22 February 2009

After Strong Start Oscars Revert to Form, Rewards Mediocrity

This year's annual Most Bloated Show on Earth (aka the Academy Awards) got off to a promising start. Penelope Cruz was awarded the best supporting actress award for her wonderful performance in Woody Allen's Vicky Christina Barcelona. Cruz had won the same award from this blogger.

Then the best original screenplay went to Dustin Lance Black for Milk (photo above). Not only was the statuette well deserved but he gave the acceptance speech of the night:

"Oh my God. This was, um, this was not an easy film to make. First off, I have to thank Cleve Jones and Anne Kronenberg and all the real-life people who shared their stories with me. And, um, Gus Van Sant, Sean Penn, Emile Hirsch, Josh Brolin, James Franco and our entire cast, my producers Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen, everyone at Groundswell and Focus for taking on the challenge of telling this life-saving story.

When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas to California, and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life. It gave me the hope one day I could live my life openly as who I am and then maybe even I could even fall in love and one day get married.

I wanna thank my mom, who has always loved me for who I am even when there was pressure not to. But most of all, if Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he'd want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told that they are less than by their churches, by the government or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights federally, across this great nation of ours.

Thank you. Thank you. And thank you, God, for giving us Harvey Milk".

Later the best supporting actor award went posthumously to Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight. It was a tearfest folks, even here at Riku Writes headquarters.

There followed a parade of awards for Slumdog Millionaire. It was a nice enough film but quite mediocre compared to the best movies of 2008. Its victory for adapted screenplay was particularly egregious given what an ultimately unchallenging story it was. This was your basic graphic novel stuff. Danny Boyle's direction was inventive but too gimmicky for my tastes yet he won the best director award.

Kate Winslet won best actress for the wrong movie. She would have been a worthy winner for Revolutionary Road although even that was only the second best performance of the year. Kristin Scott Thomas for I Loved Your For So Long gave the performance of the decade and the academy didn't even deem her worthy of a nomination. (I reckon it to be an Oscar mandate that Meryl Streep gets an annual nomination.)

Perhaps the most deserving winner of the evening was Sean Penn for Milk. He positively embodied the character of the late Harvey Milk. In his acceptance speech Penn called out all the bigots who supported California's Proposition 8 which bans gay marriage in California. The odious Ken Starr is trying to overturn those gay weddings that took place before the 8's passage.

The show itself was sadly lacking. Hugh Jackman seemed an odd choice as a host. He was charming but when you compare him to previous hosts such as Steve Martin and Jon Stewart, the Aussie wasn't anywhere near up to snuff. The tribute to those who died in the last year was ruined by the ridiculous decision to not just go full frame. We could barely see Cyd Charisse as the third grader who directed the segment at the point gave us a long shot of the screen. Saving Paul Newman until the end and including some of his dialogue was the only redeeming touch.

One of the things the Oscars traditionally does well is the clips from years past. There was virtually none of it this year save for the clever splicing of past winners with this year's best picture nominees.

So this year's Oscars were true to form. Variously infuriating, boring, touching and interesting. Like an accident, I hate myself for watching, but how could I have looked away?


Skitch said...

This was the first year ever where I almost just didn't care what or who won.

My only hope was that Heath Ledger would win posthumously and that hope was rewarded.

I remember last year sitting on the edge of my seat, debating on what was the better film...No Country For Old Men (flawed more than people think but extremely well done) or There Will Be Blood (just as flawed but without the poor ending or contrived plot device to set the wheels in motion).

In the end, the year gave us two excellent films that I fondly recall, but neither would end up on my list of the top 50 films of all time.

When it comes to watching movies at this point, I rely on a catchphrase from one of the best "B" movies ever...

"Thrill me!"
--Detective Ray Cameron, Night of the Creeps

The girl who used to dress up to watch the oscars in the living room said...

nice recap, I feel like I was there watching it with you, enjoying most of the moments you didn't. (see titanic winning 11 oscars)
Though maybe not, since I'm almost positive I didn't see a single nominated film. It's a hard life when your too poor for the movie theaters.

Anonymous said...

Hey, dress-up girl. I really missed you during the Oscars. You're the only one who will sit and watch it straight through in real time with me. Someone tried to arrange it so we taped it and then watched later so we could "fast forward." I was having none of that, of course.

I understand your Dad's frustration with the "Slumdog" landslide. I'm still mad that "Chariots of Fire" won over "Reds" -- even though years later I came to love Chariots of Fire and have watched it maybe 8 times.

Just for old time's sake:

Jack: Never let go.
Rose: I'll never let go. I'll never let go, Jack.