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the film criticism aspect of cyber | by maryann johanson

are the winds of change blowing through the Oscars?

Such a strange and subdued Oscars this year! No outrageous gowns to make fun of, no long-winded or pompous acceptance speeches to smack down. Even Jon Stewart, for all his snide snarkery, was gentler than I would have expected, and seemed genuinely moved more than once.

The tone was probably exactly right, what with the writers’ strike barely over, and no matter that there’s something to celebrate in the writers’ win, the shutdown of Hollywod did cost all the non-fatcats who work in the industry a ton of money: Los Angeles is still mostly a company town. And as three of the five feature documentary nominees remind us, we are at war, and have been for too long, so a certain seriousness felt right.
But the most startling thing about last night’s Oscars is how it felt like all the new, younger members of the Academy — recent inductees include Steve Carell, Daniel Craig, Peter Berg, Paul Greengrass, JJ Abrams — suddenly made their perspectives felt. I based my predictions for who would win on the way the Academy usually behaves, or has, at least, during my memory of the Oscars, which stretches back at least 20 years. You know: Statuettes get handed to certain recipients more as lifetime achievement awards rather than for this particular role (Better hurry up and give Performer X an Oscar before his dies!). Awards in certain categories are consolation prizes for not giving particular films wider recognition (Let’s give a screenplay Oscar to this film we really liked a lot, but not enough to give any other awards!).

I turned out to be wrong, on nearly every guess. Amazingly enough, the should-have-wons and did-wins match up way more often than they have in recent years. Javier Bardem actually won. No Country for Old Men actually won a lot, including Best Pictire. That would have been a dark choice for the Academy not too long ago. I doubt Marion Cotillard or Tilda Swinton would have won if not for this refreshing new sense that the Academy has shifted gears.

This is one of those instances in which I love to be proven wrong. It means exciting things may be happening. It means change is coming. It means — maybe — that Hollywood is on the verge of big shift into a new state of mind. Wouldn’t that be cool?

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  • Scott P

    I was SO HAPPY to see Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova’s “Falling Slowly” win Best Original Song from the movie Once. That was my absolute favorite movie of 2007. Besides, The Disney Machine didn’t deserve an Oscar for any of those 3 cheesy songs from their cheesy movie.

  • MaryAnn

    The songs from *Enchanted* are not cheesy. They are brilliant parodies of Disney songs while also being wonderful example of Disney songs. I really thought “Happy Working Song” would win.

  • Yeah, the “Happy Working Song” was a great, great gimmick song. But I’m still glad “Falling Slowly” won. It was sweet to see Glen Hansard tear up during that performance. He’s come a long way!

    The performance of “Happy Working Song” during the Oscars desperately needed some CGI rats and cockroaches though.

  • Scott P

    A Phil Collins/Disney Machine song beat out South Park’s “Blame Canada” 8 years ago. To me, that was unforgivable. ;)

    Fortunately, the Academy voters got the Best Song right this time. “Falling Slowly” is a beautiful song & that 4-minute scene in the movie is so very powerful.

    I still wonder why Enchanted got 3 nominations while Into The Wild & Hairspray got none…

  • hdj

    Yeah why wasnt there any room for Eddie Vedder’s complete soundtrack for into the wild. I didn’t see into the wild, but the theater i went to would play “Society” on the feature presentation screen. And that to me was the song that should of won. I love that song . “There’s those thinking more or less less is more
    but if less is more how you’re keeping score?

  • Vedder’s soundtrack was disqualified–after the votes had been cast, if memory serves–because of some obscure technical ruling, possibly because “too much of it” had appeared elsewhere. It was considered a shoo-in for Best Song and Best Score before that, I believe.

    Jonny Greenwood’s music from “There Will Be Blood” received similar treatment.

    Overall, I’m with MA. A lot of very good choices some richly deserving winners and only a few points where I felt genuinely disappointed by the results. Maybe a little more love for TWBB, but considering it largely lost out to the also-great “No Country,” I can’t complain too loudly.

    Plus Tilda Swinton mocked Clooney’s Bat-nipples in her acceptance speech. how cool is THAT?

  • MaryAnn

    Swinton only mocked, I’m sure, because Clooney does it himself all the time.

  • Certainly, it was a teasing, affectionate mock. And Clooney did it himself during his acceptance speech a few years ago, so fair play all around. But to take your moment to do something fun and a little naughty like that just rocks the house.

  • Of course that it would be cool !
    Let’s hope for the best.

  • It greatly helps an Oscar acceptance speech if it is funny and/or overly self-deprecating. Serious speeches are boring. Thanking your agent is boring. Brad Bird’s “conversation” between himself and his junior high counselor was classic. Tilda Swinton joking about Clooney still wearing the Batsuit was hilarious. I’d love it if someone won an Oscar and used their time on stage to tell a really funny joke or did something else to demonstrate that while we take entertainment really seriously, in the end it’s all meant to be fun and if you can get paid for doing it, bonus to you.

    Personally, if I ever found myself in a position where I was nominated for an Oscar, I’d put a page up on my web site with all of my “thanks” and then tell everyone the address (on TV) if I won. Then I’d know I didn’t forget anyone, and I wouldn’t have to worry about screwing up on stage.

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