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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

Oscar after party

My luck at predicting the Oscar may not have been so hot this year — though I’m not sure it ever is — but I did get one thing sorta right. I said over at Film.com on Friday that if there was going to be an upset this year, it would be in the Best Actor category. Mickey Rourke seemed like shoo-in, but I said that one factor in Sean Penn’s favor was:

the embarrassment of California’s anti-gay Prop 8, which could be counterbalanced by honoring a gay hero like Harvey Milk.

And as soon as Dustin Lance Black won for his Milk screenplay early in the evening, I knew Penn would win Best Actor.

Penn also wins my award for Best Speech, for comments like these:

You commie homo-loving sons of guns…


I know how hard I make it to appreciate me…

It’s nice to know he has a sense of humor about himself, or at least that he was smart enough to rent one for the night.

As for the ceremony itself… I’m not sure it was quite as packed with “surprises” as the producers were hinting was going to be the case, but the overall tenor was fresh and even a little edgy. I loved how all the boring filler was cut out to leave more room for the winners to actually give acceptance speeches — not one single winner was hustled off the podium after 60 seconds, and yet no one droned on and on for ten minutes, either. I always hated seeing winners rushed off, particularly the ones who aren’t famous and won’t have other opportunities (as on talk shows, for instance) to discuss their win and their work: let them talk, for pete’s sake. And this year, they were allowed to talk. That was nice.

The whole thing seemed like a big party, and not so solemn as in other recent years — it was a real celebration of the best side of Hollywood glamour and elegance. Having all those prior winners come out to present the current nominees and give the awards was a stroke of brilliance: and when it’s Oscar-winning performers paying tribute to the nominees, gee, you really believe them.

But the ceremony on the whole also captured that odd contradiction inherent in being a movie nut like me (and presumably you, if you’re reading movie blogs, and also presumably most of the people on that stage and in that audience tonight), in how we take movies very seriously but also recognize that it’s all just big crazy wild fun at the same time. Usually there’s something very strained in the comic bits at the Oscars, as if everyone involved felt that it was slightly sacrilegious to be poking fun at someone with a “sir” in front of his name or in teasing a classy actress with 15 nominations. There wasn’t a single uncomfortable moment like that tonight, though. And though I did not like Pineapple Express, I loved the bit tonight with Seth Rogen and James Franco’s stoners watching the movies. The two of them laughing at The Reader… that was hilarious.

At the risk of sounding like the broken record I know I sometimes sound like: It was a very Xer Oscars, much more so than I had thought it would be when Jon Stewart hosted. Cuz it’s not just about the host but about the whole ethos, and that simultaneous taking-it-seriously and puncturing-its-self-importance was very Xer. And then the winners, on the whole, being very young only underscores the fact that a generational shift has happened in Hollywood.

We will see a comic book movie win Best Picture in the next five years.

Oscar firsts! (at least I think they’re firsts):
= first mention of pubic hair in the opening number
= first potato sack passing for a gown: whatever the hell Tilda Swinton was wearing
= first thanks to not to “the Academy” but to “everyone who voted for me” (via the Slumdog Millionaire editor), the implication being that those Academy fuckers who didn’t vote for him can go jump in the latrine like that kid in the movie

“really? woo-hoo!” moments
= no one thanked god except that one Indian guy
= Steven Martin and Tina Fey made fun of Scientology
= Bill Maher said there is no god
= and was that Peter Gabriel pulling a Robert Downey Jr-in-Tropic Thunder during the performance of the musical numbers? or who was that black guy who sounded just like Peter Gabriel?
= Danny Boyle thanking Warner Bros. for passing on his film

but we wuz promised!
= Hugh Jackman was neither naked nor noticably drunk, after he said he would be

Also: Not enough Hugh Jackman. Bring him back next year, and get him onstage a lot more. If he could be naked and drunk, all the better.

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awards buzz
  • Martin

    We will see a comic book movie win Best Picture in the next five years.

    And I’m not sure whether that’ll be because films like Dark Knight (and hopefully Watchmen – yes, I still live in hope) have shown how powerful comic book movies can be or because the Academy will change it’s own opinion (hate to say prejudice) on “blockbuster” movies.

    Yes, I’m still cut up about Transformers losing out to Golden Compass for best special effects last year.

  • Michael Dequina

    That was John Legend who performed the WALL*E song after Peter Gabriel (rather loudly) declined to do it.

  • shoop

    Good grief. I figured all you’d have to say is “Worst Oscar Ceremony in Recent Memory” and be done with it. “Fresh and edgy?!” Was the fresh part cutting the scenes of the actors doing their actual work in place of cherry-picked former Oscar-winners intoning (and reading) insincere drivel to the nominees? Or was the fresh part a long, misguided, embarrassing tribute to the movie musical? “The musical is back?!” Boy, not if Hugh-what-the-hell-am-I-doing-here-Jackman has anything to say about it. Or was the fresh part the way the “In Memoriam” was shot so that half the time, you couldn’t see who was being remembered? (Note to the producers–that sequence was NOT supposed to be about Queen Latifa.) Boring, ill-conceived, ill-managed, ill-timed… well, just ill.

    Highlights? Wow, talk about digging through manure to find a pony. Rogen and Franco, absolutely. Martin and Fey, pretty absolutely, although they need to beware of self-satisfaction. And really, now–keeping tabs on who’s thanking God and who isn’t? Is that worth a tick on anyone’s clock? I mean, I can understand the collective release of jizz when Obama acknowledged that we’re also a nation of non-believers, but how about we all agree we’re lucky to be in a country where we can thank, ignore, or deny God however we all please and just pass the remote?

    Finally, if that’s what Gen X is all about, I’ll henceforth refer to myself as a Boomer.

  • Mark

    Highlights? “I would like to thank my company’s robot. Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto.”

    Is this the first time the Best Original Song wasn’t in English?

    But as a TV production, I think it was deeply flawed. All of the retrospective clips — the year in and (especially) the “in memoriam” bit were presented horribly. All you have to do is *show us* the footage; we don’t need swoopy cameras and graphics.

    And the Rogen/Franco thing — I would have liked to see clips from the year’s comedies, not clips from dramas with two people pretending to be stoned laughing at them.

    And really, now–keeping tabs on who’s thanking God and who isn’t? Is that worth a tick on anyone’s clock?


  • “At the risk of sounding like the broken record I know I sometimes sound like: It was a very Xer Oscars…”

    by the simple act of nature’s attrition, weeding out the old and feeble, this was bound to happen anyway. it’s not really all *that* surprising.

  • Kathy A

    I rather liked the changes that they made–trying to frame the entire show as the progression of a film’s creation (thus changing up most of the traditional order of the awards), the acting awards being presented by a group of former winners (which worked depending on who was doing the presenting–Marion Coutillard [sp?] was wonderful in her speaking to Kate Winslet, but Halle Barry was weak), and I really liked the closing credits having “Coming Soon” clips from 2009 films–a nice way to promote new product.

    One big indication of a generational shift was the fact that there was only a brief shot of Jack Nicholson, and no references to him by Jackman! Brangelina and Mickey Rourke got the shout-outs instead.

  • misterb

    I also hated the “in memoriam” tribute. I understand that they were trying to show the little side screens which also had content pertaining to the honoree, but it didn’t work, even in HD. And because it didn’t work, it felt disrepectful.

    Other than that, it didn’t seem much worse or much better than usual – there did seem to be less time spent on entrances (good), but the songs were not given anywhere enough time. In general, I thought that they concentrated too much on the show, and not enough on the movies.

  • Mark

    the acting awards being presented by a group of former winners

    I didn’t like this for three reasons.

    First, the expository speeches from the presenters sounded like they were from the closing minutes of an episode of a reality competition. “Meryl Streep, you have been eliminated”.

    Second, these speeches were made *instead of* just showing us a clip of the the performance.

    Third, they broke with what I always thought was the very nice tradition of having the previous year’s Best Actress present the Best Actor award and vice-versa.

    I think the first two issues are symptomatic of the direction television is moving in; the trend seems to be away from simply presenting things to the audience and towards spending more time reflecting and commenting on what’s being presented.

  • Alli

    I have to disagree that this Oscars ceremony was directed toward the Xers. If anything, I think they tried to pander more towards the younger generations. I felt like they targeted teens and preteens more so than they have in the past, because they seem to be recession proof these days. The the odd graphic elements on the film montages felt like they were designed for people with low attention-spans. Zac Efron appearing on stage, what, 3 times? The phenomenon known as “R-Pattz” sitting strategically behind Mickey Rourke…

  • You commie homo-loving sons of guns…

    Why do I get the feeling MaryAnn’s going to be using a variation of that line for her next tagline?

    And really, now–keeping tabs on who’s thanking God and who isn’t? Is that worth a tick on anyone’s clock?

    Well, I can imagine the “good” folks at the Big Hollywood site keeping such a count but I really rather not see MaryAnn emulating them. Even if she obviously has a different purpose in doing so.

    Finally, if that’s what Gen X is all about, I’ll henceforth refer to myself as a Boomer.

    Well, my best friend is a Boomer and my favorite ex-girlfriend is a Gen-Xer so I guess I prefer to think of myself as a transgenerationist.;-)

  • bats :[

    I pretty much enjoyed the evening…it kept moving, and it was nice, as MaryAnn mentioned, that winners were allowed to have all the time for acceptance speeches; then again, how wretched and USA-centric would it have been to have the Japanese winners, with their unfamiliarity with English, to have gotten hustled off stage after a minute?

    The death roll presentation was crap. Okay, let Queen Latifah introduce it and sing behind it, but show us the freakin’ photographs and the names in a size that we have half a chance of reading (to say nothing of what the folks behind the camera where noted for–that font was even smaller).

    I’m glad Ben Stiller wants to go into cinematography or whatever techie award he was supposed to be presenting. Sorry, but I don’t think comedy has ever been his strongpoint. His presence on the Oscars demonstrated that painfully.

    Great NOT to see Nicholson, particular not parked in the front row.

    Will Jerry Lewis make it to next Labor Day? He didn’t look well at all — thinner, at least, but I don’t know if that was an improvement.

    Jackman was did a good job(he’s been great with the Tonies), to the pointthat I wanted to see much more of him during the program. Naked would’ve been good. The Wolverine reference was cool, too.

    I absolutely LOVED Sophia Loren just OUT THERE and proud of it, mostly because Meryl Streep just makes me roll my eyes with her soulful rounded shoulders and her continuing parade of strapless gowns that show a wide, wide expanse of fish-belly skin and…absolutely nothing else. I’m a straight woman, and I love boobs. If you want to wear something like that, even if you’re a woman of a certain age, go for it, and ask your dresser, your seamstress, whoever, not to be afraid to give you some cleavage!

    And Tilda Swinton premiered the first “potato sack” dress (in black) last year, not this year. This one wasn’t much better, but I suspect she could give a rat’s ass what anyone thinks (go, Tilda!).

  • AG

    Loved the group presentations for the acting awards (way to acknowledge the history!), and especially loved watching the nomiees’ response to the praise they got — so much more fun than seeing them trying not to look disappointed if they aren’t called.

    Elsewhere, want to bottle Fey / Martin up as a potion to spray on Tom Cruise DVDs (I suspect they just might burst into flame), Bill Maher tsk-tsked for me, and I think I’m in love with Kate Winslet’s dad. And maybe it’s just because I for the most part avoided the moronica of the pre-show fashion foolishness (question: won’t some clever cable channel eschew the goony red-carpet quarterbacking and do an hour-long preshow with extended clips from the movies? that show I’d watch), but it felt like it moved along at a good clip.

    And Dustin Lance Black and Sean Penn both made me cry.

    Not so much:
    The In Memoriam sequence, jeebus. Queen Latifah was fantastic, but even on a reasonably large television, the swirly-screen thing was just horrible.

    Danny Elfman is correct — the Academy wouldn’t give that man an Oscar if the category was titled “Best Original Score By Danny Elfman.” Sheesh.

    I’m alone here, but the Rogen segment left me flat.

    Was anyone else expecting Jerry Lewis to emit, well, more of the bitter and crazy? Even under / especially under those circumstances? Anyone who’s ever read an interview with the guy knows what I’m talking about. I did however enjoy the nod early in the show to his invention of video-assist tech — “yes, THAT Jerry Lewis.” A nice nod and, again, a smart display of Hollywood’s history. (Yeah, respect for history and a lack of obsession with Boomer icon Nicholson; this *is* the GenX model. I like.)

    More like this pls:
    Hugh Jackman, ladies and gentlemen. He can do the whole freakin’ show from Frank Langella’s lap if he’ll only promise to come back next year. In fact, I think that would be just fine. He had me at “‘The Reader!’ I meant to watch ‘The Reader!'”

  • Althea

    Oh, honey, you think Tilda Swinton was wearing a potato sack THIS year? Do you not remember that black bag she wore last year, along with her normal ghastly white skin? It was scary. This year she actually looked like she has a pulse.

    Overall I liked the changes, especially the notion of a “more intimate” stage, instead of the “Land of the Giants” settings that have been the norm.

    Another good thing was the lack of special awards and the interminable speeches that accompany them. Jerry Lewis may have been brief because he’s not in good health, but he made a good speech and let the show go on.

    Didn’t find the In Memoriam section so bad. Most years I think, “isn’t this ever going to end?” and then realize that I care after all. So it surprised me that it was so short.

  • Keith

    LOL! MaryAnn’s last comments about Jackman nearly had me spewing juice out my nose.

  • Lutz

    For the most part, I agree with your verdict on the oscars.

    I was thinking the exact same thing about Tilda Swinton.

    Actually, that was a shame, because just one week earlier at the Berlinale Awards ceremony where she as the head of the jury gave out some awards, she wore a very nice dress that fitted her perfectly. It would probably have ben best to just wear it again.

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