Monday, February 27, 2012

Oscar night recap: The Egyptian, the awards and the pretentiousness of Monday morning reviewers

"Last night's Oscars was not a forward-looking show. It was rooted in a kind of paralysis..."

"Sunday's show was awfully boring....created the impression that Hollywood's best days are behind it."

"Oscars Become Badly Paced Bore-fest."

"A safe, unfunny, retro-disaster."

These are reviews from the likes of Tim Molloy with Rueters, John Anderson at CNN and Tim Goodman from The Hollywood Reporter. I'm actually at the point where I annoyingly chuckle at such drivel by obviously pretentious critics, the likes of which are never happy or satisfied with the Academy Awards ceremony or telecast. There are a few points to make about this, but first I'm going to take the time to acknowledge our wonderful screening & dinner at The Egyptian last night, and of course the awards ceremony itself.

We had an amazing time watching the Oscar telecast on the big screen intertwined with a huge dinner, catered by Pig N' Whistle next door to The Egyptian. The American Cinematheque certainly knows and savors the passion film fans have for everything movie related and this event was no exception. Many people were dressed in tuxedos and dresses in anticipation of Billy Crystal's return as host. Popcorn and soda were free the entire night and there was a bar as well. As opposed to our awful experience last year at the Silent Movie Theatre, consisting of loudly talking, completely inconsiderate people who couldn't keep a wind chilled door closed right next to the movie screen, not to mention a laughingly 4x3 television feed which was apparently being beamed from Guam (no joke!), we were wonderfully treated to an HD 16x9 ABC feed direct from the network at The Egyptian. Needless to say, we will definitely be back next year!

Two guys dressed as Marilyn Monroe sat in the back and were chanting the name of Michelle Williams as they settled in. For the most part everyone in attendance was very positive about why they were there with complete respect for the night's festivities. With the acception of three talkative people behind us who seemed to think they were at home (Rebecca quickly shushed them), we drank in the event with full knowledge that what was happening on the big screen was only one block away from us!

During the red carpet arrivals (also part of the screening) we suddenly noticed a large patch of white powder spilled on the red carpet behind Tim Gunn. Rebecca smartly commented that someone must have spilled their cocaine. If that wasn't funny enough, today I learned the true story of what really happened. Sacha Baron Cohen's "The Dictator" was being interviewed by Ryan Seacrest while holding an urn with Kim Jong-il's ashes. Seemingly yet intentionally spilling the fake contents all over Seacrest's suit at one point, Academy security was not amused and bodily herded Cohen away. There had been buzz about Cohen pulling some stunt on the red carpet to promote his new movie. I'm just glad pretty boy Seacrest was the target. It'll be interesting to see if Cohen returns to the red carpet in a regular tuxedo after his much anticipated role in the Freddie Mercury bio pic of which I don't doubt he'll be nominate for an Oscar.

"Hugo" starting racking in the awards early on, and I began to wonder if it would go all the way to the top and unseat favorite "The Artist". These two movies would go neck and neck throughout the night the hold the two top spots. Octavia Spencer's acceptance speech as Best Supporting Actress in "The Help" was very touching, Chris Rock's comment about how black people who do voice work in Hollywood usually get roles as donkeys and zebras was hilarious and Billy Crystal's opening movie montage and musical number were a very welcome return to form for the Oscars. All those people out there who say the latter is 'dated' and 'past it's prime' can SUCK IT! I'm not saying this year's montage was one of his best, but still very entertaining. We did have a hard time understanding some of the lyrics to his 'It's a Wonderful Night for Oscar' opening song, but that might have been something about the sound system at The Egyptian.

Who knew Emma Stone had such an amazing singing voice (hamming with Ben Stiller)!

Was it me or did Tom Cruise look like he's had work done?

And what was with Angelina Jolie's leg thing?

I really enjoyed seeing Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow being playful, ala Tony and Pepper in "Iron Man", during their Best Documentary presentation.

"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" disappointingly lost the Best Visual Effects award to "Hugo". Even though I really enjoyed Martin Scorsese's opus to the the beginnings of film, I really felt that "Apes" held just that much more technical 'umpf' to be the clear winner.

One of the funniest moments of the night was a parody of an early focus group during a 1939 screening of "The Wizard of Oz". Christopher Guest's band of usual suspects played the questioning Hollywood deciders, agreeing that there should be less Dorothy and more monkeys.

And can we talk about Cirque du Soleil?! What an A-MA-ZING performance!! We HAVE to go see their show at the Kodak!

Michelle Williams unstoppable juggernaut towards Oscar gold was shockingly brought to a halt by Meryl Streep getting the gold after 17 nominations and losses. That was last night's only major upset since Williams probably could have walked up onstage when they announced the next category would be Best Actress. Some proclaimed Viola Davis in "The Help" the sure thing when in fact it was always Williams from the start. Needless to say Streep's Oscar, in part, comes as an acknowledgment of her work over the years as well as for her role as Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady".

Now to respond to those pretentious reviewers out there who never seem to be happy with anything the Academy dishes out Oscar night. The problem is they (the critics) just didn't seem to get it.

This year's Academy Awards was all about love of the movies. Hollywood Reporter critic Tim Goodman states "First off, stop dropping the anvil on us" in regards to the number of movie-love montages. On the contrary...not only did these montages and testimonials play up how passionate so many of us are about what flickers on the big screen as we sit in the dark, but it made us realize once again that we aren't the only ones who the movies. This was not to infer that what came years ago was the best and that cinema is now passe (as some of these critics weened). Even though watching movies is now as easy as taking out our iPhones or iPads...or in the case of some of us with home theaters, firing up the projector and hard drive, there's still nothing like the shared experience of immersing ourselves in the action, adventure, drama, comedy or romance unfolding on the big screen in a darkened theatre.

Billy Crystal's return to the Oscar stage was a breathe of fresh air for an over-thinking Academy whose soul aim it is to enrapture the young when all they need to do is be themselves and put on a good show. Can the Oscar telecast grab the young at all? The answer could forever be 'no'....and maybe that should be the end of it. This is not an awards show where everyone's looking to what Lady Gaga's next outfit will look like or when some new annoying rap artist will say something off-color on stage or disrupt some poor white girl's acceptance speech because 'Wu-Tang is for the children' or because they have to grab all the attention for 'dem no talent selves'.

The Academy Awards will always not only be about the love of movies themselves, but the class and elegance of Hollywood both past and present. Just because this year's theme was about how some of us grew up at the movie theatre (myself included) doesn't mean the Academy is a stodgy lot. The awards are about the best of the year, regardless of demographic. Some are saying how can we as an audience care about the Oscars when they're giving major awards to a French silent movie? You know what, "The Artist" is a DAMNED FINE FILM!!! And I could care less (as so many others should follow) if some 19 year old who thinks stinkers like "Transformers" or "The Smurfs" are 'the shit', haven't seen better movies because maybe they're just not exposed or aren't of an age where they care to see those types of films.

BTW, one of the things I noticed right away was how the technical awards were all being presented first, one after another after another. I think this was an attempt to keep people waiting with bated breathe to what they all tuned in for; the big actor and movie categories. Usually you'd find the Best Supporting Actress award being presented first thing. Not so last night. Best Cinematography was first up as "Hugo" began it's collection of gold statues. The producers were clearly trying to change things up enough to keep the momentum going. The BSA category at the start was always a tease of what was to come. Instead, announcements before commercial breaks that the likes of Michael Douglas were about to appear in front of us turned into an hour long wait. In the long run this didn't matter to us, but once again telegraphed a broadcast that was trying too hard when in fact it just needed to breathe and be what it was.

I actually just read another roundup of Oscar telecast reviews and all I have to say is the people who write these things are jaded industry morons! It's like a big circle jerk of distaste. These are members of the current generation who give all their money to see a whole series of really bad movies, calling them 'original and fantastic' when in fact they're just looking at a conveyor belt of uncreative garbage. In part mostly recycled and remade from original 80's versions that were so much cooler and better.

O.K., ending on a high note...

Congratulations to "Hugo" and "The Artist", as well as Christopher Plummer, Octavia Spencer, Meryl Streep and Jean Dujardin! Oh yes, and God Bless Billy Crystal!!


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