Oscar Notes 2012

Katydid, my good friend and an occasional guest blogger, sent me her Oscar notes this year.  Another round of just my impressions would be boring.  We didn’t compare notes during or after the broadcast, except for a few tweets during the ad breaks.

Ugly Bug:  Okay, so this year’s Academy Awards left me feeling strangely unfulfilled, and I don’t know why.  I’ve only seen The Descendants and Midnight in Paris, and I wasn’t cheering for any particular actor or film.  That’s been true for many other Oscar nights.  I still usually feel a little more enthusiastic.

This year’s celebration of 2012 seemed so generic.  The film montage after the first pair of awards, featuring clips from Star Wars, Rocky, and other classics, was a nice but non-specific salute to…the movies.  Now, the Oscars are movie awards, but shouldn’t there be some kind of focus?  Granted, it gets annoying when they choose some theme and try to force everything to conform to it, but this year they went too far in the other direction.  Even the presenters were the same old gang, with the notable exception of Emma Stone.  I love Emma.  Why does Cameron Diaz always present?  Why couldn’t they get Ryan Gosling?  With most of the nominees this year being first timers, they could have done so much more with that.

I did enjoy Billy Crystal’s opening film sequence, where he kissed George Clooney, ate some questionable pie in The Help, and confounded Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible.  Cruise looked terrible in the film clip, but he was much better later when he presented the best film award.  Justin Bieber’s appearance was self-mocking enough to be tolerable.

Most years I get a little bored during the performances of all the nominated songs, but this year there were only TWO songs!   I’ll admit it.  I would have enjoyed seeing the muppets sing and dance.  Was anybody else disturbed by Kermit’s voice?  I know Jim Henson is gone.   I should have been prepared for the difference.  Oh, and couldn’t they raise the microphone for Bret McKenzie, the “Man or Muppet” songwriter?

There were two best moments for me.  I was very moved when Octavia Spencer and Christopher Plummer won the Supporting Actor awards.  I was responding to the reception they received from their peers more than anything else.  Spencer was barely able to speak, and Plummer was all gracious charm.  I’m delighted for both of them.

It would be easy to groan at Meryl Streep winning for Best Actress, but it has been thirty years since she’s won.  I guess she was due.  When it came down to the wire for Best Actor, I found myself actually wishing Gary Oldman would win.  I knew he wouldn’t, in spite of the announcer who laughingly said going into an ad break, “there are no clear favorites in this year.”  Jean Dujardin was charming and very handsome in color.  It was amazing how many times we heard French-accented acceptance speeches, between the wins for The Artist and some of the Hugo nominees.  It surely must be some sort of record for the French.

The most annoying moment was when Robert Downey Jr and Gwyneth Paltrow wasted so much time with their awkward introduction to Best Documentary.  Then the winners had their acceptance speeches cut off.  Winning an Oscar is a Really Big Deal, and it’s not fair to let the stars ramble away while cutting off the people who have earned their moment in the limelight.  Sometimes the best speeches come from the folks we’ve never heard of.  I thought one of the sound editors for Hugo (either Philip Stockton or Eugene Gearty) gave one of the funniest speeches of the night.  Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, winner for the Documentary Short Saving Face, was especially moving.  Another treat was the Irish father and daughter, Terry and Oorlagh George, who won for the Live Action Short The Shore.

The three screenwriters for The Descendants gave a strange but cute little bow at the beginning of their speech. [I now know they were mimicking Angelina Jolie]  It was wise of them to let just one writer talk.  Woody Allen didn’t attend, and I was honestly shocked that Midnight in Paris won for Best Original Screenplay.  I’m sorry, I know lots of people who thought it was a fantastic film.  I thought the relationship between the writer and his fiancee was so obviously toxic, it spoiled the balance for the writer trying to choose between different worlds.

Okay, so how many reaction shots do we need of George Clooney?  I like the guy, I really do.  Was he the only star in the audience?  I didn’t count how many times the camera turned to him, but they even cut away from the Cirque du Soleil performers to show him once again.

I was most disappointed in the In Memoriam montage.  It usually moves me to tears, but this year I was distracted by technical issues.  I’m glad they included so many behind the scenes folks, but I found the print really hard to read in the montage.  By the time I deciphered the name and what the person did, the screen had already cross-faded to the next person.  “What A Wonderful World” was not a fitting choice for the accompanying song.  Surely they weren’t saying it’s a wonderful world now that you’re no longer in it?

The Artist was the expected winner, so I wasn’t surprised when it won.  The Best Picture award didn’t seem like much of a climax, though.  The speeches were given, and then Billy Crystal waved and said it’s over.  When the camera pulled out to show the audience, it didn’t look like anybody in the audience was celebrating a great evening.  I felt tired rather than elated.

I congratulate the winners, especially all the first timers.

*    *    *    *    *

Katydid: Oh boy, another year of Oscars is completed.  Not sure why, but the older I get the less I seem to care about watching The Academy Awards.  Maybe because I have less time to see the nominees, or maybe because no matter how hard The Academy tries the show just seems to fall flat year after year.  I was happy to see Billy Crystal host (I mean, who could do worse than James Franco last year?), but I honestly had no expectations he would be able to revamp the Oscars.  Yet despite the show’s inability to hold my complete attention, I still watched it in its entirety (while jumping over to Twitter on occasion, I admit).  Here are my thoughts.

—Favorite winners:  Octavia Spencer.  I was also happy to see Hugo win big for the technical awards.  That film looked amazing onscreen.

—Best acceptance speech:  Hands down, Christopher Plummer.  I mean seriously, how cute was his speech!?  Meryl Streep tends to ramble endlessly during her speeches, but hers was genuine and made me chuckle.

—Funniest moments:  First, watching Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis play the cymbals.  Second, when Melissa McCarthy and Rose Bryne took a shot after hearing “Scorsese” shouted from the audience.  After watching Hugo win all those awards, I think his name was said more any other during the show.

—Weirdest moment:  Watching Angelia Jolie present the awards for screenwriting.  Did she just want to remind us all that she’s still pretty weird?  It was worth it, however, just to see Jim Rash mimic her after his win.

—Biggest surprises:  Jean Dujardin winning Best Actor.  I thought George Clooney had it in the bag, but to be honest, I’m not heartbroken that he didn’t win.  Also a bit surprised to see Meryl Streep finally secure that third Oscar.  After watching her be nominated year after year, it just seemed like tradition she would be passed over once again.  I didn’t see The Iron Lady, but I have no doubt that Meryl nailed it (as usual).

—Biggest disappointments:  The fact that Moneyball didn’t win a single award.  I didn’t expect it to sweep the night or anything, but I thoroughly enjoyed the film and wish it got some sort of recognition.

—Best Picture:  This year was a rare exception for me, because I was able to see six of the nine Best Picture nominees.  I find it ironic, however, that The Artist was one I didn’t see (it is saved in my Netflix queue, if that means anything).  But here were my favorites of the ones I did see (War Horse and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close were the others I missed).  These are ranked from most to least favorite:  The Help, Moneyball, The Descendants, Hugo, Midnight in Paris, and The Tree of Life.

My two biggest complaints of the night were the awful sound quality and having to sit through way too many montages.  At first I thought it was just my television, but a few tweets from others confirmed I wasn’t the only one hearing what sounded like tiny aliens translating the words to the language of their home planet.  As for the montages, I get that the theme of the evening was films, but so much time (and lack of progression) could have been saved by cutting out those random film clips and interviews.  I did appreciate the jokester who threw in that Twilight clip between films like Titanic and Ghost.

Overall, while I wasn’t too impressed with this year’s Awards, I was happy to see some of the films and actors I enjoyed go home winners.  Congrats again to Octavia Spencer, Meryl Streep, Christopher Plummer, the creators of Hugo, and the writers of The Descendants.

And lastly – a special thanks to Ugly Bug for letting me share my unimportant and random thoughts!

Thank YOU, Katydid!  We were pretty much in accord, but you’ve seen more of the films, and you mentioned things I didn’t.  (Thanks also for explaining what Jim Rash was doing.)  I think we make a darn good team.  At least we’re a better match than Anne Hathaway and James Franco!

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Yes, unsatisfied would about cover my feeling by the show’s end. Because we sell movie memorabilia for Ohlinger;s in NYC, we pretty much have to see what’s out so we can better help customers.

    We were rooting for Gary Oldman, even though it was fairly a sure bet he wouldn’t get the award. The man is magnificent and has been superb in everything he’s done, including Greg the Bunny when he played himself. There have been so many times in the past when he should have been nominated at the very least. Anyhow, he did win the British award and that counts.

    The Artist was a nice little entertainment, but that was about all. This is NOT Oscar’s Best. The score, which won, when played independant from the film is pitiful. Boring. This reminds me of when Crouching Tiger, Hidden Drag Queen won the score Oscar over Gladiator – oh please! I doubt if anyone can even hum the winner’s score. Mind you, it was a beautiful faerytale and Chow and Michelle was awesome, but it was not a great film.

    We’re bored with George Clooney as an actor. (we do appreciate his politics and humanitarium efforts). Ides of March was dull – except for the wonderful Ryan Gosling, who seems to have fallen off of everyone’s radar. Ryan should have at least gotten a nom for Drive and the movie should have gotten a best picture nom as well. The Descendants was boring and forgettable. The cast of the Help was excellent and we’d hope Viola Davis had won over the Creep.

    Yes, we are anti-Meryl Streep and proud. The woman is, in the words of Pauline Kael “a remarkable mimic, but not grand as an actor.” She’s always been so self-absorbed and it shows. She also dresses badly. Admittedly, we cracked up when she got her Oscar and said she could hear people saying “Oh, no not her again” or something to that effect. That would have been us. We avoid her films if we can because she is merely the inflated paragon of film critics. People trip over themselves to compliment her work and it is baffling. Not too long ago, Meryl made a snotty comment about Helen Mirren, saying how if Helen could win for playing the Queen then she would be a shoe-in for Thatcher. Meryl Streep can’t ever hope to achieve the depth and talent and imaginative performances of Helen Mirren.

    Let’s see, movies – we adored Hugo and hoped it would win Best Picture and that Marty would win the director’s award. It was an exquisitely created and imagined and presented valentine to the birth of film, far more intense and filled with depth and passion than The Artist. Years from now people will still watch and talk about Hugo, but The Artist, like Life is Beautiful years ago, will long be forgotten. I wept at the end of Hugo, it was so emotionally sweet and touching and majickal. So glad so many awards were given to it albeit technical ones. We also loved Midnight in Paris ~ it truly captured the majick of the city but more importantly, it was an flawless fantasy for anyone who has loved literature, who has struggled to write or to create in general. The parts in “present day” Paris were merely little catapults for the larger story, the important one. So pleased Woody won for his script. Refreshing for something intelligently written, not laden with FX and excruciating noise, which will be studied for years to come, wins.

    The supporting Oscars were wonderfully chosen and Octavia and Christopher were charming and genuine in their responses. Kudos all the way around. I think Billy Crystal is past his sell-by date. There were a few moments that were good but again, dull writing, iffy jokes, mediocre presentation. The Memorium section was just plain ineffectual. Marketing directors? Book keepers? Ah, surely there were more real celebrities (actors, directors, etc) that were missed. Even the B actors should have been mentioned. They used to include people from the silents up to the present but this year, it seemed more like a who’s who of the front office (ei: the suits). Usually I feel a bit of heartache and sadness during the Memorium but this year I felt nothing – it appeared to be very brief and the musical piece was inappropriate. Truthfully, I was surprised they didn’t attempt to use one of Whitney’s ballads over the images, but her voice was so powerful it would have towered over anything on the screen. TCM does an annual memorial at the end of the year and it is always far superior to the Oscars. Dignified, tasteful, lovely music and everyone got remembered.

    Yeah, she’s out there, but I like Angelina. She looks like a movie star and dresses wonderfully. And Brad’s pretty too. She’s very gifted as well so I tend to forgive her little quirks. My prejudice, I admit.

    Generally, the gowns were okay but not great this year. (like Meryl’s gold flouncy bag dress) The men looked more dressed up than in past years, which was nice. Christian Bale did looked tasty and Octavia certainly welcomed that – made me laugh, her reaction was priceless.

    One does have to wonder where the stars are though. Cameron Diaz again? Tom Cruise again? I duno. There are certainly some of the old guard still around who would welcome being presenters. Ernie Borgnine is an Oscar winner, a charmer, 95 – and we still have him as a guest at fan conventions. The fans love him. Or Martin Landau, who is also an Oscar winner – whenever he comes to a con or show the fans go wild and he’s just wonderful. Or Debbie Reynolds, or Jeremy Irons (Oscar winner), or Jane Fonda (Oscar winner). There were older stars in the audience and they’ve never been presenters. I’d love to see Russell Crowe because he’s my favourite, or Gerard Butler (I know he was in rehab so this year wouldn’t have been a good idea but still …) It’s seems odd that everyone comes out for the Golden Globes but the same actors gets trooped up annually for the Oscars.

    It’s over. I can go to bed now. Maybe next year will be better …

    Reply

    • Thank you so much for sharing your impressions! I’m going to go read some of the other online reviews now, which I don’t do before writing my own, but I suspect they’ll say a lot of the same things.

      They always leave out people in the Memoriam, but how could they do Whitney Houston and NOT Harry Morgan?

      Reply

  2. Posted by Nelia Green on February 27, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    There it is – another movie year finalized in the ritual Academy Awards Show. I agree with most of the wins, a few on the fringes are hard to figure, or wonder why/how they ended up nominated in the first place, and why only 2 tunes on the list? I have a problem with nine best pic nods dumped into single category. BAFTA has three: Best Film, Outstanding British Film, and Films Not in the English Language.

    I did have the opportunity to see all of the films up for awards in major categories. My personal favorite is THE ARTIST. Please, if possible – see this extraordinary film as intended – on a big screen in a theatre setting, with a good sound system so you’ll enjoy this wonderful musical score. I’ve seen TA three times, and could go back in a minute – what a treat!

    Another film dear to my heart, HUGO, received much deserved praise and attention. Unfortunately, marketing this film to children missed its mark – adults.

    THE HELP held up well through six viewings for me, perhaps in another year it would have won. Cannot understand why Jessica Chastain was passed over by all awards this year – check out her impressive body of work starting with a little film called Jolene.

    A SEPARATION deserves the buzz – right in your face cast with situations spiraling out of control – recommend highly, now I need to watch this again. I will catch up with other foreign nods as well as docs when possible.

    Attended screenings for animated and live action shorts – Stacey, think you’d love THE FANTASTIC FLYING BOOKS OF MR. MORRIS LESSMORE. Want to see Short Doc SAVING FACE – may try this weekend if it’s still playing.

    The Awards show itself: Auditorium was beautiful; loved the curtain; stage setting too complicated; loved the musical ensemble out of the way in box seats; but where was the big orchestra sound? Wanted to watch Cirque do their thing – please, please don’t pan the audience or musicians during a performance. Memorial – duh! Couldn’t read the names – who are some of these people anyway? Found the choral group and the retro afro distracting, especially when the screen should be the focal point.

    I’m sure many of you remember the wonderful film montages which connected on an emotional level? Enjoy this 10 minute video: Chuck Workman Short Film, 62nd Annual Academy Awards. Egads, that’s 22 years ago! See you at the movies…

    Reply

  3. Nelia! Thank you for posting the Chuck Workman video ~ I think I’ve got it downloaded in a few places but it is always fresh and exciting, no matter how many time I watch it. How i wish an extended video could be made of this, updating to the present year. It is a perfect blend of visuals, history and music cues ~ sigh! Thank you so very much.

    Also, I wholeheartedly agree with you on THE SEPARATION. Viseral and emotional, populated with flesh and blood people in genuine circumstances. Very powerful film making.

    I think you’ll find SAVING FACE to be a rewarding experience. We did. It rightly deserved its praise and the Oscar.

    Yes, HUGO should have been aimed towards an adult audience. Although children are fascinated by the look and gadgets and such, it truly was a faerytale for big people too, those of us who have lived and loved movies for decades.

    Your commentary was wonderful – and thanks again for the vid.

    Reply

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