We’re now a week outside of awards season in Hollywood. And as is my new modus operandi, I defer to The Postman and his impressive knowledge of films, film production and film history for a recap of last weekend’s Academy Awards presentation – which he calls The Posties.
Dear Members of the Route,
For 16 years now, I have 'reviewed' the Oscars by giving out my own awards - The Posties - in categories of my invention and then following those awards with a brief review of the proceedings as a whole. But this year, for the first time, I am moved to change things up. And this is why.
I hated the Oscars. Just hated them. I thought they were lazy, sloppy, and for the most part, inconsiderate. I hated the host, I hated the sets, I hated most of the dresses, I hated the production choices, and I even hated the results (I'll explain that later).
So if the venom level is turned up even higher than usual, now you'll know why. You have been warned. So let's begin. The first category...
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.
I must admit that after suffering through Jared Leto's Q&A for Dallas Buyers Club months ago, I fully expected him to claim this award, but I'm almost shocked to say that his speech was fairly gracious and sweet. It's tempting to give this award to Leto's brother, who ran over to his brother when his win was announced and stole focus and then ran over to his mother to embrace her while Leto paid tribute to her in his speech. Dude: it's not about you.
Or I could give this award to whoever it was who thought it was a good idea to invite Judy Garland's children to the awards and... stand up at their seats. I love Whoopi Goldberg as much as the next person, but Liza Minnelli is an Oscar winner herself and could probably have handled the duties of introducing the somewhat extraneous tribute to The Wizard of Oz along with her half-siblings Lorna and Joey Luft.
But this award this year goes to host Ellen DeGeneres. Sure - some of her humor worked: I actually enjoyed the selfie, though more for the celebrities' reactions who posed for the picture and less for DeGeneres' stage management of it. And her Jonah Hill crack about The Wolf of Wall Street was hysterical (and, it should be said, nearly ruined when she tried calling back the joke with Hill in the audience later in the show). But not only did her wandering-the-audience patter become incredibly tiresome, but the pizza gag kind of nailed the point home that the only people who matter at the Academy Awards (and therefore deserve pizza) are the 20 most famous people sitting in the front 2 rows. Sure, it's cute to watch Martin Scorsese and Jennifer Lawrence eat a slice, but that gag only would have worked with 50 other delivery people spreading out all over the place. Oprah Winfrey she ain't: "You don't get a slice! You don't get a slice! So few of you... GET A SLICE!" Then there was DeGeneres' unfortunate joke about the importance of staying in college and saying to Amy Adams, "You went to college, right?" Adams admitted she hadn't, and no one looked good as a result. Could they not afford a research team this year? But even worse, in a year in which an actor won an Oscar for playing a transgendered character, DeGeneres' crack about Liza Minnelli being a man was in awfully poor taste, ESPECIALLY when Minnelli wouldn't even be allowed to take the stage later that evening. Ellen: you looked bored throughout the evening, and the edge that people referred to in earlier assessments of the night was simple meanness. So, take a Postie home for your pains.
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.
Well, folks, this one isn't hard to guess, but it is a momentous occasion, because after 17 years, it is now appropriate - obligatory, really - to rename this award. For the next few years at the very least, this will now be The John Travolta TelePrompter Award. Recall that he won this Postie last year for butchering "Lay Mizzerah-bless" and Helena Bonham Carter's name. And this year's enormous Idina Menzel/Adele Dazeem boner suggests that Travolta's professed love for musicals doesn't actually extend to learning their titles or stars. Look, I am as tolerant as anyone of how nerve-wracking a live television event broadcast for the whole world must be (as you will see when I start talking about people's singing a bit later), but Travolta had 2 lines to learn. Or, rather, read off a TelePrompter. With a rehearsal. Dyslexia isn't a valid excuse here. Maybe it's time to stop inviting him to do things like talk. In public. Ever again.
The Joan Rivers Red Carpet Award – paying special tribute to the out-of-theater gaffes.
Watching the red carpet coverage (which I did, as I often do, after re-watching the telecast) wasn't very much fun this year, perhaps because I knew what a wretched show all the guests were about to see, and it just made me sad for them. But even more distressing, I started with the hours of E! Entertainment coverage and found, to my horror, that Ryan Seacrest, Guiliana Rancic, Kelly Osbourne, et al. put on a really good show. Well researched, well paced, there were virtually no gaffes or even remotely embarrassing moments. True, Seacrest stumbled once by saying to Bette Midler that he couldn't believe she'd never been to the Oscars, but she corrected him graciously, and he recovered well (though she's been before, she'd never performed at the Oscars).
Thankfully, the proceedings over on ABC were a little more embarrassing, both on the early red carpet and the post-Oscar celebrations. My favorite punching bag in this category, George Pennacchio, had some zingers: he called Kristin Chenoweth "The Voice of the Nation," which I suppose was meant as a compliment, but I wanted to ask, "Which nation?"; he asked Bruce Dern, "Are you ready to take a nap or go to work tomorrow?" which seems incredibly, offensively ageist unless you compare it to Ellen DeGeneres yelling at June Squibb inside the Dolby as if she were hard of hearing (apparently, I'm not taking the Oscar-winning song to heart: I just can't let it go). And though I'm sure he didn't mean to, it really sounded like Pennacchio said "Matthew McConaughey has not made it back to the governor's balls" which had me giggling after an extremely long night of red carpet coverage. But still, he wasn't the worst.
Nearly as bad was Lawrence Zarian, ABC's fashion correspondent also known as "Wait, isn't that Ty Burrell?" by the people after the show who saw him on television when it was on mute. No, Zarian is not Ty Burrell, because Burrell is funny and probably wouldn't spend 30 seconds keening "Let it Go" or, in his explanation of why he can't interview guests after the Oscars would never say, "I have 3 words for Sandra Bullock: 'can't talk to this.'"
Strangely, the biggest gaffes came during ABC's official red carpet presentation between 4:00 and 5:30. First there was Tyson Beckford who is this weird automaton who called Julia Roberts "Jessica" and described altogether too many people as "fabbuhlous."
But Jess Cagle wins this award this year, for saying to Cate Blanchett - incorrectly - that Suzy Benzinger was nominated for Costume Design for Blue Jasmine, and asking two different couples on the carpet the same nonsensical question: "Do you have date nights?" Insufferable.
The Peter O'Toole Never Won a Competitive Oscar, but Three 6 Mafia Does Irony Award
I'd like to say I think it's ironic that Peter O'Toole - an 8-time nominee and responsible for one of film's greatest performances - got stuck in the middle of the death montage when James Gandolfini (a marvelous actor whose most significant work was done on television) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (a 4-time nominee and certainly one of the more celebrated actors of our generation) got pride of place, but that's not ironic. It's rude -- especially in a year where we lost Joan Fontaine and especially iconic legend Shirley Temple.
No, for me, the one irony was that Kevin Spacey's enthusiastic presentation of the Honorary Oscars ceremony from last November (and the accompanying clips) made it very clear that that was the event that should have been televised and celebrated as opposed to this graceless, formless swill of an awards show.
The Snow White/Rob Lowe Performance Award
First, about Ms. Adele Dazeem: I have seen Idina Menzel live three times: in Rent, in Wicked, and doing her own show two New Years' Eves ago. In all three, her voice has been powerful, and her emotional connection to the material has been rich: she was wonderful. But in this, her second appearance at a major awards show, she apparently psyched herself out so badly that, just like the 2004 Tony Awards and that wretched last bit of "Defying Gravity," the last big note of "Let it Go" the other night was downright painful. It might have been ok - people make mistakes, of course - but Menzel sounded terrified throughout the performance - out of breath, rushing the tempo - and frankly looked so too. This was not her finest hour.
Karen O's performance was wispy to the point of non-existence, and her relationship with pitch cannot be considered strong.
Though I've never been a fan of Bono's voice, I must say I enjoyed U2's performance of "Ordinary Love," at least until I hit my threshold for whining (and I could have done without him kneeling down at the end).
Without question, the night's most fun performance was Pharrell Williams' "Happy," punctuated beautifully by the ebullient dancing of LAUSD magnet students, though Williams' live singing leaves a bit to be desired.
For me, the most annoying performance came from Darlene Love positively shouting "His Eye Is On the Sparrow," but I didn't share her enthusiasm over 20 Feet from Stardom's triumph.
That leaves the divas: Bette Midler (who was never introduced, not before nor after her singing) did a really lovely rendition of a song I can't stand, so it's hard for me to give a positive Postie to “Wind Beneath My Wings”, or indeed anything that reminds me of Beaches.
As for Pink, I admit her breathing was a little out of control during "Over the Rainbow," but I put that down to nerves (I've heard her sing live as many times as Ms. Menzel, and she is just as stellar), and her tone and her pitch were really exemplary. Pink is an absolute favorite of mine, so I admit a bias here (in all fairness, "Happy" probably deserves this), but I'm giving her a Postie for her first appearance at the Oscars. Let it not be her last.
The Cuba Gooding Jr. Acceptance Speech Award
There are few things as satisfying as a really gracious, or enthusiastic, or emotional Oscar speech. While I can't say that Steve McQueen's speech inspired me all that much (he was too flustered), his joyous jumping up and down at its end was really wonderful to see.
I also really enjoyed Bobby and Kristin Anderson-Lopez' couples rhyming speech: adorable.
As for the actors, I've already mentioned how pleasantly surprised I was by Jared Leto's speech, and I admit that Matthew McConaughey's speech wasn't as tiresome as his had been the night before at the Independent Spirit Awards in which he gave a lecture to a tent full of people who make independent movies on How to Make Independent Movies, something that surely Matthew McConaughey knows more than the producers, directors and writers... of independent films. But McConaughey's faux preaching style has worn thin for me this season, and I'm glad to be rid of him, honestly.
Cate Blanchett's speech contained my favorite element - when a winner graciously acknowledges her other nominees - and I enjoyed the strong feminist talk about successful movies with female characters, but somehow her speech fell just a bit short.
Perhaps that's because my clear winner in this category is Lupita Nyong'o, whose emotion and grace were unparalleled, and who subtly punctuated by the moment when she mouthed "Shit!" on her way up to the podium. Just perfect.
The Bette Midler Best Presenter Award
As I mentioned earlier, Kevin Spacey's presentation was energetic, kicky, and very good, and I say this as someone who wants very badly not to like him all that much. Well done, sir.
I also loved the combination of Angelina Jolie and Sidney Poitier, mostly because Jolie seemed genuinely thrilled to be standing next to the legend.
Amy Adams and Bill Murray were cute together, and I enjoyed Murray's impromptu tribute to Harold Ramis.
Christoph Waltz wins the prize as last year's winner who seemed to care the most about this year's nominees.
But for me, the giddiest heights of presenting came when Jamie Foxx tried - and succeeded - to inject some fun into the increasingly ponderous night by singing the Chariots of Fire theme under Jessica Biel's adequate patter. It was funny but somehow reverential, and it worked well enough for him to get a Postie.
The Kim Basinger Worst Presenter Award
Oh, take your pick. Anne Hathaway may not have been as insufferable as she was when accepting her award last year, but there was something about her that made me want to punch her yet again.
Jim Carrey's egomania might have been more understandable if he'd made a significant movie since 2004's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Harrison Ford seemed - don't be shocked - stoned.
Charlize Theron looked pissed off until she screwed up and actually kind of redeemed her performance by guffawing.
Chris Evans was dull.
But I'm going to annoy everyone by picking America's Sweetheart here, Jennifer Lawrence. When she trucked onstage to present Best Actor, she looked into the audience and said, "Why are you laughing?" which would have been inspired had she continued with Joe Pesci's monologue from GoodFellas. But no - she was having a private moment with some buddy up in front, undoubtedly inspired by Ellen DeGeneres' pizza party (I know: let it go) or whatever drugs she'd taken that made her trip YET AGAIN this year. Keep it together, JLaw, and read your lines. Or let the audience in on the joke next time. And have a Postie.
The Moulin Rouge/Battleship Potemkin Montage Award - NO WINNER.
Boy, I love montages, but this year did no service to the art of assembling clips. I don't honestly know why the Academy Awards feel they need a theme, and this year's "Heroes in Hollywood" was particularly weak. The various montages were basically guys (certainly not many women) who did things in movies. Sure, some of the likely hero suspects - like Lawrence of Arabia, Atticus Finch, and Indiana Jones - were featured, but they were mixed in with so many other dudes who just starred in movies and did nothing particularly heroic that the montages were just time-passers in an extremely long evening.
I'd love to pay tribute to the lovely clips of The Wizard of Oz, but, even with the Postie-awarded Pink performance, was that really the extent of the producers' imagination as to what a Wizard of Oz tribute might be? A Whoopi Goldberg reminiscence, a performance of a song we've all heard thousands of times, and video clips from the movie? I'm not a huge fan of the movie, but even I know that The Wizard of Oz deserves better than that.
And so do we. Better luck next year, editors.
The Joe Eszterhas Writing Award - for the worst scripted patter of the evening.
While, yes, it's tempting to load up on my DeGeneres hatred and find something she said the worst bit of the evening (and it wouldn't be hard), how can I ignore the surreal moments between Kim Novak and Matthew McConaughey?
Novak clearly broke from the script when she said how thrilled she was to be back at the Oscars, but surely something of what came before that had been scripted. Their dialogue was as surreal as Janet Leigh's seduction of Frank Sinatra in The Manchurian Candidate but nowhere near as entertaining.
The Gwyneth Paltrow Worst Dressed Award
As I stated at the top, I really didn't care for a lot of the fashion on display this year. So many nude, colorless, blah dresses - from Cate Blanchett to Sally Hawkins to Naomi Watts to Julie Delpy to Sarah Paulson. And too many white tuxes for the men (three (including Ryan Seacrest) is indeed too many). Everyone seemed safe, unwilling to take a chance.
Portia DeRossi took a chance and flailed: her dress looked like a macrame doily, and her hair and makeup did her no favors. But for the first time, I'm not giving my award to a wardrobe choice this year.
Even my runner-up isn't a dress, but instead Goldie Hawn's face which resembled some horrifying death mask: that seems like something to wear (or, in this case, something to - please - take off). Goldie - you used to be gorgeous, and you were aging with such grace, but your face made me sad. So very, very sad.
But even worse than that face and the boring dresses was the set. The Oscars everywhere looked inflatable and randomly placed, like a perverse Oscar shooting gallery, and the use of klieg lights and other exposed lightbulbs in those cubbyholes was nearly as tired as the hundreds of typewriters trotted out - once again - to signal that it was time to give out the screenplay Oscars. Even the 10,000 Swarovski crystals that bedecked the set while Idina Menzel bleated "Let it Go" were barely noticeable since the camera kept so close to her terrified face. And just because one of the producers of the show loves the musical Follies, that's no reason to have a wall of huge red flowers on stage. The set was familiar and a little cheap, so it wins a Postie.
There were some definite hits: Goldie Hawn's daughter Kate Hudson looked terrific, Kristin Chenoweth was stunning in a gold Art Deco dress, and Lupita Nyong'o was gorgeous in "Nairobi blue," as Kelly Osbourne cooed throughout the day. Charlize Theron's structured black dress was amazing, but it's hard to imagine her not looking good. I loved Jennifer Garner's metallic fringe dress and her hair and makeup.
But if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Camila Alves, Matthew McConaughey's wife, because her pink dress was not only amazing, but it reminded me of perhaps my favorite costume in the history of film: Katharine Hepburn's Grecian swimming pool robe in The Philadelphia Story.
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.
Again, this is why I enjoyed the selfie bit: seeing the likes of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Bradley Cooper, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep et al. jump out of their seats enthusiastically to take a picture expressed the fun that I'd like to think I'd have if I were a nominee sitting there. So there are many contenders for this award this year, and that makes me very happy.
Beyond those in the selfie, Kristen Bell seemed to be the go-to cutaway whenever Frozen was mentioned, and she sat there beaming at her seat every time the camera found her.
And then there were the dancing dames of Doubt: Amy Adams' slick moves and Meryl Streep's shimmy when Pharrell Williams Happied by them.
But this award is as easy to give as the Cuba Gooding Jr. Speech Award earlier, and to the same person. Lupita Nyong'o was living her dream just by sitting in that audience. Even if she hadn't won the Oscar, she still would have schmoozed with all these wonderful stars, danced first with Pharrell, and basked in the night. And then she did win, and her smile beamed ever brighter. Her "performance" in the audience was so wonderful, I'm almost tempted to call this a Luposti'e. But that would be going altogether too far. But she still has two Posties to frame that Oscar.
So why am I distressed even with the results, when 12 Years a Slave was my second favorite nominated Picture this year, and Cate Blanchett my clear favorite of all the actors in any category? For a number of reasons.
First and foremost, the night proceeded with nothing remotely resembling a surprise. The winner of the Oscar pool at the party I attended got 22 right out of 24. Sure, that's impressive, but it's also incredibly sad. All four acting winners had won the night before at the Spirit Awards, and they had dominated the dozens of awards shows in the preceding weeks. So there was no gasp, no excitement, no thrill at any of the announcements (my biggest "thrill" was seeing Helium win for Live Action Short, but I had also predicted it).
And I must say that 12 Years a Slave's triumph with only two other awards makes it all too easy to assume that it was a film not loved by many (as it was by me) but seen as the "right" choice, more a reflection of its subject matter, its place in history, than a recognition of its artistry.
Sure, I admit a little schadenfreude that American Hustle got blitzed, but since one of my favorite films ever went 0 for 11 its year at the Oscars (that would be The Color Purple), and since my favorite Best Picture nominee also went unawarded (that would be The Wolf of Wall Street), I don't over-indulge such spitefulness. No, that I'll save for the producers, writers and host of this wretched evening and hope that none of them are ever invited back to desecrate it ever again.
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 >