Hello all! Now that the quasi-hiatus is behind us, we can get back to current events. So, today, I'm going to get to the thing everyone's talking about (or at least talking about not talking about), the Oscars. The 2006 awards were all handed out last night, and there was some great choices (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and some not-so-great choices (Memoirs of a Geisha over The New World, or over Batman Begins for cinematography?). The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences can be a hard group to take seriously. They passed up chances to anoint modern classics like Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction, Shawshank Redemption, or LA Confidential, in order to give the Best Picture nod to, respectively, Dances with Wolves, Forrest Gump, and Titanic. All of the films in these cases were actually good movies, I thought, but they were also not the best film of their respective years. So in 2006, we were lucky that Munich, the best film released this past year, was nominated at all. It looked to be a close thing there at the end of the nominating process. A lot of folks in Hollywood would have been happy to see Munich drop off the face of the earth, but it gutted it out and managed to make the top five list after all. But because Munich was the best film of last year, of COURSE it wouldn't win. But Crash? Not even Brokeback, but Crash? Inexplicable.
I'm not sure what to make of Crash winning the big award. I'm still not even sure what I think of this movie. I guess the reason I don't know what to think about Crash is because I never thought much about it after I saw it in the theater. It isn't the kind of movie that stays with you, at least it didn't stay with me. Crash seems to be more about a message than about a particular story, (and is that ever good?) and the message in Crash seems to be "racism is bad, but not all racists are bad people." Or maybe it's "racists are bad people, but sometimes bad people do good things"? I don't know. Is it the best movie of last year? Not by a long shot.
As for the award show itself, it presented once more the eternal Academy Award show conundrum -- how do you make this crap interesting? From the looks of things, making the proceedings watchable seems to be really damn hard. How do you perform almost universally awful "Best" Song nominees without boring everyone? The producer of the show, Gill Cates, seems to think interpretive dance is sometimes the answer, which he did with the performance of the first ever rap song nominee. But isn't it never the answer?
Another difficulty: how to get the largely humorless audience of actors and producers and film execs that comprise the Oscars audience to laugh? Doesn't seem to matter which comedic genius you throw at them, they're going to greet the guy with dull grins and muted, polite laughter.
And maybe the biggest challenge: how to make the often mind-numbing acceptance speeches acceptable. This year, Cates decided to play soft orchestral music over the winners' entire speech, instead of just at the end to get them the hell off the stage. I guess he did this to make everyone feel like they had just 5 seconds to finish during the whole of their alloted 30 seconds, resulting in super-rushed sounding speeches. I don't particularly enjoy hearing the soulless, award-acceptor-bot Hillary Swank, for example, thanking her cadre of lawyers, (as she did last year), but I don't know if limiting everyone to 30 or 60 seconds is quite the answer either. I know it's not a major deal for Reese Witherspoon to have only a minute to thank everyone who needs thanking, but for a lot of the winners, especially some of the technical guys or the animated short guys, this is the culmination of their professional lives. It sucks that some of them don't even get the oppotunity to say a single thing.
I guess a good Oscar show is like a good World Series: it depends on who's up that year. If great movies people care about are nominated (and have the added value of actually being good), and the Academy hires a good host who can nimbly riff on whatever happens on-stage, then you got the makings of a good show, but not even that guarantees it. The law of averages dictates that most Oscar shows are going to be, in the words of Mel Gibson, "as boring as a dog's ass."