Monday, February 25, 2008

Oscar post-mortem

Some quick thoughts on last night's Oscar-cast (focusing more on the show than the winners and losers) coming up just as soon as I learn how to pronounce "cinematography"...

It's the morning after, so let's take this painless, bullet point-style:
  • The first time he hosted, I thought Jon Stewart was terrible for the first hour or so, and that once he realized he had bombed -- and that, therefore, the likelihood of a return invite was slim -- he relaxed and turned back into Jon Stewart. This time, I thought he was himself, and pretty funny, from the start. You could tell which lines were by Stewart and his people (the slam on "Norbit," for instance) and which came from the usual Oscar joke-writers (the awful Harrison Ford intro, which Stewart looked miserable delivering), but he was confident and enough of the jokes landed that I wouldn't mind him coming back in a year when there was more prep time and a chance to do the now obligatory phony clip montage. Ellen DeGeneres was a disappointment in her stint, Chris Rock and Letterman aren't ever going to be asked back, Billy Crystal was coasting the last time he did it, and Steve Martin apparently doesn't want to ruin the perfection of his time on the stage by doing it again, so I think Stewart deserves another shot.
  • Admittedly, the only award where I had a real rooting interest was for Best Original Song, where I loved "Falling Slowly" from "Once," but for me the highlight of the night wasn't just Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova winning, but Stewart (or someone in the control room) deciding after the commercial break that Marketa should get to come back and give the speech that the orchestra wouldn't let her give in the first place. Admittedly, lots of people get played off by the band and don't get a second chance like this, but it was such a lovely speech -- "Fair play to those who dare to dream" -- and the crowd in the theater was clearly so gung-ho for "Falling Slowly" and its singer-songwriters, that it created the kind of moment that used to be more routine at the Oscars before the endless march of preliminary awards shows (many of them canceled or toned down this year) sucked the life out of the main event.
  • There were a number of other great speeches: Javier Bardem talking to his mom in Spanish, Tilda Swinton (clearly not expecting to win and winging it) rambling on about George Clooney's batsuit with nipples, Ethan Coen being mercifully brief twice, among others. I was watching the show on a DVR delay and fast-forwarded through the speeches in the more obscure categories, so for all I know most of the audience had to suffer through the usual deadly laundry lists of thank yous, but what I saw, I liked.
  • I know I should have hated the Jonah Hill/Seth Rogen bit about who got to be Halle Berry -- it went on forever and had nothing resembling a punchline -- but for whatever reason, it made me laugh. I can't explain it.
  • I haven't yet seen "Enchanted," and while Amy Adams did a nice job with her song, I feel like that performance needed the kind of context that the other two "Enchanted" numbers got, rather than just letting Jim Halpert's ex-girlfriend sing alone on-stage.
  • Does anyone know for sure whether you have to be an Academy member to be included in the In Memoriam montage? That would be the easiest way to explain the absence of Brad Renfro. (Roy Scheider died after the cut-off, and will no doubt get big applause next year.)
  • The juxtaposition of grumpy old man Harrison Ford giving an award to tattooed uber-hipster Diablo Cody amused me, though nerves seemed to overtake Cody during her speech.
  • As Josh Brolin started apologizing to Jack Nicholson for his awful Jack impression (the latest in a series I like to call "Josh Brolin Is At An Awards Show And Is Going To Say Whatever The Hell He Wants, Dammit"), my wife pointed out that seated right behind Jack was Diane Lane, Brolin's wife, and I'll be damned if I can figure out whether that frozen smile on her face meant she was amused or appalled by what Brolin was doing.
What did everybody else think?

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Brolin and Lane are still married. So my guess is amused...

Tim Masterson said...

Good roundup, Alan. The reason the Jonah Hill/Seth Rogen thing worked is because they both a very natural, very likable vibe.

I really enjoyed Jon Stewart. I don't know if it was his idea to bring Marketa Irglova back out, but it was a very nice moment, a very classy move. I also think Stewart got off a great line with, "That guy is so arrogant." Funny stuff.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Brolin and Lane are still married. So my guess is amused...

Whoops. I need to pay more attention to celebrity gossip, clearly. Will go fix that.

Anonymous said...

My fave was lovely and VERY EXCITED Marion Cotillard throwing herself into the arms of Forest Whitaker.

Eric said...

There was a statement in the A List of Things... comment section saying that yes, you do need to be an Academy member to get into the montage.

Nicole said...

Can't Stewart's writers do all the jokes? It's previous obvious the political ones were from his guys, and those were the funnier ones.

I have read that Stewart gave up some of his scripted joke time to let Marketa back on. However, that was on the internets, so may not be reliable.
Same with only members being part of the death montage.

Anonymous said...

I am truly disgusted Brad Renfro was not given tribute- he was honored at the SAG and Baftas, why not the Oscars?

Devin McCullen said...

I didn't find the Hill/Rogen bit particularly funny. It just seemed too forced for me. (And I know Knocked Up and Superbad made a lot of money, but there had to be a significant part of the audience wondering "Who the hell are these guys?")

I much preferred the Steve Carell/Anne Hathaway bit.

Nicole said...

I should also mention that I thought it was inexplicably cruel to make Amy Adams, the only actual person in Enchanted, to sing without any props, in a song that had dancing rats and bugs in the movie, whereas Kristen Chenoweth and that other guy had a stage full of dancers.

max_headroom said...

ITA with nicole. I was really feeling sorry for Amy Adams. Yikes, that must have been such a nerve-wracking experience, to say the least. She was gamely up for it though, and I thought she gave a beautiful performance. Guess performing a song alone in front of a billion viewers is a breeze after the cold-hearted way Jim Halpert dumped her "Office" character Katy ;-)

Tom said...

Good round-up Alan!

A few quick thoughts:

Loved Glen and Marketa, but HATED the strings. Like pouring corn syrup on a souffle.

The Rock is an Oscar presenter? WTF?!

Mr. Seinfeld bombed. In a big way. He should have personally stepped to the podium in a bee costume. At least then no one would have paid attention to the awful jokes.

Despite these few grouses, it was a pretty good show, all things considered.

Anonymous said...

Overall, I suspect the show suffered from not airing during the writer's strike. Some jokes landed, some didn't, but overall, I preferred the writerless Stewart we saw for those weeks on the Daily Show.

nyactor said...

I love Jon Stewart but it felt like even with a few quips that he didn't get to do a lot!

It seemed like the show used many of their old oscar clips they had prepared for a writerless show..

I really found the show boring and the big moments..even they were stretches to say "amusing".

Nobody can beat Billy Crystal during his heyday of oscar as host.

Julie Christie had to take a moment to realize she didn't win and ...then clap...
I still haven't watched away from her or La Vie En Rose --- but it sounds like Marion deserved it. I loved Ellen Page in Juno though.

I'm going to say the show was tame due to the strike and say jon stewart could knock it out of the park for next year.

Red said...

There was a statement in the A List of Things... comment section saying that yes, you do need to be an Academy member to get into the montage.

That was me, and yes, you need to be an Academy member to be included in the montage. Here's the list for 2007: http://www.oscars.org/academy/memoriam/index.html

As you'll note, Heath Ledger is listed as a member of the actors branch. Brad Renfro is not listed, meaning he is not an Academy member.

So I don't think it was a slight to Renfro at all. Santa Claus could die, and he would not be in the montage (though they'd probably have a special montage of all the people who've played him over the years).

Filipe said...

Last year they had Shohei Imamura on the montage and he is decidely not a member.

Anonymous said...

"I have read that Stewart gave up some of his scripted joke time to let Marketa back on."

Word I heard (also on the Internet) was that Colin Ferrell pushed the producers to let her do it.

Ethan Coen should've brought her out. I love the Coen brothers, but I don't like it that, in any given year, the only people at the Oscars who seem really excited are the people who win Best Song.

Josh said...

You know what really tickled me and I do not really know why is when Brolin and McCavoy came on and both did little spins for no apparent reason.
Also after Busey's attempt to assail Seacrest on the carpet did anyone notice him down in the front rows while Regis was walking around about 3 mins before the show started? He appeared to be bothering Tommy Lee Jones and Tommy did not look like he wanted anything to do with him.

Anonymous said...

I also LOVED the fact that the last person to give a speech, in accepting the Best Picture award after the Cohen brothers, thanked his partner, and then in case anyone was wondering, called him "Honey"! Maybe it's commonplace for the Tonys, and sure, it's been done before in other Oscar categories, but having it in the final acceptance speech of the night, for Best Picture, was a big deal for me--I thought it was GREAT. And a little courageous of that guy.

Anonymous said...

Alan, I don't know if you caught this Jimmy Kimmel

Special K said...

I laughed my ass of at the Seth Rogan/Jonah Hill thing. It just struck me as hilarious. I also loved the Cate Blanchett as the pit bull in No Country, I loved Julie Christie NOT winning, I loved the surprise and very deserving wins by Tilda Swanson and Marion Cotillard, I loved Enchanted not winning best song (I enjoyed that movie immensely, but Once has a special place in my heart, as does the remarkable, together-in-real-life-after-the-movie-wrapped couple of the night, Glen and Marketa)...

Most of all, I loved that I tivo'd through all the boring bits/speeches like you did, Alan, so it seemed short and sweet to me.

Jenn said...

I think the Renfro thing actually was a slight -- or "an editing problem," as they're saying. PopCandy had a link about this earlier today: http://blogs.usatoday.com/popcandy/2008/02/why-was-brad-sn.html

Karen said...

As someone put it in a comment somewhere else, I love that the song from "Once" (an enchanting little film) beat the Disney machine.

And everyone on the webs seems to have loved that Jon Stewart brought Marketa Irglova back out for her speech, despite the NYTimes referring to it as a moment when the show came "off the rails." I'm not sure if that's a dis or not, but it sounds unenthusiastic.

I'm a feminist of just the right age to be nigglingly aware that whenever a male-female couple go up to accept an award, it is overwhelmingly the man who ends up giving the acceptance speech (although I grant that when it's a male-male pair, often one does take the lead), so I was made very uncomfortable when she was played off the stage.

This is probably the first year where I've not seen ONE SINGLE nominated film or performance (way too busy in my Netflix queue), so I had no investent in any outcome, but I was kind of chuffed to see Marion Cotillard and Tilda Swinton in what seemed genuine upset victories.

I thought Stewart was very funny this year, and the audience seemed to like him this year as well. It didn't occur to me that the Harrison Ford joke wasn't his, but you're right: his delivery on it sucked so bad it does seem as if it might not have been his own material. It certainly was a lousy, cheap shot. I felt bad for Ford when they played him on with the "Star Wars" music, too; must be rough to be one of the top stars in Hollywood and still be primarily associated with the role that made you 30 years earlier.

But mostly what I want is to look half as damn good as Helen Mirren when I'm her age. Yowzah.

Nicole said...

In the case of the Once couple, I think the biggest problem is that he is a good 15 years older than her and I don't think she is even twenty. So it's not only a male female thing, but a "she is just so darn young" thing.

I am also creeped out by the fact the she was jail bait when they started dating after the movie ended. That screams to me school girl infatuation looking for a father figure.. but I digress.

I don't know what the NY Times is thinking, but asking her back on the stage was one of the best moments cited by many on the web and on television. Non scripted moments are what people want to see when they watch Oscars, not endless montages... and Jack Nicholson. (really why is he there every year?)

j g said...

I'm surprised they've never offered Tom Hanks a chance at hosting the Oscars
I agree with the observation that Jon Stewart seemed kind of off-stride at moments

Toby said...

I'm looking at that Memorial page at the Academy site...

http://www.oscars.org/academy/memoriam/index.html

And I don't see anything that says that you can't be included in the onscreen memorial if you weren't a member.

They paid tribute to Ingmar Bergman and to Jane Wyman and they weren't members (although they did have Oscars).

Lois Nettleton and John P. Ryan were listed as members who passed away in that time frame, but they weren't given tribute. So I think it came down to editorial choices made in putting the tribute together.

Charles Lane should have been honored!

drake leLane said...

Us Magazine, of all publications, got this (non)explanation from the Academy of Arts and Sciences on the omission of Renfro:

“It was really an editing decision because we can’t fit everyone in,” a rep for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tells Usmagazine.com. “There was no specific reason.”

Sars said...

According to Nikki Finke, Letterman is actually asked back each year; he always declines. I thought he was great, so I wish he'd say yes, but I can see why he doesn't.

I don't know why the Rock was a presenter either, but I don't care. The man is hot.

filmcricket said...

Jon didn't make me laugh as much this year as he did last time - nothing will beat the montage of gay cowboys - but he got in several good lines and he can pretty much do no wrong in my book so I'd be fine with him coming back again. (I also loved Letterman, so he can come back any time too.) The one who really needs the boot is Gil Cates or whoever was directing last night; at the climax of "Falling Slowly" we get a trip into the orchestra pit, why?

I was sorry Christie didn't win. I haven't seen La Vie En Rose so that's not a slam on Cotillard, but I thought Away From Her was brilliant and I wanted to see it take something home. I was thrilled with the win for Taxi To The Dark Side which was the best of the docs I saw.

Anonymous said...

I thought the funniest bit (other than Gaydolf Titler who had such good ideas) was the "waking up from a nightmare" montage. Brilliant!

Zoom-in said...

yes, we also loved “Falling Slowly” from Once winning the Best Song - that gives us such a sense of hope, y'know.

drake leLane said...

Speaking of "Falling Slowly" and Once, tonight on Ovation's 'The Artist's Den', Swell Season (Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova) will be performing the songs from the film.

I didn't even realize I had a channel called Ovation, but hearing about this prompted me to do a quick search, and sure enough, there it was.

It's scheduled for 8PM EST (and repeated at 11,) but check your local listings.

Here's a clip of them performing "Lies."

Anonymous said...

I'm curious as to why so many people seem to be so up in arms about Brad Renfro being left out. People are always left out. I'm pretty sure John Spencer wasn't included the year he died, and IMHO he was an actor of greater note than Brad Renfro.