Thursday, March 1, 2012

Oscar Roundup

I have a sick, demented relationship with the Academy Awards. The Oscar voting pool is 90% white, 77% percent male, with a median age of 62 (look it up). They have consistently made some terrible decisions for the last 80+ years and I hate them. However, every year from December through February I forget this, watch all the movies and obsess over every single nomination. When the big day comes I settle in with my Chinese food and sparkling beverage and spend the next 3 (or so) hours going on a roller coaster of emotions. I don't actually believe that winning an Oscar means much, but there's something about Hollywood desperately seeking to legitimize what they do that reels me right in. I also love dresses. All the dresses.

This year Taso and I kept ballots for our predictions and ended up tying at 11 out of 24. We also chose our favorites in each category and I think maybe two of mine won - Woody Allen was one of them! My only real beef with the Academy right now is that they're giving cinematography awards to CG films, so they're basically redefining what cinematography means and I'm not cool with that. When that category went to Avatar in 2009/10 I almost threw something through my TV. 

Despite being disappointed with what a shoddy production the Oscars have become in recent years, I really wasn't expecting to be so bored this year. As for the red carpet, Gwyneth Paltrow's cape made my heart skip a beat (if she hadn't taken it off it would have been my favorite of the night) and Ellie Kemper looked UNBELIEVABLE but otherwise the dresses were kind of a snoozefest.
Billy Crystal... Bless his heart. The video segments looked like they were done in iMovie and Keynote, the music was boring and there were some glaring omissions from the In Memoriam montage. Despite the inevitable disappointments that come with watching the Oscars, I did think it was a good, if weird, year for movies. Here's my take:

The Artist
This movie was basically Singing in the Rain but the opposite, right? Same story, but silent rather than a musical. Obviously I love Singing in the Rain and I love a gimmick when it's good (and what's not good about silent films?), so I totally enjoyed The Artist. The nitrate fire was delicious, but can't compete with the one in Inglourious Basterds. Everyone in the film was delightful and I had a great time in the movies watching it, but I don't know that I was bowled over the way everyone seemed to be. Still, while it's not what I would have chosen, I'm pleased that it won so many awards. Now more people will see it, fall in love with silent cinema, and go revisit the real stuff. I read something yesterday that said DVD sales of silent films have gone up by 40% just since the Oscars. Wonderful stuff.

The Descendants
Did not/will not see because Alexander Payne is the WORST.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
I just can't... but I did quietly root for Max von Sydow to win Best Supporting Actor because he deserves a lifetime achievement award and I fear this is the closest he will get.

The Help
How - HOW - did Jessica Chastain get nominated for this and not for Tree of Life?!?!?! The Academy's choices never cease to baffle me.

I really liked Hugo. The fragments of Méliès films interwoven with Scorsese's imaginings of what his sets looked like brought tears to my eyes. I was bored by the story and the CGI, and thought the pacing was a bit strange (it feels like he had a hard time cutting things, which is understandable). But seeing Marty's deep love of cinema shine through in those Méliès scenes, feeling so proud of the importance of film preservation and seeing my son get excited about film history made me a weepy mess.

Midnight in Paris 

This is a classic in my book. A good story, great writing and acting, and fantastic camera work made it feel like the opposite of a sports film. It reminds me of a great 70s-era American movie, but with slightly flashier lighting. No qualms at all with any of its nominations and I even felt it more deserving than the winner in a couple of the categories.

War Horse
Again, I can't. My interest in this film is less than zero.

Tree of Life 
Hands down the best film of the year and the best film in many years. That more people don't see its beauty and value to cinema makes no sense to me, but I have learned (thanks to working for film festivals and going to NYU) that everyone experiences art differently and in their own context and that's cool. For my money, it should have swept.

Just for fun, here are a few photos from Oscar night:
My Academy Award manicure and my side of the couch/ballot vs. Taso's. 


  1. Oh your Oscar night looks so cool--ours was both of us working with me reading Photoplay on and yelling about Barbara Kent. Agreed with you about so much of this, including the in-memorium omissions and the dresses. I liked Rooney Mara, Gwyneth, Michelle Williams, Jessica Chastain and Mila Jovovitch but most of the rest looked terrible. And most of my likes were likes not crazy, in love, aghast reactions. With all the dresses in the world--new and vintage--you'd think people would dress better.

  2. PS love your manicure! And ring.