Tuesday 26 February 2008

Oscars, Two

Well, let's try this for the second year in a row. First of all, just in case that the fact that I actually write about the Awards disturbs people and makes them think that I believe that an Oscar has any meaning at all when it comes to whether or not I like a movie - It does not. Most of the movies I love never received a nomination, much less actually got an Oscar. I like the Awards because it gives you, for a few hours each year, the possibility to root for your favourite movie people, to actually confirm the notion that the people you like really are cooler than the rest of 'em. The only really good thing about the Oscars is that, to the smallest possible extent, it gives the 40 million American viewers a small insight that there is actually more going on than just the big movies - that there's all different kinds of really, really cool short movies, documentaries and, most of all, foreign films, even if the Academy only recognizes 5 of, let's say, about 100 000 possible choices from all over the world. The choices made by the Academy in the past years barely reflects which movies actually remained relevant. The best example is the Best Picture category: Since 2000, all-time-classics such as Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, Chicago, the third part of Lord of the Rings, Million Dollar Baby, Crash and The Departed won. That is not to say that these movies are bad, per se, but they haven't really become a reference point or even give a good insight into which topics have been really important lately. Because, you know, those movies usually win Script, or Best Director, or nothing at all.
The past two years were considerably more entertaining for several reasons, and I am saying that in spite of the fact that the two most recognized movies this year really amaze me. First of all, Jon Stewart's jokes were not very good. You felt the resentment in the air: of just having ended a strike with the remaining bitterness of the writers for not being recognized enough, despite all improvements. And, of course, the election. But Stewart walks a thin line between not being very elegant about his jokes and just being so obvious and in-your-face that it's not even good anymore, and this time, he just fell. It didn't work for me the way it did two years ago. And there were too many clips, and it was altogether not very enjoyable, which seems to be a general sentiment.
But, let's get back to the good stuff. I was wrong with many of my predictions, but in retrospect I would actually exchange my Supporting Actress wish/prediction-list: I was so happy that the Award went to Tilda Swinton. I like Cate Blanchett, and two of the funniest moments of the evening occurred when she smirked about which clips they decided to show from "Elizabeth" and "I'm Not There" (and rightly so, that was a not a very good choice), but Tilda Swinton is an amazing actress who is probably not going to be in roles which get a nomination very often in the future and she gave the best speech of the evening. Because that kind of attitude really is the only one I can stand: Being slightly ironic about how ridiculous everything is. Or alternatively, like Ellen Page: She was just happy to have been in that movie, and the whole Oscar-thing seemed to be something she had to do, but didn't particularly enjoy.
The second time I actually felt pretty happy, after the fact that "Ratatouille" really did prove that Pixar is unbeatable left a sour taste in my mouth, was when Diablo Cody won Best Original Script. I felt sorry for Sarah Polley: Her movie should have won at least in that category, but in addition to not recognizing Polley's script, they also decided to give Best Actress to the, well, let's call it "surprising" candidate. And Diablo Cody called Ellen Page "Super-Human". Like I said. It is nice if your notion of coolness is confirmed in such an event.
What else? I ended up feeling sorry for Amy Adams when "Enchanted" really didn't get the Award for best Song. I saw it coming, but she tried so hard, and in the end, she seemed to be so horribly nervous when presenting (and in my head, I remembered how she had played Tara's cousin in Buffy, because I always enjoy having some kind of Joss-Whedon-link). The presenters generally were either badly prepared, or drunk, or had some other kind of temporary inability to, well, act professional. Barely anything can stop Seth Rogen from being funny, but seeing the best Hollywood actors and actresses failing miserably on stage to read from a teleprompter felt so horribly awkward. Next year, they should animate all presenters. Except for those who already look animated, like The Rock. It is such a weird feeling if these people you only know from the media, who seem so distant and so very much unhuman, suddenly cause so much awkwardness. They are not supposed to do that, it makes me uncomfortable.
Oh, that Best song Award ended up going to Glen Hansard (of the Irish band "The Frames") and Marketa Irglova for the song "Falling Slowly" in "Once". And something really annoying finally got so bad that Jon Stewart intervened: most of the technical Awards go to group of people, from two to five or six. With about 20 seconds of time to thank people, usually only one person managed to say something, the others had to leave the stage without having said a word. In the case of Best Song, this meant that Glen managed to get a few words across, and as soon as the beaming, visibly shaken Irglova came even close to the microphone, the orchestra started to play and she was shooed off-stage. Jon Stewart told her to come back after the next commercial break and she held one of the best emotional speeches of all. I thought that the Writer's Strike had been an obvious signal that films are made up from more than good directors and well-known-actors, that they are a collaborative effort of thousands of dedicated, talented specialists without whom nothing would work. The least they could do if they pretend to recognize that with the Awards is by giving the winners enough time to thank their family and friends. It's not like these time-filling, completely irrelevant clip shows provide entertainment for the viewers.

So, some last words to this enormously long entry about something I don't actually care for: why did I feel so happy about the Award going to "Juno", while I am very conscious that these nice small Indie movies are as much a marketing trick to capture a certain target group as the big action movies are. Because "Juno" feels different from "Garden State" and "Little Miss Sunshine". Maybe just because it involved Kimya Dawson, who, after the success of the movie, couldn't really deal with all the new people coming to her shows, destroying the familiar feeling. Maybe just the fact that they used a Cat Power song made it likeable (that worked for "V for Vendetta"). Maybe I just like to be a target group for a change? I feel like this was a nod to those who mourn the end of "Arrested Development", who can't really accept the fact that High School movies should feature people like Lindsey Lohan instead of smart, weird and undeniably cool people (and then actually having these people played by really cool actors and actresses). I grew up watching "Daria" and "Freaks and Geeks", those were the shows I could relate to. "Juno" still represents the belief that High School students can be smart and intelligent (even if they sometimes make stupid decisions).

Some smaller things:

- at some point during the Red Carpet show I silently thought to myself, "wait, was that Jodie Foster with her girlfriend sneaking through in the background?", and then spent a good part of the remaining, boring night considering whether or not you are now officially allowed to even say "Jodie Foster and her girlfriend".
- when Owen Wilson came on stage you felt a hush going through the audience of fellow famous people thinking "I wonder how Owen is doing"
- they didn't put Brad Renfro into the Remember-the-dead-people-thing and for some minutes I actually thought that they had finally decided not to awkwardly clap, but then it turned out they just didn't clap at the beginning because they weren't any famous people and the awkward, bitter "I wonder when Heath Ledger will come up" actually took until the very end.
- Nicole Kidman looked weird.
- John Travolta's hair looked weird but at least he can make fun of himself, quite in contrast to some other Scientology-people who apparantly have been shunned from the Hollywood neighbourhood
- When Katherine Heigl came on stage it took some seconds to realize she wasn't Charlize Theron
- Every year, I have to admit that George Clooney probably deserves all the attention he gets. Also, they should never stop making fun of his Batman-dress (thank you, Tilda Swinton)
- Penelope Cruz pronounced "Ruzowitzky" better than some of the Austrian newspapers did today.
- too many red dresses (and one "I'd feel more comfortable in Converse")

NY Times - ‘No Country for Old Men’ Wins Oscar Tug of War
Die Zeit - "And the award goes to ..."

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