The Oscars just finished. The Hurt Locker won, which wasn't a surprise. Actually, there were hardly any surprises at all, except for maybe how long and lousy the broadcast was. Why can they never get this thing right?
Brian Moylan: As far as the awards go, all of the heavy favorites walked home with a trophy. Mo'Nique won for Precious, Christophe Waltz won for Inglourious Basterds, Jeff Bridges won for Crazy Heart, and The Hurt Locker beat Avatar for Best Picture. We had a pretty good idea all these things would happen. Katherine Bigelow, the lady who directed Point Break, became the first female to win Best Director, beating her ex-husband James Cameron. All the pundits had been picking these as the winners for weeks now. Snore. The only race to have a bit of heat was between Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock for Best Actress, a prize that Sandy B took home for The Blind Side. (The complete list of winners is here.)
The show itself was a gigantic mess. Neil Patrick Harris and sparkly are two of my favorite things, but even they couldn't save the Ziegfeld folly of an opening number. The forced banter between hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, who never made the role of hosts their own, was forced and mostly unfunny. Ben Stiller donned another ridiculous getup this year to do a long, awkward Na'vi makeup joke that choked so hard even the bit turned blue in the face. But the worst, the absolute worst was America's Best Dance Crew the Extended Dance Remix popping and locking to the nominees for Best Score. This is what happens when you let Adam Shankman, a director and judge on television's So You Think You Can Dance, direct the show. You get a sad, misplaced bunch of kids twirling around on stage like Breakin' 2: Electric Bugaloo was getting a lifetime achievement award.
What did you think Richard? What did you hate about it? Was there anything redeeming?
Richard Lawson: Hi Brian! Sorry if this all comes out a bit weird, but mama's been drinking and almost got run over by a bus on Houston while running home from a friend's house to write this post. Anyway. Oscars! What are they good for? Absolutely nothing. I mean, no matter who wins or who hosts, the Oscars are always Gay Christmas and fabulously enjoyable. But just as American Idol blows turkeys this year, so too did the Oscars. When the show's most exciting moment is Carol Burnett's character from The Rescuers hijacking the Best Documentary Short award, then you know you've got a problem.
The able comedy duo of Martin & Baldwin infused a surprisingly-weird sense of humor into the proceedings, which was nice, but everything else just felt soooo time wastey. Why did we have street dancing? It almost seemed that, because of Precious and The Blind Side, ceremonies director Shankman was trying to make this year the Urban Oscars. Which is lame and pandering. Plus, I really could do without the hour-long Salute to Circle Jerks that were those recycled-from-last-year Best Actor/Actress presentation medleys. I know that fabulous millionaires should always, every day, be celebrated as fabulous millionaires, but some of us have work tomorrow.
All told, I'm thrilled for Kathy Bigs and thought that Sandy gave a lovely acceptance speech, but the whole show was fatally devoid of tension. Do you think that the great game of Oscar predicting, and the unending Wehrmacht of pre-Oscars awards shows, are ruining the Oscars?
Brian Moylan: Yes, I think it is. Just like all of us, the people who vote these things are reading the press, buying into the conventional wisdom, and swayed by the immense Oscar campaigns that the studios are waging. That's why we're so fixated on the show itself, the acceptance speeches, and what people wear. Combining all that into once example, Mo'Nique, looking lovely in her blue gown, said her her acceptance speech that she was glad that a performance was awarded and not politics. Way to say you're better than everyone else, Mo'Nique. She mostly kept it classy, but her win was as much about politics as the whole thing.
Yes, the show was a bit more narcissistic than usual, with the whole Best Actor circle jerk, that strange unnecessary moment that opened the show with all the acting nominees on stage, and the completely gratutious John Hughes tribute that was really an excuse for a Molly Ringwald to remind us that she too can look great in a Cleopatra costume. The only person who kept it really classy was Sandra Bullock, looking radiant and giving what is perhaps the Platonic ideal of an acceptance speach. Why do you try to make me like you, Sandy? Why?
Richard, did you think it was too political? Did you hate the lamp shade set as much as I did? And, please, can you tell me what the fuck Kathy Ireland was doing with her prosthetic arm on the red carpet?
Richard Lawson: Girl, the most important thing about this year's Oscars was the ever-deepening mystery of What the Fuck Happened to Kathy Ireland. No one has any idea. Not even Kathy Ireland. A travesty.
The lampshade set was weird and unsettling. If there's one thing the Oscars should never aspire to be, it's homey. Nothing about the Academy Awards is homey. It's the most glitterated, sequin-swooning night of the year, and should never be shouldered with sad little table lamps in an effort to make us feel like this is America's Living Room. We watch because of the remove of money and fame, not in spite of it.
I thought that nothing was political! Disappointingly so. I love me a good Sean Penn saying things about "great shame" and Michael Moore eliciting boos from a wealth-fattened room of political border-dancers. Was The Hurt Locker political? I don't know. I don't, honestly, know quite what that movie was trying to say, other than that it wasn't really trying to say anything at all. At least that seemed to be the big tagline push during its Oscar campaigning. If we want to give sparkling golden dildos to movies that are rather murky and elusive in their political intent, why didn't Children of Men (perhaps the finest film ever made, in this humble blogger's opinion) win every award possible a few years ago? I sincerely enjoyed Hurt Locker, but it didn't have that grand-cheese Oscar oompf that we've come to expect from Hollywood's gildedest night.
Before I turn in, I'll ask you this, Brian. Was 2009 ultimately a bad year for movies? And does it say anything that Up in the Air, a film about How We Live Now if ever there was one, got completely shut out?
Brian Moylan: No, Mr. Lawson, I don't think 2009 was a bad year for movies. In fact, I saw many a great one. I think the problem—if you want to call it that—is that there has become a yawning devide between populist movies and creative movies, and this year was definitely the showdown between the two. Avatar was seen by just about every person in America and it was a finely-wrought miracle of technology. However, its script sucked, its characters were undeveloped, and the story completely boring. The Hurt Locker, I believe, is now the lowest-grossing Best Picture ever. It was a great movie, but one many people will never see and fail to care about and had little of the whizz-bang filmmaking or marketing that a huge budget will get you.
Just about the only three pictures nominated that could be considered but critical and financial successes are Up, District 9, and Up in the Air. One didn't win because it's a cartoon, one because it had aliens, and the third because, well, it was just the wrong year. Any other moment, and Up in the Air would be right up there along with all the other winners. Maybe because it had both (and truly is a fine piece of cinema) it deserved to win.
But the reason why something like The Hurt Locker won so many awards is the same reason that the show was a complete self-referential mess. It is because The Oscars are not about America, they are about Hollywood, and Hollywood is under the impression that the people who watch movies care as much about the people who make movies as the people who make movies care about the people who make movies. They don't really care about what sells tickets, pleases people, makes film critics smile, or will help you win your Oscar pool. They only care about themselves, about telling us what is good for us, about rewarding hard workers, and about settling old scores. This night is our one chance to get a glimpse into the rich, glittering tower of the movie business, a magic mirror into their beautiful world, and they use that mirror only to reflect back on themselves, and blind us with diverted brilliance in the process.
Richard Lawson: Powerfully said! "Diverted brilliance" pretty much covers it, I think. OK folks! That's goodnight from Gawker's Oscartowne. I'm sure Ravi will have some sort of rousing Oscar party crash post in the morn, but for now it's goodnight. Brian, thanks for hosting an excellent and pageview-gobbling live blog, and thanks to our wonderful commenters for sticking it out in droves until the bitter end (even though we broke the internet a little, oops!).
Next year is Meg Ryan's year, right?