Monthly Archives: February 2005

Oscar Thoughts, Day Two

– Sheila, in a great roundup, describes Kate Winslet as “scrum-diddlyumptious”. I do not disagree.
– Jeff Jarvis of course plays the censorship card, even sharing the script of a bit Robin Williams was supposed to before it was cut out by nervous producers.
– People are generally bashing Rock, with the exception of praising the Magic Johnson Theaters bit. I thought he was decent, but the shows squeamishness about off-color/offensive material didnt play to his strengths, and Im guessing there were tons of bits he wanted to do but wasnt allowed (Tom Shales, inexplicably, calls the routine mean-spirited; my problem is that it wasnt mean-spirited enough.)
– But the more I think about the Magic Johnson bit, the less I like it- just as the Jay Leno jaywalking segments are clearly edited to make it look like everyone he talked to is an idiot, the Oscar editors obviously omitted every black person who said theyd seen Sideways but not White Chicks- and as a result, the bit served to buttress the generally offensive notion that black people only like dumb movies.
– Seems like people are more angry at Sean Penn for defending Jude Law than they were at him for going to Baghdad. So he’s humorless- there are worse things a guy can be.
– But others, alas, are angry for no apparent reason. Like New Republic TV critic Lee Siegel, for instance. Now theres a gap in talent between Siegel and every other New Republic writer thats about the size of the Grand Canyon- in a lineup of A-Rods, Jeters, and Sheffields, he’s Miguel Cairo. Siegel widens it even further with an appalling rant about the Oscars that imbues racism onto Hollywood for having a black host and giving the Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor to black actors. Huh?
Siegels stupid, nonsensical piece finds outrage where none exists, while finding meaning in such non-profundities as Al Pacinos introduction of Sidney Lumet (while the consensus among most observers was that Pacino was drunk and/or high). Then he rips Hollywood for being out of touch with mainstream America, as though being in touch is part of their job description.
Then theres this paragraph, possibly the worst to appear in TNR in its 90-year history:

This was Negro night at the Oscars, and I use the old offensive epithet because Hollywood is, in this sense, still the old offensive place. Oh I don’t mean because Hollywood is liberal. In this political climate, if the Communist Party sought to resurrect itself by infiltrating the studios and lacing movie scripts with subtle calls for revolution, I’d send it $50. No, something else is going on out there.

I wish Siegel would send that $50- that way Peter A Fighting Faith Beinart could start a “purge” of his own, and fire him.
Next Siegel calls celebrities a third race, as if to say that Rock, Jamie Foxx, and Morgan Freeman dont count as black because theyre famous. Then he attacks Foxx as a mediocrity, and bashes him for playing a blind and dead musician [who] is no threat to anyone. This is an insult both to Ray Charles- one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century- and to Foxx. Since when are black actors required to play someone threatening in order to win recognition? Because when Denzel Washington won an Oscar for playing a thuggish rogue cop in Training Day, critics such as Armond White went apeshit, calling the role a racist caricature. Even Jadakiss agreed, asking “Why Halle have to let a white man pop her to get a Oscar/Why Denzel have to be crooked before he took it?”
Ill move past his chastising of Tim Robbins for not going off script to bash the war in Iraq; after this comes his extolling of the blotto Pacino, which Siegel compares- favorably- to Brando refusing to accept his Oscar in protest against the government’s treatment of the Indians. Funny- I thought that was generally considered the first sign that Brando was losing his mind.
And as a not-so-grand finale, Siegel slams as debased the Robert DeNiro American Express commercial you know, the one that debuted six months ago– because its a commercial. Oh no, we cant have that. I dont know whats weaker, that Siegel, presumably an adult, has yet to accept that television programs require advertising, or that this professional TV critic didnt recognize the commercial that most of us have seen hundreds of times. Pathetic.
And no, Im not the first to bash this terrible, terrible, writer. Andrew Sullivan named him as Poseur of the Year in 03.
– And finally, the mini-hubbub over the Motorcycle Diaries song reminded me of one of my favorite exchanges of last years presidential campaign. The night of the first debate, I was at a bar with a bunch of other bloggers, including the bloggers/performance artists known as Communists For Kerry. I was talking to one of them and asked if they had gone to see the Che movie. When they said no, I suggested it might be a fun field trip, especially if they all showed up at a showing in full costume, preferably to a theater on the Upper West Side or in the East Village.
The only way Ill see a movie about Che, one of them said, is if they show him with his cock in Castros hand.
If thats what youre looking for, I said, theres a movie you ought to check out, its called Y Tu Mama Tambien.

Mall Merge

As though malls weren’t homogenous enough before… the company that owns Macy’s has purchased the company that owns Filene’s and Marshall Fields, creating one big mall-colossus. I’m no big shopper, but the way this effects me is that all the Marshall Fields’ in Minneapolis will now become Macy’s- just a year or two after Marshall Fields rebranded local department store Dayton’s. I’m fine with the change, provided they keep selling Frango mints.

2005 Oscar Diary

8:30– We start with a Dustin Hoffman-narrated clips package. I like this- especially since last years didnt have one of these.
8:37- Rocks monologue. Pretty mid-level, and not raunchy or “controversial” at all, although the “Fahrenheit 9/11″/”what if there were a movie out that said how much you suck at your job” joke was pretty funny.
8:39- Denzels a fine actor, so he wouldnt make Pootie Tang. In fact, Pootie Tang was better than anything Denzels done in the past 15 years.
8:43- Halle Berry is the first presenter following a Rock Catwoman joke- and looks GREAT. Its Art Direction, and Aviator wins.
8:47: Rock says Renee Zellweger put on 25 pounds to play Bridget Jones, and will soon put on 80 pounds to play Deacon Jones. I bet anyone a thousand dollars that line was originally Star Jones before they made Rock change it. Best Supporting Actor is Morgan Freeman- which is good, because he deserved it. They chose the best clip in the movie for him, too.
8:51: After Freemans speech, the theme from Star Trek: The Next Generation plays for no apparent reason.
8:55: During the Robin Williams routine about botox and plastic surgery, the director makes a point of not panning to any actresses for reaction. Then, his gay cartoon characters bit goes on about 2 minutes longer than necessary. The Incredibles, deservedly, wins for Best Animation Feature.
9:01: Theyre actually giving out awards out in the audience to save time. One of the Best Makeup winners for Lemony Snicket thanks someone named Medusa.
9:05: If Beyonces performance proves anything, its that shes MUCH better at non-English singing than J.Lo is. And that goes for English singing as well.
9:09: Its unrelated, but WABCs He Is the Champion promo for gay weatherman Sam Champion is one of the funnier things Ive ever seen.
9:10: The camera catches some dude handing something to Rock. Oops. From the Kodak Theater to the Magic Johnson Theater: its like a bad Jay Leno bit, where Rock makes fun of people who only like stupid movies. But Albert Brooks singing the praises White Chicks was a nice touch.
9:17: The Costume Design award is co-presented by the animated designer from The Incredibles. Cute, but not as funny as when Beavis & Butt-head assisted Letterman at the Emmys that time.
9:19: Rock mocks Tim Robbins for boring us to death with his politics. Yea, Robbins sounded like a paranoid schizophrenic on Bill Maher last night. Best Supporting Actress is Cate Blanchett. I never liked her- she all but ruined The Life Aquatic- but I grant that she was great as Kate.
9:26: Great Carson tribute. And just when we thought this was a Whoopi Goldberg-free year, she shows up to give worthless commentary. At least she didn’t make any tortured Bush/bush puns.
9:30: Its Best Documentary time, and were luckily spared a Fat Fat Fatty rant since he elected not to submit “F-9/11.” Born Into Brothels wins instead. Aviator wins Best Editing, though considering how long it was, perhaps it couldve used a little more.
9:35: Apparently, Sideshow Bob has replaced Adam Duritz as frontman of Counting Crows. Of the 60 CC songs I put on my iPod this afternoon, “Accidentally In Love” is probably the worst.
9:42: Good to see Sandler and Rock back together, even for a stupid bit like this one. Adapted Screenplay, and its Sideways. Overrated yes, but it did deserve it over Million Dollar Baby, of which the screenplay was probably the weakest element.
9:47: For Visual Effects, Spider-man 2 wins, which is good since it was the best Hollywood action film of recent years. And the words Oscar and I, Robot dont belong in the same universe, much less the same sentence.
9:49: The president of the academy refers to his sermon, and dedicates the evening to the troops. Red-state pandering, anyone?
9:51: Al Pacino salutes Sidney Lumet; The Pawnbroker sounds like The Pornbroker, in Pacino-speak. Lumets done some great stuff over the years- is it possible to be a film buff over 25 and not have rented Dog Day Afternoon at least twice? But Serpico wasnt nearly as good as the theatrical version of same in Rushmore.
We see footage of an in-production Lumet movie with Vin Diesel yelling as a lawyer in a bad wig, which may be the funniest thing I saw all night. I expect so many people to make fun of this in the next few days as to render that film unreleasable.
10:04: More Beyonce! In English this time, albeit if Andrew Lloyd Webber has to accompany her, I vote for French.
10:09: Rock refers to comedy legend Jeremy Irons. Hey, Dead Ringers was pretty funny.
10:13: You know its the Oscars and not sports or politics when the guy who wins says I am here tonight because of one guy, and the one guy isnt God or Jesus.
10:14: I nominate Kate Winslet as the most beautiful woman in movies. Anyone disagree? Aviator wins cinematography.
10:21: Now that Penelope Cruz has demonstrated again and again that she cant act in English or be in a good movie, shouldnt Paz Vega (from Spanglish) be getting all her roles, and presenting along with Salma Hayek, instead of her? Ray wins for Best Sound Mixing.
10:26: Totalitarian fascist Che Guevara is extolled by Hayek. Pretty awful, but still not as bad as Banderas singing.
10:34: This new show with John Stamos could actually be good. A phrase I never thought Id use.
10:40: Finding Neverland wins for Original Score- thatll be its only award of the evening, Im sure. The composers agents name is Mr. Greenspan. And when he thanks Harvey Weinstein, people laugh.
10:45: The guy who wins an honorary award for his work on film preservation thanks Ted Turner, the man who- do to his colorization efforts in the 80s- did more to hurt the cause of proper preservation than anyone else.
10:47: Yo Yo Ma! Hes here to accompany this years death montage. Reagan gets some scattered cheers. They spell Carole Eastmans name wrong. Brando and Orbach get the longest applause, even longer than Russ Meyer.
10:55: P. Diddy is a presenter for some reason. He calls the Polar Express song hip, and says its a way to combat all the negativity going on in the world. But Id rather just think about Beyonce. She and Josh Groban seem to have chemistry- if she left Jay-Z for him, it may be the funniest scandal in the history of celebrities. And yes, I typed that before Rock made that joke.
11:00: Prince appears to present Best Original Song, and for some reason Kansas Carry On My Wayward Son is his entrance music. I still say Prince should buy the Minnesota Vikings (he has plenty of money, hes local, hes black, and everything on his resume is truthful), but thats another argument for another time. And yuk, The Motorcycle Diaries song wins. Though the director singing his entire acceptance speech instead of speaking was a nice touch that more people should try.
11:02: Sean Penn starts his presentation by, uh, defending Jude Law from Rocks joke two hours earlier. Huh? And have you, or has anyone you know, seen Being Julia? Too bad they cant show any of the clips of Hilary Swank that actually, you know, will win her the award.
Swank wins. And yes, she remembers to thank her husband this time. Swank now becomes the first Beverly Hills 90210 alum to win two Best Actress Oscars (or win one Oscar, or be nominated, or come to the Oscars, or even sustain a movie career). She also thanks her agent, Tony Lip, who may or may not be the same Tony Lip who played Carmine Lupertazzi on The Sopranos.
11:13: As Sea Inside wins Best Foreign Language Film, Im reminded of the amusing debate over whether Bad Education was denied the rapturous critical and Academy reception of the last couple Almodovar films because it was too gay.
11:16: Time for my favorite award, Best Original Screenplay. Charlie Kaufman wins for the years best film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Which is great, because Ill probably see that 50 more times in my lifetime, while Ill almost certainly never see Million Dollar Baby again.
Look at the last fifteen years of Original Screenplay winners, and the last fifteen years of Best Pictures– which list has more good movies?
Kaufman looks a lot like Seth Green, and is closer to his age. Green probably shouldve played him in Adaptation instead of Nicolas Cage.
11:23: The presentations have been cut down to about five second each, as Charlize Theron does Best Actor. I expect some Fox News pundit to bust out the DiCaprio dont you talk down to me- youre a movie star, nothing more clip next time some actor says something about Bush.
Foxx wins. And I realize I havent gotten one wrong yet on my picks. I always assumed Jim Carrey would be the first In Living Color alum to win an Oscar, though I knew it wouldnt be a Wayans brother.
11:32: Julia Roberts presents Best Director, and will likely jump into the lap of whoever wins. And its Clint- damn, sorry Marty. Its a shame, because Eastwood did a much better job acting in that than directing it.
11:36: Hoffman and Streisand give out the Best Picture award, in character from Fockers. And the winner is Million Dollar Baby. Ugh. We got hope early on when Aviator won all the technical awards, but then MDB wasnt really a technical awards kind of movie. Only four Oscars, but they were for Picture, Director, Actress, and Supporting Actor.
Overall, not a particularly memorable year- though, quickly, name two things that happened at last years. Rock was decent, but this was far, far, FAR from his best work, and the super-rushed tone of the final hour pretty much ruined it.
Meanwhile, IFC started a showing of The Usual Suspects right as the show was ending. So much better than everything that was honored tonight

Peac In Our Time?

If you were wondering just how bad things were looking for the anti-war movement, we got our answer today: on a walk around Columbia University, I noticed an everpresent flier advertising an upcoming conflict-resolution workshop which featured, in big letters, “CREATIVE PEACMAKING.”
Yes, “peacmaking.” In the distribution of hundreds of the fliers, somehow no one noticed that the prominent word, peace, was spelled incorrectly. Forget about making peace; they can’t even spell peace.

Fantasy Baseball Team Ideas: The New Batch

I fully suspect that at least 50% of this years team names will be some reference to steroids/BALCO/Canseco/The cream and the clear. Accordingly, my team this year is The Masking Agents, in a last-minute decision over coming up with some sort of play on Merkin Valdez.
Here we go: As always, some were my ideas, others were contributed by readers or found elsewhere:
– The Tropicana Juice
– The Bathroom Stall Bash Brothers
– The Victor Conte All-Stars
– The Grand Jury Leaks
– Los Guapos
– Fielders Choice
– Hebrew Nationals
– Honey Nut Ichiros
– The Bear Backs
– The Van Buren Boys
– The Jesusland Jets
– The Dustin Diamondbacks
– The Jaleel White Sox
– 24 Hour Party People
– Winnie the Pujols
– Wynn, Lohse or Drew
– Jeters Never Prosper

Music Man

It has arrived, and I have officially joined what Glenn Reynolds calls “The Cult of the iPod.” In less than 36 hours I’ve already loaded on over 1,100 songs, but I should be able to find room for everything pertinent in my collection.
As for that other cult Glenn and I are both a part of -that’s the bloggers (or are we more like rappers?)- I’m looking forward to meeting up with the New York blogging community tonight at the Overlook Lounge (225 East 44th St; 7 PM), where we’ll be gathering to pay tribute to the late, great blogger Mike Wolf. Hope to see many of you there.
Meanwhile, check back Sunday night/Monday for blogger bash stories, Oscar thoughts, NBA trade analysis, the latest batch of Fantasy Baseball team names, and that “24: Liberal or Conservative” piece, which is almost done. Hopefully, by the time you read it, I’ll still have some iPod space left.