Well, all in all, I was happy with how things went at last night's OSCAR AWARDS.
- Not only were a good chunk of my predictions (see my picks from last week's post) correct, but more importantly, the right movie won for Best Picture - that being THE HURT LOCKER. Given that there seemed to be some backlash around the film in recent weeks, I was a little worried. But ultimately, I felt good that Kathryn Bigelow's masterpiece would take home the prize. And it did. Speaking of Bigelow, her win for Best Director is just plain cool. I love that the first female director to win the Best Director trophy has had a career that defies gender or easy stereotypes. This to me is inspirational - a woman who, with her diverse filmography, represents the idea that you have to go out there and tell stories about what resonates with you. This is the woman who brought us Point Break, Near Dark, and Strange Days. And she just won an Oscar for one of the most intense and badass war movies ever made. That's awesome, and the Oscar was well-deserved. Drew McWeeney wrote a nice essay about Bigelow over on Hitfix, and I really agree with his premise - that so many times, it seems like pop culture underestimates women. Give the girls and women the chick flicks and the rom-coms, and leave the serious stuff to the men. And slowly, girls start to just accept the fact that the cheesy chick-flicks are all that they are "supposed" to like, let alone create. Meanwhile, here's a woman in Bigelow who directed one of the most brutal vampire movies ever made, who brought us an adrenaline-fueled crime movie with Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze, and who now delivered this past summer's best and most explosive (literally) action movie. I'm not saying that all women filmmakers should be out there creating action flicks and genre films. But, I think it's great that there is a woman out there who's doing just that, and showing up her male counterparts in the process. And as relates to the Oscars, I think this is a case where, if I honestly didn't know who directed each of the nominated films, I'd still say "yep, Hurt Locker is the one." So again, congrats.
- Otherwise, I thought the show was pretty well-done as far as Academy Awards shows go. Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin were fine as the hosts - some funny bits scattered throughout the show, with a somewhat old-timey, vaudevillian vibe to the comedy. It seems like no matter who the host is in a given year, you can always count on the Oscars for a dose of vintage Vegas night club-style antics. The jokes were sometimes funny but usually pretty stale. Dolly Parton jokes? Jokes about all the Jews in the room? Even Robin Williams' obligatory joke about all the balls being held in Hollywood felt like one of those old standbys that was probably told at the Oscars thirty years ago by Charles Nelson Reilly or something.
- But, I really enjoyed the various tribute segments at this year's show. The John Hughes piece in particular was great, and actually kind of gave me chills. Hughes is the classic example of a guy whose movies were never really Oscar movies but who nonetheless made comedies that defined a generation, comedies that made people like me love movies and want to make them. Seeing former Hughes stars come out to pay tribute to him was one of the better Oscar moments in a while. And, even though the occasion was a sad one, it was great seeing a segment on the show that so clearly focused on great movies. Not necessarilly movies made to win awards, but movies that affected and inspired people, which of course is what making movies is, or should be, all about anyways.
- Meanwhile, the Horror montage was decent - loved all the old Universal horror monsters, Evil Dead, etc., but it felt slightly half-hearted, lacking some of the more iconic moments you might have expected.
- One thing I didn't like - and that's this new tradition of having stars come out to speak on behalf of each of the Best Actor and Actress nominees. Do I really need to hear Stanley Tucci joke (I think?) about how he's always been in love with Meryl Streep? Look, these are awards for acting, not humanitarianism. I think it's unfair and semi-obnoxious to feature these speeches which tend to veer away from acting and into personal anecdotes about the character of the nominees. I feel like there are other and better ways to fill up the broadcast.
Back to the awards though ... again, no *huge* surprises ...
- Probably the biggest surprises for me were in the two screenplay categories. I didn't think The Hurt Locker would win there, but once it did you knew it was probably going to be The Hurt Locker's night. But, I was cool with the screenplay win. It was, I think, an amazing script. It's not a script that's transparent in the same fashion as A Serious Man or Inglourious Basterds. But it's dramatic, brilliantly-structured, perfectly paced for maximum intensity and payoff. It was a well-deserved win. For adapted screenplay, I was also a bit surprised that Precious won. But, it was a powerful movie with a powerful script, and it's a script filled with memorable and dramatic moments. It's another one that I think is a well-deserved win, even if it wasn't my top choice or predicted winner.
-I was excited to see Jeff Bridges win even though I thought this should have been Jeremy Renner's year. But Bridges is the man, and he was superb in Crazy Heart. I only wish he had ended his speech by saying: "And oh yeah, one more thing ... The Dude abides, man!"
- I don't really have anything against Sandra Bullock. And I haven't seen The Blind Side. I want to see it eventually, but I don't know, it's just hard for me to buy that this was the female peformance of the year. I thought Gabourey should have won. But, I liked Sandra's acceptance speech, and I do think that she is one of many actresses who in their careers have gotten typecast and ultimately shafted by Hollywood, which rarely comes up with great female leading roles.
- No big surprise that Up won for animated film. Despite the fact that I actively rooted for Coraline and/or The Princess and the Frog, I still love Pixar and am glad that they are out there continually making innovative movies. And I loved the one guy from Pixar's speech about how dedicating our life to creativity is not a waste of time. As someone who's been told over and over that my creative pursuits are, in fact, a waste of time, I say ... THANK YOU, SIR.
- Mo'nique deservedly won for her amazing turn in Precious. And you know, I actually admire the fact that she sort of stayed away from the Hollywood political machine to some extent in terms of promoting the movie. It's a good test case to show that the PR machine may not really matter as much as some might want it to at the end of the day. Still, yikes ... I wish I could un-see Mo'niques interview with Barbara Walters after the show. A bit disturbing, to say the least.
- I know that Christoph Waltz was a shoe-in, but man, even just from watching the highlight reel of his role in Basterds, I couldn't help but think "good lord, he freaking ruled in that movie." Waltz was incredible, an award well-deserved.
- Speaking of Inglourious Basterds, it's interesting. I think Tarantino's movies are really hard to quantify, so to speak. I love his films, and Basterds is one of his best. But I think he'll always have trouble winning an Oscar because his movies are less about being conventionally "good" and more about appealling to a certain geeky "this is awesome" sensibility. His movies can be a bit messy, a bit all over the place, but that's why we love them. At the same time, it'd be almost weird if he actually won an Oscar, as Tarantino's movies celebrate the very movies that the Oscars typically ignore - pulp fiction, crime, grindhouse movies, genre movies. Still, it's fun seeing Tarantino at the show, and in the mix. Him being there is a constant reminder that, sure, we have our grand period pieces and melodramas and epics. But let's not forget about the movies that get dirty, that get raw, that get pulpy. Suffice it to say, when the show cut to QT applauding after the horror-film highlight reel, it felt all-too appropriate.
- I feel almost similarly about District 9. This was a gritty movie. A dark movie. It was 100% geeky in the best way possible. I don't think Oscar is quite ready for a movie like District 9 just yet, but I'm glad it was there in the running, as a reminder of "this is what's coming, this is what's cool."
- All that said, I guess it is kind of amazing that The Hurt Locker - a gritty, violent war movie -actually won Best Picture.
- By the way, I cracked up at Barbara Streisand opening the envelope and announcing Bigelow for Best Director. She got all verklempt.
- And yeah, I guess this wasn't The Coen Bros.' year to win. Part of that is how under-the-radar A Serious Man was. I don't get why the movie received such an uneventful and limited release. To me though, it was one of the absolute best movies of 2009, and it's another one where, even if it didn't win, I'm happy that it was right there in the race for Best Picture.
- It's funny, I joked about Logorama winning, but it actually looks sort of amazing. I'll have to check it out.
- Was Ben Stiller speaking Hebrew while dressed as an alien from Avatar?
- Would have liked to have seen the Roger Corman tribute on the main telecast. A highlight reel of some of his best and/or crazies films would have been a lot of fun.
Finally, here's a list of some of my favorite movies from 2009 that received NO nominations, yet are still very much great films worth checking out:
- Observe & Report
- Anvil: The Story of Anvil
- Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
- Drag Me to Hell
- Paranormal Activity
- The Road
- The Invention of Lying
- Pirate Radio
- House of the Devil
And on that note, that's all for now. Stay tuned for more, very soon!