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5:19 pm - Wednesday, Mar. 08, 2006
The 78th Annual Academy Awards

The 78th Annual Academy Awards

Tues 3/7/06 (4:40 p.m.)

Well, it feels like really “old news”, just two days after the fact, but I said I’d write about the Academy Awards, and a couple of you have actually expressed an interest in my opinion, so here’s my take on things...

I only watched about the first ten minutes of the broadcast in “real time”, taping the rest of it as I headed off to work (Work was dead, by the way, as you’d imagine a movie theater would be on Oscar night. Particularly a movie theater in L.A.).

In those first ten minutes, I was worried about Jon Stewart, who I’d assumed would be a great host. Aside from the “Dick Cheney shooting Bjork” joke–a reference to her infamous “swan dress” of a few years back–seemed like he was bombing big-time.

But all-in-all, I liked him quite a bit. And I thought he got better as the show went on. I liked his “I think it just got a little easier being a pimp in here” joke after “It’s Hard Out There For A Pimp” won for “Best Song” (And I regretted zipping past Three 6 Mafia’s acceptance speech, which was apparently a highlight of the evening for many people. I’m just used to not finding the “Best Song” category very interesting, and skipped it out of reflex). Anyway, I think Stewart did what he was supposed to do very well (Except for bombing right at the start), and I’d be happy to see him back next year.

(“For those keeping score: Three 6 Mafia-1 Oscar. Martin Scorsese-0". Another funny Stewart ad-lib. Funny, and sad at the same time.)

Regarding other aspects of the broadcast:

Maybe it’s just me, but I liked the montages. I always enjoy them. As an actor, seeing scenes from great movies of the past always reminds me of why I want to do what I want to do.

I also liked the montage of “gay scenes” from old cowboy movies, and thought the “attack ads” for “Best Actress” were a riot.

And is George Clooney just the coolest guy, or what?

I was also charmed by Reese Witherspoon and Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s acceptance speeches (And I know they were front-runners, but I was still happy they won, since I’d enjoyed both performances immensely. But now I feel like I have to see Trans-America, to see what the anti-“Reese Witherspoon for ‘Best Actress’” contingent were talking about).

What else...?

You’ve gotta be impressed with Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep, pulling off that Altman-esque, overlapping dialogue stuff in high comic style, especially compared to poor old Lauren Bacall, who struggled just to read her cue-card (Or do they use tele-prompters at the Oscars?).

I zipped past the “Best Songs”, stopping briefly to catch a snippet of Dolly Parton, and stopped again, in amazement, at the woman singing the song from Crash while dancers moved in slow motion around a burning car (Who in the world thought that was a good idea? Though it did lead to another funny Stewart bit, giving out safety tips after the number–“If you’re trying to get out of a burning car, don’t do it in slow motion...”).

I zipped past pretty much all the technical awards.

I stopped at the “Best Foreign Film” nomination, cause I wanted to see if Tsotsi–currently playing at the ArcLight–would win. And I really liked that the producer (Whatever his name was), said “turn the camera on those two young people”–his stars–because later, I noticed that Ang Lee, when he won for “Best Director”, didn’t even mention his cast.

Probably my least favorite part of the show–I thought the orchestra starting to play soon as people started their acceptance speeches was terrible. I get that people go on too long and no one really cares, but that was just too "pushy" (And distracting).

I also thought the Ben Stiller thing was pretty dumb, and went on too long. And I’ve gotta believe that Will Ferrell and Steve Carell didn’t write that stinky bit they had to do (How do you make those guys not funny? Apparently, just give them schtick about wearing badly applied makeup).

And back to the good stuff: I got a big kick out of Nicholson announcing Crash for “Best Picture”, then the camera catching him mouthing something ("What...?"), in obvious surprise; apparently Jack did not vote for Crash for “Best Picture”.

To continue...

Along with Jack, I was also very surprised by the Crash win--I hadn't been following the odds, so I didn't know it was apparently coming up fast from behind in the weeks leading up to the broadcast. But I was not particularly invested in Brokeback Mountain winning--and I didn't have any money on the outcome this year--so my "surprise" did not turn to "upset", like it did for a lot of people.

(I knew Capote was not going to win--It was perceived pretty much as "The Phillip Seymour Hoffman Show"--but it was my favorite of the five nominees. But I enjoyed all the movies enough so that I wouldn't have been deeply offended if any one of them had won out over the others.)

That said, I've still enjoyed reading all the theories for why Crash beat Brokeback (And for the record, if you put a gun to my head and made me vote for one of the two movies in question, I'd vote for Brokeback).

One theory proposed by a number of people is Hollywood's latent homophobia, which might sound odd to a lot of you when talking about our modern-day "Sodom & Gemorrah" (It sounds odd to me, anyway). But the Academy apparently skews older and more conservative than most of Hollywood (Since, like the Supreme Court, once you're in you're in for life), and while giving lip service to Brokeback in public, the theory goes, in their heart of hearts, most Academy voters didn't want a movie about "gay cowboys in love" winning "Best Picture".

(An alternate theory suggests that the Academy liked Brokeback just fine, but was afraid of what "Middle America" would think.)

The theory I think is more credible is that Crash had a cast of thousands, and actors basically voted for actors (Actors are the majority of Academy voters). And the fact that it was an "L.A. story" didn't hurt.

(This seems born out by the fact that the only other major award Crash won prior to the Oscars, far as I know, was the SAG award for "Best Ensemble", another award given to actors by actors. And I don't think it's coincidence that the only "screener" this SAG member received before the SAG awards...was for Crash.)

Or maybe the most radical theory of all--The Academy just thought Crash was a better movie.

In any case, while I enjoy the Academy Awards (And hope to make it to the actual show some day), I quit taking it seriously the year Titanic won over Boogie Nights and L.A. Confidential.

And with that, I'm outta here...


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