Awards Season Opinion The Oscars

The 83rd Academy Awards – Our Thoughts….

Well, it didn’t seem to go too well, did it? As I sat and watched the half-assed comedy that was James Franco and Anne Hathaway hosting the film industry’s night of nights, I had to ask myself where I thought it all went wrong. The idea, in principle, was sound: get a couple of young, attractive stars to spice up the Oscars and make it more appealing to the younger crowd – after all, who even remembers Jack Nicholson anyway? The result, though, filtered through the frankly banal banter of Franco and Hathaway, was – and I put this delicately, lest I one day seek to be invited to the Oscars myself – abysmal. For some reason, the chemistry between Franco and Hathaway evaporated as soon as they went “live” with the show. The pre-recorded material had a bit of zing to it, but the actual ceremony wilted under the glare of a mega-watt audience and the blinking red light above the camera beaming them to audiences around the globe. I’ll admit, Hathaway earned a lot of praise from me for her effort, singing and laughing and smiling her way through the show, while Franco tried to smolder the audience into adoration-obsessed submission, but it just didn’t work. They came off as too fake, too rehearsed. Hathaway only barely scraped out of being described as “bimbo-esque” and Franco channeled the sullen disposition of James Dean, almost scowling his way through the show.

Hosting aside, the ceremony also managed to induce a coma in anybody expecting something exciting to happen. Hell, even the winners didn’t jump around and collapse in a frenzy like previous recipients: where was Halle Berry’s tearful sob-speech, where was that Italian dude climbing over seats to get to the stage in his excitement, where was frickin’ Adrien Brody kissing some gorgeous star on the lips as he accepts his award, where was Gwenyth Paltrow thanking everyone on Earth including her dogs? Where? Nowhere. Like a slo-motion production trotting out vacuous platitudes, the Oscars kept getting slower and slower. Bit parts to fan-favorite Billy Crystal (and Bob Hope in a cameo), as well as an obviously ancient Kirk Douglas (really, they gave the old guy precious seconds on a major TV broadcast and he can’t even talk properly?) only served to highlight the gulf between the elder statesmen of the industry and the newcomers, most of whom were overlooked for any mantelpiece adornments this year. There was no real upset, no real energy to the show (although when Best Supporting Actress Melissa Leo dropped the F-Bomb on stage it brought the crowd temporarily to semi-shocked life) and definitely no spark. The comedy was dull, Helen Mirren looked uncomfortable standing even in the same room as fellow Brit (and current Mr Katy Perry) Russell Brand, and even Hathaway’s cripplingly dire song lamenting Hugh Jackman not singing with her all but killed the show. Again, not through lack of trying, because it was easy to see that Franco and Hathaway were trying, but the energy of the show remained bafflingly absent. You’d think in a room full of mega-stars, somebody’d be able to come up with some real comedy.

 

Jimmy and Anne.

Even worse, the results of the awards were pretty much what everyone expected. Yawn. Well, yawn for us, not those who got them.As expected, The King’s Speech took home the big prize, Firth won his Oscar (probably as close to a career-Oscar as we got this year) and The Social Network and Inception lost out on the big ones geeks around the world had hoped they’d get.

On the positive side, and yes, there were a few minor moments of Academy awesomeness, the segment involving a mash-up vocaliser-version of dialogue from key youth-oriented films (Social Network, Twilight: Eclipse, Harry Potter) failed to ignite the mainly older Oscar audience in the Kodak Theatre, but they certainly drew a few sniggers from me. Last years Best Actress Sandra Bullock had a few shitz-n-giggles at the expense of the Best Actor nominees (she had the best line of the night – calling Jeff Bridges “Dude”, a tip of the hat to his character in The Big Lebowski), and she really did lighten up proceedings for the few moments she had to shine. The co-presenter banter was kept to a blessed minimum this time out, although whatever Justin Timberlake was on certainly shouldn’t be sold over the counter. A few of the winners rambled on a lot, and I’ve made previous comment on what I think of that and how it can be overcome, but overall the ceremony went off without a hitch. It’s just that it was so boring – at least with MTV you have the chance to get slimed; with the Academy you have the chance to get bored.

I hate to say it -and remain in line with a fair majority of critics around the web today – but Ricky Gervais might have pissed people off at the Golden Globes, but at least he got people interested in them. Maybe the Oscars need some controversy to remain relevant in this Facebook/Twitter age of sound bites and two minute news cycles. Otherwise we go back to Billy Crystal – no offense Billy, but he’s been-there-done-that and they can’t keep going back to that well. Less of the scripted farce and more spontaneity.

© 2011, www.fernbyfilms.com. All rights reserved.

7 COMMENTS

  1. Hey Rodney — I think your review lines up with how many felt about the awards ceremony, though I see the problem was more Franco, less so if not at all with Hathaway. I actually found her quite engaging, funny and effective – I don’t know if the show was changed “on the fly” as Franco lost more and more momentum, or if the plan all along was for him to give Hathaway the majority of the duties. Either way, Hathaway prevented the show from crashing into the mountain and while I agree the pace felt sluggish at times, even banal, I liked Hathaway here probably more than many of her film roles (Rachel Getting Married not withstanding). I’d even go so far as to say she did an amazing job. She’s 28 – Did you see the audience towering in front of her?

    I agree, the pre-recorded material was sharp and witty, an enjoyable pre-amble to the show. I kept thinking that it was going to be an uphill battle no matter how much the hosts tried to keep it light – I mean all those clenched fists, biting nails, and weighty air of anticipation. I don’t know if anyone else noticed but Aronofsky looked a bit uptight. I think he thought he should have taken home the gold towards the end. I have to believe the nominees don’t know they are going to win otherwise I might lose hope in the Easter Bunny as well.

    Wow. “…while Franco tried to smolder the audience into adoration-obsessed submission..” That is tough but I can’t argue or even defend his work, as it was painful at times to see how uncomfortable he was. I kept wanting to tell him, don’t look up! Don’t look up!

    I’m also a bit surprised that you found the ceremony itself troubling. We were blown away by the presentation, the giant half-dome projection and the Bob Hope segment was a hoot – right? Maybe the ceremony moved slowly but I suppose I wanted eloquence to win out over spectacle, for pageantry to scale back on the choppy hob-bobbing, MTV cursed rapid fire cutting that dominates just about everything else these days. I suppose all in all I wanted to relax, take a breath and enjoy the moments, albeit many were rushed or chopped off at the end.

    Wow, Rodney. Taking jabs at Douglas seems a bit harsh. I mean nothing for nothing but he’ll be 95 in December and he’s #17 on AFI’s list of the greatest American screen legends of all time and in 1996 he received an honorary Academy Award for 50 years of service. Oh, and that same year he suffered a stroke which is why, along with those many years swinging swords and wooing the ladies, he was a bit shaky but I think he wanted to let you know he’s not out just yet and that’s inspirational or should be. Sure, I think there is a divide between the generations, quite a chasm really, but I’d rather see the effort made from the other end to meet the high standards of those who came before, the ones who built the roads and theaters we’re now enjoying.

    I can’t say I was surprised by Melissa Leo winning but I still would have preferred to see Hailee win but that is a personal preference not a professional one. For that matter, they all deserved gold but that’s not what the show is all about. I have to say I was a little surprised by some of the choices but they make sense overall.

    I have to agree that the jokes were not zingers, the funny bits as you described were lackluster and even dull, perhaps in part of the hosts or maybe the writers just weren’t delivering as they have in previous years. Oh and Ricky Gervais was brilliant at the Golden Globes regardless what many thought.

    As always a detailed and through going over of the big event. Best->

    • Thanks Rory! Allow me to respond (and clarify some of my thoughts).

      I wasn't too clear in my praise of the Crystal/Hope spot, which I thought was one of the shows plusses, so I agree with you that it was a funny moment in an otherwise dull show. I also want to make it clear that I was in no way dissing Mr Douglas as an actor or human being – I just felt it was a little awkward with his slurred speech and stumbling physical issues, none of which were his fault; why they needed to trot out a man who deserves a lot more respect in his latter years is beyond my comprehension. Let the poor man enjoy his retirement.

      The problem with writing for the Oscars is that everyone in the audience has an ego, and any poking of fun at their expense runs the risk of upsetting somebody – all this results in a show devoid of any real humour since all the great material is "out of bounds" lest somebody have their noses out of joint. It dilutes the shows potential, and thus, a boring show is born. Hugh Jackman's obvious discomfort at Hathaway's song to him was cringworthy, but about as close to controversially provocative as the ceremony ever got.

      As far as the writing goes, and I refer to my previous point about nobody wanting to upset any of the "elite" in the room, but surely with the talent at it's disposal, the Academy should be able to feel more "alive" than it did yesterday. Bob Hope's spot, if anything, showed just what actual talent can achieve – his material was funnier than anything the modern production team managed to produce and he's been dead for nearly a decade! Why can't the writers produce material like that now? Because the stuffed shirt brigade wants the Oscars to be taken "seriously" – it seems somebody forgot to mention that "seriously" has been supplanted by "boring" somewhere along the way.

  2. Hey Rodney…I think I knew that (about Mr. Douglas) but felt the need to expand on your thread and invite others to do so as well. So often we read things online that are not privy to explanation or clarification but so few times do people take the time to ask, question, or wonder. And I do agree that his segment was exceedingly long and awkward both for the viewer and just about everyone. I think ideas are sometimes better on paper. I guess I had it in my mind that he was at the helm of his own ship but perhaps not. I guess these are times when I just hope for the best.

    I agree about the 'uncomfortable factor'. I was so disappointed in James Franco – I mean I didn't know what to expect and after the short pre-recorded segment which I liked quite a bit, I thought O.K. things are going to be like that. I was telling my wife, the problem with some actors is they are better off working than talking about working. I'm not even going to touch what is going on with Charlie Sheen right now but that's sort of similar. Do the work, be the work, but heaven help us all when the work becomes a club or baton with which to assault all the wrongs in the world.

    Ah, yes. Seriously often slips beneath the sheets of boring, stodgy, stiff and impenetrable.

    cheers->

  3. Franco looked like a man afraid a heckler from the audience was about to throw a gooseberry in his face. Just painfully rigid and charmless. It would be nice if they had a presenter or two who could write their own material (Hello…Steve Martin, Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg et al). That would be so much more interesting, funny and enjoyable than watching the admittedly beautiful Anne Hathaway boring me to the edge of self-harm, remaining watching only in the hope her next dress change would be more revealing.

    • Hathaway has a classic beauty, much like the oft-quoted Audrey Hepburn did, but her histrionic performance was truly garbage – and you're right, they need to get people able to write their own material and adequately feed of the mood of the room.

  4. Pretty sad thing when the most entertaining bit of the night was an autotune montage with Harry Potter and Twilight in it… Franco obviously didn't want to be there and Hathaway looked freaking drunk. Then you have Melissa Leo excruciatingly fake and rehearsed speech.

    • I'm hoping that one day, somebody is going to win an Oscar, get up on stage and instead of thanking everybody they've ever known, say 'Shit, how good am I!!!" That would be a laugh.

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Never blessed with a body worthy of a porn star, nor being the heir to a wealthy industrialists fortune, nor suffering the tragedy of having his parents murdered outside a Gotham theater, Rodney is, contrary to popular opinion, neither Ron Jeremy, JD Rockefeller, or Batman. As a serious appreciator of film since 1996, Rodney's love affair with the medium has continued with his online blog, Fernby Films, a facility allowing him to communicate with fellow cineasts in their mutual love of all things movie.

The 83rd Academy Awards – Our Thoughts….

by Rodney Twelftree
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