The Oscars: Did you watch?

I know, I know, I recently did a post questioning the value of awards. But I must admit to being sucked in anyway. And so yes, I did watch (most) of the 81st Annual Academy Awards last night. Here's a few scattered thoughts about the show.

Since I didn't see all (or many, actually) of the nominated films, I'm not in a real position to debate about the rightness of who won or lost. I did feel a little sad that WALL-E didn't do better (and didn't Will Smith sound funny saying the title? He has kids, didn't he see the movie?) but overall I didn't care much about the outcomes one way or another outside of how it would leave me in the LAMB Oscar pool. (One year I won a contest run through the local newspaper for Oscar picks. Well, I tied for first. But because I had a relative working at the paper, they gave the big prize to the other guy. I got a hat.)

As far as the entertainment value of the show itself, I thought it didn't seem to drag quite so much as past years. (Although I've long been in the habit of doing other things with the show on in the background, which definitely helps.)

I thought Hugh Jackman was not a bad host, although we didn't see much of him outside of his song and dance numbers. I liked him admitting (pretending?) he hadn't seen The Reader. I didn't especially like the bit with him and Anne Hathaway, but then, I find her strangely irritating most of the time. And while I agree with the sentiment of being happy to see more new musicals out, it was during that number that I decided I don't really like Hugh's singing style.

Some random cattiness: I thought I was in favor of Kate Winslet winning, but I liked her less during her incoherent speech than in any movie I've ever seen her in (although I did like her looking for her dad). Didn't Reese Witherspoon seem strangely asymmetrical? And sorry again, Anne Hathaway, but your thank you speech from your seat professing your love for Shirley MacLaine was rather embarrassing to watch. As was an outclassed Jennifer Aniston presenting on a night with Brad and Angelina both up for awards.

What I did like: Having past winners coming out to talk about the current nominees was a cool idea, and it was interesting to see who got paired up. I also liked the montages of movie genres (like Romance in 2008). Tina Fey and Steve Martin were great. Philippe Petit doing a magic trick and balancing the Oscar on his chin was rather amusing, and made me wish I had liked his movie more. There were other little moments of enjoyment (funny bits, real emotion from folks, etc.) but not much seemed really, really memorable. Maybe because there weren't a lot of surprises?

When Slumdog won and the whole entourage of people started filling the stage, I found myself thinking it would be a great chance for some random person to jump up there just for kicks. Who would notice? I also wanted to see them all break into a choreographed dance number to the film's Oscar-winning song. That would have been a great way to end the night.

That's all I've got. Did you watch? What did you think?


C.K. Dexter Haven said...

I was going to watch Jerry Lewis' Jean Hersholt speech, but my TV's picture (I don't have cable) was digitally breaking up and the show (in that sense) was unwatchable.

I don't know who most of these "stars" are today, nor have I seen their movies.

I did, however, see Jolie at the show's beginning and saw how uncomfortable she was in her skin. She looked like she was bracing for a Jackman joke that never came.

Wendymoon said...

Here's a link to Jerry's Award: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gOQNpjcvNQ

I thought he was surprisingly subdued and humble. And when he ended with good night, I thought, yeah, let the old guy get to bed. Maybe we should all follow suit. :-)

Vanessa said...

I actually thought there were some great improvements in the show last night.

And I am so happy for Kate to have won!

C.K. Dexter Haven said...

Oh, thanks Wendymoon! That was great. Jerry was so gracious. The MDA may very well be his *true* life's work.

mandingo said...

I have to agree with CKDH, I don't know who most of these stars are today.

I would lament the passing of the 'golden age of movies- the 70's', although at least in the 80's and most of the 90's I could at least keep up with the talent- but when I start bitching about 2000 onward, and 'they don't make them like they used to', I feel like I am becoming one of those old farts sliding down the long shute into oblivion.

I try to keep up, but there seems less and less worth keeping up with. Recent standout moments include 'Death at a Funeral', and I have enjoyed films like 'Guide To Recognising Your Saints', and '10th and Wolf'- possibly because they remind me a little of early Scorcese, etc. Look, I could do a list of the best of the last five years, but the last thing a good blog like this one needs is more fucking lists. Let me just say regarding 'stars', I think Giovanni Ribisi is fascinating, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti reward my persistence, Vincent Gallo has enormous potential, Christian Bale gives me hope when he can behave himself, and yet we lost a significant young hope for the future when we lost Heath.

It is a comfort to know Chris Walken is still out there, as is the master Al Pacino is still working.

The state of movies, and the so called 'new stars'? I find it better to stay away from the Oscars, keep hanging in there with the Independants, be thankful for the likes of Catherine Keener, Laura Linney, Patricia Clarkson, Hope Davis and be assured that there is an alternative to the oscar side of the industry, and in my opinion if you are diligent in your search can usually be very rewarding, and occasionally transcendent.

I didn't watch the Oscars, but I was glad to see Mickey there, as it doesn't hurt the young people of today watch a true master of the method at work. Don't forget, there are a lot of young kids walking around with 'MC5' and 'Iggy Pop' T-shirts on. And Darren Aranovsky deserves his key to the kingdom if not for 'Wrestler', then for his film 'The Fountain'. And Sean Penn deserves to be there for- I haven't seen 'Milk'- but for keeping the independant spirit alive with 'Into the Wild', 'Pledge', 'Crossing Guard', and for continuing to make sensible choices.

I guess this is a long winded way of saying about half the time I despair, and the other half I am buoyant, and very occasionally I am ecstatic.

And that, for me, just about sums up the balance for a basic human existence...

Keep up a great blog and the high standard of comments you attract...

C.K. Dexter Haven said...

Maybe I'm just too cynical but to me the 1970s was the last decade when movie stars, athletes, and musicians were truly "larger than life." I guess the seventies weren't nearly as "bad" as people claim they were! In that period you had actors like Pacino, De Niro, Redford, Hackman, Hoffman, Beatty, Duvall, and Caan all doing tremendous work. There's nothing like that going on now. It was the last great age of film acting.

My self-imposed "cut-off point" for most pop culture is about 1975 (with exceptions, of course) and for the most part, I'm not really missing much. Besides, I still have the pre-Golden Age and silent film eras to explore, so there's so much "old" that is in fact "new"!

mandingo said...

Yeah, I take your point. I guess when I watch films like 'Garden State', 'Station Agent', 'Huckabees' 'Moonlight Mile' 'Magnolia' and the like, I tend to see the similarities to seventies stuff- characters over plot, longer takes, existentialism etc. Which really make these films exercises in homage and nostalgia?

I think this should be a part of the film experience, but surely not all of it?

John said...


Just an interesting observation on your comment about the stars of the 70's being the last "larger than life" group. Back then, stars like Pacino, DeNiro, Hoffman, Hackman, etc. were being touted for not being larger than life or looking like movie stars or being movie star handsome but more for looking like "regular" people and for their talent. True, their personalities are larger than life and come across so on the screen. Many critics and writers back then use to lament that the stars of the day (1970's) did not compare to the stars of prior eras. Now we look back and say how much the 70's was a golden age.

CinemaCoquette said...

I wish I would have thought of the idea to end the show with their dance number from Slumdog! That was the greatest Oscar idea I've ever heard, kind of like a spontaneous musical to fit into the theme. And your ideas for best moments I would definitely agree on.
Poor Hugh didn't even get his chance to show what a god host he can be. That's really unfair because he's really good at the Tony's. He does other things than sing and dance.
Everyone must watch the montages for sure! Romance and Comedy were the best moments of the night. Along with "you commie, homo-loving suns of guns" and when Alan Arkin addressed "Seymour" Phillip Hoffman. Classic!

C.K. Dexter Haven said...

John: I don't think the 1970s stars *talent* was ever in question, but rather the lack of glamour and restraint-- contentwise-- (nudity, profanity, etc.) that came with the death of the Code.

Oh, I forgot to include Jack Nicholson in that list of actors.

mandingo said...

I think the purpose of the Internet is a lot of the time to find like minds, and there is no doubt CKDH is a kindred spirit.

I refer to my use of the words 'Golden Age', which of course is bogus in strict terms; the seventies was not the 'Golden Age' at all, but 'MY Golden Age', as I grew up on a steady diet from 'Marvin Gardens' to 'Scarecrow' to 'Little Murders' to 'Brewster McLeod'- so to me that era is 'golden'.

Anyway, when I first read John's comment- with respect- I went away for a while and thought about it. I kind of took exception, but then re-reading him, he is right. They are 'ordinary joes'...you could even call them 'ugly' (the Redfords and Newman's didn't resonate for me quite like the Hackman's, the Duvall's or the Hoffman's...) But then, so is CKDH correct; remember he used 'Larger than Life' in inverted commas.

If I understand him correctly, he is simply referring to a 'retrospective' estimation of the decade- much in the manner I see it; At the time, the films were all I knew, and I loved them, and I could not imagine anything better, but now time has passed, and the decades have rolled by, the 70's look all the more amazing...

A- because they were amazing, and

B- because that is how we choose to remember them, given the product we have to choose from now.

Remember; there are many who loved the Beatles. Doesn't mean they didn't listen to anything else, just means the Beatles came, saw, kicked arse and seemed without equal. Might be rose coloured glasses, your age, your state of mind, your star sign or your favourite colour- I don't know- but some things just seem to endure and resonate above others.

When Lennon died, I felt it, but nothing like when Freddie Mercury died. That's simply a question of timing, taste, the planets aligning, whatever.

When Altman died, a part of me died- that's all I can say. And although to be honest, Altman was always a fascinating film maker, he was never in my mind as good as he was in the 70's.

It might not be THE truth, but it is MINE.

And you all have yours.

And I for one love hearing all of it. A very worthy blog indeed...

R. D. Finch said...

Wendy, John at Twenty Four Frames has just passed the Dardos Award along to me, and I have chosen your blog as one of the five I get to pass the award on to in turn. I don't know if you're interested in such things, but details will appear in my regular Monday post at movieprojector.blogspot.com as well as a link to your site.

Wendymoon said...

Very interesting conversation happening here without me. I wonder if people who are so fascinated by the stars of today have ever watched any older films. But I do think there are still some good actors working today.

I personally like the stars of a time before the 70s. The restraint that went along with the Code appeals to me. I prefer subtlety over shock value.

And in keeping this blog in line with that classic time I love, while I welcome all your opinions and comments, I would ask for you to please watch your language here. Thank you.

Wendymoon said...

R.D. Finch - thank you so much for picking me for the Dardos! I am honored. :-)

mandingo said...

Sorry, my bad; I lose track of which sites post comments automatically, and which censor.

Please feel free to delete my comments at will; I have a fiery passion that knows very few boundaries, but that is no excuse for gutter mouths or potty talk.

I think the topic is about exhausted now, and I will keep on moving. Thanks for a great site, and keep up the exemplary work.

David Bishop said...

Am I alone in liking every period equally, but for different reasons?

mandingo said...

I for one envy you, David.

I wish I didn't love the 70's so much- it tends to get in the way a bit, but there you have it.

My grandfather loved Westerns of the fifties and nothing else; he did not want to acknowledge the existence of ANYTHING else. He was the badgered, henpecked husband of an evangelistic zealot, who rode him like the Pony Express, and he worked in a munitions factory until the lead seeped into his pores, and turned malignant.

His escape was Alan Ladd and John Wayne. He especially loved 'Shane'- no, I would say it was more than that. I think he held onto "Shane" the way he held onto the last vestiges of his fragile, short, tortured existence.

And when his body became riddled with cancer and he went blind, he could no longer watch his beloved movies, so I sat by his bed, and read Zane Grey to him until he finaly let go, and I watched him slip away.

I remember watching the old pulp novel fall to the ground in slow motion as the tears welled.

He was gone.

And it was many years before I could watch "Shane" again.

I hold onto the 70's cinema as if I am holding onto...life? Meaning in a world that makes little sense to me? Nostalgia? A safe place to hide? To me, Altman movies- particularly 'Brewster McLeod", and even "Harold and Maude" were places of solace for an abused child. They truly were somewhere I could go. Somewhere safe. If someone holds onto one period over another, then it is usually for a reason, and THAT is what I find most interesting of all; not that you love a period or genre, but WHY- if you feel brave enough to speak about it.

I guess that's what I yearn for, and search for on sites like this; not the what, the who, the when, but also the WHY certain films mean so much. This side of film blogging has been left largely unexplored, with certain exceptions; don't take my word for it- check for yourself.

Those films in the 70's were a home to me at a time I didn't feel I had one. All I am doing now watching movies is looking for a place to belong, and most contemporary cinema- leaves me out in the cold. And I admit, I travel the information superhighway for the same reason- looking for a home. Like minded people. I guess I have even tricked myself into believing that if I am honest and sincere enough about my true feelings, (the WHY) I might even exert some influence over the human propensity for fear and loathing, and perhaps even make the world a better place by communing with other like minds, passionate about something other than war and bloodshed- as naive as that dream might be.

I search for truth; I love people speaking of their passion for film (or anything!)- especially sites like this because the people REALLY care. I love people who really CARE. Some people doubt their own passion, asking if 'they are crazy', for certain behaviours etc, but I say no. It is passion for those things you love, that you truly care about that might keep we as human beings- like my grandfather- alive just that little bit longer to fight the powers of hate, fear, greed and despotism.

I have a dream, yes. It is probably no bigger than anyone else's dream, but it includes peace on earth, a place where people can share stories about their true loves in life, (and perhaps even their lives) a place of solidarity for those who keep the fire of passion burning, who never give up hope that passion might be the answer to people living in harmony...

In short, I think what many of us are doing is bigger than just simply 'loving movies'. There are those- and I see a glimpse of it, from time to time- who are actually actively working for peace in our time- through this wonderful technology we have access to.

How long will we have it? I don't know. How long is a piece of string?

How long will we live?

Who knows. What I do know is we're here and it's now.

Life, like this blog, is a truly wonderful gift.

I for one truly wish to make the most of it...

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