Monday, February 25, 2013

Movie Monday: The Academy Awards Edition

I've pretty much decided, after reading some of the comments about Seth McFarlane's turn hosting the Academy Awards last night, that no one, ever, is going to get good reviews, ever again, for doing what is turning out to be a thankless job.

Yeah, he did some tasteless jokes. And while the "Boob Song" wasn't really that funny, people seem to be missing the point that it was supposed to be offensive. It was, sort of. But it wasn't the worst part of the evening. I suppose some people were also offended when McFarlane said that Rex Reed would be out soon to review Melissa McCarthy's stint, with Paul Rudd, as a presenter. The way I read that joke, though, he was insulting Rex Reed and not McCarthy at all after Reed's recent review of McCarthy's most recent film, in which he called McCarthy "fat", among other things, thus confirming the impression Reed gave when he was a regular on all the talk shows in the late 1960s, which is that he is an insufferable jerk.

In fact, to be honest, when I read about the kerfluffle over that review, my first reaction was, "What? Is he still alive?"

This is not to say that McCarthy's and Rudd's routine when they presented the award for Best Animated Short film was any good. In fact, I was disappointed in it and think it was one of the lowlights of the evening. Right up there with John Travolta mangling the pronunciation of "Les Miserables" and the silly thing that the cast of "The Avengers" did when they presented the award for Achievement in Cinematography (I think; I'd slowed way down on taking notes by then).

On the other hand, as far as I'm concerned, there were more highlights than lowlights in the show. Honestly, it was the first Academy Awards show in several years that kept me interested enough that I didn't end up channel-surfing by about 45 minutes into the ceremonies. For one thing, there didn't seem to be a big gap between any of the awards. Usually, there comes a place in the middle of the show when they seem to go for ages without presenting an award. Last night's show, however, kept up a decent pace all the way through, from the opening on.

I've also noticed from the morning-after reviews that I saw, that some people objected to the inclusion of William Shatner as Captain Kirk, traveling back in time from the 23rd century to warn McFarlane that he had gone down in history as the worst host ever. Well, I'm not anything like a Shatner fan, but I am a huge "Star Trek" fan, and I loved that aspect of the opening. I also liked Charlize Theron and Channing Tatum dancing, as well as Daniel Radcliffe and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's song-and-dance to "High Hopes", not a song I generally enjoy. The Sally Field thing was a little muddled and a bit too long but, as usual, nothing is perfect.

Overall, I didn't think Seth McFarlane was a wonderful choice to host (then again, I miss Johnny Carson, who hosted several times), but I'll take him over Billy Crystal (who I'm not a big fan of) any day. Maybe this is because I am apparently the only person in the known universe who, before last night, was not familiar at all with any of McFarlane's work and so did not have an opinion of him going in. At least, he wasn't anywhere near as objectionable as Ricky Gervais in his recent turns hosting the Golden Globes.

The thing is, McFarlane did get off some great lines, such as when he addressed all the nominees by saying, "So, you got nominated for an Oscar. Something a nine-year-old can do." Because, you know, that's just what Quvenzhane Wallis did, for her role in "Beasts of the Southern Wild". But his best wasn't even really much of a line. He said, "The next presenter needs no introduction." And then he walked off, and Meryl Streep came onstage. Brilliant, only because he didn't go on to introduce her and because she really does need no introduction.

I was especially surprised that the show last night held my attention because I haven't seen any of the nominees. Or so I thought. It turns out that I have seen two of the nominees for Best Animated Feature. I recently saw "Para-Norman", and I also recently saw the winning entry, "Brave". Still, that's not much. I've heard enough about the nominees, though, that I did have some favorites, and some of them even won.

Chief among those favorites was the winning Best Picture, "Argo". It is the only one of the films nominated for Best Picture that I'm really looking forward to seeing. Oh, I'd like to see "Lincoln" and "Zero Dark Thirty", but other than that, not so much. I think "Silver Linings Playbook" might be a good film, and I'm sort of interested to see "Django Unchanied", but I mostly want to see that Tarantino film because I'm curious to know if it is as objectionable as I've heard it is.

And, even though I've heard it is very objectionable, I was kind of glad to see that Quentin Tarantino won the award for Best Original Screenplay. This is mostly because I have no interest in any of the other films nominated in that category, with the possible exception of "Moonrise Kingdom", but that's only because Wes Anderson's films (he was nominated for writing this one along with Roman Coppola) seem to always be so eccentric. Coppola, by the way, is the sixth person in his family to be nominated for an Academy Award.

In a bit of a surprise, Best Director went to Ang Lee for "Life of Pi". I think most people thought, with Ben Affleck not getting nominated for his direction of "Argo" even though he seems to have won just about every other directing award this season for his efforts on the film, that Steven Spielberg would probably win for his direction of "Lincoln".

Because I was rooting for "Argo", I was also happy to see that Chris Terrio won Best Adapted Screenplay for that film, again just because it seems like such an interesting movie. I was also glad to see that the Best Documentary Feature award went to "Searching for Sugar Man". Again, I haven't seen it but, as I've written here before, I've read some things about it that make it sound very interesting to me. I'm kind of left wondering, though, if "The Invisible War" was handicapped by the fact that there has been so much controversy surrounding it. There were some very vocal objections to it because the documentary, which is about sexual assault in the US military, focused almost exclusively on the women who have been assaulted and almost completely ignored that there have been men who have also been subject to sexual assault in the military.

I was a little disappointed that "Fresh Guacamole" didn't win the award for Best Animated Short Film. I saw what I suspect was the whole thing on CBS "Sunday Morning" yesterday, and it is brilliant and cool. I don't know anything about the other nominees in the category, but I can't imagine how they could top this little gem.

I really didn't have any favorites in the acting categories, other than I kind of hoped that Philip Seymour Hoffman would have won as Best Supporting Actor, for his role in "The Master", just on general principles because he is currently my favorite actor and has been wonderful in everything I've ever seen him in, from "Twister" (which is the first thing I ever saw him in) on. He didn't win; Christoph Waltz did, for his role in "Django Unchained". I was happy to see Anne Hathaway win for her role in "Les Miserables", because I've never seen her in a role where I didn't like her acting. On the other hand, it would have been interesting to see what Sally Field would have said if she had won, since her line about the Academy "really liking me" the last time she won has become so iconic.

It was really no surprise that Daniel Day-Lewis won the award as Best Actor in a Leading Role. I think everyone was convinced that it was the only logical outcome, although there was some buzz both for Hugh Jackman and Bradley Cooper. I loved Day-Lewis's comments when he accepted the award, which was handed to him by Meryl Streep. In case you didn't watch, he did this extended comment about how originally, he had been slated to play Margaret Thatcher (which Streep did recently in "Iron Lady") and that Streep had been scheduled to play Lincoln. And then he said, "I'd like to see that version." Day-Lewis also thanked his wife, saying that in the 16 years they've been married, she's had to live with quite a collection of strange men, commenting on his reputation that when he's making a film, he stays in his character 24/7. It is also worth noting that with last night's win, Day-Lewis becomes the only actor in history for winning the Best Actor in a Leading Role award three times. The other two were for "My Left Food" and "There Will Be Blood".

Day-Lewis is going to to have to come up with another award-winning leading role, however, to even equal Katherine Hepburn's four Academy Awards as Best Actress in a Leading Role. She won for "Morning Glory" in 1933, for "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" in 1968, for "The Lion in Winter" in 1969 (when she tied with Barbra Streisand, who won for "Funny Girl"), and for "On Golden Pond" in 1982.

Best Actress in a Leading Role went to Jennifer Lawrence for her role in "Silver Linings Playbook". The audience gave her a standing ovation after she stumbled on the stairs as she made her way to the stage to accept the award.

"Skyfall", with music and lyrics by Adele Adkins and Paul Epworth, from the James Bond film "Skyfall", won as Best Original Song, which also pleased me, simply because it sounds like a Bond song should sound. "Skyfall" actually won two Oscars last night, the other in a tie with "Zero Dark Thirty" for Best Sound Editing. As many have commented this morning, that's a lot of Academy Awards for a Bond film..

There was also a tribute to 50 years of Bond films, with Dame Shirley Bassey present to sing what is probably the best-known of the Bond songs, "Goldfinger". At the beginning of her performance, her voice sounded a bit shaky, but I'm going to blame that on nerves, because she soon sounded more confident and gave a performance that received a standing ovation. It is also notable that Barbra Streisand sang "The Way We Were" in a tribute to composer Marvin Hamlisch, who died recently. Streisand was in great voice and, at age 70, doesn't seem to have lost a bit of her voice to age.

I think I've covered most of the major categories, most of the highlights, and most of the lowlights. "Life of Pi" won the most awards on the night, with four. "Argo" won three awards, as did "Les Miserables". "Lincoln", "Skyfall", and "Django Unchained" each won two. So, none of the films can claim to have swept the awards.

No comments: