Written by: The CinCitizens
In a rare occurrence of global scheduling CC2K’s Television Editor Phoebe Raven and Film Editor Kristen Lopez are sharing an actual, physical room at the same time! With that, the idea of collaborating on an article seemed inevitable. With the recent telecast of the Academy Awards, it seemed prime for these two editors to come together and discuss the ceremony. Just because these two editors have the same genes for geekery, and the awards are the perfect blend of television and film, they couldn’t seem to agree on whether the telecast succeeded or failed. In looking at four elements of the show, they agreed to pose a debate and see who was right or wrong (or at least who could type the most in all caps).
Kristen: In a nutshell, I thought Billy Crystal was horribly out of date. His jokes all seemed to hearken back to times when he was socially relevant and when he tried to look “cool” it was only in regards to who was standing next to him (the Justin Bieber cameo being the most painful example of this). When he wasn’t trying to hammily shove himself into every joke (how many times did he bring up that George Clooney kiss?), he was making mildly offensive jokes that ran the gamut from stereotypically singing ‘That’s Amore’ to Martin Scorsese all the way to playfully giving Christopher Plummer Alzheimer’s. I understand he came in at the last second to fill the void left by Eddie Murphy, but you could tell he was aware his jokes weren’t good….and yet he still kept trying to make them work. The hosting gig is always hit or miss, but having Billy Crystal come out of mothballs for this was not the way to go.
Phoebe: Billy Crystal as host worked fine for me, it wasn’t nearly as painful as that Hathaway-Franco fiasco last year. The main difference being that Billy Crystal didn’t try to be hip and cool for the life of himself, which was essentially what Hathaway and Franco were supposed to do. The Oscars telecast is never going to be hip and cool, especially not because the awards themselves are becoming more and more irrelevant and reward the wrong things, so I would much rather watch a host that fits that dusty, established, “our bellies are full” Hollywood attitude than have the telecast desperately trying to appeal to a younger demographic.
This felt like the Oscar telecasts of my youth and in a year where all the Best Picture nominees were nostalgia-themed, Billy Crystal hosting seemed just about perfect.
Kristen: The nostalgia-theming did extend past Billy Crystal to Brian Grazer’s hair and all the way to the appearance of Cirque de Soleil, and he did make fun of the writing staff being mostly old white men (much like the people who vote for the awards), but when Chris Rock comes in and makes the audience laugh more in 5 minutes than Crystal does in two hours, there’s something wrong. Maybe it was the fact that Rock didn’t feel like he was reading from a script, or the fact he made fun of himself, but there was something fresh and fun about his banter. Hell, even Hugh Jackman did a decent job in bringing the glamour and glitz to the Oscars with his performance. Crystal just played his job like a lounge singer opening in Vegas for one night only.
Phoebe: I agree that Chris Rock was one of the highlights of the evening, because he played it off the cuff and self-deprecation never hurt in Hollywood (there is a reason I love Matt Damon so much after all). So I would be on board with Rock coming back to host next year, his stand-up comedy background should help. What I noticed again this year though was the style and panache with which Sandra Bullock presented her award (whatever it was). She was a shining bright light in last year’s telecast as well, so I am rooting for her to be our next Oscar host. If you have to have an actor or actress be host, like Hugh Jackman, then at least make it someone everybody in Hollywood loves, like Sandra. Plus, she can host in at least two languages (the German in me rejoiced at her little bit of cultural education) and we would finally have a female host again!
Kristen: For the most part there were no big surprises for me. Everyone said at the last second Viola Davis would win for The Help, creating an upset on par with Marisa Tomei’s award, but there’s a reason the Best Actress award is unintentionally called the Meryl Streep Award. The same can be said about George Clooney not winning Best Actor (again, no chance in hell because that would be spontaneous, unpredictable…and fun). There were no surprises, groans, and at the end of the evening I won my Awards pool (the technical awards were lost on me). I think what irked me was all the talent that showed up, knowing they had no shot of winning. The Bridesmaids cast came up and started doing shots! That was fun and spontaneous. Even Jonah Hill constantly looked dour and pissed, one of the few rare moments of true emotion I saw from the audience because they all knew who was going to win. I think had there been nominations for movies like Drive or Shame, movies that had critical/audience acclaim to fill that final slot, it would have continued the point that the Academy is hip to what audiences are fans of. Not to mention having the camera continually go to Ryan Gosling and Michael Fassbender would have made my night!
Phoebe: Being the TV geek that I am (and you all know me to be) I am only slightly ashamed to admit that I didn’t see a single one of the nominated movies this year. Not a one. I did see Drive though and was very disappointed that it didn’t get nominated. Ryan Gosling gave a great performance in that movie. So I had no horses in the awards race, hence Meryl Streep winning did surprise me just a tad. Although it shouldn’t have. A genuinely black woman winning the Best Actress award (Halle Berry is only half-black) is something Hollywood does not seem to be ready for.
I do have to admit I was rooting for The Artist all the way, because my roommate is French and I am European, so anyway we can stick it to the Americans, I am all for it (keeding!). So I was satisfied with the outcome, although I think Stephen Spielberg needs to stop making movies, like yesterday.
Kristen: Well anytime a person of color wins an award it’s usually because they’re playing a stereotypical African-American (Halle Berry, Denzel Washington). Anywho, The Artist did show that a movie doesn’t have to rely on spectacle, CGI, or even dialogue to present a beautiful story (although audiences are already crying backlash at it). I think what failed was how gimmicky all the Best Picture nominees felt. They all had a tinge of nostalgia, some more overt than others, they were all mostly helmed by big-name directors or directors who names had become big through award seasons. Or some were like Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close which was a mess of a film that harped on manipulative 9/11 imagery and a young actor whose annoyance factor hit 1000.
Phoebe: For my taste, there were far too many movies nominated for Best Picture. I bemoaned the Academy extending the category to ten nominees two years ago, but this year they couldn’t even come up with ten movies to fill all the slots? That’s just ridiculous in its own right and shows how much the Academy is struggling to stay relevant. Furthermore, the original argument was that they wanted to make room for more “movies people have actually seen”, yet this year, once again, a bunch of movies were nominated that only the dedicated movie lovers went out of their way to see. On that front, the awards were a failure, even though The Artist deserved all the accolades thrown at it for the charm of all people involved alone.
Kristen: I think this lack of ingenuity and excitement led to an overall hush in tone from the audience. At least the Golden Globes allow alcohol which contributes to fun monologues about certain actor’s nude (thanks George for that!). This year, everyone pretty much knew who was going to win and that peppered the fun of the evening. Again, Jonah Hill looked pissed constantly, Nick Nolte started to turn a shade of red I don’t think existed in nature (let alone a human being outside of being Santa Claus) and the rest of the actors just reacted for a few seconds when the camera was on them. There weren’t even any great reaction shots from the audience because they just seemed set in how the events were going to turn out.
Phoebe: The mood was definitely stuffy and stiff this year, but then again the Oscars never seem to be an event the stars thoroughly enjoy going to anyway, because they always take too long and there is no food or booze. Sure, the nominees can get excited, if they actually think they might have a shot at winning, which a lot of people didn’t this year. So it was more a mandatory appointment than one most of the invited guests truly relished. Nevertheless, we did get a couple of A-class speeches from Christopher Plummer, Meryl Streep and even Octavia Spencer (I truly felt for her when she got al flustered and begged the musicians to play the music already so she could leave before she fell apart). Other than that, there were no fun moments like there were on the Globes and the constant shots of Brad Pitt vs. George Clooney got annoying fifteen minutes in. All in all, I didn’t envy a single person in the room, I was happy on my couch at home.
Kristen: I also think the fear of censorship and fines played a big role as well. As you may know, the networks are discussing what’s “acceptable” on network television and the awards are usually known for having a moment that had to be chopped or edited for the West Coast. Last year, the camera pulled back when Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem decided to kiss…..because they thought that sounded like a good idea! Wasn’t there a bit that didn’t air this year about Billy Crystal in blackface that got cut? That was probably the only “controversial” element I’ve heard for this telecast and I think those things do play into how spontaneous and off-the-cuff the audience can be. Even an actor saying “fuck” in their acceptance speech can cost the network thousands of dollars so I think there is a fear in being too spontaneous or unpredictable and you don’t want to court controversy if you’re a network already debating what’s appropriate on television.
Phoebe: What I don’t get about this debate is the fact that especially at the Oscars you have a room full of show business professionals, who should be more than capable to be spontaneous and funny without having to resort to cussing and screaming. After all, you don’t get to be where they are without having some social skills and generally being fairly fascinating. Not to mention a lot of these actors know each other outside of the Kodak Theater, so why can’t they seem to turn those real life friendships into something delightful and fun for an awards show? With cable television already moving into network TV’s territory as much as it is, it seems to be network TV should be moving forward and allow more freedom and relax on the “rules” if they want to stay relevant with anything they do. Backwards is never the way in the entertainment industry an you can take political correctness way too far.
In summation, we both are right and wrong. The Awards were good, but they could have been far better. The fact of the matter is we can all complain about how “irrelevant” the Oscars are yet we’ll be there next year, and the stars will be there as well. We’re open to suggestions from the viewers though on how it can be better.