Monday, February 28, 2011

An Oscarcast That Will Live in Infamy

It seems every year I write a variation on the same post about how the Oscars sucked in any given year. The banter's lame, the show's too long, the 20 minute interpretive dance number made absolutely no sense - there's always something to complain about. Which is why this year I had to stop for a moment and check the general consensus to make sure I'm not just repeating myself. Because in fact no, this year was not just the same old crap. This year really was particularly bad.

If you've read this blog at all in the past few months then you already know I think their choices for picture and director were awful. But what may have been less predictable is just how bad everything else was. I was skeptical of James Franco and Anne Hathaway as hosts, but figured they could somehow pull it off. Not so much. Rather than using the charm of his talk show bit in 127 Hours, James Franco came off as stiff and monotone the whole time, like he didn't want to be there. And while I think Anne Hathaway has the right energy for the job and could make a good host someday, she just wasn't given any good material. Plus somehow everyone I've talked to who watched the show thought they were high.

Nobody else did any better in trying to come up with something memorable. Kirk Douglas hijacked the show for about ten minutes. Then Melissa Leo hijacked it for another 15. How was she allowed to talk about nothing forever yet Aaron Sorkin got cut off after 30 seconds? Would a bad speech give the Academy the right to revoke her Oscar and give it to the far more deserving (and adorable) Hailee Steinfeld?

What else was there? I would applaud the return of the best song performances this year, except this had to be the worst year for best original song in my memory. The winner has to be the least memorable song Randy Newman has ever written. I admit that I did enjoy the auto-tuned Harry Potter, so I'll give them that. And the elimination of the long, pointless montages was a welcome decision. But that hardly makes up for what otherwise was an awkward, uncomfortable, and rather dull show.

The weak production puts even more focus on the awards themselves, which bucked the past four years' trend of actually rewarding good movies by taking us back to the '90s when any middling movie from Harvey Weinstein could win Best Picture. I had some hope Social Network might surprise when it went into the final four awards leading The King Sleeps 3-1. Clearly it wasn't a total lovefest if Speech wasn't getting the clean sweep.

But then something even the more pragmatic of Oscar predictors didn't expect happened: Tom Hooper won best director. A relative newbie whose direction was far from the best thing about the movie beat the vastly greater respected and more accomplished David Fincher, whose mark was on every frame of Social Network. It just doesn't really make sense. How did other directors make that decision? Who would pick him over ANY of the four other nominees? To be clear, I'm not saying Speech was poorly directed. It was perfectly adequately directed. But you could have handed that script to many a fellow Brit and gotten a similar result. The movie was a feat of writing and acting; not directing. And yet he's now an Oscar winner.

As for best picture, I had pretty much resigned myself to the inevitable, but it still sucks. I've already written enough about how strongly I feel The King's Speech is unworthy of the win, so I'll save you reading the same rant over again, but I still think it cheapens the meaning of the Oscars. Sure, we mock the Academy's choices every year and never take their decisions too seriously, but they had picked well for four years. Yet this year, joke institutions like the Golden Globes and the National Board of Review made better choices. What does that say of the validity of the Oscars as the highest award in the business?

Anyway, enough complaining. Goodbye 2010, hello 2011. Let's hope next year the Academy returns to awarding quality films instead of just sticking to their favorite subjects (British royals, Holocaust). And let's also hope The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is good, since David Fincher will probably win for it regardless. After all, he's now overdue. And that's how the Oscars work.

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