Monday, February 26, 2007

Rounding Out the Oscars

It's over and done with, and a year from now most people will forget who won what. The 79th Academy Awards was safe, soft, and for the most part uninteresting. Maybe 3-5 minutes worth of water cooler talk. A couple thoughts about what went down:

The Opening: As I watched I thought, "this feels like something Errol Morris would do." Nice to know I was right. A fresh start to the show. Not as gut-funny as John Stewart's opening last year, but good. I loved the whistling of PAN'S LABYRINTH over the end.

Ellen Degeneres: Warm, safe choice for the Awards. There was a weird dichotomy playing: she kept things moving along, but towards the end I couldn't believe we were reaching the 4 hour mark. The thing at the beginning with the tambourine and gospel signers sucked. I enjoyed the Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood bits, but though the vacuum cleaner at the end was a bit much. And you probably shouldn't confuse where Penelope Cruz is from when all anyone is talking about is how diverse the nomination slate was this year. I missed the "zazz," I missed the John Stewart.

Montages: Absolutely great this year - especially the Foreign Film montage. I added about 25 films to my Netflix queue on that one alone. Getting great directors to splice the pieces together was genius.

Crazy Choir Sound Effects: One of the coolest side pieces to be featured in the Academy Awards in a long time. In fact, this would be the highlight for me if it wasn't for...

Jack Black and Will Ferrel: Oh, man that was great. What was with Will Ferrel's hair? And having John C. Reilly jump out of the crowd to join them was hysterical. This should become a yearly tradition.

The Shadow Dancers: Creepy, weird, and just plain didn't make sense at times. There seemed to be no theme as to what movies they were doing. Although I would like to know what acted as the bullet firing when they did THE DEPARTED.

The Whole Thing With the Animated Films in the Seats: This has got to stop. The stupid "Oh look, they're actually IN the theater!" shot is incredibly annoying. Especially this year. And while we're at it: no more having animated characters present awards. Stupid stupid stupid.

And now for the actual awards themselves...

The Plight of PAN'S LABYRINTH: The more I read, the more reactionary pieces I read concerning the film. And that's just too damn bad - it was my favorite movie of the year. I'm glad for the three awards it got (one less than overall winner THE DEPARTED), but not getting Best Foreign Language Film? Granted I haven't seen THE LIVES OF OTHERS, but it didn't seem to press the boundaries of what possible in film like PAN'S did. But I'm willing to accept it. But a huge WTF? goes to losing out on Best Score. That is pure insanity. I'll talk about BABEL in a bit, but no way was that score better than the lyrical beauty composed by Javier Navarette.

The LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE Phenomenon: I've taken a lot of heat for this already, but I'll say it again - LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE was a really good film that had a lot of laughs. That's it. Best Picture worthy? Over CHILDREN OF MEN? Uh, no. Alan Arkin is a great character actor who hasn't been given his props. But does essentially playing the same grouchy eloquent character he plays in every movie, and in this movie for only half the film, deserve the win for Best Supporting Actor over Eddie Murphy and Djimon Hounsou? Again, I have to say "no."

Where the F--- was CHILDREN OF MEN?: My 2nd favorite film of the year gets completely shafted in the nominations this year. Oscar worthy in every sense of the word, but sadly overlooked. I weep.

HAPPY FEET over CARS for Best Animated Film: Hooray! CARS was a drag, and felt like Pixar was going by the numbers on that one. I didn't have a lot of love for any of the nominations, but was content to see CARS lose. Now let's get back on track with RATATOUILLE.

The DREAMGIRLS Conundrum: I haven't seen this yet, but all signs point to at the very least incredible performances by Eddie Murphy and Jennifer Hudson, as well as great music. So how did both Eddie and the music lose? And to a generic Melissa Etheridge song? What's going on in the world? Elsewhere, while I have no problem with Jennifer Hudson winning for Best Supporting Actress, I have to ask does anyone really think she'll do anything like that again? I don't want to knock her role (especially not having seen it), but I don't see her doing much else in that caliber again.

Whitaker is "King" and Mirren is Crazy: Best acceptance speech of the night. 2nd best would go to (in my mind) William Monahan for Best Adapted Screenplay. Helen Mirren's weirdness at the end of her acceptance speech left me bewildered and slightly put off. Every year the speeches become more and more boring, overdrawn and ridiculous. Sigh...

BABEL is Overhyped: This is my personal opinion, and I know I'm in the minority, but I wasn't impressed with BABEL. I'm going to watch it one more time and write up a larger review later on the site, but my first impression was that it was a by-the-numbers movie: great performances, but lacking focus and structure. You could see where everything was going from miles away (especially the Mexico sequence, which was outstanding in terms of acting but poor in terms of plotting), and the end in my opinion failed to tie it all up together (is the Morocco sequence with the shooter and his family resolved?). That being said, I thought the Tokyo sequence was fantastic, and the best part of the picture. Rincko Kikuchi's performance was breathtaking and heartbreaking, one of the more daring in a long times from a nominee.

The Scorsese 1-2 Knockout Punch: A lot of people are going to say that the Best Director award was given to Scorsese in a year when he maybe didn't deserve it. You know what? Screw you. How the Academy ignored this guy for so long is crap. And for my money THE DEPARTED was the best of the nominated films I saw this year, which is why it winning Best Picture was just fine in my book.

I guess a lesser Marty is still better than 95% of what else is out there.

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