Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscar Observations

As I mentioned in my previous post, I had some friends over last night to watch the broadcast of the 81st Annual Academy Awards.

It was a fun night. We all filled out ballots before the show and had a prize for the person who predicted/guessed the most number of winners. (It went to my friend Rick, a true movie buff, who successfully picked 13 of the winners).

Anyway, here’s a few “Oscar observations” from last night’s show:

As disappointed as I was with Milk’s portrayal of Dan White (discussed here), I was nevertheless quite moved by screenwriter Dustin Lance Black’s impassioned speech after winning for Best Original Screenplay.

If Harvey [Milk] had not been taken from us thirty years ago, I think he would want me to say to all the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight who have been told they are less than – by the churches, by the government, by their families – that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value, and that no matter what anyone tells you, God does love you and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights, federally, across this great nation of ours.

Later in the show, Sean Penn won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role. In accepting his award for playing slain gay-rights pioneer Harvey Milk, Penn condemned not only the anti-gay protesters who were demonstrating outside the Academy Awards’ venue, but those who recently campaigned and voted against civil marriage rights for gay people in California.

For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight, I think it’s a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect on their great shame and the shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that support. We’ve got to have equal rights for everyone.

Apart from Milk, the only other Best Picture nominated film I’ve seen is The Reader, in which Kate Winslet certainly displays her acting chops. I had a hard time, however, getting too excited about her Best Actress in a Leading Role win as I never bought into the central premise of the film. Accordingly, Winslet’s character, Hanna, and Hanna’s motivations never really gelled for me. I think critic Ron Rosenbaum sums it up best when he writes:

So much is made of the deep, deep exculpatory shame of illiteracy . . . that some worshipful accounts of the novel (by those who buy into its ludicrous premise) . . . actually seem to affirm that illiteracy is something more to be ashamed of than participating in mass murder. . . . Lack of reading skills is more disgraceful than listening in bovine silence to the screams of 300 people as they are burned to death behind the locked doors of a church you’re guarding to prevent them from escaping the flames. Which is what Hanna did.

On to a more cheery topic . . . host Hugh Jackman was actually the highlight of the 81st Annual Academy Awards for me – and, no, not just because he’s a fellow Aussie and incredibly handsome!

The guy has a natural wit and charm that puts many Hollywood celebrities to shame. His opening song-and-dance set a standard that, sadly, was not matched throughout the rest of the broadcast – mainly because Jackman was so under-utilized as host! What was that all about?

Here’s the Associated Press’ take on Jackman’ performance as host of last night’s Oscars:

. . . The sorry state of the economy inspired Jackman’s opening performance.

“Due to cutbacks, the Academy said they didn’t have enough money for an opening number,” Jackman declared. “I’m going to do one anyway.”

And he did, with a musical tribute to the nominated films cleverly staged with tatty, bargain-basement props (and help from Anne Hathaway, summoned from her seat).

After last year’s Oscars delivered their worst TV ratings ever, producers this time aimed to liven up the show with some surprises and new ways of presenting awards. Rather than hiring a comedian such as past hosts Jon Stewart or Chris Rock, the producers went with actor and song-and-dance man Hugh Jackman, who has been host of Broadway’s Tony Awards.

Instead of the usual standup routine, Jackman did an engaging musical number to open the show, saluting nominated films with a clever tribute.

Offering a nod to Slumdog Millionaire, Jackman crooned, “Just a humble slumdog, sitting in a chair, of a millionaire ...” He hauled best-actress nominee Anne Hathaway on-stage to stand in as Richard Nixon in a gag tune about fellow best-picture nominee Frost/Nixon and asked the question in song – why don’t comic-book movies get nominated? – a dig at Oscar voters’ best-picture snub of The Dark Knight.

It was something of an inside joke, since Jackman himself has starred in the X-Men comic-book adaptations and this summer’s Wolverine spinoff.

Jackman later did a medley staged by his Australia director Baz Luhrmann with such performers as Beyonce Knowles and High School Musical stars Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Efron.

Above (from left): My friends Daniel, Joey, Kathleen, Rick,
and Kay
- Oscar Night, February 22, 2009.

Recommended Off-site Links:
Behind the Times: The Nominees for the 81st Annual Academy Awards - Hiram Lee and David Walsh (World Socialist Web Site, January 23, 2009).
Milque-Toasting Milk - OoMick (February 23, 2009).
“New” Oscars Gets Better Ratings - Joal Ryan (Yahoo News, February 24, 2009).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Where Milk Gets It Wrong
Five Oscar Highlights (2008)

1 comment:

crystal said...

Thanks for this post. I missed the show. I haven't read many reviews of The Reader, but it's was good to see that someone else felt the same way I did about it. Sorry I missed Hugh Jackman :)