Though I posted my own reactions to last Sunday’s Oscar telecast over on the blog on Monday, I was looking forward to the reactions from the Postman – who has created his own sub-award called The Posties as the framework for his own recap, which is posted below:
Dear Members of the Route,
As I have done for many years now, it's most fun for me to discuss this year's Academy Awards ceremony by giving out awards of my own invention, The Posties. Some, as you will see, are awards people would gladly add to their shelves. Others... well, unless they have a Sandra Bullock-level sense of humor, maybe not. And the "winners" are...
The Spielberg Oscar Bitch (S.O.B.) Award - given to the most ungracious person at the ceremony, named after the person who often exudes a perverse sense of entitlement over the proceedings even when he's not actually nominated and who gave one of my least favorite acceptance speeches ever.
Does not actually go to Steven Spielberg who, I thought, was grace personified when he watched Ang Lee win the award many thought he'd take. Nor does it go to Anne Hathaway, who didn't exactly wow me with her speech (especially that groan-inducing whispery "It came true" line at the beginning) but who at least didn't try to feign surprise as she did at the Golden Globes. I'm tempted to give this to Robert De Niro who looked like he was sleeping when Jennifer Lawrence acknowledged him in her speech. And though at first I thought using the Jaws music as the speech play-off was funny, it became quickly apparent how tasteless that was to make an awkward protocol situation into a moment of crass humor. And yes, Seth MacFarlane had some questionable taste in his choice of jokes, but I can't call him ungracious, really. So my award goes to someone I have no doubt is a past recipient, Robert Downey Jr., whose short rant about The Avengers' box office supremacy trumping the Best Pictures nominated that night was out of place in a night that clearly does not equate "best" with "most profitable," and just plain rude gasbaggery. Mr. Downey - don't come and collect your award; I'll mail it to you.
The Jack Palance TelePrompter Award - given to the biggest goof of the night, in honor of the allegedly drunk Mr. Palance who allegedly gave Marisa Tomei an Oscar she allegedly didn't actually win.
Certainly, a favorite boo-boo from the other night was the cameras that were supposed to be trained on the 5 Director nominees, except David O. Russell's camera seemed fixated on Emmanuelle Riva and couldn't find him. Then again, I'm far more fixated on Riva than Russell myself, so it's a forgivable (and somewhat delicious) slight. And then there's Chris Terrio, whose jittery, nervous speech had him seemingly thank "Ben Half-leck." But, whatever you can say about the broadcast - and I'll have a lot to say over the course of my awards presentation - it was fairly mistake-free. However, did it occur to anyone that the presenters might want to learn how to pronounce French words correctly in front of a billion people? Within the first few minutes, Seth MacFarlane had mangled Jean Dujardin's name and the title of one of the Best Picture nominees. He wasn't alone: there were at least four different pronunciations of "Les Miserables" before the long night was through. But the winner of this dubious award has to be John Travolta who not only mangled Les Miserables (he made it sound almost Spanish - "Lay Miserah-bless") but then went on to butcher Helena Bonham Carter's name shortly afterward. People - Les Miserables the show has been around for over 25 years, and the book for over 150 years. It's about damn time you learned how to say it.
The Joan Rivers Red Carpet Award - paying special tribute to the out-of-theater gaffes.
Watching the red carpet coverage was particular torture this year, especially ABC's programming after the show in which none of the correspondents (especially poor Rachel Smith) could get anyone to talk to them. Insufferable fashion guru or social media pusher (I'm not exactly sure which) Lawrence Zarian said, of Charlize Theron's look, "You know me - I love a pixie." Well, no, I don't know you, and after that statement, I'll remain in blissful ignorance, thank you. Frequent winner of this Postie George Pennacchio, had one gem in his interview with Ang Lee: "No one knew who was going to win, and you didn't either." Yes; that's right, George. And? It's also very tempting to give this Postie to the good people at E! who proudly put a graphic on their screen that Viola Davis from the movie Won't Back Down had arrived on the red carpet... except that it was Octavia Spencer instead. Gather your stereotypes as ye may. Though this award was designed for mistakes in the interviews, I have to stretch the definition this year and "celebrate" the inaugural work of Kristin Chenoweth as a red carpet hostess. In a filler pre-interview she gave well before she took to the carpet in her official capacity, she said that the advice she'd received for this, her first such job as an interviewer, was to be herself. Well, apparently Kristin Chenoweth is an annoying narcissist then, because her interviews were as much about her as they ever were about her subjects. Since she shared the pre-show with about 6 other correspondents, she was probably only on camera for about 15-20 minutes. In that time, she mentioned how short she was eight different times, even taking her shoes off two or three times to compare herself to the likes of Adele. She told both Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence that she was rooting for them (that's gonna be awkward if either of them ever watch their DVRs), and she promoted her big special final number with Seth MacFarlane a number of times as well (more on that gem later). Chenoweth - please don't come back. But with your Emmy, your Tony, and now a Postie, you're more than halfway through the inevitable quest for a PEGOT.
The Peter O'Toole Has No Competitive Oscars, but Three 6 Mafia Does Irony Award:
If one thing has been consistent about discussions of this year's telecast, it's the accusations of women-bashing in much of Seth MacFarlane's material. This is a particular shame in which women were celebrated across many different categories. A female costume designer, the entire makeup team, one of the songwriters, one of the sound editors, one of the producers of the animated feature and the documentary short: all women. In addition, there were women producers on 6 of the 9 Best Picture nominees. Obviously, the choice of Seth MacFarlane as host was made months before the nominees and winners were determined, but in a year where women were rightly and richly celebrated, MacFarlane's tone probably came off as even more discordant.
The Snow White/Rob Lowe Performance Award:
So much to discuss here! Unlike many people I've read in the last few days, I enjoyed Seth MacFarlane's opening. The little dance number with Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron was awkward but charming. The song and dance from MacFarlane, Daniel Radcliffe, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt was pretty much the same. And as wrong as it might be, I thought "We Saw Your Boobs" was quite funny. Norah Jones barely had a chance to make an impression, and she didn't. Adele should have been a powerhouse, but the sound mix was so bad that she could barely be heard over the orchestra. Catherine Zeta-Jones sounded great, but since I'm about 95% sure she was lip-synching her number, of course she sounded great (kudos to the dancing though which she couldn't fake). I enjoyed the Les Miserables number (though I am a sucker for "One Day More") though, with few exceptions, the cast just looked so somber (or, in the case of Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter, flat-out bored). The one stand-out in that number was Samantha Barks who drew the audience in the moment she stepped on that cavernous stage. Shirley Bassey looked amazing, but her song got off to a disconcertingly rocky start. Thankfully, she got it back and killed the ending. So that leaves only two divas. Barbra Streisand's tribute to Marvin Hamlisch was extremely effective because it was a little rough, clearly heartfelt, and very tender. It was certainly not the best vocals I've heard from her, but smashing nonetheless. But how can anyone top the force of nature that is Jennifer Hudson? Even with a weirdly truncated "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going," that voice is one of the great natural gifts out there and richly deserving of a Postie.
The Cuba Gooding Jr. Acceptance Speech Award:
Though I can't say any of the craft award recipients bored me (well, Jacqueline Durran seemed either nervous or listless), none of their speeches stood out in any way either. Quentin Tarantino was exuberant and weird but you could tell how thrilled he was, and I always find that appealing. Ang Lee is not an inspired speechmaker, but his crack about having to thank his lawyer was quite funny. Christoph Waltz - the night's biggest (and most pleasant to me) surprise - was classy and ebullient. And Adele's emotionality was thoroughly adorable. Though I've heard some people quibble about some of the content, I loved Ben Affleck's speech. But while we'd come to expect great things from Jennifer Lawrence, I think that fall she took robbed her of any chance of being anything but efficient in her speech: poor thing. But how could this award go to anyone but Daniel Day Lewis who went from teary at the beginning (he seemed truly touched by the ovation) to uproariously funny? Day Lewis does not come off as a charming guy, but this speech belied that completely. I'm still not sure I wanted him to be the first actor to win 3 Best Actor Oscars, but after a speech like that, it makes it far easier to accept his place in Academy history.
The Bette Midler Best Presenter Award:
Because the show was so focused on its host, and because - as I will enumerate in a moment - so much of the scripted banter fell completely flat among the presenters, this is a very hard award to give out this year. I could go with Seth MacFarlane, whose hit-to-miss ratio wasn't all that bad in my eyes, but the misses - that Lincoln joke, the Zero Dark Thirty women bashing joke - did, I'm afraid, outshine the hits: the Rex Reed joke, the goofy, inspired "Von Trapp Family Singers" bit. Christopher Plummer was certainly very classy, and Meryl Streep picking a wedgie out of her butt is still better than most anything anyone else could do. Charlize Theron and Dustin Hoffman looked like they were enjoying themselves immensely, but that joy didn't translate enough to the audience. Queen Latifah was exuberant and nearly made us forget the contributions of my next category's winner, but none of these really stand out for me. So, though I didn't think he deserved the Oscar last year, and though his scripted tribute to actresses was a little on the odd side, I'm giving this award to Jean Dujardin and audience member Hugh Jackman for their truly gentlemanly instincts to leap to Jennifer Lawrence's side when she took her huge-dress fall up those stairs. You can't rehearse that kind of genuineness, and it really touched me.
The Kim Basinger Worst Presenter Award:
Now here, I have so much from which to choose! I could go with the inexplicably unfunny bit between the normally delightful Melissa McCarthy and Paul Rudd, though she had a couple of redeeming moments. Or I could double up Robert Downey Jr.'s "wins" and slam the Avengers for their painful banter, especially when whatever they'd planned for Visual Effects clearly fell flat. Or I could choose Mark Wahlberg who, after braving whatever greenscreen trickery it took to produce Ted on stage with him, seemed non-plussed and frankly scared when he had to announce that his category had a tie. But once I beheld the glory of Renee Zellweger's puffy, no-eyes-left face, her listing back and forth haphazardly in such a way as to suggest she was under the influence of something bigger than simply Oscar fever, and especially her inability to read the envelope that Richard Gere put before her (thanks to Queen Latifah for reading the winner, otherwise I think we'd still be watching the show): has Renee become illiterate, or was she simply too altered to read... anything? Just awful: it almost reminds me of her other award-winning performance...
The Moulin Rouge/Battleship Potemkin Montage Award:
I love montages. I love those artfully assembled clips, paying tribute to this or that genre, whatever. But because the producers opted for a more live show, it's these montages that got sacrificed. So, because my only real choices are the death montage (which, while I appreciate the fact that the Academy spread the wealth to include a lot of craftspeople rather than simply actors, writers and directors, I didn't find that stirring) and the laborious yet underfed Bond montage, I am not giving this award this year. I would like to give a particular raspberry however to whomever chose Emmanuelle Riva's clip for Best Actress. To those of you who haven't seen the film, 30 seconds of her holding water in her mouth and spitting it on Jean-Louis Trintignant is not exactly representative of her brilliant work in the film.
The Joe Eszterhas Writing Award - for the worst scripted patter of the evening.
Moving beyond the comedy bits that fell painfully flat (as I mentioned above), there are a couple of contenders from the night's script. I have yet to hear a persuasive explanation for the Ed Harris stool joke that Ted made. But there was an even "better" moment worth canonizing. In her speech honoring three of the Best Picture contenders, Reese Witherspoon said, of Beasts of the Southern Wild, that "it proves that the American Dream is still afoot." Not only do I find that grammatically suspect to begin with, but the way she said it sounded very much like "it proves that the American Dream is still a foot." Baffling. And kind of fantastic.
The Gwyneth Paltrow Worst Dressed Award:
There's really only one choice here for me. I could complain that Quentin Tarantino looked like an unmade bed, or wonder what all that hand jewelry Barbra Streisand was wearing (I thought she was auditioning for the 7th Hobbit movie). I could grouse that Helena Bonham Carter looked as sloppy as she always does, or ask what the hell kind of smoking jacket producer Bruce Cohen was wearing. And I could also say that I wasn't crazy about Anne Hathaway's "Are those nipples or not?" dress or Halle Berry's Deco thing (combine her dress with Michelle Obama's, and you'd have the Chrysler Building dress from The Producers), and that Jacki Weaver's schmatta was just unfortunate. But, especially after seeing her look positively gorgeous at the end of Identity Thief, Melissa McCarthy's unfortunate grey dress and caught-in-a-wind-tunnel hairdo were particularly horrifying. I know she can look better than that: for whatever reason, she just didn't.
On the whole, it was a good looking crowd. I even liked Nicole Kidman's look, which is something I can seldom say. Though I quite liked Amy Adams, Zoe Saldana and Reese Witherspoon, my runners-up were the sleek white of Charlize Theron's dress (complementing her short haircut very nicely), the pink and copper glamour of Jessica Chastain's look, and the dress Samantha Barks wore during the Les Miserables number on stage. But because she wore a color I normally hate to spectacular effect, my Best Dressed award goes to Jane Fonda for that surprisingly brilliant lemon yellow: she looked amazing.
And finally, my favorite Postie –
The Jack Nicholson/Kate Winslet Audience Participation Award - given to the person in the crowd whose sense of fun at just being at The Oscars is completely infectious.
Because the director(s) of the show barely seemed eager to acknowledge that there even was an audience sitting inside the Dolby Theater, this is a harder award than ever to bestow. Though her acceptance speech was marred by the embarrassment of the fall, Jennifer Lawrence's red carpet demeanor and post-show interviews were all so charming that they reminded me why she won this award two years ago: she makes for a very fine runner-up this year. But the winner is without a doubt Quvenzhane Wallis, who oozed charm in her many red carpet interviews and mugged for the cameras any time they cut to her during the ceremony. She came off - refreshingly - as a real little girl, not yet an actress or personality, a total kid in the biggest candy store ever moment. Though I'm still not sure she should have been nominated for her work in Beasts of the Southern Wild, and though I'm terrified that she's been cast as Annie (when asked if she could sing on the red carpet, her response was: "We'll see" - oh good God), she is richly deserving of this coveted Postie.
To sum up my thoughts about the show as a whole, I am reminded of the criticism I received from a number of my college professors for my writing: a number of good ideas that lack structure, that never coalesce into a central theme (so of course I should become a long-winded editor-less film critic). Though all the bits they came up with had something to do with music, they were so disparate that none fed the other. At first, with the Theron/Tatum dance moving into the MacFarlane/Leavitt/Radcliffe song and dance, I thought what a charming show it would be to have celebrities we don't think of primarily as singers or dancers presenting bits of Oscar-winning songs throughout the telecast... except that the idea was abandoned after those two. If you're going to do a tribute to James Bond and Bond music, a 3-minute video montage using the Bond theme and then Shirley Bassey singing "Goldfinger" are not nearly enough to encompass the breadth of Bond songs over the decades. And I'll agree with the naysayers who said that the tribute to Chicago, Dreamgirls, and Les Miserables seemed a little self-serving coming from the producers of... Chicago. Mostly, there were some very nice moments throughout the broadcast, but without any momentum, the already long night felt interminable. My other main beef is that there were very few moments in which film history was celebrated at all. I know the Oscars need to be hip and new to attract the right demographic, but other than James Bond and snippets of songs and film scores from years ago, one got no sense of this year's Oscars existing on any sort of continuum. Argo now joins a list populated by Gone With the Wind, Lawrence of Arabia, The Best Years of Our Lives, On the Waterfront, The Godfather - it's not a Best Picture in a vacuum. And yet, on Sunday, one could easily have spent over 3 1/2 hours with no real appreciation of film's - or the Academy's - rich (and, sure, dubious) history. In general, I am perfectly happy with the recipients of the awards: in a year this strong, I am glad that no film dominated, that the wealth was indeed spread (even if, in some cases, I'd have spread it very differently). But especially when you have a strong year (unlike, say, LAST year), it's so nice to see the winners feel like they're part of something, not some half-baked telethon that feels like disorganized bits from the Grammys and Tonys. Well, maybe next year...
You want a review??? I'll give you... A REVIEW!!!
Original Fiction from a Sitcom Mind > The Halls of Shambala > The Non-Fiction Archives: 2012-2014 > Media Commentaries and Reaction Pieces >