Monday, March 8, 2010

A Few Thoughts on Oscar '09

Last night’s Academy Awards show was really dismal, one of the worst in recent memory, which is saying a lot. I don’t intend to recap everything about last night’s show, but will make a few rants, er, I mean, observations.

The length didn’t bother me – it never really does. After all, it’s only once a year. If I was a regular follower of a football team, I’d be devoting that much time every week during an entire football season. So the show’s length didn’t bother me.

What really got my goat is I can’t believe they screwed up the “In Memoriam” segment for the second year in a row. While this year’s presentation was an improvement over last year’s monstrosity (shot so far away you couldn’t see who was being honored), this year’s was still botched by its opening and closing presentation and the way it was shot.

They bring out James Taylor to sing The Beatles’ “In My Life” which is fine, I guess, but we get footage of Taylor singing (who cares, it’s about the people being honored, dammit, not the guy singing) and missed the first couple of people shown in the segment. They had Demi Moore introduce the segment likely because Patrick Swayze was the first person shown (I think, I’m not sure) but we didn’t see that at home because they were too busy showing Taylor.

I was irritated they didn’t include composer Maurice Jarre, but I thought I saw him at the very end (with baton upraised) but it was far away and I couldn’t tell. I found out today he was the second person shown in the montage, which we at home couldn’t see. But he was included in the recap, with some people, including Brittany Murphy. But recapping what we already saw meant other people got left out of the tribute. Next time, forget the recap, and leave room for additional people. If it needs to be longer, make it longer.

There’s a lot of controversy about leaving out Farrah Fawcett from the segment. Yes, she should definitely have been included. I didn’t see Richard Todd either. He was even nominated in 1950 for Best Actor for “The Hasty Heart” and no mention. They have room for some p.r. guy, but not an Academy Award-nominated actor?

It amazes how these professionals, considered the best in the business, haven’t figured out, for two years in a row, to let us at home see the whole “In Memoriam” segment and not have the beginnings and ends clipped off. Unbelievable.

Just as ignoble was the “interpretive dance” performances set to music up for this year’s Best Score. This was badly thought out, badly choreographed, badly staged, badly lit, way too long…you get the idea. I have a feeling this was the brainchild of first time producer Adam Shankman, director and choreographer of “Hairspray” (2007), and a judge on “So You Think You Can Dance.” It was a total disaster, and left one feeling strangely nostalgic for those God-awful Debbie Allen-choreographed numbers from the 1990s, which at least had the benefit of being shorter.

This sequence could have been easily eliminated with no loss at all. Equally lame was the tribute to horror movies, introduced by Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart. Here again, you have to wonder - didn’t anyone think this thing through? Stewart says horror movies haven’t been a part of the Oscars since “The Exorcist”, back in 1973. Well, what about “Silence of the Lambs”, which swept the 1991 Oscars? Not a horror movie? Well, they had clips from it in the horror film montage. Duh! And not one clip from a Hammer horror movie? Grrr….

I had some complaints about a couple of the winners, but that’s par for the course. I wouldn’t have given “The Hurt Locker” the Best Screenplay Oscar. A great film, and a brilliantly directed one, but the screenplay itself was not a barn buster. Tarentino was robbed.

And I’m not sure about “Avatar” taking Best Cinematography, since much of it was designed in a computer, but maybe there were many technical challenges overcome which resulted in the Oscar.

I did like Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin as co-hosts and wished they were given more to do. I would rather have them do the intros than the voice overs. They were strangely absent for most of the show.

I’ll still watch next year and will likely rant, but won’t be so upset if they could only get the “In Memoriam” segment right next time. One suggestion: hire the people who put the together a similar sequence for TCM. They have it all over the one that the Academy puts together.


Keith Buckley said...

I enjoyed your rant........ err....comments on the Oscars. I would say it was a mix of good and bad. I agree the "In Memorium" and best song dance segments were pretty bad. But offsetting were the Martin/Baldwin combo, the horror tribute, recognition of Roger Corman at the Oscars (who would of thunk?), and the nice John Hughes tribute. Yes no Hammer Horrors clips, but some nice Universal Horror clips, and the tribute being done at all was a welcome surprise. We can also nit-pick the winners/losers, but all in they were quite reasonable selections. A thinking man could have likely gotten a good 18 picks correct. Personally, I missed the singing of the best song nominations, but my guess is since two were from Randy Newman, and his songs tend to sound alike, they decided to ditch it this year (sorry Randy). The guy who hosted the party I attended shared your views, so you are not alone in your opinions. :)

Kevin Deany said...

And I bet your host threw a great Oscar party. The horror tribute was a good idea badly handled. And how ironic that in the tribute there were no clips from a Roger Corman, who the Academy had honored with a Special Oscar. Just badly thought out.

I would have liked to have Corman and Lauren Bacall bought onstage to take their well-deserved bows, rather than rise from their chairs. Whatever happened to showmanship?

Classicfilmboy said...

I'm a little late with my comments. I do think you're a little hard on the show, but I do agree the show just seemed off this year. For every good thing there was a head-scratcher. Frankly, this may be unpopular to say, but just get rid of the "In Memorium" section. The fact that they cannot get it right, from content to how ABC presents it, has doomed this section. I'd rather watch the special awards presented -- I mean, wouldn't it have been great to watch the presentations for Roger Corman and Lauren Bacall instead of the horror movie tribute? Sigh.

Kevin Deany said...

You may be onto something with dispensing with the Memoriam segment. I think they've only been doing it for the past 10 years or so, so it's hardly a part of Oscar tradition.

It doesn't seem hard to do. Set the list of ground rules - say everyone from the last Oscar broadcst, and have some appropriate music in the background, and voila, you're done. Yet they seem to screw it up ever year. I think the whole segment is way overthought by those in charge.

Classicfilmboy said...

The last two years they have brought on a singer to perform a farewell number -- last year it was Queen Latifah, this year James Taylor. This now creates a problem for the producers -- what do you focus on? Obviously this segment should focus on those who pass, but now you have to show the singer a few times too. I say get rid of it.