Some thoughts on the Oscars

The 80th annual Academy Awards went on. After being threatened for weeks by the strike, it was resolved and all ended well and the awards happened and here are some thoughts so I can end this ridiculous run on sentence before I completely lose my mind.

Jon Stewart was, I thought, an amusing host. Much more comfortable and relaxed than the last time – and much funnier. Apparently not everyone agrees with me. Oh well. Did miss the best bit from his last time: the political smear ads among the acting nominees (“Judi Dench took my eye out in a bar fight.” Anyone?) which would have been ever so appropriate this year of all years. The lines about the strike (the Vanity Fair line is brilliant) and the upcoming election were spot on. For the record: My favorite line of his, one that reduced us to pure hysteria: “Normally when you see a black man or a woman president, an asteroid is about to hit the Statue of Liberty.”

Tilda Swinton provided an amusing upset over my beloved Cate Blanchett (who can really do no wrong and whom I adore). However, this was an incredibly strong category, and one that was pretty much impossible to peg, so I have bear no ill-will. Swinton’s stellar restrained work in Michael Clayton is a master class in finding nuance and character in what otherwise would have been a complete caricature of a shrewy harridan. Her speech is one of the most offbeat and amusing I have ever heard in my life. (If you thought her Hefty-bag themed dress was atrocious, Youtube her recent BAFTA win to see the garish insect costume she wore to that event…) Horrid styles aside, she seems like quite the amusing personality.

Javier Bardem was incredibly classy – and also completely terrifying and fascinating in No Country. He’s also going to be Guido Contini in the upcoming film adaptation of Nine; with Marion Cotillard as Luisa.

– The Coen brothers win for Best Adapted Screenplay for No Country for Old Men. I immediately get a phone call telling me I am on TV (in the personage of Ethan Coen). For the record, my brother Patrick is more of a dead ringer than I. But I’ll take it (and the Oscar too, thank you).

Marion Cotillard wins for Best Actress over my beloved Julie Christie. Not quite the upset that some would make it out to be. But I have never seen an actor more relieved not to win than Christie. As the announcement comes closer you can see her getting insular and practically shrinking. They announce Cotillard and there is this moment where she kind of feels like a weight has been lifted and then goes completely nuts applauding Marion’s win. Have I mentioned, I adore Julie Christie in practically every way? Possibly the most fascinating and coolest movie star that ever lived. Cate Blanchett, nominated for being awesome in a crapfest, looks like she was about to jump out of her seat to give her a hug, she was so ecstatic. Gotta love those British actors; not only do they deliver the goods, they certainly keep it real. It’s the first time a French performance has been awarded an acting Oscar; and the first foreign language victory in this category since Sophia Loren made Two Women in 1961. My other question: why did they present this one so early? They would have done better to get predictable Best Actor out of the way and let us have some surprise toward the end.

– Note how each song from Enchanted fell flat. Amy Adams showed up, but apparently the set and a concept didn’t. It felt like watching a stellar actress at work in an acting studio. Kristin Chenoweth phoned in on hers and I wish they got someone who could sing for the third song. Really pitiful presentation on all parts.

– “Falling Slowly” was beautifully performed by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. Once may be my favorite film of 2007 and quite possibly a contender for my all-time favorite list. “Falling Slowly” is a lovely song and very affecting, but it’s even more emotionally stirring when seen in context. I was so thrilled when they won, possibly my favorite category of the evening. Then to top it off the Oscars took an unprecedented step and allowed Marketa, who was cut off just as she was about to open her mouth, to come out and have her say. (Classy move, Oscar, classy move). Two beautiful and humble speeches by two of my new favorite people. See Once. Stewart had one of the best quips of the night with “Wow, that guy is so arrogant!” following Glen’s half of the acceptance.

– Did no one tell Katherine Heigl you should never apologize for being nervous before you do anything in show business, ever? She was a total wreck, and we were all the more obvious because she blatantly pointed it out first. Doubt we’ll be seeing her try live theatre any time soon…. and we’re probably the better for it.

– I could listen to Daniel Day-Lewis speak all day. He is one of the most articulate actors I have ever heard in my life. He also has one of the most staggeringly extensive vocabularies of anyone I’ve heard speak in my life. His performance in There Will Be Blood is one of the most mesmerizing star turns I’ve seen in a film in years. Though I hear he’s fearfully method, I wish he would act more. I guess a return to the stage is out of order. But I was amused to read he cobbles in his free time.

– I’ve realized with time that I really hated Atonement. The more I think about it the more I dislike it. Though, the score was admittedly creative, with all that unique type-writer in the orchestration. Glad it didn’t win anything else (even costumes). One stand-out green dress doesn’t mean the entire thing should be awarded; I was rooting for Sweeney Todd or La Vie en Rose. I was surprised that they awarded it to Elizabeth: The Golden Age especially since no one seemed to like it.

– Enjoyed Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway presenting. In fact seeing the two of them play off each other so well makes me just a little more excited for the upcoming Get Smart (damn you marketing experts!) I thought the Adapted Screenplay exchange between Josh Brolin and James McAvoy was highly amusing.

– Anyone notice that Charles Lane and Brad Renfro were absent from the “In Memorium.” Lane was a reliable character actor; normally called on to play a heavy of sorts, almost always a walk-on or minor supporting bit, yet always memorable. Born in 1902, he made his film debut in an uncredited role in 1931. He worked for decades, dying last year at the age of 102. Many of his film appearances include the Best Picture winner of 1938 You Can’t Take it With You (as the frustrated IRS man), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Ball of Fire, It’s a Wonderful Life, State of the Union, The Music Man, and many others. A friend of Lucille Ball, he appeared in guest spots on her three hit sitcoms, and is probably best known on TV as the scheming Homer Bedloe on Petticoat Junction. He was also a founding member of the television academy, the Screen Actor’s Guild and when awarded by TV Land on his hundredth birthday, he announced to the crowd “I’m still available.” His last credit was narration for the 2006 short The Night Before Christmas. I think a 75 year career as a reliable and recognizable actor is worthy of a few seconds of time. (Yet they had time for agents? Did any of us know who they were? Or, all due respect, care?). In the case of Mr. Renfro, he was a more recognizable actor and his story was much sadder and more short-lived. People are actually quite up in arms over his omission. The Academy’s excuse that “they didn’t have time for everyone” is rather weak.

Helen Mirren has a body that most of the twenty-something actresses at the Oscars would kill for. She is 62 1/2 years old – and possibly the sexiest senior citizen on the planet.

– Why was Marion Cotillard (who is quite gorgeous) dressed like a rejected chorine from The Little Mermaid?

– Was I the only who missed the living winners tableau they do every five years on a major anniversary? (For the 75th, they had Olivia de Havilland introduce the brief yearbook moment to a stirring standing ovation. I miss some of that old school glamour in these awards).

Anything I missed…?