This year's Academy Awards roundup sets itself apart from the other post-Oscars reports by coming out over a week after the show ended. This should allow for proper meditation on the award-winners and fashion trends. If we'd had this kind of time to reflect back in 2006, we could have all realized that Crash was not an abominable choice for Best Picture, and that jokes about gay cowboys would never, ever get old.
It's not really his fault, since the writer's strike didn't give him much time to prepare, but Jon Stewart's opening was pretty weak. Last time, he leaned on some pre-taped bits, which there was likely no time for this year. Stewart's default instinct is to go for political jokes, which meant the monologue felt like old Daily Show jokes slightly tailored to mention Hollywood. His joke about how having a black president usually meant an asteroid was about to hit the Statue of Liberty was fine. Of course, my friend Reggie Steele had a joke with the same premise of "black president = movie disaster" more than six months ago, so it wasn't exactly novel territory.
Really, Jon Stewart is too good for the self-congratulation and rah-rah, Go Movies! feel of the Oscars. The Whoopi Goldberg-style, "Here's this nominee. How good was that performance?" sounds awkward coming from Jon Stewart. He should be making fun of the Academy Awards, not celebrating them.
Rooting instincts at this party
The crowd hated the songs from Enchanted, to the point where we muted the TV and listened to old Oscar-winning songs during the musical numbers instead. Some people seemed to hate Amy Adams and her strange-looking forearms, but everyone who admitted to actually seeing the movie seems to have liked it. There was some low-level resentment for Juno as well, though it was hard to tell if that was regular indie backlash or genuine hatred for lines like, "Honest to blog?"
Alexandra Byrne, designer for Elizabeth 2: Electric Boogaloo, modeled her speech on her film's theatrical release: Brief and forgettable. Much like Cate Blanchett's Best Actress nomination, this award was all about Oscar's shame at giving Shakespeare In Love so many awards back in 1999.
Best Supporting Actor
Javier Bardem won for No Country For Old Men and sealed his place in future Oscar telecast montages by finishing his speech in Spanish. Meanwhile, Hal Holbrook's impending death was not enough to get him a statue, and Casey Affleck will soon learn, one Oscar is all his family is ever going to get.
Julie Christie was the betting favorite, but in hindsight, Marion Cotillard should have been the overwhelming choice. The three best ways to get Oscar's attention:
1. Play a real person.
2. Play a drug addict.
3. Make yourself ugly via weight gain, weight loss, or prosthetics.
Cotillard did ALL THREE. No contest. Her speech was endearing, but I felt it reflected her lack of vocabulary more than anything. She gushed, "Thank you, life! Thank you, love!", and, if the orchestra hadn't been about to play her offstage, she'd have finished with, "Please sir, where is bathroom? More cheese, s'il vous plait. " Just like when I win my first Mexican Oscar, my acceptance speech will likely contain an extended discussion of mi color favorito.
Heath Ledger shoutouts
It was a foregone conclusion that he'd anchor the "In Memoriam" section, but we wondered, would anyone make reference to Heath Ledger during the show? No one did, though I am counting Owen Wilson's presenter gig as an implicit Ledger shoutout.
I was uncannily accurate with my death montage prediction, correctly noting that Roy Scheider died too late for inclusion, and correctly calling the ending as, "Bergmann, random woman, random guy, Ledger." I was surprised to see so many agents pictured. Have there always been so many agents in the death montage? Was 2007 an unusually deadly year for agents?
"She's dead?" award: Suzanne Pleshette.
"She was still alive?" award: Deborah Kerr.
I also wonder if at any point in the editing process, an eager intern tried to sneak in a clip from Ten Things I Hate About You, before being overruled by a superior who insisted on Brokeback-only footage.
For my money, nothing beats the 2005 death montage, with live cello and a huge roster of deaths, including a Murderer's Row of Hollywood dead at the end - Rodney Dangerfield, Tony Randall, and Marlon Brando. You can also tell that Jerry Orbach's constant presence in Law and Order reruns made him more popular than producers expected, leading to an awkward early swell of applause that throws off the rhythmn of subsequent dead actor applause.
Worst Nominations/Best Speech
The Best Supporting Actress category continues to be a hodgepodge of questionable nominees. Precocious prepubescent actresses join old ladies who logged 5-6 minutes of total screen time to compete with the real, grown-up actresses. That may be why this category is usually fairly predictable (2000 was the only upset in the last ten years). Delightfully, Tilda Swinton won, and took the stage looking like David Bowie wearing garbage bag made of velvet. She said "nipples" and "buttocks", she made fun of George Clooney, and she acknowledged writer-director Tony Gilroy (who also wrote Bourne - good year for him). Then she went home with her 29-year-old Kiwi painter boyfriend. Tilda Swinton is a pimp, you guys.
Least Appropriate Heckle
Someone made fun of Miley Cyrus's inability to fill out the front of her dress (a common theme at this year's awards.) It wasn't me, though I might have made a followup comment about an achy breaky training bra.
The Editing Ultimatum
The Bourne Ultimatum won all three editing awards in what was somewhat of an upset. At recent Academy Awards ceremonies, it's been rare for a film to both win Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing (only King Kong has doubled since 1999), which might well be an Academy directive to make Oscar pools more exciting. Before that, films won both sound awards all the time, but maybe it was also still cool to wear a band's t-shirt to their concert back then, too.
Each winning sound team from Bourne featured a long-haired guy who didn't get to talk during the acceptance speeches. Sound Mixer dude was a hippie type, whereas the Sound Effects longhair looked more like a Vietnam vet. He visibly flinched when the orchestra began playing him off, possibly triggering his PTSD. Of course, few things would trigger one's PTSD more than trying to do editing for The Bourne Ultimatum. "Who's in the mall? Is that a sniper? Where's Bourne? Is that Charlie?"
Roderick Jaynes was denied an Oscar for No Country For Old Men, but that's probably OK with him, since he thinks the Coen Brothers are "clods".
Honoring/Demonizing the Troops
In a tribute to the armed forces stationed overseas, soldiers in Iraq read off the nominees for best short-subject documentary. They were introduced by Tom Hanks, because he was in Saving Private Ryan, and that basically makes him a veteran, just like Apollo 13 made him a spokesman for NASA, and Splash made him a marine biologist. The troops did their thing, and Middle America cheered. Middle America immediately stopped cheering when the award went to a documentary about same-sex couples and domestic partnerships.
Moments later, Hanks presented the Best Documentary Feature Oscar to Taxi to the Dark Side, a film about an Afghan taxi driver who was BEATEN TO DEATH BY AMERICAN SOLDIERS. You need at least one commercial break to cleanse the palate between the ovation for the troops' heroism and the ovation for the exposé of the troops' human rights abuses. Maybe that was the spot where the montage about bad dreams could have gone. Couldn't they have let the soldiers have done one of the sound awards? That usually goes to a movie with lots of shooting, and a big enough budget that it can't afford to be critical of the war effort. It'd be perfect.
The only mild upset was that Daniel Day-Lewis's clip was, "I abandoned my boy!" instead of the milkshake monologue. I also thought they'd use Clooney saying, "I'm not the guy you kill. I'm the guy you buy!", but in hindsight, "Do I look like I'm negotiating?" was a fine choice. Meanwhile, Johnny Depp is laying the foundation for a future Oscar, but until he sucks it up and plays a real-life historical figure - preferably an alcoholic who's confined to a wheelchair - he'll be relegated to bridesmaid status on Oscar night.
Baked potato bar: Bacon. Who says the Jews run Hollywood?
Sundae bar: In a major upset, it was crushed Butterfinger bars.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Eddie Vedder's music from Into the Wild, broccoli, Gene's insistent demands for a box fan, the Coen brothers in this writeup.