Tuesday, March 07, 2006

The Oscars:
Boy, do people like to gripe about the Oscars. From who got left off the nominations to who got robbed by someone else winning to how bad the new host stunk, it's just bitch, bitch, bitch.

Usually, the Oscars barely even rate a blip on my radar. The choices of the Academy and my choices for great, memorable films are usually miles apart, and for all that I like Billy Crystal in general, his Oscar hosting stints have never really been enticing to me.

This year, I actually watched the Oscars. Partly because the nominated films and actors were much more interesting to me than usual, and in large part because Jon Stewart of the Daily Show was tapped to host. Oh, and because I have a Tivo. I watched the whole show in two hours, by skipping through the things I didn't want to see. Things like being lectured on how I should really pay to see movies in the theatre, and you can't get the majesty of film on DVD. I really enjoyed that Jake Gyllenhall more or less laughed at that when it was forced into his introduction speech.

So what happens? Lower than usual viewership and a bunch of people saying that Jon was an unsuccessful host. Many people griping that Crash, the surprise win for Best Picture, was the "safe" choice. Me, I was thrilled to see Brokeback go on less of a win streak, if only because I'm not a gigantic Ang Lee fan and I suspect that I'm not going to enjoy the movie as much as everyone else did when the DVD finally comes out. But mostly it was because I saw Crash, and I thought it was the best film I saw that year. Now, in fairness, it is the only best picture nominee I saw, and I'm sure I'll love Goodnight and Good Luck, Munich and probably Capote too, but I found Crash to be a really great movie. But then, I've always liked Paul Haggis's work since back in the EZ Streets days. I suspect it was a very near thing, as Crash won for best screenplay, but Brokeback won for best adapted screenplay and best director. Had Brokeback picked up one of the acting wins, I bet it would've been best picture.

Yes, Stewart did seem a little stiff and uncomfortable during his monologue. But hey, he was talking to an unusual crowd, and was probably nervous and maybe even a little bit starstruck to realize who was in his audience. He got considerably better throughout the night, though, and his comments on the silliness of some of the overblown montages ("And none of those things were ever a problem again") made the saccharine, self-congratulatory nature of the Oscars a lot more fun for this viewer. If they have him back next year, I'll probably watch. Although truthfully, if they took up some viewers' suggestions and put Clooney in as host, I'd watch that too, because I've always liked the guy and I thought he came across as genuine, funny and easy-going in his acceptance speech ("So I guess I'm not winning best director"), his introduction speech and the funny bit in the opening sequence with Stewart.

Loved that the 36 Mafia won for best song, as they were the only performance I didn't fast-forward through. Would have loved to see Terrence Howard win best actor, but was thoroughly pleased to see one of the great A-list actors of our time, Philip Seymour Hoffman, get the nod. Was really hoping to see Felicity Huffman pull an upset, but Reese Witherspoon is a solid actress and her speech was so sweet that I couldn't begrudge her. Thought pretty much everyone in the supporting actor race had earned an Oscar in one of their various roles, and I'm sure most if not all of them will eventually be Oscar winners. Certainly Paul Giamatti will be picking up one of those statues in the next few years. I was shocked that Amy Adams didn't win for Best Supporting, and she was great in the mostly dull Junebug, but I actually liked the movie and the performance from Rachel Weisz, so that was pretty cool.

The technical and design Oscars seemed pretty evenly split amongst King Kong, Narnia and Geisha, such that none could claim a complete win but everybody got a little taste. All in all, I thought this was a pretty good Oscar year, and while I personally might have put other films, actors or directors in certain races, I think all of the nominee choices were worthy ones. If the show they put on next year is of this caliber, I'll be watching again.

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