February 28, 2008

These Things Matter: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly at the Oscars

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GOOD: There was a broadcast as usual. The writers’ strike put the show in jeopardy, especially once the Golden Globes were cancelled. But when the strike came to an end, the ceremony was able to happen, relieving everyone who looks forward to the awards every year. (This includes me and about 12 other people.)

BAD: They only had about 11 days to prepare for the show, so the program was a weird combination of the usual fare and what they had planned if there were no writers. In other words, there were tons of montages (more than usual), interspersed with jokes here and there.

GOOD: One of the montages was actually pretty clever, that being the tribute to binoculars and periscopes. I particularly liked the inclusion of The Hunt for Red October.

BAD: The Rock, aka Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, is apparently now permanently called Dwayne Johnson.

GOOD: The theme of the night was European winners, not only in the acting categories, but in the lesser awards as well. This was a good development for the show because it led to more incomprehensible speeches, which always makes the show more exciting. When every speech reminds you of Roberto Benigni in 1999 telling the audience he wants to make love to all of them, you’ve really got something special going.

UGLY: I don’t know very much about fashion. In fact, I don’t know anything about fashion. My idea of dressing up is tucking my shirt in to my jeans. But, it didn’t take a fashion expert to agree that the ghostly Tilda Swinton looked like she was wearing a garbage bag.

GOOD: Jon Stewart did a cool thing when he brought Marketa Irglova, from Once, back to the stage to finish her acceptance speech for Best Original Song. It’s always awkward when the orchestra cuts off a speech, especially when we can at least somewhat recognize the award-winner (unlike when the winner is for sound mixing, for example).

BAD: But other than that incident, Jon Stewart wasn’t that good. His opening monologue was OK, but throughout the rest of the show he was mostly deferential to the celebrities and filmmakers in attendance, repeatedly insisting that everything “was a really nice moment.” I could be in the minority, but I think we understand that when people are crying while accepting an award on the biggest night of their professional life, that it’s a nice moment for them.

UGLY: Ethan Coen’s first acceptance speech. This was it, in its entirety: “We, uh, thank you very much.” While Ethan’s speech made his brother Joel’s seem like it was given by Robin Williams, he at least gives hope to awkward Jewish guys like me that one day I too can be awkward and Jewish on stage at the Oscars.

GOOD: Ethan Coen’s second acceptance speech. This was it, in its entirety: “I don’t have a lot to add to what I said earlier. Thank you.” OK, that was really funny. Thankfully, when the Coens had to go back on stage two minutes later to accept another award, there was a third producer with them who could speak, so Ethan didn’t have to try to top that line.

BAD: Many of the Academy’s rules make no sense. Some of the friends who watched with me wanted to know if the score from There Will Be Blood, or Eddie Vedder’s music from Into the Wild, or the documentary The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters were nominated. Well, none were, because they were all deemed ineligible in their respective categories, for vague or idiotic reasons.

GOOD: The winner of the honorary Oscar didn’t actually seem on death’s door. This shocked me, as they announced that recipient Robert Boyle was 98 years old. I thought they might have to wheel someone out, who would ramble incoherently for about 30 seconds, and then be promptly wheeled backstage. But he was actually able to walk (with some assistance) to the podium, and give a semi-normal and reasonable speech. By far the biggest surprise of the night was the spryness of the old guy.

GOOD, BAD, AND UGLY: Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill. I was excited when I saw that they were in attendance, so that was good. I really wanted them to stop talking shortly after they began, so that was bad. And they looked like homeless people in tuxedos, so that was, well, you know.

GOOD: It appears as if the right people won, for the most part. That never seems to happen. Although…

UGLY: That’s the only word that can describe the ratings. They were the worst in the history of the Oscars. Maybe more would have watched if they had given Best Picture to Norbit.