However, I was a winner of a different sort that night because Brian and I went to our neighborhood pub to play Oscar-themed trivia and watch the big event on ten HD screens with dozens of our closest strangers. We won second place. Those guys - damn them! - another team were total Oscar-knowledge nerds, too, and they beat us by half a dozen points or so. Anyway it was all great fun and we won a gift certificate and a little Oscar trophy. (The first place winners got cash and a bigger Oscar trophy.)
So, did I like the Oscars this year, you are breathlessly wondering? Why yes, yes I did! I thought it was a fantastic ceremony! Well done, and it hit all its marks. I was worried going in because I had the impression the producers were going to be catering to youngsters who somehow mistakenly believe Twilight is a good movie, but I don't think they really did. If they need to have Kristen and Taylor present an award to keep a few people tuned in, I can totally deal, especially if shuts up the commentators who fret and wring their hands about the Oscar ratings. I get tired of the Oscar-ratings-fretting. I get tired of ratings fretting in general; it's all a game. The Oscars are awesome and any network would be stupid to pass up the chance to air them; end of story.
Now, back to The Hurt Locker. I believe I have mentioned this here before: I did not love, swoon at, or adore The Hurt Locker. I liked it all right. I think the directing was well done, and can get behind Kathryn Bigelow's win, even though Spike Jonze' direction of Where the Wild Things Are was the perfect directing vision realized this past year, as far as I'm concerned. But Kathryn's was precise and really well done, plus hurrah! for a woman winning. I loved that they had Barbra Streisand open up that envelope, although one might ask oneself "What if Kathryn hadn't won?" It just makes you think that they knew she was going to. Am I insinuating that the show's producers found out something from the Price Waterhouse accountants? Not necessarily, but seriously, think about it: to produce that moment so well, much like when in 2007 the crew all together finally! gave Marty his directing Oscar, you have to just kind of know what is about to happen. Chalk it up to Hollywood buzz if you must -- maybe the producers have a better sampling for their anonymous-Academy-members-tell-us-whom-they-voted-for than EW has.
I did notice early on (like, with the first award) that they returned to saying "And the winner is..." instead of "And the Oscar goes to..." Interesting. Is this a rejection of the touchy-feely Generation Y "we're all winners" Baby Mozart philosophy of life? Who knows? Either way, Kate Winslet didn't get the memo, and stuck with "the Oscar goes to." Oh well.
I guess a few things about the show were "controversial" (I hesitate to use that word because it implies that I value the dissenters' opinions more/differently than I do) so I'll comment on them:
- Interpretive Dance: Sure, why not? Honestly, the whole Oscar-nominated music conundrum is generally doomed to fail. This is probably partly because the music has just been nominated for being written for a movie, so the very act of taking the music out of the movie to perform it is like a rejection of why it is even noted and great. Different years have tried different things, but none of it really makes that much of a difference either way, and yet they don't just play clips of the song in the movie like with all the other awards, so they have to do something. So why not interpretive dance? There were a LOT of dancers, but they were kind of cool.
- Neil Patrick Harrris: Pointless, but hey, like I said, if people stay tuned so the "experts" can shut up about the ratings fretting, then I'm in.
- Ben Stiller dressed as Na'vi: I love it. I. Love. It. Avatar was by its very existence begging for a visual gag at the Oscars, and it won the big visual awards, so it's all perfect. And Ben Stiller just stood there being all self-deprecating and yet wryly trying to get James Cameron's goat a little bit too. I love it!
- Mo'Nique looked beautiful...
- ...but seriously, ladies, all of you: ENOUGH with the asymmetrical and one-shoulder dresses! Stop! Stop it!!! Stop it now! God gave you two shoulders; use them.
- Sandy Powell, most misunderstood costume designer: Everyone heard her say she "already has two of these" and stopped listening, like the good little ADHD-generation they are. She went on to dedicate it to designers who don't clothe old monarchs, pointing out what we all know anyway, which is that the Costume Oscar always goes to a British royalty drama and nobody loses that category on their Oscar pool. But you, you in the audience who know exactly what she means, played dumb for her sardonic approach to speech. Oh well for you, but I was on her beam and I get it.
- The John Hughes tribute: This was the "Gen-X, you stay tuned, too, please, not just the 'tweens!" portion and I was OK with it. Mostly I like that it was a giant "Sorry, MJ, you were so not the death from this past year to which we will devote the most time!" Oh, that and seeing Judd Nelson - whoa, Judd. How ya doin' there buddy?
- I like the set, I liked the hosts, and I wish there had been more personal and interesting speeches. Apparently they really drummed it into the nominees' heads that they were limited to 45 seconds. Boo! That's the one flaw of these producers; they need to get over that part. We like to hear speeches - especially interesting ones that mention a unique life moment and celebrate art, not the laundry list of names. If I produced the Oscars (first of all, how awesome would that be!) that would be my rule: nobody gets played off if they are talking about something personal, or really talking about someone they are thanking (think Tom Hanks and his high-school drama teacher) but the minute someone says three names in a row with no verbs other than "thank," cue the orchestra.
- On that note, Sandra Bullock probably did give one of the best speeches. Did I want her to win? Not particularly (UGH Blind Side UGH) and I even put Meryl in my Oscar pool - sigh! I really, really liked Julie & Julia. But her speech and her Sandra-ness are fine with me. Just good god, people, why this awful movie? Why does The Blind Side get to go down in history as an Oscar winner while An Education and Inglourious Basterds are just honored to be nominated?
- Speaking of An Education, I love Nick Hornby anyway and have for years, but reading his blog about this Oscar season has been great fun.
- Does anyone else think T-Bone Burnett and James Cameron could be long lost brothers?
- I love writers (duh!) and I was so intrigued by how flummoxed Precious' Geoffrey Fletcher was by his adapted screenplay win. I certainly didn't expect that (I put my fave In the Loop in my Oscar pool, sealing my fate, while stil fully expecting Up in the Air to be the one to seize the trophy from In the Loop, the best movie of 2009).
- I still do not understand why people think Up was amazing and unique, but none of you will explain it to me, so I have given Up! And I will say that Ed Asner was easily the best part of the red carpet. The two E! online clowns who were "interviewing" celebs on the carpet, were trying their best to show him appropriate respect even though you could see the wheels turning in their little heads like, "Have I actually seen him in anything? Do I know what he did before Up? I think he might be like really important, but what has he done? Something...I'm drawing a blank here..." but he didn't even need it, he was just totally bad ass about the Oscars, Pixar, Facebook, and whatever.