating we were down to the final four.  It is good to see these two together.  Again, I must plead ignorance to the nominated films.  I have heard good things about The White Ribbon.  The winner is El Secreto de sus Ojos from Argentina.

Kathy Bates introduces Avatar.  I don’t see the connection to the two.  Yes, I am aware it is the largest grossing film of all time.  So what?  Is it an artistic success?  I would say no.  But so far, this has not been Avatar’s night. It is far from a sure thing; for that I could not be happier.

Best Actor-Five presenters again, just like last year. But Kate Winslet ultimately gives out the award.  It is quite a diverse crowd congratulating the nominees.  It is a surprise to see Tim Robbins on stage.  Anyway, Jeff Bridges has long been the favorite.  His win is more of a “we’re sorry” Oscar; Bridges’ career is a marvel to behold.  One wonders why he did not win for The Big Lebowski.  A joke, but you see my point. He has been an actor who can play any role.  Anyone who can convincingly play a slob like “The Dude” and then turn around and be in Crazy Hearts has quite an eclectic range.  The other nominees do not stack up to him.  And the winner is Jeff Bridges.  His first action is to kiss his significant other.  And his father is Lloyd Bridges?  I never knew that.  Jeff picked the right week to quit smoking.  He is a man who shows nothing but joy in his face.  It is wonderful just to hear him speak.

Best Actress-Another diverse group, including Oprah and Forrest Whitaker.  Sean Penn gives out the actual award. Sandra Bullock is also the favorite to the point where it is not a surprise any more.  Why bother with the long winded introductions?  I do wonder why Meryl Streep was nominated.  Julie & Julia was forgotten soon after it opened.  And Steep’s performance…I suppose it was good, but it is far from her best.  Anyway, the winner is Sandra Bullock. She gives a tearful speech, and truly seems humbled by the award.  And why not?  No one could have ever predicted this.  She also thanks the other nominees.  A good speech.  Too bad it took to long to get to it.

Best Director-Here is the big one.  If Kathryn Bigelow does not win, I am honestly prepared to throw various large objects.  For some reason, Barbara Streisand is presenting this.  No one will ever know why. She emphasizes the minorities in the nominee selection.  Look, if they are talented, that should be a non issue.  And all are talented.  Well, we will see.  The winner is Kathryn Bigelow.  Thank you Academy is all I can say.  Bigelow has always been an absorbing filmmaker.  I have reviewed her Near Dark and Strange Days. She has been, for whatever reason, been delegated to b movie status.  After this, I cannot wait to see her next work.  She also looks out of breath and tearful.  She even dedicates her award to the military.  For such a group of liberal elite, this is like dropping a fox in the hen house.  Congratulations Kathryn.

Best Picture-At this point, The Hurt Locker seems to be the favorite.  And the winner is The Hurt Locker. It won six Oscars tonight.  This was beautiful-most people I know expected Avatar to sweep.  I wonder what Cameron is thinking right now.  This is about a true art film being recognized.  Congratulations to all at the Academy.  And congratulations to the makers of The Hurt Locker. No one deserves it more than you.

UPDATE MARCH 8th

As I predicted, the cinema world is already ablaze with commentary on last night’s ceremony.  Some are praising the underdog win.  Others are complaining about Avatar’s loss-they say that the Academy is run by a bunch of geriatrics so out of touch with the mainstream as to be insulting.  Yes, sometimes I agree with that sentiment.  I hated some of the moments from last night.  The interpretive dance number does not need explanation-it needs an inquisition.  Whose idea was that?  But last night, I was pleased to see The Hurt Locker rewarded.  I know Avatar is the highest grossing movie of all time.  What of it?  Should the award MERELY be a reflection of popular tastes?  Yes, the Academy has shot itself in the foot over this debate before.  The Dark Knight’s lack of a best picture nomination last year is inexcusable.  But there is a difference between The Dark Knight and Avatar; The Dark Knight was a good film.  Avatar is not-it depends too much on the spectacle and does not offer a substantial story to back its amazing visuals.  Yes, the 3D is incredible and the most convincing that medium has ever been.  But a better film is coming along. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has commented on the fact the plot of Avatar is derivative from Dances with Wolves.  That is not something that can be ignored.  The Hurt Locker has a fraction of the gross of Avatar.  But it is a bigger artistic triumph.  It was a return of Kathryn Bigelow who crafted a film that helped explain the damages caused by the Iraq War more than any other film.  The fact that it is not as mainstream as Avatar is more a commentary on the mainstream than the film.  Hopefully last night’s win will help the film be discovered and continue to be viewed long after the initial spectacle of Avatar is forgotten.

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