Monday, March 8, 2010

Oscar Post-Mortem

I didn't see any films that were released in 2009. Not a one! But I certainly won't let that stop me from talking about last night's Academy Awards. After all, the Academy itself has proven over and over that a judgment on the artistic merits of the nominated films is besides the point (for evidence, please see the winners for 1952, 1956, 1976, 1980, 1990, 1994, 1997, 1998 & 2005).
  • Just because I didn't see any of the nominated films doesn't mean I wasn't rooting for anyone, though, and it was great to see Kathryn Bigelow win best director, partly because it meant we wouldn't be subjected to more ego-inflation for James Cameron. Plus, as the first female director to win an Oscar, she is heralding in a new era in which directors will now be subject to the same relentless red-carpet criticism as actresses.
  • Trivia time! I spent the evening reading the A.V. Club's live blog (skip to 11:31 to see my minor contribution!), and someone there mentioned the numerous Lost-affiliated winners: J. J. Abrams's Star Trek won for makeup, composer Michael Giacchino won best score for Up, Kate was in The Hurt Locker, Ana-Lucia was in Avatar, and George Minkowski directed the documentary The Cove.
  • Am I alone in finding Peter Sarsgaard incredibly creepy? He always seems to have this dead-eyed stare, and he always sounds like he's doing a John Malkovich impression. His unsettling intensity would have made him a great actor for Stanley Kubrick, if only he'd been born a couple of decades earlier.
  • Most Embarrassing Directorial Choice: the way the camera cut to random black actors whenever Precious won anything.
  • My favorite speech of the night was costume designer Sandy Powell, who dedicated her award to her fellow designers who work on contemporary and low-budget films, and thus are unlikely to ever win an Oscar. It's long been a pet peeve of mine that the costume (and art direction) awards almost always go to lavish period pieces. There are plenty of other films where the clothing choices are less obvious, but do just as much to define the characters: think of Adam Sandler's blue suit in Punch-Drunk Love, or the distinctive outfits in The Big Lebowski, or every stitch of clothing worn in a Wes Anderson movie. Aren't these just as interesting as the latest batch of corsets and formal gowns?
  • Hey, you know what they could do instead of having each acting nominee be roasted/eulogized by one of their peers? Maybe show a nice lengthy clip of the acting that got them nominated.
  • I was of the opinion that Jeff Bridges should have won an Oscar for his performance as the Dude, but after seeing his acceptance speech for Crazy Heart, I'm not so sure he was really acting in The Big Lebowski.
  • Hey, legendary cinematographer Gordon Willis got an honorary award! I always forget that he's alive (I am possibly confusing him with Gordon Parks).
  • Interpretive dance? More like misinterpretive dance!
  • In many years, the presenter reading the nominees for best screenplay will read some non-dialogue portions of the script while the scene plays. It's a nifty little exercise, but it always seems odd that to illustrate the importance of the script, they highlight the stage directions rather than the story or dialogue. I don't think passages like "George enters the room. He sits down and pours himself a drink" are really the pinnacle of the screenwriter's art.
  • This was the first year that Nick Park, of Wallace and Gromit fame, was nominated for something but didn't win. Looks like after two decades, the brutal anti-Nick Park backlash has begun.
  • Part of me hopes that Kristen Stewart, with her slouching, persistent lip-biting, and coughing over her shoulder, is engaged in a piece of performance art critiquing the demure behavior expected of young starlets. Could Ms. Stewart be a modern-day Andy Kaufman, or at least a modern-day Joaquin Phoenix?
  • I wonder which was the greater honor for T-Bone Burnett: winning an Oscar, or getting to meet Miley Cyrus.
  • Finally, the Coen Brothers didn't win anything last night, but that won't stop me from linking to the fansite Coenesque, where you can read the screenplays for every one of Joel and Ethan's movies. I have a feeling this will consume a great deal of my time.

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