Monday, February 25, 2013

Bittersweet Oscars

Is this the Tonys or the Oscars?
Kristin Chenoweth and Seth MacFarlane
This was a bittersweet Oscar ceremony. I was so psyched for the awards because I had seen all nine of the nominated Best Pictures, all but one of the acting nominees, and all of the animated and live-action short subjects, most of the documentary features and two of the doc. short subjects. I felt I had really participated in the film world and experienced not just the big box-office hits, but the experimental expressions of new filmmakers. The documentaries were particularly fascinating, displaying opposite sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (5 Broken Cameras, The Gatekeepers), the history of the AIDS crisis, the prevalence of a sexist mentality in the American military, a retirement community in Florida, and people I see everyday on the streets of New York collecting cans and bottles in order to scrape by. I felt almost like an Oscar voter, and I probably saw more of the movies than most of the electorate did.

I got 17 right out of 24 categories in the Oscar pool at the party I went to (missing Director, Supp. Actor, Animated Feature, Sound Editing, Doc. Short, Art Direction, and Make-up/Hairstyling) and it was fun to tweet and bitch ab out the show. But the broadcast itself was such a disappointment. Seth McFarlane's sarcastic smugness works for a half-hour animated series like his Family Guy but for an endless award show, no thanks. The gag with William Shatner as Capt. Kirk advising him on making the show better wore out its welcome pretty quick and as a result, the opening musical numbers felt choppy. Before they could get anywhere, they were over. The jokes were not particularly inspired and the theme was kinda forced. It's as if Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the producers said in a production meeting--"Hey they made a movie of Les Miz this year, so let's salute movie musicals and concentrate on Chicago since we produced it." I mean what about Singin' in the Rain, The Wizard of Oz, etc.? There was a commercial that saluted Busby Berkeley, but they didn't even show a film clip of his iconic work on the Oscars. There seemed to be a disregard for the movies' classic past, maybe in a bid to attract younger viewers. Plus they stole the idea of doing a song about the ceremony at the end from the Tonys.

MacFarlane's humor works when it comes out of the mouths of cartoon characters but when humans utter the smarmy snarkiness it falls short. And the red carpet pre-show went on for 90 freakin' minutes, and no Tim Gunn to make it bearable. I can do without Seacrest, thank you.

There was more drama on the subway ride to the Oscar party. A young man got on and announced he and some friends were living in an abandoned building on the Lower East Side and it was his turn to get dinner. He wanted to get something hot for once and was begging for spare change so he could buy some Little Caesar's pizza. It reminded me of the can collectors in the Oscar nominated short Redemption. How do you get to the place where you're living in an abandoned building? What kind of choices and circumstances bring you there and what would you wear on the red carpet if your movie about the experience got nominated?

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