Monday, February 28, 2005

Wow, so the 77th annual Academy Awards just wrapped up mere minutes ago, and I thought I'd jot down some quick impressions. Yeah, I thought about doing the "liveblogging" thing but frankly Tom The Dog and others do it much better than I would've anyway, so go read their takes, too.
Besides, the computer and TV are in two different rooms, and I'm a very, very lazy man.

Anyway, the Oscars --
The Good:
Million Dollar Baby, yeah! A poetic little movie that gets better the more I think about it, and much more polished than a solid but flawed film like "The Aviator" that just screamed "Oscar bait." Great to see Eastwood recognized for his incredibly taut, effective storytelling. Not an ounce of fat on this movie, and it's great to see a relatively small pick beat out an epic. I can't argue with Morgan Freeman as Best Supporting Actor or Best Actress Hilary Swank, who just broke my heart in M$B. (I have to wonder if after the show fellow nominee Annette Bening was waiting for Swank with a lead pipe; this is the second time Bening's lost Best Actress to Swank.)
• Woo hoo, Best Supporting Actress Cate Blanchett! My favorite thing about "The Aviator" (although Leonardo DiCaprio was excellent too), and one of my favorite actresses, great to see her finally get a golden dude. Her Hepburn act in "The Aviator" at first comes off as an awful parody, but then you remember that's how Hepburn really was, and it works. She brought the humanity of Kate to life and did an amazing job, I thought.
• Can't argue with the coronation of Best Actor Jamie Foxx, who blew me away and pretty much everyone else in "Ray." But he also gave the night's finest speech, humble and sweet-natured. It's not his fault all I could think of while watching it was, "This man starred in 'Booty Call' and now he's won an Oscar?"
• I would've loved to see "Eternal Sunshine Of the Spotless Mind" get more than two nominations and in the Best Picture arena, but it was still worth it to see screenwriter Charlie Kaufman win an Oscar at last. My favorite script man by far lately, every single movie he's written I've enjoyed (even the oddball "Human Nature"), and "Sunshine" is his best yet.
• Clint Eastwood's mother is still alive! Ye gods!

The just OK:

Chris Rock was a mixed bag as host. He was frequently hilarious, but too often he was a bit strident, and he kept using his "stand up comic" voice so I felt like he was yelling at me. I did love his "interviewing ordinary black folks" segment and some of his jokes really hit home, but overall I felt he used race a little too much and it didn't have the ease of his stand-up work.

The Bad:
• Good lord, can whomever decided to not give out all the awards the old-fashioned way with nominees walking up to the stage be shot? That was the worst fiasco in Oscaring since Rob Lowe danced with Snow White in 1989. Awful, awful presentation. Having the nominees stay in their seats while a presenter gives them the awards from the aisle just reeked of game show cheesiness ("Who Wants to Be An Oscar Winner?"), and was insulting to the nominees. Even worse was having all the nominees up on stage for a "cattle call" in some categories, so you could watch the poor bastards be humiliated when the other guy wins and then stand around awkwardly. Terrible, terrible decision on the producers' parts, and I can't believe it saved much time at all. I hope next year they go back to the regular way of doing it and treat all nominees equally. Y'know, the Oscars may not be the greatest thing in the universe, but they're usually kinda classy, and snipping that sense of class to save time seems cheap.
• Speaking of saving time, as usual, that middle hour or so just dragggggggged. They always talk about saving time (and this year's show, at just over 3 hours, was pretty quick), so instead of giving out Oscars in the back row, I don't see why they don't relegate some categories like the best live and animated short feature categories to the technical ceremony. Yeah, it's great to honor this work, and I don't think they should be dumped entirely, but you know, 99% of the audience has never seen and will never see any of these short features -- hell, I don't even know where you can see 'em in theaters -- and removing that would certainly cut 15 minutes out of the show, easily.
• Bizarro stage design this year, and the "video floor" looked really awkward.
• Wow, all five of the "Best Song" nominees this year were dull as dishwater. And were they paying Beyonce by the song or what?
Yo Yo Ma. The man does nothing for me.

In general, I'd give this year's ceremony a "C+," even though I'm pretty happy with most of the winners, this year fell short as entertainment on its own. It felt rushed and inelegant too often, and lacked any of those big surprises that can often make up for a sloppy show. No shocking winners or Michael Moore speeches to talk about the next day. In the end, some great movies were honored, but as a show, this one won't be winning any awards for me. I'd rather watch "Million Dollar Baby" again.

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