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!