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Quick Takes: The Oscars

Written by: Ron Bricker

Image Sunday night was the 80th Annual Oscars, the entertainment industry’s biggest night, and it was, for all intents and purposes, not bad.  Unlike in other years, the Academy seemed to award the most deserving actors and most deserving pictures in every category.  Sure, it could be said that P.T. Anderson accomplished as much with There Will Be Blood as the Coen Brothers did with No Country For Old Men but it would be hard to argue that one was ultimately better than the other.  To be honest, all the entries into the Best Picture category this year were movies that should stand the test of time, and in the case of No Country and There Will Be Blood, we have probably seen two films that will make it into the AFI’s Top 100 the next time around.

The Oscars almost didn’t happen this year.  Threatened by the writers’ strike, it was a concern for people across the industry that Hollywood’s big bash wouldn’t get thrown at all, but a last minute agreement between the studios and the writers (that doesn’t seem much better than what the writers had before) made sure that the show would go on.  And go on it did, in grand fashion.  Jon Stewart was the same cool, wry, self-deprecating wit we’ve come to love and trust over the years on the Daily Show, and he was the perfect host for an Oscar ceremony that felt, at times, sort of unrehearsed.  Stewart’s always been good at thinking on the fly, and he proved it again last night.  And, in an unprecedented move, he actually brought Marketa Irglova back onto the stage after she was cut unceremoniously short by the dreaded music, allowing her to make a very passionate and moving acceptance speech for the Best Original Song Oscar.  Stewart had heart, grace, and savvy; a perfect Oscar host.

This was the first year since Bill Murray was robbed a second time by the Academy that I’ve actually watched the show all the way through, and I must say I was entertained the whole time.  The montages they played during the show, and specifically the ones depicting formers winners going to the podium, while they were no doubt there to fill in time for a show that had only three weeks to prepare, were fun and heartfelt.  The only thing that drove me near to up a wall was having to sit through three different live performances of songs from Enchanted, which no doubt make a lot of sense when heard during a viewing of the actual movie, but were just tedious and grating on the Oscar stage.  Alas, every song nominated must be performed, so little could be done.

These are some of my favorite moments from last night’s broadcast:

When Jon Stewart was talking about how creepy and violent movies like No Country and There Will Be Blood were, he lightened the mood by yelling, “Thank God for teen pregnancy!”  A good joke to get the ball rolling.

In the early moments of the show, the cameras showed that Javier Bardem (Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men) had been seated next to Jack Nicholson.  After my spine finished crawling, I noticed that Javier Bardem, when not running around killing people with compressed air and wearing the dumbest haircut this side of David Copperfield, is actually a devilishly handsome man.  Who knew?

Stewart had some other great jokes over the night; He joked that Diablo Cody had to take a pay cut when switching careers from exotic dancer to Hollywood screenwriter, and, in his joke tour de force, said that since Oscar was turning 80, that made him the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.  There were others, but those two stuck out most in my mind.

I determined that George Clooney has not aged a day since he left Roseanne.  I’m convinced that if he let that untameable mane of his grow back out, he’d be pining over Laurie Metcalf again in no time.

Jessica Alba can in fact read something other than bad scripts.

The cameras showed Cate Blanchett in the audience when they announced the nominees for Best Actress.  She responded to the clip they just showed of her playing Queen Elizabeth in Elizabeth: The Golden Age in the perfect way.  In the clip, Ms. Blanchett is chewing so much scenery you’d think there was an All You Can Eat scenery buffet on the set that day.  When the clip ended and we saw her face again, it was clear from her look that she knew she was chewing scenery, and that she’s embarrassed.

Now it’s time for the list of People in the Academy Who Died This Past Year.  This thing always makes me a bit uncomfortable, simply because it’s so awkward when an old actor or actress, who is of course dead, gets a bigger round of applause than say, an old audio engineer or cinematographer who is now dead.  I mean, they’re all dead, they’re all equal under the ground, so shouldn’t you just cheer equally for them?

Diablo Cody won for Best Original Screenplay and I’m so happy for her, even if she is dressed like Wilma Flintstone.

And, of course, as all of you must know by now, the Coen Brothers won every damn thing else.

Goodnight America, and thanks for watching!