Sunday, February 22, 2009

First Thoughts on the 81st Academy Awards

1. I make no claims to be an all-star predictor. I'm far more interested in scoping out potential nominees then I am predicting the final winner. This year I scored 14 correct guesses...partially stunted by my stubborn dedication to keep Benjamin Button in the predicted Best Picture slot, but even going with front-runner Slumdog would have only given me 15. This is still better then my previous performance, so I suppose that's something.

2. When it comes to predictions, expect to see predictions made by my mom next year. This year I watched the show with my parents, and I gave my mom and dad a ballot 30 minutes before the award show began. My mom guessed 19 of the 24 categories right, only missing odd-ball fields of Documentary Short, Foreign Language (which I think everyone missed), Animated short, live action short, and animated film. WOW! I can hardly believe the consistent level of perfection. I am infinitely humbled.

3. I appreciated the tone of the ceremony. I thought Hugh Jackman did an appropriate job, his intro was funny, his presentation was classy. I think this was a good direction for the award show. I also thought Anne Hathaway as Nixon was great, and the not-to-out-of-control classy feeling was nice. Plus, the random number that went along with The Reader was a highlight!

4. Speaking of Anne Hathaway, she was very elegant, and didn't look like she was twelve. Even though she didn't go home with a trophy, I really think she was one of the big winners of the night. Not just her style or her inclusion in the introduction, but Shirley MacLaine's speech about Anne Hathaway was beautiful, and you could tell that MacLaine's speech about Anne, really touched her heart, and validated her. It was surely touching.

5. I loved the way that the had the five previous winners present the five nominees in the acting categories. Some of the mini-speeches were better than others, but over all I thought it was a great way to present some of these most high profile awards.

6. My wife loved the Swarski crystal stage, I have to say, I think I did too.

7. For all the classiness, I did not appreciate the two bitter award presentations...which included Jack Black's animated film award which assumed that Pixar would always win over Dreamworks, and Bill Maher's documentary award presentation which also complained about how his documentary Religulous was not nominated. This was not classy.

8. As far as the stage presentation went, I loved the way the stage was designed to look like a "back stage" for a portion for some of the technical awards as the presenters took the film audience through the movie process. Yet, what I didn't like was the way they had the one large screen with lots of side screens that often made it hard to see what was being featured on the big screen. Especially during the In Memory portion of the evening, the bizarre camera angles, coupled with the wide shots of Queen Latifa made it hard to see the names of those who were being featured.

9. Jack Nicholson. Was he there? I appreciated that they didn't show clips of him laughing every scene, but I don't know if they ever showed a shot of him. Perhaps as a non-nominee and non-presenter, perhaps he didn't get an invite this year.

10. Over 2 years in early 2007 I asked "Will Kate Ever Find Gold?" and then a couple months later, I began to think that perhaps the literary Revolutionary Road role might do the trick...but who would have guessed in 2007 that it would be The Reader that would give Kate Winslet her Gold Oscar statuette. Congrats Kate. I'm glad your life won't be the film version of soap-star Susan Lucci.

11. I think in the long-term people will be pleased with the win for Slumdog Millionaire. In the bizarre best picture montage that Steven Spielberg presented, the various best picture nominated films were spliced together with previous winners that had similar themes or moments. Each of the nominated films had tons of other films that could easily be referenced with other best picture nominees, but there really was such a limited pallet of Oscar nominated films to draw from. This is a good thing. For all the backlash out there, I had no problem coming up with 10 reasons I loved Slumdog Millionaire.

12. I was clearly happy High School Musical 3 did not receive any original song nominations, but I clearly felt like I saw Zac Efron on stage far too much. In addition to being a part of the musical song number, he also co-presented with Alicia Keyes as though he were a validated singer. Plus, I thought it was funny that Keyes had a deeper voice than Efron. I have to admit, I was sad not see M.I.A. on stage during the musical numbers tonight.

13. Speaking of the musical numbers...why did John Legend perform the Wall-E song, and why the Slumdog/Legend duet. It was horrible. Where was Peter Gabriel?

14. In the foreign film category...where did the win for the Japanese film come from?...did voters get confused and think they were voting on the Japanese version of "The Departed," because if they do, they have the sequence of events out of order. It seemed like the race was all about "Waltz with Bashir" and a potential surprise with "The Class." I haven't seen the winning film, but I hope Okurbito is good. At least the winning speech was short.

15. What was up with Angelina Jolie's green jewelry. America's Favorite Couple certainly looked very classy, but the big emerald ring and earrings were certainly distracting. It has to be disappointing for Brad Pitt and Jolie to go home this evening. I'm sure they'd didn't expect to win, but the letdown has to be tough, especially in a double dose.

16. I don't feel like there's any one tux or dress I feel compelled to eww-and-aww over. It's not really my style to do so. Rather, it's more likely for me to make fun of something completely hideous, but even there, I felt like the outfits fit the tone of the evening and were generally classy and nice.

17. When Will Smith was presenting, he was able to show an entire car chase montage. I think it was supposed to be about sound effects, but it was really showing how many car chases were in films this year. From the Dark Knight to Speed Racer to Indiana Jones there were tons of car scenes. It was incredible to see them back to back...why in the world are we so fascinated with action scenes in cars?

18. Danny Boyle seems like such a great guy. In every award speech and interview he just seems so sincere. I'm glad he won the director prize for his work in Slumdog. His apology for excluding the choreographer's credit simply seemed so sincere. It'll be very interesting to see how Boyle follows up Slumdog Millionaire.

19. Hugh Jackman's joke about range in the opening was pretty funny, his exclusion as a contender because he was an Australian, playing an Australian, in a movie called Australia was great. But every time they showed Mickey Rourke sitting in his seat it also made me think of this concept. The way Mickey Rourke carries himself at all these award shows really makes me wonder if his character in the Wrestler shows much range for Rourke. He looks pretty rough and tumble...if I were him I'd take the Iron Man 2 gig and hope for a continued strong career, because it's hard to say what roles could come his way. I doubt he has the range of other actors like Sean Penn and Russell Crowe, and I would have a hard time thinking we'll see him as a nominee again.

20. Here's to the 82nd Academy Awards, I'm really hoping for greater films and performances in 2009. And to the studios out there...please, consider releasing some of your best films before December.


Grete said...

I enjoyed the show and agree with most of your commentary. :) In response to number 13, Peter Gabriel had previously pulled out (see this article:

Anonymous said...

Allison and I enjoyed the show too, but you left out the best part... Ben Still as Joaquin Phoenix.

Anonymous said...

I think this year's show was the best I have seen in recent years. My favorite part, other than the crystals, was the very sincere and personal introduction of the actor and actress nominees. It was classy and authentic, and I think it made the evening more meaningful for all the nominees and winners.

Lorna said...

Wasn't M.I.A. having a baby?

Anonymous said...

It was fun to watch the show with you...and just so you know, I really traded the ballots with you and YOU had the winning number of awards right!! LUB, Mom

Anonymous said...

Whoops, it is Mary ANN

Um Naief said...

they didn't show it here, so i missed out. :(

peter gabriel didn't want to do it because he wasn't happy w/ the way the musical piece was going. he saw it going in another direction, so he passed on it.