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 show’s squeamishness about off-color/”offensive” material didn’t play to his strengths, and I’m guessing there were tons of bits he wanted to do but wasn’t allowed (Tom Shales, inexplicably, calls the routine “mean-spirited”; my problem is that it wasn’t 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 they’d 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 there’s a gap in talent between Siegel and every other New Republic writer that’s 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?
Siegel’s stupid, nonsensical piece finds outrage where none exists, while finding meaning in such non-profundities as Al Pacino’s 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 there’s 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 don’t count as black because they’re 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?”
I’ll 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 it’s a commercial. Oh no, we can’t have that. I don’t know what’s weaker, that Siegel, presumably an adult, has yet to accept that television programs require advertising, or that this professional TV critic didn’t recognize the commercial that most of us have seen hundreds of times. Pathetic.
And no, I’m 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 year’s 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 I’ll see a movie about Che,” one of them said, “is if they show him with his cock in Castro’s hand.”
“If that’s what you’re looking for,” I said, “there’s a movie you ought to check out, it’s 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 year’s didn’t have one of these.
8:37- Rock’s 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- “Denzel’s a fine actor, so he wouldn’t make ‘Pootie Tang.’” In fact, “Pootie Tang” was better than anything Denzel’s done in the past 15 years.
8:43- Halle Berry is the first presenter –following a Rock ‘Catwoman’ joke- and looks GREAT. It’s 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 Freeman’s 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: They’re 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 Beyonce’s performance proves anything, it’s that she’s MUCH better at non-English singing than J.Lo is. And that goes for English singing as well.
9:09: It’s unrelated, but WABC’s “He Is the Champion” promo for gay weatherman Sam Champion is one of the funnier things I’ve ever seen.
9:10: The camera catches some dude handing something to Rock. Oops. “From the Kodak Theater to the Magic Johnson Theater”: it’s 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: It’s Best Documentary time, and we’re 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 could’ve 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 it’s… “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” don’t 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. Lumet’s 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” wasn’t 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 it’s 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 isn’t 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 can’t act in English or be in a good movie, shouldn’t 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 I’d use.
10:40: “Finding Neverland” wins for Original Score- that’ll be it’s only award of the evening, I’m sure. The composer’s agent’s 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! He’s here to accompany this year’s death montage. Reagan gets some scattered cheers. They spell Carole Eastman’s 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 it’s a way to combat all the negativity going on in the world. But I’d 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, he’s local, he’s black, and everything on his resume is truthful), but that’s 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 Rock’s joke two hours earlier. Huh? And have you, or has anyone you know, seen “Being Julia”? Too bad they can’t 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, I’m 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 year’s best film, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Which is great, because I’ll probably see that 50 more times in my lifetime, while I’ll 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 should’ve 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 “don’t you talk down to me- you’re a movie star, nothing more” clip next time some actor says something about Bush.
Foxx wins. And I realize I haven’t 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 wouldn’t be a Wayans brother.
11:32: Julia Roberts presents Best Director, and will likely jump into the lap of whoever wins. And it’s Clint- damn, sorry Marty. It’s 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 wasn’t 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 year’s. 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…