Monday, February 23, 2009

The Oscars -- Oh, the Hugh and Cry

Reading some of the reviews of last night's Oscar telecast, I had to wonder if I was watching the same show as the naysayers. I thought Hugh Jackman had a nice, breezy style, not too casual, not too stuffy. His best picture nominees' medley was inspired and raised the value of Anne Hathaway back up to pre-Bride Wars levels. While the musical medley did not give us old timers enough classic tunes to swoon over, it was a nice mix of clips and live performance. And it was Jonas Brothers-free, always a plus.

I loved the new presentation of the acting awards, with former winners each spotlighting a nominee. This was a sweet, sentimental moment that had me tearing up a couple times. Still, I had to wonder of the inequity of having some people introduced by living legends such as Shirley McLaine and Eva Saint Marie and others lauded by the likes of Marion Cotillard. Really?

The new organization of the categories, the flow from the beginning of the process through the end, was inspired. Normally, the middle of the show drags -- sorry to all the hard working set designers and documentary short film makers, but this is usually bathroom break time. But I found that this telecast moved through the doldrums-phase at a pretty good pace.

There was little soap box lecturing, which was refreshing and, frankly, surprising. I would have stayed cold sober had I played an Obama drinking game (a shot for any reference to hope or change let alone any invocation of the new Prez's name) and even the mentions of Prop. 8 were relatively few. In fact, the one person you can usually count on to politicize the moment -- Sean Penn -- took the relatively high road by saying, "I want it to be very clear that I do know how hard I make it to appreciate me often."

It was nice to see a movie with heart win the best picture. Slumdog may be an unrealistic, romantic fantasy, but what's wrong with that? The idea of love conquering all and -- dare I say -- hope and determination helping to bring you out of the most dire circumstances, are these so corny and passe? I guess not, since the often cynical "Hollywood" embraced this movie's sweetness with both arms.

One quibble. I do question the inclusion of "Milk" in the category of original screenplay, since it is based on a real person and his true life story. How is that less adapted than taking a short story or play and turning it into a movie? The other four original screenplays all originated out of the minds of the writers, building something from where there was nothing before. Maybe I'm just bitter, because I thought the wit and depth and unexpected turns of "In Bruges" would have garnered an award for its brilliant writer.

Quick observations:
Freida Pinto is stunning
Ben Stiller does a mean Joaquin Phoenix
Jochen Alexander Freydank is a good sport (he was the producer of "Spielzeugland (Toyland)" who had to deal with the presenters chuckling over the name of his movie and having seats somewhere near Pomona)
Steve Martin is a comic genius -- and it all started with an arrow through the head
Kate Winslet's father is an expert whistler
Disney takes care of its own (how many sightings of the High School Musical kids??)
The late Paul Newman deserved more than just an extra couple of clips

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