We are still getting by without cable, so for last night’s Academy Awards show we finagled an invitation from a friend. We were able to watch most of the telecast before our host went to sleep and it seemed prudent to sneak out. So, yeah, we did miss the acceptance speeches by Colin Firth and Natalie Portman. I’ll catch those on video some other time.
However, we did view the rest of the show — certainly enough of it for me to craft some snide remarks. Here are a few:
Anne Hathaway: Yes. Although saddled with too many lame jokes, she at least seemed to be having a good time. I like that in a host. She was joyful and effervescent enough to keep me watching even through the slow parts. And there were plenty of those. And she was a standout in the Inception montage.
James Franco: No. The guy may be a gifted actor, but that doesn’t give him a pass to be a smug frat boy the rest of the time. Somebody should have wrestled that bong away from him at the start of the show.
Kirk Douglas: No. Watching a 94-year-old stroke victim slur his lines, hog air time and leer at the ladies is not compelling television. Besides, we already had James Franco for that.
Melissa Leo: No. I hate it when somebody says ‘Yeah, I am kind of speechless …” and then spends the next 15 minutes babbling breathlessly on, concluding her remarks with an F-bomb that is supposed to seem unplanned. The most graceless and boring part of the night.
Billy Crystal: Yes. He looks a bit overfed these days, but the man remains the very definition of what it takes to host the Oscars. I just like the comfort of knowing the emcee is not going to screw up on the timing or have an ad lib fall flat.
Bob Hope: Yes. It doesn’t say much about your writing talent if jokes delivered by a guy long dead are funnier than the new ones. But there you have it. Look, the Academy Awards show has a decent budget; cut back on some of the techno-wizardry and get the writing crew from, say, 30 Rock to do you a script. That would be money well spent.
Montages: Yes. I never understand why critics keep demanding fewer of them. The fact is, it’s a night of tribute for a visual medium, so let’s have a lot of visuals. They keep the show moving. Clips laden with sentimental music are far more compelling than guys in drag making Charlie Sheen jokes, or windbag thespians reading from the Greater Hollywood telephone book.
Inner-city grade-school kids singing their hearts out: Yes. But why keep them fidgeting backstage for three and a half hours before bringing them out? I had to watch this on the highlight video the next day. It would have been even better at about the two-hour mark — minus all the winners, of course. How refreshing to see all those guileless faces in a night otherwise jam-packed with ego and envy.
The Academy’s infinitely bad judgment: No. I call it The English Patient Effect: A so-so movie acquires an aura of inevitability and reaps all the major awards. Then a couple of years later nobody can quite remember why. I found The King’s Speech well-crafted and entertaining enough, but it is a minor film. People will not be renting it and talking about it for decades to come.
No, they will be watching True Grit, which is among the best Westerns ever made and among the top three in the Coen Brothers’ impressive canon. As you may have noticed, True Grit got no recognition last night. Zero. Then again, neither did Miller’s Crossing in 1990. Just goes to show: The Oscars are about the buzz beforehand, and about fellow travelers going along with the prevailing mood. They are not so much about the movies.