Monday, March 08, 2010

Oscars 2010: Can't anybody here make a good TV show?

If you follow me on Twitter, you know most of my thoughts on last night's Academy Awards telecast. For those who don't (or for those who want to relive the same complaints 12 hours later), a review of the Oscar show coming up just as soon as I hijack my fellow winner's speech...

There are certain stumbling blocks an Oscar-cast simply can't eliminate. First, there are so many awards shows leading up to this one that there's virtually no suspense; Best Picture was the only category most viewers care about where there was any question going into the show what would win, and Best Adapted Screenplay was the only thing close to a major category where the winner was a surprise. (Everyone assumed that award would be the consolation prize for one-time front-runner "Up in the Air.") Second, there are too many awards - or, specifically, too many awards either devoted to either to movies the bulk of the audience hasn't seen (notably the three short-film categories) or to disciplines the bulk of the audience doesn't understand and/or care about (the sound awards, to name two). So the show is destined to either run long (though last night's show still wasn't in the ballpark of the 2002 show for length), feel very rushed at the end (when we get to the categories people actually tuned in for), or both.

Given those inevitable drawbacks, you basically have to grade every Oscar-cast on a curve. But even allowing for the things the producers can't do much to change(*), the 2010 show wasn't very good.

(*) And I thought the little clip reel of previous short-film winners who went on to successful feature-film careers did as good a job as possible of explaining to viewers they those categories exist and are still part of the main show and not the technical ceremony (aka the Nerd Oscars) that someone like Elizabeth Banks or Jessica Biel hosts the week before each year.

Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin weren't terrible hosts, but nor were they particularly memorable. These are two of the funniest men on the planet, but they seemed uncomfortable swapping generic one-liners in the opening monologue, then vanished for long stretches of the show.

Oscar co-producer Adam Shankman's love of musical numbers, meanwhile, seemed to belong in an Oscar telecast of a different era. I liked the idea behind the opening musical number with Neil Patrick Harris and a bunch of showgirls (and/or "So You Think You Can Dance" alums dressed as showgirls) but can't remember the lyrics or melody to any of it the next morning. And the decision to showcase the five nominated scores with interpretive dance numbers was indulgent, incredibly long (especially since the producers had already axed the Best Original Song performances for eating up too much time), silly if you knew anything about the nominated films, and the sort of nonsense I thought the Oscars had left behind when Debbie Allen was banished from the show in the '90s. If you want to play extended parts of the nominated scores, great, but there's a much easier, more germane visual you can use to accompany them: clips of the films.

Still, no matter how tentative the hosts were, how odd some of the production choices were (a random montage of horror movies that seemed unclear on what the definition of a horror movie is, and in some of its choices of Oscar-winning films that were released after "The Exorcist," disagreed with the introductory remarks by Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart), or how long the show ran, everything might have been okay with an even vaguely competent director.

Instead, we got Hamish Hamilton making the wrong choice at virtually every turn.

He gave us long shots when we needed something more intimate (for instance, when all the John Hughes movie alums first came on stage at the end of the Hughes tribute), random and confused edits, terrible choices on who to cut to in the audience (anytime "Precious" won, we of course had to see every notable African-American person in attendance, and after spending half the show cutting randomly to a surly George Clooney, nobody could bother when Sandra Bullock told a joke at his expense in her acceptance speech), etc., etc. After everyone screamed bloody murder about the framing of last year's In Memoriam segment, which focused more on Queen Latifah than the images of the movie people who died, what excuse was there to make the exact same mistake for the first few entries in this year's montage? (Unless you were squinting, you may not have even realized Patrick Swayze led things off.) And after giving us shot after shot after shot of former spouses/collaborators Kathryn Bigelow and James Cameron every time one of "The Hurt Locker" or "Avatar" won, how in the world did Hamilton fail to show us their interaction when Bigelow beat Cameron for Best Director?

(Just remember all the bumbling on display when members of the television Academy, living up to their usual inferiority complex towards the movies, give Hamilton an Emmy next fall.)

Some other highlights and lowlights from the show:

• I'm happy for Bigelow, who deserved the win for directing one of the most exciting, yet unconventional, action movies in years, but everything about the presentation of her directing award left a bad taste in my mouth. The choice of Barbra Streisand to present (including Babs' opening remarks about how excited she was at the possibility of a woman winning) and then the orchestra's choice of "I Am Woman" to accompany Bigelow's walk off-stage all screamed that the only thing that mattered about Bigelow's achievement was her gender. Yes, it's long-overdue that a woman won (not that Hollywood gives female directors a ton of great opportunities), but it's insulting to Bigelow's immense talent to focus so much on that.

• One improvement over last year's show: the tributes to the Best Actor and Best Actress nominees came from former co-stars, rather than former winners who may or may not have had a connection to one of the nominees, and we got both performance clips and the testimonials, rather than just the speeches. That made things run longer, and some of the testimonials were still awkward (Colin Farrell invoking "SWAT" for Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker reminding people that Sandra Bullock was once in "Hope Floats"), but overall the execution of the idea was much better.

• It was a good night to be affiliated with "Lost." That show's composer Michael Giacchino (whom I profiled a couple of years ago) won the Best Original Score trophy for "Up," Fisher Stevens (who played Minkowski, the radio operator on the freighter in season four) won for producing Best Documentary winner "The Cove," and both of the Best Picture frontrunners featured "Lost" actresses in small roles: Evangeline Lilly in "Hurt Locker" and Michelle Rodriguez in "Avatar."

• Speaking of TV alums at the Oscars, Mo'Nique's win for Best Supporting Actress means that UPN and the WB are, I believe, tied for the number of former stars to win acting Oscars. (Mo'Nique was on UPN's "The Parkers," Jamie Foxx on the WB's "The Jamie Foxx Show.") Unless I'm forgetting someone, who will break the tie? A castmember from "Shasta McNasty" or "7th Heaven"? UPDATE: As mentioned in the comments, Forest Whitaker (who won a few years back for "Last King of Scotland") hosted UPN's "Twilight Zone" remake, so the pressure's on the WB alums now. I say Jessica Biel's due next.

• I'm of the right age for Hughes' movies to matter a lot to me, but I'd understand why viewers outside that demo would wonder why the show spent so much time on this one guy who died and not any of the others. I also hope Matthew Broderick's "Hey, Ferris! This your day off?" impression of the fan encounter he has every day was cathartic for him, and that he can now again embrace his inner Ferris Bueller, given how he's spent so much of his adult career playing pinched, Cameron-esque dweebs.

• Best presenter banter: Tina Fey and Robert Downey Jr. bickering about writers vs. actors. Worst: Probably Ben Stiller coming out in Na'avi makeup was one of those ideas that was funny as a brief sight gag, then kept going and going and going.

• The producers introduced an off-stage "Thank-You Cam" this year that was allegedly supposed to give the winners an opportunity to do their usual deadly lists while doing something more interesting for the viewers at home. It was, unsurprisingly, completely ignored.

What did everybody else think?


Bobman said...

I agree that the direction was AWFUL, but one thing I DISAGREE with is Baldwin and Martin - I thought they were hilarious. It was odd how they disappeared for long stretches, but I thought that every time they were on the stage they were funny.

Anonymous said...

Your thoughts on Farrah Fawcett being left out of the in memoriam?
Also, I hate the best actor/actress testimonials. they're uncomfortably fawning and long. I could have hugged Tom Hanks when he marched out and said "And the best picture is..."
Brevity is not always a good thing, but seriously.

Oskar said...

BTW, did anyone notice that this year they consistently said "And the Winner is..." instead of "And the Academy Award goes to..." which they've done every other year. What's up with that?

Otto Man said...

My wife and I actually liked Martin and Baldwin quite a bit.

The speeches were all over the place. The Frenchman who won for "Logorama" was hysterical, but he was immediately followed by two train wrecks -- the red-headed woman who awkwardly interrupted her partner's speech, and the bald white guy who kept trying to get his partner to wrap it up, but to no avail. Painfully awkward.

I can understand everyone wanting to talk up there, but with the time limit and the cliche of getting played off, why wouldn't a duo or trio simply designate one of them to speak for the group ahead of time?

bsangs said...

Agree with Bobman - thought Baldwin and Martin were great. My favorite moment of the entire broadcast though is when that crazy woman went all Kanye West during somebody else's acceptance speech. I don't remember what the award was, but it was enormously cringe-worthy.

They screwed up big-time on the intro to the horror segment though. Apparently they forgot the year when "The Silence of the Lambs" cleaned house.

Otto Man said...

Oh, and the worst part was the interpretive dance routines for the Best Score nominees.

I mean, seriously -- a pop-and-lock breakdancing routine for "Hurt Locker"?

Anonymous said...

oh yeah, also, i just wanted to say that i appreciate so much your commentary on this and (espy) Mad Men and other shows. love it. thanks

Blair Waldorf said...

Awful. Agree with all your comments.

I agree that all the emphasis on Kathryn Bigelow being a woman was annoying. And what if one of the three white guys won? They had to lose just because they were white guys? I suddenly felt sorry for white guys, something I never thought possible.

What was Sean Penn babbling about?

And can NPH just host the whole show next year? Also, I would like to see NPH in a Broadway show, starting a fashion line, endorsing a soft drink and with his own TV network featuring his talk show AND hosting a variety show.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Salon has an explanation for the Kanye moment.

Thais Afonso said...

I liked bits of Baldwin and Martin. They were funny, but sometimes the dialogue seemed stiff. I loved Martin grabbing one of the Oscars from Bigelow in the end, though. And I loved that she won, because I really liked the sober, clean work she did in THL, one of the few movies about war I came to like.

And since I didn't like Avatar, Up in the Air or Precious that much (and didn't really understand that movie taking Best Screenplay), I really apreciated the fact that THL won almost everything.

I agree with the remark about Barbra, tough. Her presentation felt out of place. If she was talking about a Director that was very much of a feminist and saw this award as a cause, maybe it wouldn't feel so tacky. But Bigelow didn't seem to mind much about the gender thing. I actually thought of last week episode of Parks and Recreation, with the Academy trying to make a political statement the winner herself didn't seem so keen in making.

I totally loved how emotional she was (she had been pretty composed so far) and how happy everybody seemed with the BP win. I just hate when everybody is totally blasé about the fact that they won a freaking Oscar. They made me even happier for them.

Unknown said...

Main thing that left a bad taste in my mouth:

"I've already got two of these." Oh really, fancy pants fashion-person? Well then how about next year you take your name out of contention if you're so over the Oscars.

Is there anyway that I can see all the short features? Specifically, all the documentary shorts looked extremely intriguing.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I just hate when everybody is totally blasé about the fact that they won a freaking Oscar.

So I'm guessing you loved the woman who came up and as all, "Well, I already have two of these, so..."

Anonymous said...

I thought that, for the most part, Martin and Baldwin were very funny, but there was an odd pacing to it. Both fell victim to the audience stepping on their punchline and there was a strange rhythm issue with them in the beginning. Still, they had a handful of genuinely funny moments and I was disappointed that they disappeared for such long periods of time.

And seriously...the direction was terrible. I was especially disappointed that they spent so much time setting up the Bigelow/Cameron rivalry, but didn't even bother to show them when she finally won the big award. And while the "I Am Woman" was obnoxious it was better than the use of "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" when Zoe Saldana and Cary Mulligan came out was just really, really, really creepy.

Nicole said...

I was okay with Streisand presenting the Best Director award, but the I Am Woman playoff was just horrible. The orchestra also played "Georgia on My Mind for both Queen Latifah and Tyler Perry. Is that the go to song when there is an African American on stage? I thought it was lazy to use the song twice and weird because it made no sense to connect it to Tyler Perry.

Baldwin and Martin were great when they were ripping on Meryl Streep, but the opening dialogue was not paced very well. I think the Clooney scare was a bit, but that was a little hard to tell.

I completely agree that the telecast was poorly directed. I really wanted to see the shot of Cameron and Bigelow after she wins best director, but we flip to a wide shot where you can't see anyone. And many times you could hear the sound from people leaving the stage, which was sloppy as well.

The seating arrangements seemed odd too, although now I know that Morgan Freeman and Helen Mirren are friends since the camera kept him in her shot when announced the Best Actress awards. Many random star shots were just awkward, and finding any African American in the crowd whenever Precious won something made me think that it was the Republican convention or something.

Asta said...

Yes, Yes, Yes to everything you said. Actually, you perhaps a bit kinder than I would have been. I thought the show was a disaster from beginning to end. NPH gave the opening number his all, but the song was completely forgettable. I've enjoyed Baldwin and Martin's work, but I didn't laugh once during their monologue. And I'm fairly confidant, as someone with no directing experience, that I could have done a better job.

I wish the Emmy's would award presenters because Downey and Fey definitely deserve recognition for providing the only memorable (in the good way) moment of the telecast outside of a few heartfelt acceptance speeches.

Thais Afonso said...

So I'm guessing you loved the woman who came up and as all, "Well, I already have two of these, so..."

That was the woman that won for The Young Victoria, right? Loved her work, but I missed most of her speech actually. The translation for portuguese was just making everything confusing at that point. Good for her that she already has a bunch of Oscars. I just think is so much more rewarding when the winner seems actually excited to be there. So yeah, didn't care for her much.

Anonymous said...

I have one question. With all the lame things they did (Neil Patrick Harris' intro, horror montage, best original score dance off, etc), but they have no time to bring Lauren Freakin' Bacall to the stage for her statue. What the hell?

Anonymous said...

To Nicole -

Actually, playing "georgia on my mind" for Tyler Perry makes complete sense as he lives in Atlanta and that's where his studio is.

Zac F. said...

I would agree that the direction, awful as it was, will get an Emmy except for one thing: The Olympics.

paul said...

They give out an Emmy for award shows? Really? Reason #578 not to watch the Emmies.

I agree with every comment made above. A total Charlie Fox.

Miken said...

Well, she came off cocky and didn't seem to care, but she did bring up a good point.

She said this one is for the talented costume designers that aren't doing period piece movies. She said those people are talented and never get any credit for their work, because who thinks of a costume award for something like Precious?

She basically said, the only reason I win is because I did Young Victoria and Shakespeare in Love!

Hyde said...

Re the attention given to John Hughes: it's yet another indication that the cultural center of gravity has shifted away from the boomers. I was never an enormous fan--Vacation was about the first and last thing he ever wrote that wasn't watered down with drippy sentimentality--but since the show needs the occasional non-award interlude, better that than another dance routine.

If you're going to ask Barbra Streisand to present the best director award in the same year that a woman is favored to win for the first time, you have to expect about what we saw.

I didn't like the testimonials last year (when I believe they were also used for the supporting nominees) and I still don't. That late in the show, everyone wants to go home/to bed, not hear what Peter Saarsgard thinks about Carey Mulligan.

Alex Mullane said...

Thought Martin/Baldwin were just awful. The rare occasion they had to do a piece on their own, they were fine, but together they were so stilted and forced and unnatural. Horrible stuff.

Sandra Bullock is definitely queen of the Oscars after giving the greatest speech I've ever seen at any awards show. She was funny, genuine, heartfelt, emotional and then funny again.

The Kanye-esque moment was horrible, and even more so now I know that it was a genuine attempt at belittlement from the lady. If she was just a socially inept person, that's one thing, but that they are actually at war with one another makes it a whole lot more nasty.

Alan, I'm curious... You complain about the inclusion of some of the horror clips (justifiably), but I'm curious where you stand on the Marathon Man tooth torture being included?

Not a horror film, but a HORRIFIC sequence. If you still wince and have to watch from behind a pillow, does that qualify?

Anonymous said...

Thanks Alan for the notes they need for a better show. I get tired of reading how bad the show is and no one else suggests what they can do to be better.

Overall I thought it was okay. I think the main thing for me is they try to hard to be clever and it just never works for them. I was watching the Kevin Pollack live stream and someone there suggested having the nominated composers for best score come up and direct the orchestra while a clip of their film plays on the screen.

I think the main thing they should do is partner with a cable channel and put the main awards on the network and the others on the cable broadcast. Then if you are a film geek or in the business you can watch the whole event and if you want just actor, actress, picture etc... then watch the network at say 9 PM.

The acting testimonials were way over the top and took way too long. Yes we know they are great since they are nominated but it felt like something they do when they are about to retire or die.

And what was up with Clooney. Did someone make him mad right before the show??

Anonymous said...

The intro's/tributes where they have five people stand on stage while each one talks about one of the best actor or actress nominees are awful and need to stop. Take the most uncomfortable, fawning, vapid wedding toast you've ever endured, and multiply by 1000.

erin said...

I actually really liked the show last night, surprisingly. But then again, I'm pretty easy to please! It will always run long, so that didn't bother me, and I was thrilled to see the Hurt Locker do so well because I thought it deserved it, and I thought Avatar did NOT deserve it except for special effects. It gave me a small sense of satisfaction to think that the parts Cameron was directly involved with (well...everything, but that's not my point) such as writing and editing he either didn't get nominated for or lost. He just bugs me.

Barbra made it All About Her when she announced the winner, which irritated me, and reminded me of Julia Roberts yelling "I love my life!" when Denzel Washington won. PC actors...just--shut it. It's not about you. I liked just how nervous Bigelow was...she was just so shocked.

I found Martin and Baldwin to be VERY funny, and in fact laughed more at this show than in years past. Didn't think there were a ton of awkward host moments. And I actually laughed out loud at Stiller, even though it was a bit long. It still made me giggle.

Monique scares the crap out of me.

I expected Tarantino to get more love than he did...that was the upset for me.

Overall, enjoyed it thoroughly, as did my viewing mates.

Andrew said...

The best film scores add emotion and tension to films. While some are just wonderful compositions on their own (for example, John Williams' scores to Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark), you can't ignore how the score works together with the film. Who walked out of The Hurt Locker humming any part of the score? But who would deny that the score was an integral part of the Oscar-winning sound design of the film and contributed to ratcheting up the tension-- which you see much better in context with a clip, rather than with a number borrowed from So You Think You Can Dance.

That said, I am enormously thrilled not only that Lost's Michael Giacchino won for the beautiful score from Up, but that the recycled themes from the Titanic score that James Horner put together for Avatar did not win an Oscar. Giacchino is now 3/4 of the way to EGOT.

And agreed on all of the other criticisms of the show and its telecast

Unknown said...

I did like Martin and Baldwin which surprised me because I was very skeptical about it. The rest of most of it was just terrible. I'm a pretty sophisticated guy but WTF was that dancing?

Tom Hanks was awfully short at the end but in his defense I'm thinking he did that to give the winner more time to talk - at that point they were 25+ minutes long.

I agree the direction was horrible. After one acceptance they cut away to half of Kathy Bates face and she had nothing to do with the movie that won.

I had to try to explain to my 13 year old that "yeah I guess Edward Scissorhands is technically horror and there's a wide range from that to Texas chain saw, blah blah blah..." but you know what - on further reflection that was just stupid.

And I don't care what the excuse to leave Farrah Fawcett and Bea Aurthur off the memorial was lousy.

Jeff Polman said...

I agree with Bobman; I though Martin and Baldwin were hysterical, and gave life to an otherwise dead show.

But the fascinating segment of directors talking about their short films was immediately gutted by showing maybe THREE SECONDS from each nominated short, then playing music to get the shorts winners off the stage if they spoke for more than thirty seconds. Incredibly shameless hypocrisy.

par3182 said...

Did they forget that for all her other achievements, Streisand is a pretty crappy director? My pet hate is when award presenters make a comment before reading the winner's name; way to step on the moment, Babs.

I would've loved to hear a Lauren Bacall speech.

Quick poll - which is worse? Tonight's robot dance for Up or Debbie Allen's tap dancing tribute to Saving Private Ryan?

Unknown said...

Speaking of Babs - how do you think that black director for Precious felt when she said something like "finally, for the first time ever... " pause. I'm sure he could've figured it out by the stupid smile on her face but for a split second he had to been thinking maybe it was him.

Anonymous said...

The Oscars was worse than the Golden Globes this year. Nice going Academy...

Best Moment: John Hughes tribute.

Worst Moment: Interprative dance numbers which disgraced the brilliant work of Michael Giaccino.

Actor/Actress Who Made the Best Case for Hosting Next Year: Tina Fey and/or Robert Downey Jr. Just think of the possibilites and jokes!

Most Shocking Moment: Tom Hanks comes out on stage and blurts out 'Hurt Locker Wins!,' which causes all use Avatar fans to slit their wrists in anguish.

Lizbeth said...

NPH is awesome, that opening song was not.

I would rather the show opens with the big epic film montage of the greatest clips of the year juxtaposed with those of all time -- give us film geeks FILM to look at, not lame live numbers.

Agreed that the best actor and actress testimonials should be nixed. The first rule of filmmaking is SHOW DON'T TELL. So show us clips of the actors at their finest throughout the years-- don't tell us how great they are unless you want to bore us.

How the hell do they muck up the In Memoriam every single year? We don't need to see an extreme wide shot of James Taylor. Show us the names and faces of the people we lost. Simple.

Baldwin and Martin? Martin and Baldwin?? I'd pay to see them in a series of films together, but as far as hosting the Oscars?? Nothing spectacular or memorable.

I am, however, on board with the Tina Fey/Robert Downey or Tina Fey/Steve Carrell hosting team for 2011.

Keri said...

On the WB vs UPN, I imagine Michelle Williams has a better chance than most since she has already been nominated once and seems to take interesting roles.

Adam said...

Honestly, if all they'd do is cut the interpretive dance number /and/ the NPH number explaining why there were two hosts, it would've been a brisker evening.

I applaud the producers for spending more time explaining why the 10 films and 20 performances were nominated, and less on songs no one cares about. Another nice touch: zipping through the three "short film" categories in one quick segment.

Anonymous said...

Not much to add to what Alan wrote---I basically agree 100%. I didn't even make it to the end of the show.

LA said...

Agree with pretty much everything you said, Alan. I, for one, loved Baldwin and Martin together. I thought they were great, and there was much laughter for them at the small watching party I attended. NPH can do no wrong.

I also want to point out that they left DOMINICK DUNNE off the montage who produced several films in the years before he became a writer. Bad form, Academy.

Thanks for the link to the Kanye moment. Shame on that woman, more bad form.

Dave T said...

My pet hate is when award presenters make a comment before reading the winner's name; way to step on the moment, Babs.

All the pre-reading comments are scripted, aren't they? Isn't that just the single-presenter version of what we call the annoying "scripted banter" when there's two presenters?

Adam said...

And Streisand was wrong, really -- the time had come long ago. It's just that when Jane Campion with up for The Piano, so was Spielberg for Schindler's List.

Folks who are sufficiently looking to kill time today can review our liveblog from last night at ALOTT5MA. Relive the shocking results of this year's Necrology Applause-O-Meter!

Unknown said...

Starting to sound like they had to limit the dead people to the number they could get into a three and a half minute pop song.


LA said...

p.s. Did anyone else catch the Modern Family ad during the Oscar broadcast? It was hilarious.

olucy said...

Yes, that Modern Family ad was hilarious. I wish that was actually an episode.

I echo someone's previous question: was there an explanation for why they returned to "And the winner is..." instead of "And the Oscar goes to..."? I thought that was an odd choice.

Paul Hanlin Jr said...

Awful show in every way. And this...

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to Planet Earth: Drop Dead.

We don't give a frak what you think; we'll choose as our best film the one that, unadjusted for inflation, the lowest-earning Best Picture winner in 51 years (yes, you need to go all the way back to 'Gigi' to find a film that earned less money than The Hurt Locker). And adjusted for inflation, it blows everything else under the table. The lowest-earning BP winner. Ever.

amyp3 said...

the cultural center of gravity has shifted away from the boomers”

Maybe this is why *I* don’t fall over everything Neil Patrick Harris does, the way a lot of blog peeps do. Oh well, enjoy it, mid-30-somethings, until the millennials take over.

I missed the opening, turned it off before end, and wasn’t really watching all that closely in between. But yeah, Martin and Baldwin seemed awkward. When 30 Rock ends they’re going to be begging Tina Fey to host this.

I did laugh at the “night in the same bed” clip.

I agree with all that’s been said about bizarre choices re: the musical presentations and the walk-on/off music.

As a writer and a former musician, I prefer to think of score and screenwriting as the biggy awards. But Bridges and Bullock are two of my favorite performers, and it’d be interesting to see Babs gave Bigelow her award. However I haven’t viewed their speeches yet today.

Which, in the end, sums up how uninterested I am seeing rich, famous people give each other trophies. At least during such a yawnfest of a show.

Oh, please don't make me choose between NBC's eternally bad coverage of the Olympics and *this* for Best Awards broadcast.

olucy said...

And adjusted for inflation, it blows everything else under the table. The lowest-earning BP winner. Ever.

Why should box office receipts matter? And when did popular taste have anything to do with quality? That's what The People's Choice Awards are for.

erin said...

Just because Hurt Locker was the lowest grossing (and that's no fault of the movie) doesn't mean it's still not the most deserving. Just because everyone and their mom has seen Avatar for it's visual effects doesn't mean it should win. I've seen both, and Hurt Locker was everything Avatar wasn't: well acted, scripted, edited, and directed on top of being truly suspenseful, unpredictable, and exciting. This is not Crash vs. Brokeback Mountain or even Saving Private Ryan vs. Shakespeare in Love. The right film won.

Unknown said...

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to Planet Earth: Drop Dead.

Mrs. Camron the 7th I presume.

Did you see the Hurt Locker? Probably not- they only had a very limited number of prints and it didn't show much outside of the major markets. But really if your that worried about how much money the movie takes in just stick with the People's choice awards or maybe MTV.

Anonymous said...

The show was horrible and gets worse every year. It would be a refreshing change if they tightened it up and forgot about all the canned banter between presenters and ditched the monologue. This is supposed to be about the awards not the alleged comedy writing.

Speaking of the writing...I found it to be sophomoric and juvenile. From the opening number by NPH to the monologue to some of the musical choices. "I Am Woman"? You have got to be kidding.

As bad as the opening number was, Harris did a good job with it (although he seemed to really struggle with it at times and sounded off key in several places). NPH deserves a lot of credit. It's my understanding that Martin Short was originally booked to do that opening number. I'm sure he would have done better with it because he had been rehearsing it for several weeks and because it was more suited to his schtick. But Short had to remove himself because of some sort of family situation I believe. So Harris did an admirable job filling in at the last minute. Having said that, I think the song lyrics were juvenile.

I can do without the long, uncomfortable opening monologue, the indulgent testimonials, the horror genre clips (why was that even here), and the dance interpretation. I didn't even need the John Hughes piece. That was completely unnecessary and was kind of an insult to the others that passed this past year. Additionally, while Hughes made some wonderful movies he made his share of clunkers. And while many of his movies spoke to a certain generation, that wasn't the only generation watching the damn show. He did not deserve such treatment any more than anyone else. This is primarily why we didn't get the Thalberg winner on this telecast.

Also, the emcee or announcer or whatever she is called was absolutely brutal. She seemed to be yelling her lines most of the time. And at one point she actually pronounced the word 'picture' as 'pitcher'. Did they pull her out of the crowd at the red carpet?

Why can't the show use the hosts for this job? Why can't Martin or Baldwin say "Please welcome so-and-so to present the next award."? This would alleviate some of the complaints that Martin and Baldwin seemed to disappear for large stretches. Why sell the show beforehand by hyping the hosts and then not use them? Just really stupid. And I find the voiceover as the winner approaches the stage to be very, very distracting. Does it really matter at that moment how many times before this person was nominated and/or won? Maybe that would be better said by a graphic at the bottom of the screen?

Bottom line for me is that I tune in to see the award winners not all the extraneous B.S. But I'm probably in the minority. And that is why I dropped to my knees last night to thank the Lord for the invention of the DVR. I recorded the show and started watching halfway through the telecast. I was able to watch it in about 90 minutes because I skipped over the things I didn't care about.

Even so, there wasn't too much drama as Alan pointed out. I think the Academy ought to rethink its scheduling. Maybe it should be the first major awards given out rather than the last.

And for those put off or wondering about Clooney's seemingly grouchy disposition in the beginning: obviously that was a bit with Martin and Baldwin worked out ahead of time.

Rich, Denver

Unknown said...

4 unrelated comments:

1) Modern Family promos are always hilarious. Unfortunately, they are often the bits in the show. I'd rather see them first in context.

2) One of the problems with the hosting was that it was entirely pre-scripted. I think that some of highlights of good hosting have been the jokes that have been commentary on the show as it is happening. (e.g. Crystal's back references to Jack Palance doing push-ups). That spontaneity was gone this year.

3) Wasn't that pattern on the steps distracting?

4) Miking of the presenters was terrible. There was often a hissing background.

Anonymous said...

Thought Martin and Baldwin were very good, but not great.

Re: the omission of Bea and Farrah from the In Memoriam montage - is it possible that the 2 of them WERE in the montage in the very beginning, when the utterly BONE-HEADED director chose to focus on James Taylor for 30 seconds rather than focus on the screens once they started projecting the dearly departed....

Loved the best actor/actress testimonials but, after torturing the audience with the Best Orginal Song interpretive dance hogwash, it felt tedious.

LOVED that Katherine Bigelow won, but damn near hurled when they played "I Am Woman" as her walk-off music. And if the men had won, what would it have been, "It's a Man's World"? Pathetic.

Was it me, or could the viewer hear the hydrolic scenery changes during every presenter's appearance?

Loved Beau's shout-out to his 'rents in heaven - very sweet!

(((Sandra))) One of the best acceptance speeches EVAH.

And who pi$$ed in George Clooney's cornflakes?

Anonymous said...

Oh, and one more thing: can someone please explain to me why "Precious, based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire" is always referred to as such? Because a friend of mine saw "Precious, based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire" and said it was quite good. What was that film again? Was it "Precious....based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire"? What the...?

Unknown said...

Oh, and one more thing: can someone please explain to me why "Precious, based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire" is always referred to as such?

yeah - isn't that just about the most annoying thing ever? The only thing I can think of is that there was already a movie out last year called Push and they really wanted to make sure people new the relationship between the movie and the book. Still it's very cumbersome.

Jill Mader said...

I thought the show was definitely a bore. The only awards that surprised me were for screenplays - I thought they would go to Reitman and Tarantino. It seemed like they didn't want to take any risks during the telecast, all the jokes seemed really safe.

If you're interested in Oscar fashion, check out my blog at where I recap the best and worst of the red carpet.

Skath said...

What's with all the James Cameron hate, it's not like he's an egotistical man, plus this is the guy that gave us Alien, Aliens, Terimanator 1 and 2, Titanic and now Avatar.

Also while I liked Martin and Baldwin, I think Hugh Jackman was a better host when he hosted last year and was disappointed that he wasn't there at all, although I see that he didn't have any reason to.

I was wondering the same thing about why George Clooney always looked angry and thought it was funny that instead of saying his name, Baldwin and Martin just gave him a really serious look.

Also what was with New Moon, Edward Scissorhands and Jaws in the horror montage, Edward Scissorhands is a drama, New Moon is a love story despite the fact it has vampires and werewolves and Jaws is a thriller

Also Kristin Stewart was wrong The Exorcist wasn't the last horror to win an Oscar, The Silence of The Lambs was released after it and won five.
Plus I thought it was weird seeing Lautner and Stewart together, why wasn't Pattison there, especially since as he admitted he's the one dating her

Oh and Fey and Downey were the best part of the show, I thought he would've been nominated for Best Actor for Sherlock Holmes though.

Laurel said...

When NPH popped on stage I said to my husband "what is he doing there?" And then the first words out of his mouth were "You're probably wondering what I am doing here." And I was hooked. His song was a touch awkward but I really liked Baldwin and Martin. They were a little stiff but I think that was part of the schtick.

Some of the presenters were suuuuper awkward. Kristen Stewart was painful. Has anyone ever heard her utter a coherent sentence outside of a movie? I sure haven't and I have seen her do many tv interviews. Has anyone ever seen her smile in a picture for that matter? Who chooses these presenters??

Anonymous said...

What's with all the Cameron hate, its not like he's an egotistical man, plus he's the guy that gave us Alien, Aliens, Terminator 1 and 2, Titanic and now Avatar.

I liked Martin and Baldwin but thought Jackman was a better host when he hosted last years, he was funnier and more entertaining, I'm disappointed he wasn't at this years although I understand he didn't have a real reason to be there

I was wondering the same thing about why Clooney always looked angry and thought it was funny when instead of saying his name, Martin and Baldwin just gave him a really serious stare.

Plus why was Jaws, Edwards Scissrhands and New Moon in the horror montage, Edward Scissorhands is a drama, New Moon is a love story with vampires and werewolves and Jaws is a thriller
and The Exorcist isn't the last horror to win an Oscar, Silence of the Lambs came after it and won five Oscars
Also it was weird seeing Stewart with Lautner when she's dating Robert Pattison,they're not rumours anymore, so why wasn't Pattison there.

Anonymous said...

Agree with all your comments Alan. The best way to watch the Oscars - on DVR/TiVo. Start watching about 2 hours after the show starts. Then you can skip whatever awards you want, see the ones you care about and do it all in about 2hours.

Allison DeWitt said...

If you want to play extended parts of the nominated scores, great, but there's a much easier, more germane visual you can use to accompany them: clips of the films.

Exactly! I said that last night to a small group of devoted Academy Award watchers..and we all hated the dance sequence.

Martin/Baldwin were funny for me, but they didn't get much time.

Tina Fey/Robert Downey Jr. were fabulous. More of that, please.

Many of the acceptance speeches seemed fresher than usual. The feuding one was pretty damn funny, in retrospect. I predict that will end as part of a movie ala "In & Out".

"In memorium" segment was poorly done. The SAG awards had a much, much moving sequence. They left out people and the downsized video clips or photographs were much less effective.

I loved last year's musical format..this year..not so much.

And there was way too much fawning, particularly toward Cameron. Ewww.

Oh and I was ticked at seeing Barbra Streisand giving the director award and making it All About Her...again. She ruined "Prince of Tides" which is one of my favorite books by using that exact trait.

Bigelow's win was pretty damn cool.

Lepidoptera said...

• It was a good night to be affiliated with "Lost." That show's composer Michael Giacchino (whom I profiled a couple of years ago) won the Best Original Score trophy for "Up," Fisher Stevens (who played Minkowski, the radio operator on the freighter in season four) won for producing Best Documentary winner "The Cove," and both of the Best Picture frontrunners featured "Lost" actresses in small roles: Evangeline Lilly in "Hurt Locker" and Michelle Rodriguez in "Avatar."

LOL. This is a bit of a stretch to claim a victory for Lost based on a grand total of 4 minutes of screen time for two women (one of whom hasn't been on the show in years), and a guy who had a cameo as a 2 dimensional deckhand a couple seasons back.

I do agree though that the night was a huge victory for Lost, as an over-rated cinematography project without a cohesive plot was the big winner. If the Emmys decide to follow suit, Lost could have a sweep on their hands.

Stephanie said...

Overall I enjoyed it, in spite of the awful direction, necrology screw-ups and interpretive dance routines. I was disappointed that the over-run meant that the bigger awards had to be rushed - the other best picture nominees didn't even get mentioned.

- Loved Tina Fey and RDJ. Too funny and they worked very well off of each other.

- I was excited to NPH, even though his number wasn't the greatest.

- I assumed George Clooney was in on the jokes and that's why he looked aggravated.

- I like Sandra Bullock and was fine with her winning. I thought her acceptance speech was terrific.

- Very happy for Jeff Bridges, loved his dedication to his parents.

And finally, thrilled that The Hurt Locker wiped the floor with Avatar. Though the effects were spectacular and some of the performances good, I never felt it deserved BP. And while THL didn't earn tons of cash at the box office, the noms and wins should change that. And really, as another commenter pointed out, this isn't My Dinner With Andre, it's a film that I believe much of mainstream America would enjoy if they only got a chance to see it.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Because Clooney's usually such a funny guy and good sport, I want to assume that he was in on the joke with Baldwin and Martin, but he seemed incredibly grouchy throughout the night, at one point trying to wave the cameraman away. That seemed out of character, as he's the kind of guy who gets what his role is on an awards show, so either that was somehow part of the monologue bit, or he was just in a bad mood.

AdamW said...

I apparently am the only person in America who enjoyed Ben Stiller in blue-face, particularly when he "disarmed" the guy with the fishing pole.

Worst moment, farce division: The terpsichorean tribute to "The Pop-n-Locker."

Worst moment, bonehead division: So you show us a LONG section on sound editing and mixing from a movie that came out last year, but skip showing examples of cinematography when introducing the cinematography award? Film IS a visual medium, no?

Worst moment, fanboy division: The yowling that Avatar was robbed and the Academy is pissing on fans by honoring a film that far fewer people have seen. Seriously, Dan Brown's new collection of three-page chapters has been on the bestseller list for six months, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't the best novel of 2009.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse should host the next Oscars. What else will they have going on then?

Anonymous said...

Things I hated: 1. The announcer woman telling us how many times a recipient had been nominated etc. She grated on my nerves. 2. I left to switch my laundry during the dance number. Knew that was going to be long and stupid. 3. The testimonials were sappy and over-the-top. It's supposed to be an award for great acting, not being a great human being! And the extreme close ups on the honoree's face while they listened to the gooey speeches...very awkward. It went on too long. 4. Jeez, what a bunch of lame speeches. Not a very articulate bunch are they? Can't anyone think of anything unique to say? Come on people! You had a few months to come up with something. On a positive note I thought Sandra Bullock's speech was wonderful. I'm so happy for her. I thought a lot of the dresses were stunning. I thought Tina Fey and Robert Downey were adorble and funny. And I thought Martin and Baldwin were funny. They made me laugh a lot. All in all not a great show, but parts were enjoyable.

Anonymous said...

I thought the waving it away was done jokingly. It was sort of a raised eyebrow "why are you looking at me, the action's on the stage" kind of thing. Although if we're going to talk about grumpy people in that section, his girlfriend did *not* seem too happy with Vera Farmiga. Which was really, really funny.

Hollywoodaholic said...

And the winner is ... the word "winner" returning to the telecast.

Craig Ranapia said...

Yes, it's long-overdue that a woman won (not that Hollywood gives female directors a ton of great opportunities), but it's insulting to Bigelow's immense talent to focus so much on that.

Alan - YES YES YES! And I'd also like to add, Bigelow and Cameron amicably divorced (after a brief marriage) EIGHTEEN YEARS AGO. Could the media finally build a bridge and get the frak over a lazy and condescending lede, because they obviously have.

paul said...

What needs to happen (though it never will) is that the Academy needs to make some fundamental choices about what kind of awards show it wants. Does it want one that appeals to the people in the auditorium and other insiders, or one that plays well on TV? The two are not the same. While on TV it was a stifling bore, I hear again this year that people who were at the ceremony last night actually liked it, and the gripe from insiders like Ebert is that there were not enough speeches or musical performances.

Anonymous said...

Abyssmal on almost every level. I really wish awards shows would stop enlisting Kristin Stewart to do anything...she makes me irrationally angry. She looks miserable and awkward every time she's called on to do this stuff.
And what happened with the much-hyped "DJ" role that Joel Madden was supposed to have? Was this something for an after-party? I was under the impression he was going to be DJ-ing portions of the telecast itself, but nothing seemed to come of it.

alynch said...

That made things run longer, and some of the testimonials were still awkward (Colin Farrell invoking "SWAT" for Jeremy Renner,

Yeah, that was odd. Not sure if it would've made it more or less awkward, but wouldn't it have been at least more relevant to mention that Farrell was initially attached to play Renner's role?

Sister T said...

I'm going to stick up for the dancing! I enjoyed it. I occasionally watch So You Think You Can Dance, so I had fun picking out past dancers on the stage. I thought the dancing was lovely and entertaining.

The dancing show TV junkie in me appreciated the dancing. Same as the NPH fans enjoyed the opening number. Same as the 30somethings enjoyed the John Hughes tribute. Different strokes for different folks keeps a wider variety of viewers interested.

Alan Sepinwall said...

A friend who used to work for UPN reminded me that Forest Whitaker hosted that network's short-lived "Twilight Zone" remake, so that puts UPN up 2-1 over WB for alums who won acting Oscars.

Brandy said...

I'm also in the generation of Hughes. When he passed away it was sad but he'd been so far removed from Hollywood for so long and it had been a while since I'd revisited even my favorite of his movies.

But that montage was my entire childhood in film and it was sad. For my mom too who called me about a minute after it aired and said, "I took you to see every one of those movies..."

Sigh. So it was a nice tribute although I would have actually liked to see the Hughes kids rather than the awkward shot of them when the first came out.

But I do agree you are within 5 years of me in either direction and it wasn't nearly as strong.

Sarah said...

One brief point about Lauren Bacall - I remember her doing a presentation a couple of years ago and it did not go well at all. Maybe it was difficulty seeing the teleprompter but there have been too many awkward acceptance speeches for those lifetime achievement awards over the years. So, I thought it was fine the way they did it -- but should have had the winners up in a balcony seat where they would be more easily seen by their colleagues for a standing O.

Anonymous said...

Granted, Farrah Faucett was primarily a television star, but she appeared in a few bona fide movies, certainly more than Michael Jackson ever did. Yet, she was completely overlooked in the tribute to the personalities who died last year, while Jackson was acknowledged. A real slap, methinks. She had the bad fortune to die a few hours before Michael Jackson, and was, of course, upstaged on her final exit.

femmeperdue said...

I love when they explained the technical elements of the movies (though I agree with the poster who cited "The Dark Knight" -- what's wrong with choosing one of this year's big movies??). The short films, screenplay, costumes, etc really gives me (completely ignorant in the technical matters of film) an appreciation for the work involved. 10 minutes each of introductions/clips/speeches about best actor and actress, however? Ridiculously unnecessary.

Unknown said...

If Salon's description of the Kanye moment is correct, the biggest direction error of the night was not showing us the 87-year old mother of the one winner using her cane to try to block the other winner from reaching the stage.

That at least would have been a truly new and surprising moment at the Oscars.

Unknown said...

This is more a personal pet peeve, but it bugs when they announce milestones that...aren't

In the presentation of UP for Best Picture, it was noted that it was "only the 2nd movie to get nominated for Best Animated Film and Best Picture" The Animated Film category has only been around a decade or so, so how much of a milestone was it?

Oh, and offtopic, Hulu's doing a March Madness-style tourney to determine its Best of Show. This round, Community is up against Modern Family, Fringe faces LOST, and Burn Notice is up against Chuck. It will be interesting to see how that comes out.

Anonymous said...

Agree wholeheartedly with Alan's opinions here.

And did anyone else see Mo'Nique's press conference on E! immediately following the broadcast? Totally classless and cringeworthy.

I didn't see the movie, but from what I've seen her performance looked amazing. Too bad she's so egotistical.

Anonymous said...

As for WB vs. UPN, I think WB has a leg up. Michelle Williams (of "Dawson's Creek") was nominated for "Brokeback Mountain". Keri Russell ("Felicity") was on the bubble of a nomination for "Waitress". Joshua Jackson ("Dawson's" again) was in attendance with Diane Kruger. And that Katie Holmes ("Dawson's" thrice) may be the next Nicole Kidman when she's done with Tom Cruise. Who knows?

Joseph said...

I guess I'm in the minority, but I actually enjoyed the dance routine. I recognize it may not have had anything to do with the Oscars or film but the dancers were mostly amazing so I enjoyed it nonetheless.

As far as the rest of the show, it is what it is. It has become basically the same show every year, for good and bad.

The funniest thing during the entire telecast was the Modern Family commercial.

Alan Sepinwall said...

As for WB vs. UPN, I think WB has a leg up.

But I figure Terence Howard ("Sparks") is gonna win an Oscar one of these years, which would give UPN three. And one never knows where Kristen Bell's career might go, though her current rom-com period doesn't have me filled with a ton of confidence about future awards.

Paul said...

Alan, what's your take on this; was Avatar jobbed or not?

Anonymous said...

Flash Forward is coming back next Tuesday. Was even one promo aired for it last night? I didn't recall seeing one as I was fast forwarding through the commercials.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Alan, what's your take on this; was Avatar jobbed or not?

Nope. I found Hurt Locker to be by far the much better, more satisfying movie. Avatar was a lot of fun to look at, and justly won several awards around that. Box office should never figure into it. As someone mentioned in a previous thread, that way of thinking would lead us to name McDonald's the best restaurant in America.

abby said...

The show is always a hot mess and this year was no different. That said unlike many years, this time I watched alone and I honestly found myself saying:

Hey, I kind of like these crazy dancers. Wow, I like this Horror tribute, and even...I love it when they give these awards for the shorts, I never know anything about them so it's interesting.

Turns out I am much less snarky on my own and very possibly I have terrible taste. Yikes.

On the other hand I don't think anyone should be able to make a speech at all. I'd prefer if they just stood in the aisle and took a bow. I'd also prefer as little "banter" as possible...

Not sure what you'd wind up with if I had my way other than a 1 hour show since I HATE it when they sing movie songs. Even when it's a great song and an acceptable performer(rare)somehow it is always at least vaguely mortifying. Or is just that I was permanantly scarred by Nell Carter and the damn Aladdin song 20 years ago?

Schmoker said...

I find it bizarre that the producers were reputedly speech Nazis (Shankman even appeared on the red carpet--on the RED CARPET!!!--to say that he told everyone to leave their laundry lists at home) in order to shorten the telecast, only to then throw in two gratuitous and awful song and dance numbers that stretched the telecast to one of the longer ones I can remember (save for '02).

It didn't help that they now have to do montages of 10 best picture nominees, which was a reoccurring snooze-fest that just got more boring each time someone took to that awkwardly placed podium. Ironic that they added the extra nominees in order to supposedly make the show more entertaining, then did not consider that having to intro ten different pictures would add gallons of time and bring the show to a screeching halt over and over again.

That expansion looked all the more ridiculous and greedy when they showed us the nominees from the last time there were ten. I mean, did you see some of those nominees from 1945? It just highlighted why the Academy made the smart decision to cut it down to five in the first place.

Too bad about NPH, too. It was a great move to have him on the show (even if some fat mouthed slut let the cat out of the bag on E right before the show aired), but the song was just frakking sad to listen to. It was a forgettable melody and had jokes that were lamer than what I could have come up with if I had less than an hour to write them.

Ditto for Martin and Baldwin, who I think did the best they could (although they took the broad, Vegas-lounge act style waaaaay too far), but who unfortunately had to mainly spout the most obvious and juvenile lines that Bruce Vilanch had pulled out of his sock drawer at the last moment. WTF?

I also thought that such a grand memorial to John Hughes was tacky when there were so many other icons who died this year. Yeah, Hughes died tragically young, but he has also been out of the business for over a decade, and he really only was responsible for a few classic teen pics. They were the classics of my youth, and I sure loved several of them (and still do), but even I can't see how he gets that much time during the Oscars while true icons such as Lauren Bacall, Roger Corman, Gordie Willis and John Calley get treated like trash.

I mean, fricking John Hughes gets all the time over Corman and Willis? And John Calley has a list of accomplishments as a producer and exec that make John Hughes look like frickin' Uwe Boll.

You could really tell that no one wanted to produce the Oscars this year, because the Academy really scraped the bottom of the barrel when they came up with Shankman and Bill Mechanic, two guys whose resumes would in no way suggest they were the right men for the job. I mean, a suit and a song and dance man who is far too in love with himself? That's who you hire to create a show?

Finally, did anyone else hear Babs say, "Can I hold this?" to Katherine Bigelow as she was trying to accept her Oscar statue and compose herself for her speech? Not only did she have to deal with all the demeaning ex-husband stories, but she practically had to rip her Oscar away from Barbzilla. I know megalomania is rampant in Hollywood, but get the frak over yourself, honey. Way to stay classy, Streisand.

Doc said...

I agree that the Golden Globes was by far the more entertaining awards show. The Academy died years ago though. The Avatar-HL debate would have been almost exactly mirrored last year if there were 10 BP noms and The Dark Knight went up against Slum Dog.

For myself the only awards I've cared about in the past 5 years have been cinematography and editing and I'm glad they weren't afraid of the CG and got the former right. Both of those were monumentally screwed up last year (Slumdog < TDK-The Fall, Slumdog = worst edited best picture in years)

Unknown said...

As someone mentioned in a previous thread, that way of thinking would lead us to name McDonald's the best restaurant in America.

This analogy doesn't work for me. Cost is a real factor in many dining decisions and lots of people who wouldn't vote McDonald's as "best restaurant" may instead choose it as "most affordable for me right now".

Meanwhile, for movies, once you've decided you're going to pay to go to the movies, the choice of which specific movie you see is usually cost independent.

Matthew said...

Sandra Bullock is definitely queen of the Oscars after giving the greatest speech I've ever seen at any awards show. She was funny, genuine, heartfelt, emotional and then funny again.

You also need to see her Razzie acceptance speech, which was also hilarious - she had copies of All About Steve for all the audience members, had a copy of the script and questioned which line reading could have been given better, and pointing out that since her character was stalking Bradley Cooper, winning Worst Couple was a given. I've liked Sandra Bullock whenever I've seen her, but her Oscar and Razzie speeches together just shot her up in my estimation.

The acting testimonials were way over the top and took way too long. Yes we know they are great since they are nominated but it felt like something they do when they are about to retire or die.

The thing that annoys me about the testimonials is that it's another focus on "the actors" as key. You get the sense that they want to hurry through the behind-the-scenes awards quickly, as something they have to do but we want to get it done, but as soon as we get to the actors it's all indulging their egos as the most important part of the film. Not even the directors get that treatment.

(Same thing with opening the show with the best actor/actress nominees just standing on stage for a minute or two, mostly looking awkward, while everyone applauds. What was that?)

Oh, and one more thing: can someone please explain to me why "Precious, based on the novel 'Push' by Sapphire" is always referred to as such?

The only thing I can think of is that there was already a movie out last year called Push and they really wanted to make sure people new the relationship between the movie and the book.

Nope - when the film showed at Sundance last year, it was called "Push: Based on the novel by Sapphire". The name change came later. Basically, I view it as an indulgent attempt to make a seriously bad film seem better by claiming literary pedigree.

Besides, if they just wanted to let people know that "Precious" was based on "Push", they could have just said that on the poster and the ads. It didn't need to be in the actual film title.

"I've already got two of these." Oh really, fancy pants fashion-person? Well then how about next year you take your name out of contention if you're so over the Oscars.

To be fair, didn't she actually say, "I've already got two of these, so I feel greedy," and went on to talk about the less-showy work by other designers that doesn't get nominated. So it's less "I'm over this", and more "I realise this is a big deal, and I feel uncomfortable having received so many of these while other good designers are getting ignored."

Matthew said...

Meanwhile, for movies, once you've decided you're going to pay to go to the movies, the choice of which specific movie you see is usually cost independent.

Well then, as someone said earlier, purchasing the latest Dan Brown novel against purchasing some other book is also cost-independent. So do his sales figures mean that he would be justified in winning any Best Novel contest just because he's popular?

Unknown said...

Matthew L - Yes, I much prefer the book analogy to the restaurant analogy. Its a closer match.

As to what weight getting readers/viewers to choose a work should play in "best", I'm on the fence. If there were two categories available, such as "best entertainment" and "best enriching of life", it would be easier to put each in its place. If its just one I suspect each person will have their own value system as to how to the two goals should be weighted.

Alan Sepinwall said...

But Bruce, even within the fast food realm, lots of people would argue other places are better than McDonald's. Should it automatically be deemed the best fast food place because it dominates the market for reasons beyond the quality of the food?

Unknown said...

The easy answer is of course I agree that considering only total sales, and excluding all else, is not any good. We already know the answer and it adds nothing to the conversation.

But the "beef" here, so to speak, is in the unstated assumption that of course quality of food is the "real" consideration in awarding Best Restaurant and McDonald's strengths in (say) consistency, location, convenience, and children's playground equipment is irrelevant.

If the category was called Best
Quality Food, that's easy to agree with. But I'd argue that if we're going to call the category Best Restaurant, you do need to take some of these factors into consideration.

So I'm sticking with my original middle of the fence comment that if you're going to go with a single Best Anything, you need to consider every factor that any reasonable person might associate with that category. While the fact that theater goers chose Avatar over Hurt Locker on the order of 50 to 1 should not be an automatic decider, I'm equally uncomfortable saying that whatever factors led to it are completely irrelevant to the art of great moviemaking.

Is This Enough? said...

You don't need the McDonald's analogy at all. Just think of the possibility of Twilight being named Best Picture. Or in previous years, The Phantom Menace. Or Harry Potter and something. Or Spiderman 3.

Pastor Andy said...

As a 50 something who never cared much for John Hughes movies, I was amazed at how many famous, talented people worked with him in his heyday. I liked the tribute, and thought it appropriate for the Academy to honor a man who helped advance the careers of many good actors and actresses

Anonymous said...

I'm 22.

I enjoyed the dance routine even if it was rather hit or miss.

I found Baldwin & Martin to be entertaining if not entirely on key.

I assumed Clooney to be in on the joke though wasn't for sure if he was.

I don't understand how people can complain about Avatar not winning any awards. It's a basic retelling of Pocahantos in the future. Big deal. The movie was poorly acted by the lead character, his accent fell in and out far too much for a major film. The story was unoriginal. The draw to the office was the 3-d and Cameron's name.

Matthew said...

But the "beef" here, so to speak, is in the unstated assumption that of course quality of food is the "real" consideration in awarding Best Restaurant and McDonald's strengths in (say) consistency, location, convenience, and children's playground equipment is irrelevant.
If the category was called Best Quality Food, that's easy to agree with. But I'd argue that if we're going to call the category Best Restaurant, you do need to take some of these factors into consideration.

But if you're judging Best Restaurant, and the main purpose of a restaurant is to provide food, then it is quite reasonable to place your main focus on the quality of food. It is legitimate to consider those other secondary factors in your assessment, but in a fast food restaurant the quality of the burgers is always more important than the quality of the children's playground.

In the case of movies, a movie is generally considered to be about telling a story. (Unless you're David Lynch.) Things like effects and the like exist to support telling the story. So when assessing a film it is legitimate to focus primarily on assessing the quality of the story, the dialogue, the character development, and the way the story is told, i.e. the direction of the film. Other factors, such as effects, but also costume design, score, cinematography, all contribute to or subtract from the quality of the film, but they are secondary elements in the consideration. They are tools to help the storytelling, not the focus of filmmaking.

So in the case of Avatar, you have a film that has phenomenal effects, great well-directed action, but in support of a suprisingly dull story with thinly-developed characters and poorly-written dialogue that most of the actors can't seem to make work. (Witness the lack of screenplay or acting noms for the film.) Cameron directs the action sequences brilliantly, but he seems uninspired in any scene where people aren't running or being blown up. Now, what the film does do well, effects and action, it does brilliantly - that's what people talk about when they walk out of Avatar. The impact of those secondary elements were enough to get Avatar the nomination, but in the end, in assessing the quality of the picture as a whole, plot matters a lot more than how cool it was when that tree got blowed up real good.

And I also think you're forgetting the impact of hype and spectacle on the public's movie-going habits. They see all the ads for Avatar, all the talk about how Cameron's been working on the film for ten years, how it's absolutely revolutionary, how it's an event, a phenomenal spectacle that has to be seen on the big screen. Plus every cinema has two or three screens showing the film, so you can find it anywhere you look.
Then you have The Hurt Locker, which I believe (I live in NZ, so I'm not sure) never even made it out of limited release, probably shared its one screen with another film, never had one-hundredth of the promotion of Avatar, isn't completely revolutionary but is just an interesting story told well, and a film that even those that love the film would admit probably doesn't have to be seen on the big screen, as it would play very similarly at home. Is it any surprise that Avatar grossed so well? Does the box-office comparison actually tell us anything?

What Avatar does, it does very well. But the areas where it does well are secondary to the areas that should be the focus of of a film. The Hurt Locker does well in its core areas of focus, and thus it won. Seems pretty simple to me.

Unknown said...

My Oscar stat:

May 2009: stars of HURT LOCKER on ABC- 3 (Renner, Lilly, Malcolm Barrett)

May 2010: stars of HURT LOCKER on ABC- 0, thanks to early and unfortunate cancellations of BETTER OFF TED and THE UNUSUALS, and the end of LOST

Anonymous said...

Regarding the In Memoriam section - I was under the impression that they only showed clips for people who had been nominated for Oscars. So, Bea Arthur and Farrah Faucett wouldn't qualify, but Michael Jackson (title song for Ben)would.
There are a lot of people in the film business in Hollywood - without some kind of limitation, that tribute would last all night.

Bill Huelbig said...

>> Regarding the In Memoriam section - I was under the impression that they only showed clips for people who had been nominated for Oscars.

Michael Jackson was never nominated for an Oscar. He only sang the song "Ben", but the songwriters got the nomination. And James Whitmore, who DID get nominated for an Oscar twice, was left out of In Memoriam as well. I can't figure it out.