I'm teaching today and then am going to have to disappear most of the week to work on writing commitments, but wanted to register a few thoughts about last night's liturgy for Hollywood's High Holy Day, the Oscar telecast.
Overall, I thought it was a great show. The only real way I can think it might have been better was to have perhaps a bit more comedy from Jackman (he's more of a showman than a comic), and then, of course, a slate of films worth celebrating. It was ironic to me that there was more overall excellence and mass appeal in the Oscar telecast than there was in most of the nominated films. This point underpinned Jackman's funniest quip of the night, in which he noted something to the effect that the nominated films had everything but fans.
In an annual viewing exercise that usually defines itself for me by cringe-producing embarrassment at my industry, I found last night's party was classy, fun and almost completely free of political lecturing by the assembled learned league of alumni from "Maimee Mulally's Discount Acting School - 6 week course and a headshot for $187.50." (Let's face it, the first five rows of folks at the Kodak last night have to be the best dressed, richest, most surgically altered group of non-higher educated brains on the planet.) The one damnable exception was the dour and haughty Sean Penn, who had to tell us how annoying he is, before he proceeded to irrefutably demonstrate it. Sean really, really, really hates people who (his brain has decided) hate.... so I guess all hate isn't completely bad? It was shameful hubris for him to think the general audience of the Oscars cares that he is glad Obama won, or to lecture us all on how our grandchildren are going to be embarrassed by the fact that for one brief shining moment, California voters have elected to go with thousands of years of Western Civilization's thinking on the nuclear family (you know, as opposed to Sean's.) But hubris is the rule of the day so it is certainly moot to make to big a deal of the audacity of dopes.
I loved the major acting award format of having the five past winners come out and say nice things about the five nominees. Really lovely and poignant for the most part and great television. (I am still amazed that Brad Pitt managed to not run screaming from the room in horror while Sir Anthony Hopkins described the chiseled Pitt as a"brilliant" actor. Sir Anthony is gracious.)
I was thrilled to see Jerry Lewis be honored, and to see how classy he was in accepting the honor, regardless of the fact that the comedy he is famous for is so loutish and goofy. (Earth to Robin Williams and Jim Carrey...)
I thought the acceptance speeches are still too long on names that mean nothing to the rest of us, and that it is long overdue for Oscar to figure out a way to adjust that part of the show. They should have a scroll of "People to Thank" alongside the winners so they don't have to sit there trying to remember the name of the grip and craft services guy from two years ago, at arguably the most emotional moment of their lives.
About the awards..... Kate Winslet would not have won if she hadn't spent half of the The Reader nude and deflowering a fifteen year old. This is the kind of performance actors think is brave.... Sean would not have won if Prop-8 had lost. Then, everybody could have happily voted for Mickey Rourke whom even Penn had to acknowledge in his speech was the real acting tour de force of the year.... Meryl Streep is the unabashed Queen of Hollywood, and everyone dutifully paid her obeissance from the stage. She is the greatest. There is no other.... Danny Boyle looks to be a lovely boy and he had the most fun last night. I loved him apologizing to the choreographer of the closing number for leaving him off the credits. Very sweet man. Much sweeter than his movies.... It's a bad year for music when two of the nominated songs are in Mumbaian dialect and accompanied by bongo drums...Hugh is cool, and a classy gentleman.
Again, the only real deficit in the show was that non of the films seemed to me to be that, you know, great. I mean great in a way that will transcend this moment and see them enter into the lasting canon of great films. (Wall-E is the exception. It will last as part of the Pixar canon.) But nobody, N-O-B-O-D-Y will be watching Slumdog in ten years. Or Doubt. Or The Reader. And certainly not Milk.