Wednesday, March 02, 2005

At long last...the bald, golden, naked man goes to...

Fair warning: Insanely long post. Some people follow sports. I follow the movies. The Oscars is like my Superbowl, final four, Stanley Cup, Masters, Olympics, whatever.

Admittedly, this year’s Oscar race did not enthralled me as past contests have. There really wasn’t one movie for which I had strong feelings, negative or positive.. I wasn’t pulling for anything in particular. All the nominations were well-deserved. Heck, I haven’t even seen all the films that received major nods yet. Shame on me.

For the first time in years I didn’t even make it through the whole show, the shortest in recent history. I hit the sack after Hillary Swank won. After a weekend shuttling a group of middle school kids around Charlottesville, I needed my sleep.

The ceremony itself was pretty damn dull. Despite all the hype for bringing a fresh, modern, urban perspective to the show, Chris Rock just was not all that funny. Now I like Chris Rock; his routines have cracked my ass up many a time. During the Oscars, he just seemed flat. There were some really funny moments like the “Jay Walking”- type short and the “Check Cashing Place” joke. But mostly, his presence was weak. His trademark venomous ribbing and riffing on attending celebrities was almost non-existent.

Adrian commented that he got the sense that Rock wasn’t connecting well with his audience, and I agree. The Academy does not fair well with non-industry insiders as hosts (i.e. David Letterman); Chris Rock is more of a comedian than a Hollywood player. His jokes were not focused on the movie-making business. There was a racial theme to his routines that wore thin after a while. He was a disappointment to say the least.

The attempts to shore up the bloated length of the show were a mixed bag. Missing, but not missed, were the vaudevillian opening act by the host, a montage of clips from all the Best Picture noms, and those “tributes” to some facet of filmmaking (cinematography, editing, sound, etc.). I thought that having the nominees from some of the categories on stage for the presentation of the award was an interesting choice but handing out awards from the audience was flat-out weird.

Overall, I appreciated the effort the producers made to introduce some changes to the show, as well as take a serious stab at keeping the time under control. It’s good to see them going out on a limb and trying something new. After the same format for 70+ years, we need to mix things up and bit and keep it interesting.

Then there’s Beyonce. What the fuck? Why did they insert her into three of the five nominated songs? Were they on a budget and couldn’t afford to hire more than one different singer? Now Beyonce is a fine pop/R&B singer, but unfortunately none of the songs she was asked to perform fell into those categories. She was unnecessary and damaged the renditions of almost every song she sung.

Her performance of the French-language song was just atrocious, as was the Sixties-era tea party dress she was wearing. Would have hurt to have brought in a French performer or at least someone who can sing in the language? Her accent, or lack thereof, muddled the lyrics and turned the words into mush. What was with the weird, stiff choreography she was doing? Looked as though she was taking cues from the “Hall of Presidents” at Disneyworld.

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals are best performed by a classically trained singer, like say, Emmy Rossum who introduced the song and actually performed in the film. Beyonce’s vocal chops aren’t up to it. She can warble and do all the vocal calisthenics for R&B, but she just didn’t have the sparkle needed for an ALW song. Her rendition lacked passion and was fairly flat, but it could be that I was totally distracted by her raccoon eyes and the chandelier hanging around her neck.

Poor Josh Groban. He has quite a nice voice, very lovely and robust. He sang solo on “Believe” as it appeared in “The Polar Express”, but that wasn’t good enough for the producers who apparently have a serious hard-on for Beyonce. They felt it necessary to stick her in one more song, turning “Believe” unnecessarily into a duet. She fared much better here than in her previous two performances, but still, I couldn’t help but wonder how lovely the song would have sounded without her.

The Academy has a spotty track record with regards to allowing performers to sing their own nominated songs. I don’t know if her presence was part of overall effort to make the show more “youthful” and “fresh”. All I know is I got tired of all those shots of Jay-Z’s ugly mug peppered throughout the night. Thank goodness, Beyonce can’t sing in Spanish (or at least no one wanted her to) nor can she replace Adam Duritz and his Sideshow Bob hair. Whew.

I take no major issues with any of the winners. I was ecstatic to see Morgan Freeman and Cate Blanchett be recognized for their talent. Cate’s a brilliant chameleon, and shoot, I could watch Morgan Freeman read the phone book. He’s such a class act. “The Incredibles” win was well-deserved. Jamie Foxx was a slam dunk. I only wish his fabulous support turn in “Collateral” had come a year earlier or later so that he could be feted for that as well. But I think the “Best Actor” statue trumps “Supporting” any day.

Oscars were even lacking in any serious fashion faux-pas that would inspire snarkiness, unless you count the mess in which Beyonce kept appearing.

It was a sleep-inducing show, missing the usual surprises, suspense, or controversy of past Oscars. Perhaps this can account for my turning in earlier than usual.

Man, I miss Billy Crystal.

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