Jon Stewart may have designated this year’s Oscar ceremony the post-strike “make-up sex,” but it was more like a wistful catch-up drink with your ex in which you’re both so busy bringing up the old times that neither of you actually manages to get around to finding out how the other is doing in the present. From the opening montage of action movie moments and superstars to the never-ending bombardment of montages of past presenters, past acceptance speeches, past musical numbers (including an apparently nostalgic wink at the infamous 1989 Rob Lowe/Snow White debacle), past winning films and everything short of a montage of best death montage milestone, this year’s backward-glancing awards were more concerned with the way we were than the way we are. Case in point: After giving the much-deserved win for Original Song to “Once,” a real heartwrencher of a competition with the number from the scrappy $100,000 movie pulling out in front of three entries from 18-time nominee Alan Menken, the PTB cut the latter half of the singer/songwriter team, MarkÃ©ta IrglovÃ¡, off before she could say a word in favor of more taped reminiscences from more famous former winners who were presumably given the chance to get in at least a few sentences before getting played off the stage. Host Stewart had to retrieve IrglovÃ¡ after the commercial break to give her a moment to deliver her impassioned thank you speech.
It’s not such a surprise that the Oscars have become a misty remembrance of times past 2007 was a year of great movies that audiences mostly passed up in favor of threequels that, “Bourne Ultimatum” aside, no one could laud. Marion Cotillard may have done a hell of an Edith Piaf impersonation in “La Vie en Rose,” but you could feel the award show producers all but drumming their nails when she won if the film’s $10 million box office take, pretty good for an indie French film, were any indication, most of the viewing audience had no idea who she was. “Oh, for the days of ‘Hello, gorgeous!'” you could hear them sighing as they cut, again, to tape. “What the fuck will happen to the ratings?”
For me, the strangest part of the whole ceremony was finding myself, for the first time in memory, in total agreement with the Academy “No Country for Old Men” was the best motion picture of the year and a brilliant encapsulation of our national mindset. But that’s not what the Oscars are all about, right? Or if it is, and this inexorable creep toward Indiewood and the international continues, then maybe it’s about time the Academy embrace that, rather than stiltedly ignoring the fact in favor of how things used to be.
Bits and pieces worth remembering:
Josh Brolin apologizing to Jack Nicholson for the poor quality of his Nicholson impression.
Stewart suggesting that rather than canceling their Oscar party out of respect for the writers, Vanity Fair could actually invite some next time.
Javier Bardem taking a bow after his acceptance speech everyone should make their exits so gallantly.
That photo of “Roderick Jaynes.”
A glowing Daniel Day-Lewis thanking the Academy “for whacking me with the handsomest bludgeon in town.”
Tilda Swinton! She seemed as surprised as anyone to win, but if you didn’t prepare a speech, dedicating much of your time to making fun of George Clooney is an excellent way to cover. To relive: “George Clooney, you know, the seriousness and the dedication to your art, seeing you climb into that rubber bat suit from ‘Batman & Robin,’ the one with the nipples, every morning under your costume, on the set, off the set, hanging upside-down at lunch, you rock, man.” Seriously.
[Photo: Ethan Coen: “Thank you very much” Darren Decker / Â©A.M.P.A.S.]