Monday, February 25, 2008

Oscar recap.

Much as I hate actually sitting through an entire Oscar telecast, I feel as though I really ought to. As a film buff, and a watcher of popular culture, and a radio guy, on and so forth. I managed to catch three wretch-inducing minutes of a special being run by CTV earlier in the day. It was an Oscar special centered entirely on...Ben Mulroney. And it wasn't that awful Mulroney-on-the-red-carpet thing, it was even worse. It was the story, the behind-the-scenes of the Mulroney-on-the-red-carpet thing. Interviewing Ben, as he recapped his favourite moments from previous Oscar years. Gushing over Clive Owen and his performance in Closer like a teenage girl would approach Justin Timberlake. Asking people the old stand-by question "who are you wearing", and having them stare back in confusion and say "I don't know...whatever was on the floor of my bedroom?" and consistently irritating me with the question "would you like to talk to Canada?" If Ben Mulroney is Canada, I hereby renounce my citizenship and begin plans to move to Stompin Tom Connorsburg.

But there are moments that make the Oscars worthwhile. Like watching a New Jersey Devils playoff game over the last six years, you know you are going to be bored 90 percent of the time. However - maybe, just maybe, Scott Stevens will catch someone with their head down and the entire viewing experience will all of a sudden become worthwhile. So the Oscar ceremony is like one monstrous four-hour neutral zone trap, with the occasional flash of "oh, THIS is why I'm watching". And last night was no exception. I like Jon Stewart as a host, and he seems to have found the middle ground between just-edgy-enough to be actually entertaining and not-so-edgy that he won't be invited back. I like the presenters when they don't have any kind of schtick planned, and they just act like...themselves. And I like seeing people who have never been to the Oscars before and will never win one again pick up those statues. Unless those people are Cuba Gooding Jr. I hate Cuba Gooding Jr. I saw him in a flashback last night and my stomach clenched into a ball of rage.

One of those moments that loosened that rage-ball somewhat last night was seeing Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova win for best original song for the movie Once. Hansard saying they shot the movie on hand-held cameras in three weeks for less than $100,000.00 was fantastic. Hansard is the front man for the rock band The Frames in Ireland, and Irglova is a quality singer-songwriter herself. These are two people who will never again have a moment like that one, and they were so enjoyable as they stood up there on the stage. I felt awful for Irglova as the orchestra played her off the stage just as she approached the mic to say her little piece, but Jon Stewart brought her back on after the commercial to do her thing. Short and sweet, just like their movie. And frankly, I had been irked all evening as the best songs were performed, since Enchanted had three of the five nominations, and I really thought Once should have all five. Once was a movie with the seven best songs of the year, and they were the most deserving winners of the night.

Also deserving were the Coen Brothers, for both the director award and the best picture, No Country For Old Men. I would like to think that on some level, this was the Academy trying to make up for awarding the best picture award to The English Patient over Fargo in 1996. A horrible injustice, corrected slightly here. Although, No Country For Old Men was definitely, in my opinion, was the best movie made this year. Javier Bardem was hugely deserving of his supporting actor award, although I would have liked to see him appear more menacing in his acceptance speech. Or at least with the same haircut. Same goes for Daniel Day Lewis, who was not nearly evil enough in accepting his award. That was the one category that was pretty much a foregone conclusion, and his was the only Best Actor nomination I had not yet seen this year. There Will Be Blood is currently the number one most-anticipated film for me for the rest of the year.

A fairly big shock in the best actress category, although more for reasons of obscurity than quality. I thought the Academy would just pay lip service to Marion Cotillard's sublime turn as Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose. After all, it isn't even in English! And then they would give the award to Julie Christie, who is very good in Away From Her. But I was pleasantly surprised when the statue went to the woman who was, in fact, most deserving this year. Julie Christie was very good in Away From Her, but Cotillard was absolutely magnificent in La Vie En Rose. Make no mistake - Edith Piaf is a heavy role to undertake, and to pull it off as well as this is no minor achievement. Also nice to see was Diablo Cody winning best original screenplay for Juno - and Jon Stewart's jokes about a former stripper who took a substantial pay cut to work in the movies. My money would have been on Brad Bird to win for Ratatouille, but then I have yet to see Juno.

I'm not so sure about a few others. Adapted screenplay for the Coen brothers? Sure, No Country For Old Men had an absolutely brilliant screenplay. But it was so similar to Cormac McCarthy's novel that all the Coen brothers had to do was cut a few scenes and basically re-type the entire novel. No real complaints with Tilda Swinton winning best supporting actress for Michael Clayton, she was amazing, but I thought Amy Ryan in Gone Baby Gone was the best of the year. Overall, no real problems, the thing went smoothly, and boy am I glad I have a PVR. Three and a half hours of that would have bored me to tears. Fast-forwarding to the parts I cared about was far easier. And I went out of my way to skip the red carpet stuff. That might be the worst hour of television every single year. Especially when it involves Ben Mulroney, and who are you wearing? The Oscar telecast is terrible, but this year they made some informed decisions. Way to go, Academy.


  1. Pretty much agree totally. Last night's Oscars were paled in comparison to last year's.

  2. The ratings, I think, will only continue to go down. Unless that delightful Ben Mulroney can pull up the numbers on his own...