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.