February 27, 2007

Oscar Wrap-Up and an O.C. Farewell

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Two days ago, the Kodak Theatre was host to Hollywood’s version of the Super Bowl: the Academy Awards. The night offered few surprises and a lot of Al Gore but still proved to be an enjoyable celebration of the art of film. And I just love those movie montages.
The biggest upset occurred early when Eddie Murphy lost Best Supporting Actor to Alan Arkin for his role as the cantankerous, heroin-using grandpa in Little Miss Sunshine. Maybe Norbit’s relentless assault on the eyes proved to be Murphy’s downfall, but Arkin’s award was definitively earned. Arkin has always turned in memorable performances in a career spanning 50 years. My favorite Arkin role is still his petrified psychiatrist to John Cusack’s hit-man character in Grosse Pointe Blank. As is typical with the “best supporting” categories, they went to a longtime veteran and an up-and-comer with Jennifer Hudson assuming the latter role. Is she now the most successful former American Idol? I still wonder, is this just the beginning of her career or the peak?
As everyone predicted, Martin Scorsese finally ended his Susan Lucci-like streak of defeat by winning Best Director for The Departed. It was a long overdue win for one of the all-time great American directors, but part of me still wishes he didn’t win it for The Departed. As I’ve said before in my previous column, many of the great directors never won but are still considered masters of their craft. Scorsese never had to fear being the Dan Marino of movies, but it’s nice his gifts were recognized officially.
As far as The Departed winning Best Picture, I have to shrug my shoulders and say “eh.” Best Director and Best Picture usually go hand-in-hand so it’s not a huge shocker that The Departed picked up the award, but the movie never blew me away like “the best film of the year” should. In my book, Little Miss Sunshine stood out among the competition. I’m glad it was at least recognized with Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay awards.
The award for the night’s most awkward moment went to the acceptance speech the legendary Ennio Morricone gave for receiving his honorary Oscar. Morricone’s written some of the most iconic film scores in history, with my favorite being the one for The Untouchables, and it’s too bad his Italian to English translation by Clint Eastwood was handled so clumsily. The confused expressions across the faces of so many celebrities as Morricone began his speech in Italian were priceless though.
I can’t forget to mention Cornell’s own picking up some hardware the other night. Thelma Schoonmaker ’61 received her third Academy Award for editing The Departed. Congratulations and thank you for representing Cornell with distinction.
While still recovering from my Oscar hangover, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the passing of Fox’s once popular primetime soap, The O.C. The series that made punching rich people into swimming pools an enjoyable spectator sport saw a steady decline in ratings over its 4 seasons. This year Fox only ordered 16 episodes and decided to pull the plug on the fledgling teen drama. Last Thursday, the Cohen and Cooper families rode off into the sunset as the remaining viewers said a final goodbye and caught a peak into the characters’ futures with an episode ending flash-forward. In the never to be dramatized future, Seth and Summer tie the knot, Julie goes to college, Sandy teaches law and Ryan becomes an architect. In a sweet moment that brings the story full circle, the series ends with Ryan eyeing a troubled youth not unlike his former self and asking if he needs help, just like Sandy Cohen did for Ryan in the first episode.
A lot can be blamed for The O.C.’s departure from the airwaves. When the series premiered in the summer of 2003, Josh Schwartz’s update on Rebel Without a Cause was a clever mix of comedy and light drama. However, as the show aged, its humor was lost in the increased amounts of melodrama. Seth went from endearing comic book geek to jackass, and his on-again, off-again relationship with Summer became tedious. The problem of the increasingly annoying Marissa Cooper was solved by her death, but it just wasn’t the same with her gone. Not helping matters was the emergence of Grey’s Anatomy, which stole the television zeitgeist away from The O.C. Even though season four saw a resurgence in the show’s quality, it was starting to get a bit ridiculous for actors approaching 30 to be playing 18 and 19-year-olds.
Although I’m sad to see The O.C. end, I can remember it fondly as one of the most enjoyable guilty pleasures on television. It was a show that gave us the contraction “O.C.” for Orange County, showcased one of the greatest TV dads in Peter Gallagher’s Sandy Cohen and had one of the most kick-ass theme songs in TV history. The O.C., you will be missed. California! Heeere weee coooooooooooome!