Monday, March 8, 2010

Oscar Postmortem: Dear Academy...

Dear Academy,

First, I would like to thank you for choosing a mostly strong slate of winners that largely coincide not only with my own predictions (I correctly anticipated 18 of 24 categories, down from last year's personal best of 21), but also with my personal tastes. Awarding The Hurt Locker in Best Picture and Best Director was the right choice, and the best part is that it gives the film a huge level of exposure to the millions of viewers (tuning in to see Avatar win, presumably) who haven't even heard of let alone seen the film. And to do this in a year when your upper brass did everything within their power to ensure a populist outcome is the icing on the cake.

But I do have one suggestion, nae, one command regarding your awards telecast:


It was disastrous. And it's got Shankman's grimy fingerprints all over it. The very beginning of the show had the ten lead acting nominees standing up on the stage like a lineup for American Idol, which was completely awkward and unnecessary. Speaking of awkward and unnecessary, what the hell is Niel Patrick Harris doing here? His opening musical number was an eyesore. It was unentertaining, gaudy, and it had nothing to do with anything. Save that crap for the Emmy's. This is Oscars for Pete's sake! As for Shankman's other big dance sequence, I don't know what he was thinking with those street dancers breaking it down to the best original score nominees. The dancers were very impressive, I'll give 'em that, but the dance style and the choreography was in no way appropriate to the musical selections. Seriously, who does the robot to the theme from Up?
I also disparage that this year's honourary Oscar recipients who include silver screen legend Lauren Bacall and producer extraordinaire Roger Corman, didn't get to take the stage to enjoy their applause. Instead they got an awkward ovation from their seats in the audience. Obviously these people are too old to be allowed more than thirty seconds of air time. Heaven forfend that some viewers at home might not know who they are. But what do we get instead? We have to put up with presenters like Miley Cyrus, Zac Efron, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner. Those last two were particularly wooden. It was like watching two totem poles on stage! Even the hosts, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, who seemed like a good decision on paper, couldn't save it. They were sub-par, the material they were given to work with was sub-par (except for perhaps that parnormal activity gag), and their presence was not felt. I won't even go into how disgustingly impatient the directors were with the winners' speeches. They were too quick to cut the mic. I die a little on the inside every time someone gets played off. It's distasteful and disrespectful.

Ultimately, the thing that'll define this year's show in my mind is the conspicuous absence of the class and dignity that we usually see at the Oscars, but really do take for granted. All-in-all, it was simply one of the worst telecasts I've seen in a while, but even this bumbling embarrassment couldn't steal away the magic of the night's best moments.

Mo'Nique's standing ovation was richly deserved, Jeff Bridges' long-overdue Oscar win was very satisfying to watch. The big surprise of the night (probably the biggest surprise of the last few years) was Geoffrey Fletcher winning Adapted Screenplay for Precious, upsetting Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner who were practically locked to win for Up in the Air. I do feel a bit bad for them because they had every reason to believe they would win, and they deserved it too, but I can't help but be so happy for Geoffrey Fletcher. He was clearly shocked but very moved to hear his name called, and while the big story of the night is about Kathryn Bigelow becoming the first woman to win Best Director, Geoffrey Fletcher made history with his win too. He's the first African American to win a writing award. It was one of the evening's greatest moments in my opinion and definitely the biggest surprise.

On that note, I sign off on what has been one helluva crazy season. The preferential ballot had many sweating, but in the end, it goes to prove that sometimes you just can't beat the best movie.

I'll run one more piece outlining my biggest peeves and favourite highlights of the season later this week. After that, a nice restful break before looking into next year's race. Only 364 days to go!


Anonymous said...

Great post. I also had a problem with how Tom Hanls announced the best picture winner. It was as if he was doing someone a favour; it was very disrespectfull. And Ben Stiller presenting best makeup... that is just wrong; it was very distastefull. I agree with you, it was disastrous. Lets hope they learn their lesson...

The Oscar Nazi said...

I imagine the producers wanted to forgo any prepared fanfare for Best Picture because the show was pushing 3.5 hours at that point and they knew Avatar wasn't gonna win, so they wanted to wrap it up. I think Hanks was probably asked to make it snappy, but that doesn't make it right.

As for learning their lesson, I don't know if they will. The ratings were up considerably this year (by virtue of Avatar's nomination), but the board of governors may mistake that for the show actually being successful, which it certainly was not. I hope we're not in for more of the same next year.

Michael Stypulkoski said...

You really hit the nail on the head here. Not only did Shankman completely butcher the telecast, but he failed in what he was trying to do; that is, to make the show more youthful and presumably "fun." Simply the worst award show I've ever seen.