Well, the 83rd Academy Awards are behind us and thank God for that. Also behind is the ill-advised, experimental live streaming—or maybe that’s steaming—video feed that found Justin Souther and me pretty much chained to one spot for five hours to comment on the show as it proceeded. I am even more grateful that that’s over. Now, I’d call the Oscar party in the Cinema Lounge at The Carolina where we did this a raging success, but the streaming itself—let’s say it had teething troubles. In its favor, however, I’m reasonably sure that Justin and I were at least livelier than Oscar co-host James Franco. Then again, I’ve seen livelier performances that Mr. Franco’s in the Hall of Presidents at Disney World.
The awards themselves—well, much as I might kvetch about trying to do a running commentary on them, I suspect I’d have fallen asleep had I been watching at home. Oh, yes, I was pleased to see the Academy do right by The King’s Speech. I was even pleasantly surprised when they went against my expectations and gave Tom Hooper the Best Director nod, since I was grimly certain that would go to David Fincher.
That they gave the Best Supporting Actress and Actor awards to Melissa Leo (for The Fighter) and Christian Bale (also for The Fighter) was to be expected, but it annoyed me all the same. I have said all along that they would win and have also said that neither were so much good performances as they were just busy and fussy. Someone commented that the awards should be designated as “most” rather than “best,” and in that area, yes, they’re the hands-down winners because, Clapton knows, you won’t see more acting all year. I marginally forgive Leo for providing the evening’s liveliest gaffe (if it was a gaffe—something I’m not convinced of).
Otherwise, the Academy continues to undermine its own credibility with things like Best Animated Feature going to Toy Story 3 over two incredibly superior films. Why? “Because it’s Pixar” isn’t a good enough answer. And a Best Live Action Short Oscar for God of Love? Whatever for? Being the most mind-numbingly “hip” of the lot? I’ll concede they they got the Animated Short film right with The Lost Thing. I might have rioted if Pixar had been handed that award. But giving Randy Newman an award for cranking out the same damned song for the hundredth time? What were these voters thinking? I suppose I should just be glad it didn’t go to that song from Country Strong that now has Gwyneth Paltrow (who should have gotten “Best Drowned Rat Look” for her hair) claiming “country singer” status.
I don’t really have a problem with Wally Pfister (the poor man needs an award for that name alone) winning the Cinematography award for Inception, though I really think that should have gone to Roger Deakins for True Grit. Pfister would have been my second choice. I haven’t seen the Best Foreign Language Film winner, In a Better World. I liked director Susanne Bier’s After the Wedding (2006), but I absolutely hated her Things We Lost in the Fire (2007), so who can say. The only nominated title I’d seen was Biutiful and I knew it didn’t deserve to win.
And then there’s the show itself. This was pretty completely a shambles. The idea of bringing in young, hip hosts may have looked good on paper, but in practice. First of all, are James Franco and Anne Hathaway really considered all that hip by this fantasy demographic the producers are fixated on? I actually doubt it. Even if they are and even if Franco had turned out to be such a stiff (I swear I think they carried him onstage and put him in his spot) and even if Hathaway hadn’t been so painfully trying too hard, the writing would have done them in. It was all so painfully contrived that it felt like one of those late-in-the-day Bob Hope movies where a bunch of middle-aged guys tried to evoke their vague idea of things “kids like.” As a result, we were assailed with cellphone and text-message references—each one a little flatter than the last. It’s sad when the funniest thing in the proceedings—apart from Melissa Leo saying “f**king”—are 57 year old clips of Bob Hope.
What is there to be done? Here are some quick ideas. Kill the songs. Ban Randy Newman. Lose the awards that don’t mean anything to anyone other than the people who win them—sound editing, sound mixing? Really? Who walks out of a movie marveling about that? Ban Pixar sequels from getting awards. Allow only people who’ve actually read the source books to vote on “Best Adapted Screenplay.” Give David Fincher an award if he promises to go away.It’s a start.
And on the other side of things—the people who rate these things. Someone revoke the creative license of the TV critic (Mary McNamara) who called the Franco-Hathway promos “adorable.” And give the one (Alessandra Stanley) who wrote,“The winner, Melissa Leo, had a personal worst, letting fly on an obscenity that was barely blurred by censors and that suggests that the foulmouthed mother she played in The Fighter wasn’t such an acting stretch,” a special prude award. What century is this?