February 22, 2009

The Oscars 2009: Politically Correct as Always

My long-time guilty pleasure has always been watching the Oscars. When I was young, I watched with reckless fascination and longing as gorgeous people careened down red carpets with practiced smiles and Vaseline-covered teeth. Now I carry the required cynicism--though I still root for favorites and get a kick out of opening song numbers. This year, the pared-down, old-school retro approach worked for the most part. Jackman's hosting was superb, great singer--not too flashy or pretentious. The sets were impressive. And no Jack Nicholson sitting in the front row looking sweaty and self-important. Robin Williams did not charge the microphone and practice a future stand-up routine. It was nice.

Maybe too nice? Speeches were short, sweet, thanking just the right amount of people. I'm sure we'll see in the papers tomorrow that Sean Penn forgot to thank his wife. All the appropriate political opinions were championed just the right amount. I was mildly surprised that the one-second televised delay didn't beep out Penn's commie, homo-lovin' sons-a-guns comments. The show was clean, polished, glassy. Nothing too edgy. In fact, Ben Stiller's mockery of Joaquin Phoenix's mentally-vacant appearance on David Letterman, was probably the most controversial item of the evening--if you can call it that. It all felt too-retro, too much an emphasis on perception. In some ways, I think this negates the freedoms Hollywood tries to champion--but that's another blog post.

The good: Kate Winslet's much deserved win for The Reader, Richard Jenkins' nomination for The Visitor, acknowledgement by Winslet of Anthony Minghella and Sydney Pollack--huge losses for quality film in Hollywood, Seth Rogan's stoner-dude skits, and Hugh Jackman's consummate hosting.

The bad: no mention of Ledger in the "Hollywood Remembers" sequence, no speech or memorial honoring Paul Newman, Michael Shannon losing to Heath Ledger, Rourke losing to Penn, the overly-long dance/music number near the end, Slumdog Millionaire's over-abundance of awards (good film--but not that good).

Here were my picks:

Best picture: The Reader
Leading Actor: Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)
Leading Actress: Kate Winslet (The Reader)
Supporting Actor: Michael Shannon (Revolutionary Road)
Supporting Actress: Marisa Tomei
Screenplay: Frozen River

Note to self: find the nominated short animations and documentaries and watch them. The clips shown were impressive.

And would someone please hit Barbara Walters with a shovel? She has to be the worst interviewer I've ever seen.


Joshua said...

I agree with you that Winslet deserved her win, and I was sorry to see Shannon lose to Ledger (how unexpected), although I haven't seen Revolutionary Road so my only point of reference is his wonderfully understated performance in Shotgun Stories. Jackman did a surprisingly decent job, particularly his song about The Reader, but I still missed Stewart. I was sorry to see Stiller's impersonation of Phoenix, as I prefer my Oscars to be a little less topical, but ah well. Big disappointments in the actor and documentary (long form) categories.

And yeah, someone needs to put Barbara Walters out to pasture.

Harry Tournemille said...

Did you get to see some of the documentaries? None of them were playing out here, which sucked.

Mandy said...

Heath Ledger was remembered in last year's montage, he died in January, so he fell within the Oscar calendar year.

I disliked the presentations for the acting awards, it just made the show longer and I like to see performance clips... of course the show being too long is only a problem for those of us staying up until some ridiculous time to see the conclusion of the show. :)

Harry Tournemille said...

Ah, that explains it, then. Still the lack of time spent on Newman was absurd, considering the man's contributions to both film and humanitarian causes.

I actually liked the award presentations, the speeches from former winners. It gave an "official" appeal to the show, a sense of being welcomed into something honorable.

Joshua said...

I saw Man on Wire and Encounters at the End of the World, both played at the Granville 7 for a while. Encounters was amazing, Man on Wire was pretty typical but interesting.

Sam said...

I really enjoyed the Harlan Ellison documentary Dreams With Sharp Teeth - it wasn't nominated, but it's worth tracking down.

The one about MLK looked good.