Oscars 2013 Analysis

So, another Oscar ceremony has passed us by. If you watched it (and considering viewership was up 20% over the last year, you probably did), you know that Argo won Best Picture, Jennifer Lawrence tripped while walking to accept her award, and the Django theme still sounds cool when a professional orchestra plays it.

Most of the awards were surprising. There were two in particular that I was shocked to see – Best Supporting Actor and Best Director. Also, what Argo’s win means should surely be discussed.

But first, after watching the ceremony, there was one burning question on my mind. It was a decision that distracted me from any of the memorable speeches, the wonderful musical performances, and Seth MacFarlane’s passable job as host.

WHAT WAS MICHELLE OBAMA DOING ANNOUNCING THE BEST PICTURE WINNER???????

I cannot even begin to fathom how anyone thought this was appropriate or sent the right message to viewers. Michelle Obama has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the craft of film. I know she tried to pretend like she was giving sort of official seal of approval to the Best Picture nominees (as though art is not art until a government official gives it the thumbs up) but it was a sentiment that did nothing to add to the winner’s joy, or the viewing audience at home who have seen nothing but politicians hold them hostage with their own money. Why did that current negative situation need to be added to the Oscars? Hollywood has always been about escapism, where people can go to get away from their troubles. Like it or not, no matter what Michelle says, her presence will snap us back into reality.

Besides, considering some of the sentiment expressed by the Best Picture nominees, her appearance failed on its own terms. Zero Dark Thirty was put front and center in the media about the evil torture and spy policies that America carried out in the hunt for bin Laden – policies that have only gotten worse since Obama took office.  Argo was released on the heels of the Benghazi embassy storming that left an ambassador dead and an administration that is still not forthcoming with answers about what really happened (and a Secretary of State insisting that asking such questions makes no difference). Lincoln showed a president doing what her husband has failed to do – inspire people to come together to fix huge problems this country is facing. And Django Unchained still shows that there are problems with race relations in America – problems the election of her husband was meant to overcome.

Ultimately, all Michelle “Antoinette” Obama demonstrated is that there is no media moment she feels she should not be included in. Any big event must showcase her and her new bangs, or else it is a moment that should not happen at all. I know that I sound only a few degrees away from being some sort of insane Glenn Beck clone (in other words, a Glenn Beck clone), but I am still having a hard time fathoming why anyone thought this was what the Oscars needed.

OK, I’m done ranting now. Let’s get on to the films and the show as a whole.

First, Seth MacFarlane’s hosting. I’ll come right out and say it -I ultimately feel that he did a good job. Not great, but good. Granted, I don’t like his television shows and my expectations couldn’t be lower, but he made me laugh and I would be wrong to admit otherwise. He was actually willing to genuinely take aim at the celebrities in the audience. His first musical number, a wonderful show ditty entitled “We Saw Your Boobs,” made some people in the audience squirm, something I was happy to see. There is nothing wrong with satirizing actresses who have had nude scenes for no other point than to…excite…audiences. Most of his jokes hit their targets, and he didn’t try to hog the camera or make the show about him.

And yes, I can confirm his list is quite accurate.

The problem is, most of his gags went on too long. By the time the “Gay Mens’ Chorus of Los Angeles” too the stage, we had gotten the joke. It was time to move on. But MacFarlane still does not know when enough is enough. Most of his monologue was right that. But the time he started making out with Sally Field, I was just ready for the show to start. Still, his quips were good and he was willing to piss off the right people. I wish more hosts would do that rather than just thank the audience for laughing at their bad jokes.

Now, onto my two surprise wins.

First, Christoph Waltz for Best Supporting Actor. This is wrong, and I am trying to figure out the logic behind it. First, he’s basically playing the same character as he did in Inglourious Basterds, except this time he’s a “good guy.” He’d already been rewarded for playing that exact character. Why reward him again? He would not even be my pick for best performance in that film – Samuel L Jackson deserved to be nominated more. Django Unchained was a great film and Waltz is a talented actor. But he didn’t challenge himself enough in Unchained.

Second, Ang Lee. I can’t really comment on that particular film, but I have not really enjoyed much of Lee’s output. Alright, Crouching Tiger was fine and Hulk is hardly one of the worst films ever. But it seems as though AMPAS was on the “we’re sorry” mode with that win for not giving Lee the statue for Best Picture on Brokeback Mountain, even though he won Best Director for that film AND the fact Brokeback could not possibly be the best film of 2005 (that honor goes to A History of Violence). Yet Ben Affleck’s snub in this category will be felt for some time to come (even the host called AMPAS out on that mistake) so no matter who won, it would have felt like it was going to the wrong person. I felt they would at least give it to Spielberg, an honest Hollywood legend, in order to justify the lapse.

Finally, Argo’s win. It was the right choice. It may feel like Hollywood is self congratulating itself (“our industry has saved lives! Look, here’s proof!!”) but what do you expect with the Oscars? If they wanted to make a political statement, they could have given the statue to Lincoln or Zero Dark Thirty. I named Argo the best film of 2012 and I have a feeling that I will stand by that after watching it again last week. I always love when AMPAS gives the award to what was truly the best film of the year, something that does not happen as often as one would hope.

Well, now, we can close the book on 2013. No snark here – I want to congratulate all the winners and the nominees.

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