Posts Tagged ‘oscars’

Reflections on a Golden Gong

Monday, February 28th, 2011

If you had asked me a week before the Oscars if I thought James Franco would be a good host, I’d have given you a ‘maybe’. He can be funny, and he certainly seems confident, smart, and proud of what he does. If you had asked me again a day before the Oscars, after his prissy response to Ricky Gervais in which the actor lectured the comedian about what is or isn’t funny, and I’d have given a more confident answer. He was going to suck, because he thinks that his business is too important to be mocked, and the Oscars isn’t entertaining if it isn’t a roast.

It’s easy to joke that Franco looked stoned, but of course it isn’t a joke. With his eyes half closed and his face slack, he brought down the energy in the room every time he appeared, and that was a big room with a lot of uppers going on. Even when he strode on to the stage in Marilyn drag, it was more stunt than gag, with no payoff or punchline.

younghiposcarYounger, hipper Oscar

Anne Hathaway was better. She was by no means good, and I doubt she’ll ever be invited back. I thought she would be a total non-presence, but next to Franco’s sleepy stiffness she had a gushing affability, like this was the superest gymkhana that daddy had ever taken her to.

Every Oscars gets dubbed the worst Oscars ever, and it is hard to remember a good one, but no-one watches the Oscars because they expect the whole show to be good. It’s the moments that matter. What made this such a bad show was that it had so very few moments. Taken as a whole, the Oscars are never good. People speak fondly of the Billy Crystal years, but when Billy Crystal hosted I always felt like I was watching a daytime game show. Yet I admit that his brief appearance was one of the scant few highlights. Melissa Leo’s bad language was another. I’m struggling to name a third, as I found Kirk Douglas’s stroke-afflicted mumbling more frightening than charming.

None of the speeches stand out in my memory. Colin Firth’s speech was good for the first half hour, but it waned as the leaves turned. I would have enjoyed Aaron Sorkin’s speech more if he had delivered it while walking to and from the podium. Christian Bale’s speech ought to have been spectacularly mad, but in the end it was only remarkable because he forgot his wife’s name.

Lowlights were many, mostly in the form of the hosts’ strained attempts at banter, delivered with all the art and dexterity of a Slap Chop, but all their horrors paled next to the holographic ghost of Bob Hope, an exploitation of the dead that seemed to drag on much longer than the too-abrupt In Memoriam package.

Who should host the Oscars next year? The job usually goes to comedians - stand ups and talk show hosts. Hugh Jackman two years ago and Franco and Hathaway this year have been failed attempts to do something that’s both new yet conversely a little more ‘old Hollywood’. Last year’s Alec Baldwin/Steve Martin double act bridged the actor/comedian gap, but failed to live up to its promise. If an actor is picked again next year, it needs to be someone with enough wit and charm to win over audiences both in the theatre and at home, and preferably someone heavyweight, yet able to laugh at themselves. Robert Downey Jr, George Clooney and Kevin Spacey spring to mind.

If they go back to comedians, Tina Fey would be a laudable choice. Ricky Gervais would be too untamed, and the Oscars probably wouldn’t want the Globes’ cast-offs. Perhaps Ellen DeGeneres deserves a second chance, and Jimmy Fallon might deserve a first chance, except that he’s on the wrong network, which makes the most plausible contender for the job one Jimmy Kimmel.

On second thoughts, James Franco might do better next time, right?

Oh, Oscar!

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

The world’s most glamorous dog and pony show has come and gone for another year. Hugh Jackman was the host for the 81st Academy Awards, and if he seemed like an odd choice given the show’s tendency to favour comics and professional talkers in the role, all fears quickly faded the moment he sang the word ‘excrement’ into Kate Winslet’s face. The jokes were a little pantomime, the songs were a little ropy, but one thing Jackman has in spades is charm. The opening number also gave us Anne Hathaway as Richard Nixon, and the blissfully barefaced cheek of the ‘I haven’t seen The Reader’ song, which was the most brilliantly stage-managed snub I’ve ever seen.

I’m getting ahead of myself, of course. I haven’t talked about the red carpet, where all the buzz was about Brad and Ange - he looking immaculate, she looking a little vampiric. Not only did they give short shrift to Ryan Seacrest on E, they also breezed quickly past the fawning official Oscar broadcast. Brad and Ange don’t stop for anyone unless they’re holding fresh orphan.


Beyoncé came dressed as a lacquer vase. Jessica Biel forgot to take the napkin out of her dress after dinner. Tilda Swinton wore a bizaare dress with a golden top half and a black bottom half. True fact - if you tipped her upside down she became Cate Blanchett.


Kate Winslet’s two-face dress aptly had me in two minds. I think I liked the steely retro Tamara de Lempicka-flavoured under-dress more than I liked the Spanish widow over-dress, but I think she carried it off well.

The stars of High School Musical and Hannah Montana were all there, of course. Good to see the Mario Lopezes and Elizabeth Berkleys of tomorrow out in force and getting their due recognition. I’m only sorry that there was no sign of Lizzie McGuire or the Jonas Brothers.

There were no real trainwreck speeches, but my favourite of the night was the heartfelt speech from Milk screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, whose win seemed necessary in order to give him that platform to speak out about gay rights and gay acceptance. The white ribbon he wore on his lapel was a wedding knot, the symbol for the fight for gay marriage equality.

What we learned at the 81st Academy Awards:

  • Frank Langella is the real Richard Nixon, according to Hugh Jackman. (When Skeletor does it, that means that it is not illegal.)
  • The ceremony just isn’t long enough. In order to add vital minutes to the running time, the acting awards all need to have five presenters, made up of a carefully selected squad of past winners including at least one barely-remembered veteran, one legend, one lunatic, and one person you’re quite sure shouldn’t have won an Oscar in the first place. How nice it was to see Cuba Gooding Jr up on that stage again. (Traditionally one would make a joke about Marisa Tomei at this point, but since she got nominated again this year, I guess that’s no longer a joke.)
  • They only asked Cuba Gooding Jr up there so that they could have a black actor talk about Robert Downey Jr in Tropic Thunder, and they only had Christopher Walken up there because talking about unknown nominee Michael Shannon is boring, but Walken is always entertaining.
  • Angelina Jolie smiled during Jennifer Aniston’s bit. STOP THE PRESSES! This is doubly shocking, as Jennifer Aniston’s bit was not funny. And why the hell is Jennifer Aniston at the Oscars? Couldn’t they afford to get the dog from Marley and Me?
  • Everyone loves a montage. The action montage! The romance montage! The comedy montage! The Oscars are turning into the MTV Movie Awards. Soon there’ll be an Academy Award for Best Kiss.
  • Seth Rogen likes to promote both DVD piracy and gay panic. Ha ha ha, gay panic never stops being funny. Good work there, Milk star James Franco.
  • Ben Stiller probably paid Joaquin Phoenix to act strange on Letterman so that he’d have something to do at the Oscars. (But it was still pretty funny.)
  • Rogen and Stiller are both a lot funnier than Jerry Lewis ever was. The Jerry Lewis montage powerfully demonstrated the limits of Lewis’ schtick, which was basially just one facial expression. (And yet Renee Zellweger has built her career on so much less.)
  • Hugh Jackman and Beyoncé Knowles singing Abba in a montage from the musicals will do more to recruit homosexuals than Harvey Milk ever could. 
  • Actually, that medley was kind of painful. If the rebirth of the musical means more exposure to the stars of High School Musical and Mamma Mia, I’ll just stick to my Rogers and Hammerstein DVDs, thank you very much.
  • When Peter Gabriel throws a snit about not being allowed to perform his nominated song in its entirety, the Oscar producers are forced to fall back on that old standby John Legend. Swapping out Gabriel for an act that kids have actually heard of must have had the producers kicking themselves.
  • It was a great night for Slumdog Millionaire, and the more awards the movie won, the wider director Danny Boyle’s giant toothy smile got, until he was forced to hold his teeth in to stop them from escaping. 
  • Paul Newman totally won the deathreel popularity contest. Sorry, Charlton Heston. (Getting Queen Latifah to sing along to it was a nice touch.)
  • Jack Nicholson is either unwell or missing, as there were no cuts to him all night. How can you have an Oscars without shots of Jack Nicholson wearing shades and grinning, every five minutes? Even if he was busy that night, couldn’t they have got a film crew to follow him around wherever he happened to be? Here’s Jack wearing shades and grinning in the supermarket. Here’s Jack wearing shades and grinning while he reads the sports pages. Here’s Jack wearing shades and grinning while he has a nap.
  • If they must have montages, I’d most like to see a montage of the best Academy Award Jack Nicholson cutaways from the past 81 years.
  • Sophia Loren is so terrifying that even the usually unsinkable Meryl Streep looked daunted while being addressed by her. Loren seemed to be getting ready to wrestle Streep for the title of world’s greatest actress. Then she would have torn Anne Hathaway in two with her teeth and sucked the youth right out of her.
  • Kate Winslet is now Academy Award winner Kate Winslet, and about bloody time. Judging from the reaction in the theatre, I’m not the only one who felt that way. After calling Angelina Jolie ‘the other one’ at the Golden Globes, she seemed to make a point of going over to Ange on her way to the stage. We’re all at peace with Angelina Jolie now.
  • Sean Penn deservedly won for Milk, but his acceptance speech probably wasn’t as good as the one Mickey Rourke would have given, despite the line about ‘Commie homo-loving sons-of-guns’, and the powerful message about how those who voted for Proposition 8 would make their future grandchildren ashamed. If Rourke had gone up there, there was always the chance that he might have melted under the lights, or vomited blood all over Amy Adams.
  • At one point the camera fixed on the weird dragalicious man-shambles that is Rourke, and over his right shoulder we could see tousle-haired vampire pretty-boy Robert Pattinson, and over Rourke’s left shoulder we could see sexy schoolmarm and comedy goddess Tina Fey, and in that shining glorious moment the zeitgeist of the last six months was tied up in a tidy package and wrapped with a dainty bow. And now we can all move on to the next thing, whatever that is.