I’m back to visit some of the low points of the Oscar ceremony. All in all, it was a well-conceived shabang, but nothin’s perfect, and the Oscars is no exception. Nothing really made me want to shoot myself–which is a good thing, because there are a few things I would still like to do–but things that stuck out like a sore thumb will do.
Low Point #1: Time
The Oscars is long every year, and this year was no exception. My thing was, they seemed to be trying to make it longer. I know it is a big affair and they sell a lot of ad time and a lot of people tune in (maybe not that many, but still a good chunk) but they need to start wrapping things up a little quicker instead of trying to actually add fat to the programming.
One annoying example of this strategy was seen in how the presenters gave each category a two or three minute precursor of information that referenced each nominee, and then read off the nominees again. This was maddening. I understand the need to explain some of the more esoteric categories such as sound effects editing or mixing, but I don’t think I’m alone in thinking awards like costume design and film editing are pretty self-explanatory. By just doing the usual opening bit for the presenter and explaining some of the more obscure awards in that bit, the Academy could have significantly cut down the run time.
Low Point #2: The presentation of the acting awards
I thought this approach was interesting in places and it definitely grew on me toward the end, but they really need to hammer out the kinks if they plan on continuing it next year. For those of you who missed it, the method was to have five previous winners of an acting award present that award to this year’s recipient. At times, I felt like it enhanced the emotional impact of a particular award–Kevin Kline’s eloquent description of Heath Ledger’s Dark Knight brilliance provided the perfect lead into an extremely touching moment, and Shirley McClaine’s assessment of Anne Hathaway’s work in Rachel Getting Married was like one of the greats imparting sage-like wisdom to a rising star, something cool to be a fly on the wall for.
But one thing I did miss with this new method were clips of the actual performances. Every year we have some fun trying to predict which clip the Academy are going to use for what performance. Beyond just being a tradition that I like, I think it is helpful for the people at home who haven’t seen all of the nominated films; it gives them an idea what they look like and maybe sets them up for something they would like to see. We didn’t have that this year, and I think it took away from the flow of the ceremony.
Also, even though the method produced its fair share of good moments, it registered, at times, as excessive congratulation for the nominees. I mean, they’re nominated. We know they were good. Is it necessary to drill this into everyone’s head excessively? Also, the Academy really likes to celebrate its own history, and I thought this method was just another ploy in that direction. Innovative, but I think they need to revise it for next year’s ceremony.
Low Point #3: The Best Song performances
I really think they should figure out what to do with this category or just lose it all together. First of all, the weird set of nominations this year felt contrived for the sake of the Academy’s new strategy for Best Song performances–the two from Slumdog and the one from Wall-E felt like they were so close to one another that they could easily occupy the stage consecutively, something that Bruce Springsteen’s monumentally overlooked masterpiece, “The Wrestler” from film of same name, would not have fit into.
Also, I just felt like the Academy was trying to cram this category in without really taking an inspired approach. A lot of the set design and choreography was cool, but the song nominations and performances used to mean something. Now it just seems like they nominate a lot of songs from one film and don’t really take the rest seriously. When I was watching it, it felt like nothing more than a montage with a lot of bright colors and moving figures. They need to work to make things a bit more coherent.
Low Point #4: Sofia Loren
Seriously, what the fuck happened to Sofia Loren? I can remember her handing out the award for Best Foreign Film to Roberto Benigni at the 1998 Academy Awards as a strikingly attractive older woman. I tune in on Sunday night to watch her as one of the five presenters for Best Actress and her face is drooped from too much botox, her skin is like sandpaper, and her arm is crooked at her side as if she will defiantly perform a rendition of “I’m a Little Tea Pot.” This was strange. I miss the old Sofia.
One More High Point That I Forgot Last Night
Seth Rogen and James Franco chiming in with their Pineapple Express routine as a trip through this year’s nominees. I almost wish the Oscars could be more like the MTV Movie Awards (okay, wait for me to finish) so they can just hire whoever is hot at the moment as hosts, in which case Rogen and Franco, who both had great years, would have been perfect.
Okay, should I say something about how the awards actually shaped up? Nah, silly idea. Though I will say I’m happy that the night actually wound up with a big winner–this was the first time since The Return of the King walked away with 11 that we’ve seen a BP win more than 4. I’m gratified by really weird shit that has nothing to do with me, but that gives me a strange, tingling sense of fulfillment that makes me ask the question, will this year be better than the last?
Anyway, Oscar loving adjourned. Time for Watchmen to come out so we can start talking about that.