The 79th Academy Awards was a pleasant evening of safe comedy, tasteful gowns and almost no surprises. There were no shocking upsets; no shameful Academy shut outs; no war protesters streaking in the background. No winners used their 47 seconds to petition for the release of Leonard Peltier, or for anything more scandalous than an end to global warming. No starlet forgot her slip or committed unfortunate hair.
That said, even the world’s most boring Super Bowl gets an hour post game show, so welcome to the Academy Awards LXXIV Post Game Wrap Up.
First, a note to red carpet coverage producers: The only thing we are interested in on the red carpet is seeing the gowns. That is all. These are the only acceptable red carpet questions: “How are you feeling tonight?” “Who are you wearing?” Here are questions that are not acceptable: “Have you ever met Brad Pitt?” “What’s Brad Pitt like?” "If you ever meet Brad Pitt, can you give him this script for me?" “Since there’s no chance that you’re going to win, why have you bothered coming this evening?”…or its corollary “Everyone thinks you’re going to win. What do you plan to say when you do?” And the most annoying unacceptable question, (Ryan Seacrest, I’m talking to you) “When are you two getting married?”
E! distinguished itself early with some spectacularly bad red carpet coverage. While Ryan Seacrest babbled about his small red carpet work space and the hostess chicks with the interchangeable heads congratulated each other their outfits, actual movie actors drifted by unnoticed in the background. When they actually managed to get a star in a gown to stop to talk to them, the cameras would suddenly cut away to show George Takei wandering the red carpet aimlessly in a kimono.
ABC offered E! some stiff challenge in the stupid department, particularly when the two hosts on the red carpet could not get anyone to stop to speak to them. It was really pathetic watching these two self important poseurs in tuxes yelling “Mr O’Toole!” “Nicole!” “Mr. Takei!” to an unflagging train of stardom passing by. Occasionally they would cut away to their fashion “experts”, a plastic man and woman being catty in a sky box, and a strange looking automaton of a man, theoretically from Vogue, who would lunge at people with his microphone and robot questions to them in a loud monotone.
A nadir was reached when the “style expert” in the sky box sniffed that Jodi Foster simply was not looking sexy enough to pull off the gown she was wearing. (Jodi looked conservatively stylish as usual). It sounded shallow and catty when he said it, but the true depth of his callowness was revealed later in the evening when Foster appeared to present the “In Memoriam” segment, in part to pay tribute to her best friend who had died two weeks earlier. Yeah, sorry the classy actress in mourning failed to bring her sexy back, you twit.
Next year ABC would do well to make whatever trade is necessary to get Tim Gun to do their red carpet coverage. Lost…Ugly Betty…whatever sacrifices it takes to get Uncle Tim on the red carpet.
Most of my Oscar disappointments occurred when the nominees were announced. You can see my take on who oughta been there instead here, but it meant that for the most part, there were no glorious high or crushing low moments to be had during the ceremony itself.
The only one that really surprised me was the Best Foreign Language Award to The Lives of Others over Pan’s Labyrinth. With all the hoopla over the Mexican cinema renaissance and the new “Three Amigos”, Guillermo Del Toro, Alejandro Inarritu and Alfonso Cuaron, I was shocked and disappointed that none of them walked away with a major prize. Any mystery over The Lives of Others’ victory was instantly banished during the director’s acceptance speech, however. In accent-less English Von Donnersmarck cheerfully thanked Arnold Schwarzenegger for all his wonderful advice.
Wow, so no politics involved in the Academy’s decision there. Let’s see, should we vote for the cheeky Mexican or Arnie’s buddy? Arnie’s buddy or the cheeky Mexican? Gosh and golly. Let me ponder that over a few rounds of golf at the club.
The ceremony itself opened with a nice moment when Ellen DeGeneres asked all the nominees to stand. Will Smith gave Kate Winslet a big hug. Helen Mirren crossed the aisle to shake Martin Scorscese’s hand. Mark Wahlberg stood there applauding himself with a smug look on his face. Hell, why shouldn’t he be smug? He clearly used some incriminating evidence against the entire Hollywood acting community to get himself nominated. Then he managed to score the Academy’s cat bird seat, right behind Martin Scorcese, so he managed to get himself in approximately 74% of the evening’s audience shots.
(I’ve always thought Wahlberg was a great artist. Here’s some of my favorite early work. Why yes, Mark, I do feel it baby. Thanks for asking!)
From the pleasant opening introduction, it was all downhill from there. There was a sort of but not really funny song from Will Farrell and Jack Black. There were some ill conceived tumblers making movie logo shapes which went from sort of clever to really tedious as the evening wore on. (At least it wasn’t interpretive dance from Cirque du Soleil). There were some film clip montages which, again, went from clever to tedious as the program marched towards hour four.
Sherry Lansing won the Academy’s Humanitarian prize. Apparently at least one of the scientific causes she supports involves cryogenic freezing of the face. I can’t remember any of her speech as I was too distracted comparing the difference between her Jessica Tandy arms and her forehead tight enough to bounce a quarter. It was a little scary when Ennio Morricone began his lengthy Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech in Italian, until it became clear that he was using his five minutes to give a grand and gracious Fuck You to the Academy for ignoring his work for forty years.
Ellen’s hosting was as safe and bland as an American cheese sandwich on white bread with the crust removed. Her edgiest joke was “If it weren’t for blacks, Jews and gays there would be no Hollywood,” and even that was delivered with enough solemnity one questioned if it were, in fact, intended to be funny. WOW! Way to speak truth to power Ellen! Can you imagine Johnny Carson being given four hours of podium duty without dropping a single solitary President joke, or an Iran joke, or a global warming joke? When the real Al Gore is funnier than the jokes, you’re doing something wrong.
Of course, we all wanted to see Marty win. Any doubt over that outcome was erased when Francis Ford Copolla, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas came out to present the Best Director award. Jack Nicholson looking on from the sidelines completed this intimidating Gang of Four, making it clear that, should a name other than Scorcese’s appear in the envelope, it might be best for that person to head for the exit rather than the stage. There was naught to worry. Marty got his prize, gave a fabulous speech (including the great direction to his seven year old “Stay up for ten more minutes, then jump on the bed and make a lot of noise,” a fabulous response to everyone who has ever used their Oscar Moment to tell their kids to go to bed.) and drifted off the stage in a haze of joy and glory.
It would be nice to say that final moment made it all worth while, but who are we kidding?
In summation, Hollywood, Academy, Oscar telecast producers, please note the following: Pre-show producers: Tim Gun needs to host the Red Carpet.
Starlets: there’s too much pretty and safe going on out there. Next year I want to see forgotten slips, unfortunate necklines and at least one profoundly bad hairstyle. Isn’t it about time someone re-discovered the Princess Leia side buns?
Academy: sometimes you give the impression of being bunch of old farts that occasionally do the right thing by accident. I just thought you should know, in case your friends won’t tell you.
Wahlberg: somewhere I think I just heard a timer pass 12 minutes.
Ellen: love your daytime show. Hope you keep that up.
Producers: seriously, no more tumblers, acrobats, shadow puppets, choirs or anything that is not directly involved in propelling the evening forward. A lack of Celine Dion would not harm anything either. Also, consider a host who is not afraid of making people laugh. Perhaps if you book now, Stephen Colbert might be available.