Oscarred, by West Anthony
I’m not an Oscar snob. That is to say, I’m not one of those people who who look down on the Academy Awards as some kind of trivial piffle; indeed, the Oscars are amongst the most epic, gargantuan piffles ever created, right up there with the Hanging Gardens Of Barstow. There’s no denying that the Oscars are Big and Special and Significant and Many Other Words Worthy Of Capitalization… it’s just that oftentimes, the movies and actors receiving these Oscars are, to put it politely, unworthy. I find it depressing that I am frequently able to predict the winners not based upon actual merit, but upon the current trends of the moment, the sociopolitical climate, the age of certain nominees, and Roger Ebert’s Twitter feed. When the Oscars get it right, no one save the recipients themselves is more pleased than I; when they get it wrong, I feel bad.
This year, however, I feel almost nothing. When the nominees were announced, I was dismayed to see that the majority of them were extremely predictable and incredibly dull. The only one in the pack that I deemed worthy of rooting for is Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life, and the only nomination it has any serious shot at is Best Cinematography. (It should have been nominated for editing and visual effects as well, at the very least.) I loved The Descendants, but it’s not Alexander Payne’s best work; I loved Hugo, but it’s not Martin Scorsese’s best work; I loved The Artist, but COME ON! I just couldn’t work up the requisite enthusiasm for the 2012 Oscar ceremony, and that was before they lobbed a Billy Crystal at me.
So. Here I am, alone in my apartment (nothing new), getting ready to watch the 2012 Academy Awards ceremony (relatively new), and I’ll be sharing my thoughts with you (the new part). Guess I’d better prepare a flagon of Mountain Dew…
Morgan Freeman? What happened to Billy Crystal? Oh. Crap. There he is. I’d forgotten those goddamn opening Oscar bits he used to do. Now here he is, doing it again. SHIT! I just remembered — he sings too! Kill me now.
Billy’s taken the stage, and my interest away. The audience response was not terribly enthusiastic, which was entirely justified when his first couple of jokes died.
And here’s the singing. Everyone under the age of fifty is counting down to the start of the new episode of The Walking Dead.
Tom Hanks hands out the Best Cinematography award to Robert Richardson for Hugo, which shouldn’t have happened. And since this was the only Oscar category I had a vested interest in, and since they did it first, it’s gonna be a long night…
Hanks hands out another Oscar to Hugo for Art Direction. It’s too early to tell if this is the start of a sweep, so I’ll reserve judgement. Before they went to commercials, the camera swept up to Sheila E in the balcony, playing percussion. Is that where they’re keeping the musicians this year?
Billy Crystal is really getting no laughs here. Now we’re going to some kind of movie montage, the point of which eludes me. We already know the Oscars are a celebration of movies. Don’t we?
Cameron Diaz and Jennifer Lopez come out and blandly read their lines, then hand an Oscar for Costume Design to The Artist. The best part of this: thanks to costume designer Mark Bridges, I now know how to pronounce “Hazanivicius”. Yay!
The Diaz/Lopez fembots indulge in some goofy behavior onstage, then give the Makeup Oscar to The Iron Lady, which is good but not great.
A bunch of actors in front of a black background address the camera and talk about a movie they saw when they were kids, I guess. This should be far more interesting than it actually is. You guys — I think this may be turning into the worst Oscar show ever right in front of me. Are you seeing what I’m seeing?
Mountain Dew refill. Yes, it’s so dull that I thought that last sentence would liven things up.
Sandra Bullock is onstage. I think she’s nice. She presented the Best Foreign Film Oscar to A Separation, to my enormous relief. If you haven’t seen it, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Peyman Moaadi should have been nominated for Best Actor as well, he was that good. The director, Asghar Farhadi, made a moving speech which was undercut by Billy Crystal making another lousy joke.
Christian Bale, who has no recognizable humorous side to him, gave Best Supporting Actress to Octavia Spencer for The Help. That’s great; she really deserves it. The audience gave her a standing ovation. This is a lovely moment… THIS is why I keep watching this thing.
Seriously, what are those musicians doing in the balcony? Were they even invited? I’d like to think they’re seat fillers who are staging a rebellion. The police are trying to break down the doors, but a bunch of Occupy Wall Streeters are blocking their path. It’s fun in my mind!
Another filmed bit, this one a “focus group” for The Wizard Of Oz featuring Christopher Guest’s stock company. It’s OK, but this is already gonna be a three-hour show. Let’s move it along here. Billy Crystal is an ingratiating noodge.
Tina Fey and Bradley Cooper present the Best Editing Oscar to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall, who won last year for The Social Network, deserve it. Then Hugo won for Sound Editing; it kinda feels like they’re trying to keep this show moving along.
Hugo wins again for Sound Mixing. Looks like this one’s gonna take a bunch of technical awards, but can it overcome all that support for The Artist when it comes to the big ones?
I had a moment of blind panic when I wondered if I had forgotten to set my DVR to record The Walking Dead. A glance at the DVR confirmed that I had not forgotten. What a relief — how else am I gonna end this night on an up note?
Muppets! I saw that Muppet film the other day, and it was pretty good, except for the part about being a creepy exercise in enforced nostalgia. Kermit and Miss Piggy introduce a performance by Cirque Du So Lame, which only goes to show that there can be something more irritating and time-wasting than Billy Crystal. Who immediately came out and delivered another stillborn joke.
Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey Jr. come out and engage in some shtick that I can’t wait to end. Eventually, they get around to the Best Documentary Feature award, which goes to Undefeated. I haven’t seen this. It seems to be about sports, which means I will probably continue to not see this. Did somebody swear on stage?
Chris Rock comes out to remind everyone how entertaining an Oscar host could have been. It’s frankly startling to hear myself laughing for the first time this evening. The Best Animated Feature award goes to Rango, a CG Western that I thought was terrific. Gore Verbinski, a director who has made some jaw-droppingly mediocre movies, now has an Oscar. Oddly, this gives me hope.
Melissa McCarthy tries to make Billy Crystal seem funny; it doesn’t take. Then Ben Stiller and Emma Stone come out to… um… waste everyone’s time, I think. Later that same evening, they gave the Visual Effects Oscar to Hugo. I’m disappointed — Hugo was good, but Of The Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes Of The was some truly stellar work.
Billy Crystal should not chuckle at his own stale jokes. It won’t inspire us to tag along, dude. Now it’s Melissa Leo coming out to not hand the Best Supporting Actor award to Albert Brooks, which is just a damn shame. Instead, it went to Christopher Plummer, which I called in advance despite the fact that his was the only nominated performance I hadn’t seen. He also got a standing ovation, but sadly, the audience did not spontaneously break into “Edelweiss”. Plummer did give a heartfelt and lovely speech.
The Balcony Brigade is still up there playing music. Who among us will dare to stop them?
Billy Crystal seems to be suffering from some medical condition that has completely erased his sense of humor. And he’s still laughing at his own jokes. Luckily for us all, here comes Academy president Tom Sherak to rescue us from the doldrums.
Penelope Cruz and Owen Wilson are trotted out to fork over the Best Original Score award to The Artist. I can’t help wondering if it was the bit of Bernard Herrmann’s score for Vertigo they used in the film that everyone really voted for.
Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis show up just as I was slipping the noose around my neck. At last, some much needed humor. They give the Best Original Song Oscar to Bret McKenzie for his song “Man Or Muppet” from The Muppets. Being a big Flight Of The Conchords fan, I think this is swell, although I happen to think “Life’s A Happy Song” is even better. By the way, you should all be impressed that I was able to spell “Galifianakis” without having to look it up.
OK, I did have to look up “Ferrell”. But the first thing I mentioned was still pretty impressive, right? Right? You guys?
George Clooney seems to have become the new Jack Nicholson, the guy in the front row that we all make jokes with/about. Yikes — here comes Angelina Jolie, who looks terrifying. It’s time for the Best Adapted Screenplay award, which goes to The Descendants. OK, but I think it should have gone to Moneyball, which was better. One of the screenwriters who is not Alexander Payne did a pretty good burn on Jolie, who was admittedly standing really weird.
Now Jolie drops a bomb on everyone by announcing that the Best Original Screenplay award goes to Woody Allen for Midnight In Paris. Man, nobody saw that coming. Even more inexplicable: HE ISN’T THERE TO ACCEPT IT. The whole world’s gone mad, I tell ya, mad!
More people in front of a black background talking about movies. At least one of them is Werner Herzog, to hip it up a bit.
I’m imagining that a member of The Balcony Brigade has a paralyzing fear of heights, and that he or she is drugged to the max just to stay up there and play their instrument. I heard a rumor that musicians can play while on drugs.
It suddenly occurs to me that two hours have gone by. I swear it felt like three.
Milla Jovovich? Well, at least she isn’t Billy Crystal. She’s here to tell us about all the awards that the Academy couldn’t be bothered to hand out on Oscar night. Douglas Trumbull got one of those, and honestly I would have preferred to see him making a speech over most of these clods.
The cast of Bridesmaids — the female ones, anyway — presents the Best Live Action Short award to Terry George and Oorlagh George for The Shore. Far out. He directed The Boxer, which you should see if you haven’t already. And If you’ve already seen it, see it again.
Saving Face wins for Best Documentary Short, a category that I never get to see. Ever. I gotta do something about that. Not right now, of course.
The Oscar for Best Animated Short is handed to The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which you can watch in the time it takes to read the title.
For some reason, attractive women are walking up and down the aisles of the Theatre Formerly Known As Kodak offering popcorn to the audience. Were I a nominee, I would not take that popcorn — if I won, I would undoubtedly puke it up the moment I got onstage. It’s called nerves, people. Don’t judge me.
Michael Douglas, who is still one classy-looking dude, comes out to present the Best Director award to Michel Hazanivicius for The Artist, which I think pretty much everyone saw coming. I still would have preferred Malick. I’m not gonna dump on The Artist, but there really were better films last year. In the future, people are going to be wishing they could take this one back.
Meryl Streep introduces clips from another ceremony that wasn’t important enough for this show. Considering that one of these awards went to Oprah Winfrey, who deserves an Oscar for absolutely nothing, I’m kind of OK with this. I find it insulting that James Earl Jones and makeup wizard Dick Smith, who have long and illustrious careers involving actual contributions to the history of film, have to stand next to Winfrey and share all that applause that should rightfully be theirs alone.
In Memoriam. All kidding aside, this part always makes me tear up a little. We’ve all gotta go sometime, but that doesn’t make it any easier to take. And some of these people contributed mightily to my love of film. The fact that they’re singing “What A Wonderful World”, a song that always gets to me, is only making it harder. Excuse me for a moment.
They just went straight back into the actors in front of a black background thing again, without warning. For a minute there, I thought it was a commercial for health insurance or something. The pomposity was temporarily alleviated by the presence of Patton Oswalt. But now it’s on to more of Billy Crystal laughing at himself. Egad, stop doing that.
Natalie Portman is onstage, and apparently she has to pay tribute to each Best Actor nominee with a little monologue about how neato and bitchin’ they are. This stuff makes my teeth hurt. It also makes me wonder if Miss Portman has really seen these movies. (She probably did.) Eventually, the Oscar for Best Actor went to Jean Dujardin for The Artist, another utterly predictable win. Once again, I don’t dislike The Artist, but I’m telling you now, the day is coming when everyone is gonna wonder what all the fuss was about.
Someone in The Balcony Brigade is singing. Or caterwauling. Your call.
Colin Firth takes the stage. Does he have to do the same congratulatory verbal masturbation over the Best Actress nominees? Yup. He does. Some time later, Meryl Streep — FINALLY — won another Oscar, for The Iron Lady, which comes as a legitimate surprise, because I really thought Viola Davis would win for The Help. While Streep is a great actor, and she was fine in this picture, she was the only thing about it that was any damn good.
Why does Tom Cruise get to present the award for Best Picture? (And am I the only one who, by this time, had completely forgotten that War Horse was nominated?) Oh, The Artist won, by the way. Was there really any doubt? Producer Thomas Langmann looks like he just got out of college, which only makes me feel older.
Wow, they actually managed to keep it fairly close to three hours. And at least we got out without Billy Crystal making a single joke about the length of the show. And that’s it.
Apart from a couple of upsets, this was a disappointingly predictable ceremony. But even I could not have predicted what a terrible job Crystal would do as the host. I was expecting harmless mediocrity, but what I got was so much less. And he’s gonna hear about it tomorrow. A LOT. If I were him, I would strongly consider going back into Oscar retirement. I haven’t a clue what anyone could do to save this show, or to at least make it less of a train wreck, but Billy Crystal is not the solution. OK, Academy, unless this apocalypse thing comes through, you’ve got a year to sort this crap out.