Oscar! Oscar! Oscar! (2012)
A lot of catty hash has been made in the blogosphere about the ceremony overall. Yes, the results were predictable, and the evening held very few surprises. So, yes, in that respect the 84th Academy Awards was fairly dull, but let’s be fair: it was a comfortable dull. Billy Crystal hosted for the ninth time and didn’t disappoint the in-house crowd with his usual musical montage incorporating the titles from all of the best picture nominees, or his quips about bankrupt photography companies. As for the at-home crowd...well, judging from the remarks in the blog universe, you can’t win them all, Billy!
As usual, the most notable highlights of the celebration had nothing to do with the awards. JLo ensured that she would be the talk around water coolers all over the world the next morning with her plunging neckline (or should that be plunging belly button) gown that left little to the imagination. Her left peeking areole nearly made her the next poster child for a crackdown on broadcast indecency by the FCC. Please don’t misunderstand my comments: I’m not complaining.
Later, Angelina Jolie came out as a presenter, and stood at the podium so that all could admire her long, long leg as it stuck out from a gown slit that was so long that it could have met JLo’s nipple. The message was clear: Angelina would not be upstaged by anyone's breast! You go girl! Show JLo who's boss! Again, I’m not complaining.
Another part of the comfortable dullness was Woody Allen’s continuing boycott of the awards ceremonies, even though the Academy clearly shows their affection for him by occasionally giving him a statue. This year was for best original screenplay for Midnight in Paris. I have to wonder: since Allen doesn’t show up, then does his allotted acceptance speech time get parceled out and divided amongst everyone else? Anyway, who’s the poor schmuck who gets stuck with the nerve-wracking job of counting every second of every speech? Oh right, the stage manager or some assistant to the stage manager.
The only abusers of the speech time limit were the winners for the documentary awards. These dudes droned on and on, even after one of them allegedly dropped the f-bomb, which is the only way anyone could upstage JLo’s nipple tease. Seriously, guys, you need to observe Oscar protocol. Take the hint to close your remarks when the assistant director waves his finger in a circular fashion to “wrap it up”. You should be on your last sentence of your speech when the orchestra starts playing your exit music. You should shut up and turn to walk off stage when they cut your microphone off (as they did to you guys). If you’re still babbling when Billy Crystal walks over with steam coming from his ears, then you’ve had fair warning. At that point, may God have mercy on your souls.
Christopher Plummer had the classiest speech of the evening when he accepted his Best Actor award. He acknowledged his fellow nominees, including “dear Max” (von Sydow), which I believe is a line he hasn’t used since he played Captain von Trapp in The Sound of Music (not mucus). In case you’ve forgotten, I’m referring to Richard Haydn’s role of Max Detweiler from that 1965 musical. Now do you get it? Okay, never mind!
Octavia Spencer’s tearful acceptance for her best supporting actress award is an Oscar moment that will be long remembered. The Academy loves spontaneous outbursts of emotion. Now that Octavia has had her moment, we’ll probably never hear from her again. Honestly, there have been a number of African American Oscar winners in more recent years than ever, but they fade away quickly and seldom get the starring roles that everyone believes they should get. So for every Halle Berry and Angela Bassett, there may be hundreds of actors and actresses still waiting for their big break. Yet hasn’t that always been the case?
Another highlight was the appropriately dry humor of Christopher Guest’s stock company of Second City alumni recreating a focus group circa 1939, critiquing The Wizard of Oz. Only Fred Willard was immediately recognizable as a film-goer obsessed with monkeys. The other members of the cast were hidden under heavy makeup, but managed to convey the random fickleness of the general population when it comes to determining what does and doesn’t work in the film industry.
This year’s Oscars posed a problem: only two songs competing for best song. In past Oscar shows, each Best Song nominee was performed with a full production number; this year, the nominated tunes didn’t even get that privilege. Answer: bring on the acrobats! The Cirque du Soleil interpretive tumbling as a tribute to filmgoers was interesting, but at a film awards ceremony it stuck out like a sore thumb. Yes, it was a special one-time performance, but its presence perplexed viewers everywhere.
The biggest non-surprise was The Artist capturing most of the major awards: Best Actor, Best Director, and Best Picture. Most of the predictions for this award were moot given the number of other awards the film garnered before the Oscar ceremony, but also due to their falling into the Francophile theme of the film industry this year. Please note: The Artist, French financed with French actors in the major roles; Scorsese’s Hugo, set in Paris, took most of the technical awards; and Woody Allen’s connection to France is self explanatory. Do you see a trend? I sure do!
As much as I loved The Artist, I certainly hope that the rest of the industry doesn’t try to cash in on this trend. I do not want to see any more silent films being made. The Artist was a one-shot novelty, not so much as in what was told, but how it was told. Much like Hugo - which was released with 3-D cinematography - these best picture nominees showed more interest in displaying how the story unfolded than in the story itself.
Another trend I have noticed, and one which I want to discourage (unless huge amounts of money are offered), is using moi as a barometer of what next year’s best picture will be. I saw one film last year: The King’s Speech. It won Best Picture. This year I’ve seen one film: The Artist. Coincidence? Do you see a trend? I sure do!
(Thank you for reading! Watch next year’s Oscars when JLo and Angelina Jolie perform a bout of interpretive mud wrestling in a tribute to film projectionists. Fred Willard will referee.)