Monday, March 8, 2010

And the winner was...

After recovering (barely) from an excruciatingly embarrassing opening number (of which we need not say any more), the Academy Awards ceremony proceeded with few surprises last night, but nonetheless proved a satisfying experience. As hosts, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin managed to pull off a surprising amount of the clunkers they were handed (this was one of the worst-written telecasts in the show's history, which is saying something). More importantly, at least within the parameters the nominations set, many of the winners were deserving. Apologists and naysayers alike could agree on the merits of Christoph Waltz, Jeff Bridges was by consensus the "his-time-has-come" victor for Crazy Heart, and while I'd probably suggest Quentin Tarantino was the "best director" of his bunch, I'm much, much happier to see Kathryn Bigelow win.

Bigelow's victory was the high point of the night, and is sure to be seen as such in the Oscar coverage (at least the coverage unhindered by early deadlines). She was of course the first woman ever to win in this category, a victory only slightly hampered by the fact that every man onstage seemed to be groping her. James Cameron took his ex-wife's victory in stride; and while he never made it to the stage, Avatar swept plenty of awards - except for the top one. I was glad Hurt Locker pulled off its predicted success; while I don't think it was the best picture of the year (Antichrist probably deserves that honor) or even necessarily of the nominees (the often frustrating Inglourious Basterds just may look that way in retrospect, though I'm more comfortable calling Tarantino the "best director" than the movie the "best picture") - but it's the right Best Picture for its time. The greatest movies don't need Oscars, anyway.

Nor, for that matter, do the greatest personages, though it's nice to see them receive the recognition eventually (and belatedly). Which brings us to the biggest blemish on last night's broadcast (and I'm not talking about the this-is-my-first-appearance-in-a-school-play of the Twilight tots nor the intervention-staging of the Best Actor/Actress presentations). Where were the honorary awards? We know, of course. We were told, very briefly and superficially, that the reception of these awards happened off-screen and that Roger Corman, Gordon Willis, and Lauren Bacall, among others, were honored. We even got to see brief snippets of the ceremony, which the show's producers seemed to think was enough, returning us quickly to the more important matters of who's wearing what, stale repartee, and interpretive dances of The Hurt Locker (question: was that guy supposed to represent the Bomb Disposal outfit or a walking IED?).

An institution which ignores its own history deserves only scorn. I'm sure Willis and Corman, as a behind-the-scenes craftsman and B movie auteur, respectively, don't expect to be openly celebrated in the limelight beside vapid celebrities and the like. But Bacall? Couldn't Hollywood have honored one of its leading lights, a woman who stole scenes from Bogie, openly and prominently? What must it have felt like to be the first star to be palmed off in this manner? That she didn't put her lips together and blow the Academy a raspberry is to her credit, and an indication of the grace and gravitas the industry's public face was once capable of.

For those who missed it, I rounded up all my reviews of Oscar-nominated films (as well as the reviews of several others) on Wonders in the Dark this weekend. Including a couple recent reviews of Bright Star and Inglourious Basterds.

3 comments:

J.D. said...

"An institution which ignores its own history deserves only scorn. I'm sure Willis and Corman, as a behind-the-scenes craftsman and B movie auteur, respectively, don't expect to be openly celebrated in the limelight beside vapid celebrities and the like. But Bacall? Couldn't Hollywood have honored one of its leading lights, a woman who stole scenes from Bogie, openly and prominently? What must it have felt like to be the first star to be palmed off in this manner? That she didn't put her lips together and blow the Academy a raspberry is to her credit, and an indication of the grace and gravitas the industry's public face was once capable of."

I agree! Of all the blunders and omissions this year, I felt that this was the worst. In an effort to speed things along they remove on the high points of the Oscars, for me, by cutting the lifetime achievement award! As you say, it's a real insult to the old guard and is also ignoring the history of Hollywood! I'm just glad that they didn't do this the year Robert Altman got his!

MovieMan0283 said...

Yeah, it almost prevented me from watching, but I had guests who wanted to see it (and I'm glad they did because reviewing all these films right beforehand made me more curious than I had been).

Still, it's a major strike against them. Whatever their flaws, it was at least possible to think that the Academy at least represented a link to the history of Hollywood, with the link further effaced, what good is left?!

J.D. said...

It really says something when a TV channel like Turner Classic Movies does more to champion and preserve the history of Hollywood than the Academy but I guess that really shouldn't be all that surprising. When I want to get my fix for Hollywood history I'll stick with TCM and stay away from the Oscars.