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?