Was it me, or was that one of the most boring Oscars to come along in years? I just looked back at my recap of last year's event, and now I'm longing for the days of silly circus performers and the 1-2 sucker punch of Jack Black and Will Ferrell. I'm thinking part of it is the weird in-between feeling due to the Writer's Strike looming over everything. Instead of a writer-less (and possibly super cool) Oscar night, or an overblown "break out the lasers" event like last year, we got a apprehensive, watered down montage-heavy evening that was the result of some last-minute scrabbling for material.
Semi-coherent musings below:
The Opening: A video collage featuring characters throughout movie history as an armored truck drives through a bad special effect of LA trying to get the statues to the awards on time. I admit to being intrigued by the match-up of Darth Vader and Spartacus. It's funny that the special effects for the Oscars are about on par with a direct-to-video action movie.
John Stewart: Two words. "Gaydolf Titler." I dropped my drink laughing and my wife almost had a bladder incident. You definitely have to like Stewart's brand of humor, but he had some great lines, including the hypocrisy of the Vanity Fair After-Party being canceled out of respect to the Writer's Strike, although writers are never invited to the party, and the "Thank God for teen pregnancy" quip in regards to the dour view of the majority of the nominated films. The lackluster feel of the evening had little to do with his performance and everything to do with the Academy's play-it-safe, bland way of running things. And after mocking films like NORBIT and the Academy's penchant for montages, they're probably not going to invite him back again. Which is a damn shame. Especially after the...
Coolest Moment of the Oscars: So the Academy want to spend four hours slapping itself on the back for how cool it is, but still only gives its winners 30 seconds to speak? This is consistently the stupidest, most embarrassing part of the awards, and it never changes. Which makes it particularly wicked awesome that Stewart brought the wonderful Marketa Irglova back out after she was rudely cut off from giving her speech after winning Best Original Song. Stewart, you are a cheeky monkey.
What Happened to the Best Picture Clips?: In a year when clips of past Oscars sprang forth like unsightly blemishes every five minutes, what the heck happened to the clips of each Best Picture nomination? Dear Oscars, if you were looking to pad out your time, wouldn't this have been an obvious keeper? Especially in a year where there were such strong contenders, this was a shame. Instead we get fond remembrances from Sir Elton John. Dude, I can't even remember that ridiculous song now.
And as for the awards themselves:
Chris Officially Apologizes to THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY: In my pre-game post I mistakenly said I thought it was only nominated for Best Director, but it had quite a few nominations (at least 3). This is one I can't wait to see.
Does Anyone Write Any Original Songs Anymore? Because really, three nominations for ENCHANTED? And they all sucked (at least as presented last night)? Over-bloated productions and the same de-clawed sentiment that has plagued Disney music for years. Original songs in movie are increasingly rare when more and more films are noted for their use of existing music to accentuate the performances and story. Although I've made no effort to hide my all-encompassing love for ONCE and for "Falling Slowly" in particular (hooray and congratulations!), I gotta admit the gospel song from AUGUST RUSH was pretty sweet. I suspect Aretha Franklin pulled that 11-year old girl out of her throat and plopped her down to sing. I'm sure ENCHANTED is a good movie, and the music works in the framework of the film, but alone they felt shallow and empty.
Oscar Goes International: If there's one thing I do give this year's awards credit for, it's the rich and diverse list of both nominations and winners. Acting, set and costume design, short features...the world is a wonderfully diverse place, and it was finally recognized this year.
Affleck Gets Shafted: It just bears mentioning again, but Ben Affleck did a superb job adapting and directing GONE BABY GONE. That movie should have gotten more love. Speaking of being shafted, how about that brief moment in the montages when we saw Issac Hayes performing the theme song to SHAFT? See, the Oscars used to be cool!
Predictability: No big surprises this year - everyone you though was going to win pretty much won. I loved that Marion Cotillard won for LA VIE EN ROSE, and the joy on her face as well as Javier Bardem when they accepted their awards was wonderful. The only real blip on my radar was Tilda Swinton winning Best Supporting Actress. her speech was great (George Clooney's nipples referenced), I think partially due to her being completely surprised by her win. Truth be told I was surprised, too: MICHAEL CLAYTON was a great film with amazing performances, but Swinton, who's usually spectacular, was merely OK in this one.
THE GOLDEN COMPASS OVER TRANSFORMERS? Huh? Look, I know that TRANSFORMERS gets a lot of crap from the fanboys and it was admittedly not a particularly deep film (like it was ever meant to be), but c'mon...those robots were INSANE. And to lose to a poorly rendered polar bear? This just didn't make any sense at all to me. Somewhere Optimus Prime is shedding a big, oily tear.
NO COUNTRY Wins Big: Was it four awards? The Coen Brothers have been excellent for so long, I'm glad they came and cleaned up this year. Best line of the night came courtesy of their win for Best Adapted Screenplay which they attributed to being very selective in their choice of adaptations: "Homer and Cormac McCarthy." It was great to see McCarthy in the audience smiling. Reading his novels I don't get the impression he's a big smiler. In any other year THERE WILL BE BLOOD would have swept everything. As it was it got two very much deserved awards (Best Actor and Best Cinematography), and the future isn't looking too shabby for Paul Thomas Anderson.
All in all, 2007 was a fantastic year for films. Even if the Oscars was a yawn.