Monday, February 28, 2011
Oscar Night: A Recap
So the 83rd Annual Academy Awards came to a close just a few minutes ago and I was generally pleased. It would have been nice to have some surprises, as all the nominees who were expected to win did. But that also meant that my statistics were really high this year (18 correct predictions out of 21 categories considered) so I was happy with that. The show moved along at a nice, fluid pace. The acceptance speeches were gracious and, for the most part, eloquent. Even the musical performances, which are usually the most boring part of it for me, were tolerable. The Oscars were really about “The Movies” this year and it respected the generations of film goers and filmmakers that preceded this one.
One speech stood out as particularly honest and telling of the true meaning and power film can have. When David Seidler won the Oscar for his work in writing the screenplay for The King’s Speech, he thanked the Academy for the award on behalf of all of the stutters and said, “We have a voice and we have been heard.” That film was about empowerment in the face of adversity and overcoming a great personal hardship and it is also an allegory for anyone struggling with something they don't think they can overcome. Film has a long history of enlightening viewers about issues that otherwise might go unnoticed – be it in the documentary or narrative traditions. Seidler’s speech was moving both because he spoke about both his own personal struggles and because it showed how the medium of film could have such a lasting and important effect on those who have similar struggles, be it stuttering or whatever else they need a voice for.
My one complaint about the show, and it’s a big one, was the insipid and vapid hosts. In an attempt to attract a younger television audience, the show’s producers hired Anne Hathaway and (already overexposed) James Franco to take on the roles as host. Let’s start with Franco. He could not have looked more bored and uninterested in his latest gig. Maybe it’s just his general affect, but between all of his other projects – PhD student, film acting, soap opera “performance art,” etcetera, etcetera – this just seemed to be at the very bottom of his list of what he wanted to be doing at that moment. His most enthusiastic moment was when a fellow NYU film school graduate won the Oscar for best short live action film and gave NYU a shout-out. When the cameras were back on Franco he yelled, “Yeah NYU!” I mean, yes it’s cool to show school pride and all, but really? Should that be the only thing that animates the host of the Academy Awards during the telecast? His lack of fervor for this gig came across as a certain form of snobbery and general "over it"ness. Further, while watching him tonight I couldn’t help but think he was laughing at all of us watching at home and buying into the hype of Hollywood, that he was better than and above it all.
Hathaway, on the other hand, was just the opposite. She spent the night as an over enthusiastic sycophantic “Woo-girl” (see: How I Met Your Mother). Her inability to contain whatever it was -- nerves, excitement – came off as unprofessional and just plain annoying. To be fair, she did have to have the enthusiasm of two hosts as clearly Franco had no interest of being there. She stood by his side and nudged him on to show signs of life, which must have been a huge pain for her to do. But she could have toned it down a little for the rest of the show. Hathaway nearly passed out on stage and was unable to contain her excitement when Kirk Douglas told her she was beautiful, and every time she or James announced another presenter she could be heard loudly “woo-ing” into the microphone. During the inevitable lulls was she so desperate for material that she felt she had to do the twist (in her own, admittedly personal moment) to show us that her dress had fringe? How about a shred of professionalism? When she introduced Billy Crystal I found myself saying out loud, “Please stay and take over the show from here.” But alas, my wish did not come true.
Despite the shortcomings of the hosts, I, as usual, enjoyed the show tremendously. From keeping score on my personal ballot, to the catharsis of the "In Memoriam" segment, from honoring the year’s best films to admiring or hating the fashion choices, Oscar night lived up to my expectations. Now, only 12 months till the next one!