This is not a recap or criticism of anyone in particular (except maybe for Angelina), just my lingering impressions of the Oscar ceremony:
- Some Like it Wilder! The peerless filmmaker Billy Wilder (Some Like it Hot, Sunset Boulevard, and many other classics) got a major shout-out from Best Director Michael Hazanavicius during his Best Picture acceptance speech. Like I said in my post about The Artist, the man clearly adores the classics.
- I’m glad Octavia Spencer won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, but the standing ovation she got felt kinda icky and patronizing to me. Standing ovations at the Oscars usually recognize a person’s body of work, lifetime achievement, etc. What exactly was Octavia’s standing ovation for? She gave a great performance in The Help, but it’s not like she has an exceptional body of work. The applause seemed self-congratulatory: Yay for us! We’re so enlightened and proud of our progress as a society that we’ll give this award to a black actor but feel no need to challenge an industry that still has appallingly limited opportunities for actors of color (Thank you, Chris Rock for calling Hollywood out on that). Billy Crystal’s comment about wanting to hug the first black woman he saw after watching The Help underscored the patronizing sentiment and my issues with the film: Instead of challenging us to examine our own privilege and our complicity in racist/classist systems, the film encourages a pitying “Oh, you poor thing, I just want to hug you.” Ick.
- Speaking of privilege, I thought it was interesting that Daniel Junge, the white male producer of Saving Face, said it’s more important for the Pakistani woman on stage, producer Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, to speak, yet went ahead and spoke first anyway.
- Bring the lifetime achievement awards and special honors back to the main telecast (see my suggestion on Slate: http://hive.slate.com/hive/fix-the-oscars/lose-the-dance-numbers-keep-the-thalbergs). I imagine it was nice for Oprah, James Earl Jones, and Dick Smith to have a whole evening dedicated to them at the Governors Awards, but I still believe it’s a mistake to rob the audience of Hollywood history by not presenting those awards during the main ceremony. Acknowledgment of legends like Lauren Bacall is instead reduced to a perfunctory stand-and-wave ritual during the telecast.
- Speaking of cinema history, couldn’t they have included stars or filmmakers from beyond just the past 10 years in the (mostly pointless) “Why I Love Films” montage? Why couldn’t we see memorable performers like Doris Day or Celeste Holm or Peter O’Toole instead of schlubs like Seth Rogen and Adam Sandler, who apparently couldn’t even be bothered to shave?
- In Memoriam gets it right: Esperanza Spalding’s classy rendition of “What a Wonderful World” beautifully complemented, rather than competed with, the montage. Also, it was the right decision to hold all applause to the end; it keeps the segment from turning into a popularity applause-o-meter.
- Mark Darcy, how I love you: We all know the writing for the intros and presentations can be strained, but Colin Firth’s presentation of the Best Actress award, compared to Natalie Portman’s wooden presentation of the Best Actor award, shows that experience, conviction, and self-deprecating humor can save leaden writing.
- Thighgelina: Why, why? The “check out my thigh” pose was awkward and uncharacteristically in-your-face for the actress, who usually rocks a more reserved, “I’m beautiful and I know it and I don’t need to work for you mortals’ attention” vibe. Also, eat something, sweetheart! I don’t mean to be all judge-y, but you used to have luscious curves, now you look emaciated. It just doesn’t seem healthy. And, as funny as Jim Rash’s faux-posing was, he should watch his back: Evelyn Salt can end you with that skinny thigh.