Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscar Post-Mortem

The 81st Annual Academy Awards were certainly a mixed bag. Hugh Jackman did OK as a first-time host; his “budget” opening number was amusing, but what was up with the salute to musicals he did with Beyonce? I love, adore and obsess over musicals, but that was the most horribly jumbled, aimless, and pointless thing I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen Cats! Cats, people, CATS!). None of the night’s winners were surprising, but I still walked away with some lasting impressions:

  • The former actor and actress winners doing tributes to the new nominees either worked really well, or was a total disaster. Robert De Niro giving clearly heartfelt accolades to Sean Penn was actually touching. Then there was Nicole Kidman woodenly reading off the teleprompter when saluting Angelina Jolie. Now Nicole, I think Angelina is pretty overrated too, but couldn’t you have found the time to memorize that 90-second speech and practice putting some emotion behind it?
  • The “In Memoriam” montage should really not be messed with. It’s traditional to play a slideshow of the past year’s dearly departed with sweeping instrumentals playing over it. But this year we had Queen Latifah singing “I’ll Be Seeing You” live while the montage played, causing all sorts of confusion for the camera operators. Should they focus on Latifah? Focus on the screens showing the dead people? Unable to decide, they kept swooping around the stage, giving us some Latifah and some bad angles of the montage, making it difficult to see who was being saluted. I hope next year they go back to the old way. It’s more respectful to those who have passed, and less nauseating for those at home who suffer from motion sickness.
  • I really missed the clips they used to show from the five Best Picture nominees. I had seen all of this year’s nominees, but in years past I loved watching those clips throughout the telecast and deciding which ones I wanted to see and which ones I could skip. If they had cut the aforementioned salute to musicals, there would have been time to show clips from the five nominated movies.
  • Comedians really do need to start getting more respect for what they do. Year after year the Oscar nominees are 95% dramabombs. Then Oscar night comes, and all the dramatic actors in attendance behave like well-programmed cyborgs. Why is it so hard for well-trained and acclaimed actors to present an award with any sort of presence? Take a look at the horribly stilted presentations done by Jennifer Aniston, Sarah Jessica Parker, and that kid from that vampire movie all the tween girls love, then look at the great stage presence of Tina Fey, Steve Martin, and Will Smith, and tell me which ones are the better performers. Hell, the best moment of the entire evening was the Judd Apatow-created skit saluting comedies:

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