Thursday, February 26, 2009

THE BIG NIGHT

I'm a gay male New Yorker. I have to watch the Oscars. It's a rule. Your membership is revoked otherwise, I'd have to give back the toaster.

There seems to be a sort of "meh" feeling about the whole Oscar experience this year. And as far as the winners were concerned, yeah, I'll have to agree. Meh. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE for Best Picture and Best Director, uh huh. Fearless Prediction: this will come to be seen as the 21st Century equivalent of ROCKY having won Best Picture and Best Director. SLUMDOG and ROCKY are entirely adequate little comfort movies but Best Pictures they are NOT. I was glad that MILK picked up two prizes, though, and Penn's and Black's speeches were by far the best of the night.

But it was soon enough business as usual, as the Oscars went back to the sweep mentality that had been notably absent for a few years, with SLUMDOG picking up awards for Most Editing among other things. And the winners for BENJAMIN BUTTON made some of the dullest speeches imaginable, which I guess is appropriate for people who made the dullest film imaginable.

But there was something else going on that night. Something so astounding that no one seems to have noticed it. Get this folks. The Academy award ceremony was not an embarassment. I think I'll say it again, as it seems to be escaping everyone's notice: THE ACADEMY AWARD CEREMONY WAS NOT AN EMBARASSMENT. The show was a lean mean award show machine, with a minimum of the nonsense (bad hosts, bad musical numbers, self-congratulatory montages) that they seemed to cram into the proceedings to make it all last as long as possible.

There were some missteps. That song and dance thing about how Musicals Are Back was just a drag, but it did provide a handy bathroom break. The Oscar Remembers montage was a disaster, ruined by sloppy camerawork and a need to keep Queen Latifah in frame. The device of past Oscar winners announcing the names of the acting nominees was a bit much. Yeah, they did it well, I guess, but it doesn't need to be done again. And the idea of running Best Picture nominee clips interspersed with great Oscar-winning films of the past resulted in one really deeply offensive moment, as the montage for MILK included shots from noted bigot Mel Gibson's noxious BRAVEHEART, one of the most blatantly homophobic major studio releases ever. It was like including a clip of BIRTH OF A NATION in a montage for RAISIN IN THE SUN.

But overall, it didn't suck. Hugh Jackman was a charming host. The awards were presented speedily, so speedily that I remember wondering what they were going to do to fill up the rest of the time. Even Jerry Lewis was gracious and above all brief during his little moment of Jean Hersholt glory. I didn't miss the performances of the song nominees one little bit, the little bite-sized performances were more than enough, but two of the three nominated songs (from SLUMDOG) were only tolerable in bite-sized pieces anyway.

I wonder if that is contributing to the Meh Factor that seems to be so prevalent. There was no shock, no surprise, no moment of Supreme Tastelessness to make this year stand out from the rest. It will be remembered, by me, as the year that Sean Penn got an Oscar he deserved and made a genuinely moving little speech, rather than as the year that little cinematic Big Mac with Special Curry Sauce won Best Picture.

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