3.05.2006

"78th Annual Academy Awards"

A chronological stream-of-consciousness reaction courtesy The Cheese Fry:

* What starts as a funny bit with past hosts rejecting the call to host this year's awards (beginning with Billy Crystal and Chris Rock in the Brokeback pup tent) ends rather weakly with Jon Stewart in bed with George Clooney in some strained attempt at a topical gay joke. Maybe it looked good on paper.

* Is it me or is Jon Stewart having trouble with his monologue?

* Clooney wins for Best Supporting Actor, which was fairly predictable.

* What's with this new element of playing music under the winners' acceptance speeches? Presumably, it's to keep the pressure on to prevent any needlessly long speeches, but it gives the show one more level of melodramatic cheese. This isn't a Lifetime movie.

* The Tom Hanks getting-hit-over-the-head with a viola bit is kind of funny.

* It's Ben Stiller who gets the first genuine laughs of the night with his shameless delivery of the visual effects Oscar wearing an unflattering greenscreen body suit.

* The two winners of Wallace and Gromit put on their new Oscars bow ties that match their own. A cute touch, but it robs them of humility - they must have figured they had a good shot since they went to the trouble of making the bow ties. And who likes people who let you know that they knew they'd win, even if they knew they'd win?

* Naomi Watts, usually smoking hot, looks decidedly un-hot in an ugly dress whose color matches her skin tone.

* Dolly Parton works the room like it's the Ryman and has the Oscar crowd clapping their hands. Weird.

* A nice change to preview the Best Picture candidates by simply showing clips during show bumpers, rather than wasting time to bring out a presenter to read some pithy lines about How Important the nominated film is and then introduce the clip.

* Stewart's Scientology joke flops, reminding one how very seriously these people take all of this. Hollywood doesn't have a sense of humor about itself.

* Luke and Owen Wilson sure are charming, aren't they?

* Why can't the Academy find some way to let audiences see the live-action and animated nominated shorts? It's a crime that it's so impossible to find these films.

* Also a crime? The unending insistence on inserting cartoon characters into a live-action award show. The same people who won't laugh at a Scientology joke seem to think this kind of Saturday-morning cable-access nonsense is clever.

* Will Ferrell and Steve Carrel are pretty funny in their bad makeup.

* Another joke flops as Jon Stewart tries to riff on Russell Crowe's bad boy reputation.

* Consider Rachel McAdams another perennially smoking hot actress who somehow doesn't look good in her Oscar get up. What's going on?

* Only Morgan Freeman can get away with wearing a suit with no tie.

* Rachel Weisz wins Best Supporting Actress, which is what the pundits seemed to think would happen.

* Lauren Bacall fills in one of Oscars' most coveted slots: Aging Star Who Can't Read the Teleprompter.

* Jon Stewart finally delivers the goods with his Best Actress campaign ads: Keira Knightley for "Acting While Beautiful," Reese Witherspoon and "crazy letters that make no sense," and Judi Dench is no dame. Hilarious.

* Terrance Howard sure is charismatic and could become the Next Denzel. You read it here first.

* Strange that the March of the Penguins winners didn't say anything about how their film had to be rescued from oblivion by an American distribution executive who made the wise decision to stick on the Morgan Freeman narration, thus helping pave the way to box office gold and the Oscar. Hmmm.

* Jennifer Lopez. At what point is her 15 minutes of fame up, anyway? Enough is enough.

* Dolly Parton had the stage all to herself but for the Crash song we get interpretive dance and a burning car.

* What is the deal with these pointless montages? First the biopic retrospective, then the film noir retrospective, and now a rather random collection of clips about films with social impact. Hollywood is always annoyingly self-congratulatory, but this is ridiculous. And this clip package ends with a musical flourish that borders on parody.

* The Cheese Fry just doesn't get the appeal of the Ms. Salma Hayek.

* Gustavo Santaolalla justly wins for his memorable score to Brokeback Mountain, the only one that sounded unique and not just the same old bombastic orchestral score you've heard a million times. It's so memorable, in fact, that (right or wrong) it's become shorthand for homosexual subtext.

* Stewart scores with a joke about Itzak Perlman finger syncing his violin performance.

* Another montage, this one about epics. Stewart jokes that they're all out of clips now. Ouch.

* The Cheese Fry really doesn't get the appeal of the Ms. Jessica Alba no matter how skillfully the Hollywood PR machine tries to force us all to like her. The lights may be on, but no one's home.

* Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep deliver the goods with an amusing and, in a pre-canned evening of plastic phoniness, very natural introduction to Robert Altman by paying tribute to his customary technique of sloppy, improvised, overlapping dialogue.

* "It's Hard Out There for a Pimp" gets the Sonny and Cher Hour treatment with writhing dancers and flashing disco lights. Subtlety has never met Oscar.

* Oops: the camera shows briefly a couple of tuxedoed stagehands moving a "Pimp" streetlamp prop off the stage.

* The annual "In Memoriam" montage ends - as always - with the heavy hitters sure to pull the biggest applause: producer Ismail Merchant, then director Robert Wise, and in the anchorman spot Richard Pryor.

* Stewart lands another hit when he notes Scorsese's got no Oscars and "Pimp" group 3-6 Mafia has one.

* Philip Seymour Hoffman wins Best Actor for a film no one's seen.

* Reese Witherspoon wins for Best Actress and delivers a cutesy, Reese-like speech, including a misty-eyed bit about how June Carter liked to say "I'm just trying to matter."

* Adapted screenplay goes to Brokeback Mountain, original screenplay to Crash. Very predictable. A pox on the houses of Oscar, however, for cutting off Crash co-writer Bobby Moresco. The show's already running past three hours - what's it matter now? Here's an idea: cut those stupid damn montages.

* Stewart's best line, in reference to Brokeback co-writer Larry McMurty's choice of pants: "I didn't know we could wear jeans."

* And now come the esteemed Hollywood royalty: Tom Hanks delivers the Best Director award to Ang Lee, Jack Nicholson (note: aren't we all a little tired of his sunglasses gimmick by now?) delivers Best Picture to Crash.

* It's not an upset of Shakespeare in Love proportions perhaps, but Crash definitely was a come-from-behind winner to topple favorite Brokeback Mountain for Best Picture. Cynics would argue it was the flood of free Crash "For Your Consideration" award DVDs into the Hollywood community that provided the growing momentum these last few weeks. Maybe Stewart was onto something with his TV campaign ads - that could be the next step.

* Further bad karma is assured when the producers cut off Crash producer Cathy Schulman. You just proclaimed her the producer of the Best Picture of 2005 but now you have to end her speech to run another "Sons and Daughters" sitcom promo?

* Final running time: 3.5 hours.

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