Oscar Wrapup

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Well. That was surely the dullest Oscar ceremony I've ever seen.

Three comments:

1. Why must they almost always give the Best Song award to the most appallingly bad nominee?

2. Why wasn't Johnny Cash in the roll call of the dead? The man did appear in some movies, you know. I wouldn't call him a great thespian, but I'd rather watch a Johnny Cash picture than a Gregory Peck picture any day.

3. You can praise The Return of the King for many reasons—but the screenplay? Just what did they think they were honoring? The tight construction? The snappy dialogue?

I was naturally disappointed that Bill Murray didn't win Best Actor, but if the Academy suddenly started handing trophies to underrated actors I've always admired, who knows where it would end? Next thing you know they'd be giving Oscars to Yaphet Kotto, Eugene Levy, Ned Beatty … our whole world would turn upside down.

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  1. Errol Morris and Sean Penn can go mictrate straight up.

  2. Hell, it’s the Oscars, no need to be humble! 😉 I agree with your assessment, but I think Penn put it best last night when he said that actors know there’s no such thing as “best actor.” I wish they’d change the name of the awards to “favorite.”

  3. Johnny Cash’s contributions to films were probably a lot less than many others who died last year and didn’t get mentioned. There have been plenty of wonderful tributes to him in other, more appropriate, venues.

    The Triplets of Belleville didn’t win anything. I hope the exposure it got leads more people to see it, though.

    I think the Academy thought it was honoring the whole achievement of turning a huge trilogy into three intelligible films by giiving it the Adapted Screenplay award. Not that I really agree, but, hey, a sweep is a sweep.

    Is Bill Murray really underrated just because he hasn’t won an Oscar? I think that, starting with The Razor’s Edge years ago, people realized he was not “just” a goofball comic actor. Lots of terrific actors don’t win Oscars, or end up winning them as a de facto lifetime achievement award (see Fonda, Henry), thus causing other deserving actors to miss out, etc., etc.

    Otherwise, I agree with Jesse =~>

  4. Is Bill Murray really underrated just because he hasn’t won an Oscar?

    Bill Murray was underrated at least up til Rushmore; he’s been getting much more respect since then. I think middlebrow opinion still doesn’t quite know what to make of him; its taste in comedians cum “serious” actors leans more towards the likes of Robin Williams, which just goes to show how deranged middlebrow opinion can be.

  5. “Making the books work on screen as well as they did was a monumental achievement.”

    No doubt. It certainly deserved all of the other nine awards. It should have been nominated for cinematography too. Master and Commander should have won editing and adapted screenplay.

    Also, since no one else seems to be saying it, Bill Murray was good in Lost in Translation, and maybe deserved the nomination, but it’s still the most overrated movie since Forest Gump.

  6. 1.) I don’t think the LOTR song was as wretched as that Sting dirge. But “A Kiss at the End of the Rainbow” was clearly the best choice. Was this a case where voters just said “fudge it” and voted down the line?

    3.) The LOTR screenplay WAS an achievement – the writer combined dramatic scenes the last few chapters of Tolkein’s “The Two Towers,” the whole of “The Return of the King,” and the friggin’ APPENDICES from the latter book. And I’m not convinced writing convincing epic dialogue is easier than writing “my daughter is dead and I can’t even cry” crap, ala “Mystic River.”

  7. The Best Song of the Year, obviously, was the Will Ferrell/Jack Black opus “You’re Boring (Del Taco).” As one of the people at my house said, that terrible Sting song was “music to fold shirts to,” and I wasn’t even aware that the horrid Lennox number *was* a song until the end, when she started howling about something or other (maybe it had something to do with the electrodes behind her eyeballs).

  8. I just wish “Kiss at the End of the Rainbow” would have won. As for Annie Lennox: nothing against her, but I’m against her.

    And as for the “dullest”? I can’t say that, though the biggest categories were, aside from Sean Penn, obvious. His win was just not entirely obvious.

    And taking Tolkien and making a movie from it had to be quite a lot of work. Sure, we saw it done the past two years, but to turn his work into something that interests more than a bunch of Dungeons and Dragons geeks couldn’t have been easy. As an adaptation, it was mostly true to the source and a damn good movie despite its deviations.

    Will it be remembered in ten years? More than Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, and Chicago.

  9. If you ask me, the most surprising victory was that of The Fog of War for documentary feature. I was expecting Capturing the Friedmans to win, as most of the Oscars went strictly according to the prevailing critical acclaim. I suppose, however, that feature-length documentary would be different, since only members of the Academy who attend special screenings of the nominated films are allowed to vote in the category.

    It first seemed a relief that Capturing the Friedmans did not win. I considered the film emotionally compelling, but quite unethical as a documentary because of its misrepresentation of the facts so as to mislead the viewer into believing that Arnold and Jesse Friedman were the only two defendants in the case. (There was a third defendant, who pleaded guilty and was prepared to testify against the Friedmans at trial.) It seemed to me that a victory by Capturing the Friedmans would only cheapen the award even more after Michael Moore’s “documentary” won last year. But the victory speech by Errol Morris clearly indicated that their goal is to neither encourage nor discourage ethical documentaries, but rather to give arrogant documentarians a brief forum to provide cheap criticism of the Bush administration.

  10. Personally, I thought that the Belleville Rendez-vous was superior by a slight margin to Kiss at the end of the Rainbow.

  11. Did anyone watch the excruciating pre-show on ABC? What a squirm-a-thon. The clown who was interviewing stars inside the theater (inserting himself between Nicole and Renee) should have been garrotted by the nearest Academy representative, if only for bringing up the Oprah-Uma joke from Letterman in front of the two of them again! I had to leave the room repeatedly.

    Peter Jackson was a disgrace. The way he dressed was appalling — why not just wear a potato sack and really trumpet how strongly your artistic vision (and belly) can’t be contained by clothing? If the Academy is going to give you 11 Oscars, the least you could do is comb your hair.

    Most of the women looked like bridesmaids.

    Charlize Theron is not a star. But she gets an A (and an Oscar) for effort. Scarlett Johansson, on the other hand, has charisma in spades. Wow. Zeta-Jones looked almost animatronic.

    Annie Lennox — why so serious? What an odd, humorless woman. If she had no talent, she’d be running a bakery in Glasgow.

    Does Sofia Coppola have a personality or is she just “shy”?

    Tim Robbins — thank you for not going there. Sean Penn — Talk about shoe-horning a political reference where it won’t fit. Lights on, but no one at home.

    Triplets of Belleville song by far the best performance of the night. I’m going to buy the soundtrack pronto. But the Mighty Wind song was the best in relation to how it fit into the movie…

    Is it just me or did all the interesting stars stay home this year?

  12. It was an achievement to turn The Return of the King into a shorter than four hour coherent screenplay, while staying true to the book. It would be tough to do that in six hours.

    But somebody – try to argue that the screenplay wasn’t crap. Every single line in the film sucked. All drama, all the time! – zero nuance. Predictable to the point that every bit of dialogue was superflous, even if one didn’t know the story.

    The fact that, in the film, the dialogue, music, and visual direction all ran completely in parallel (ie, all impressed the same, simple emotion within a scene) bored the piss out of me. Based on that alone I could have guesse that it would tie Titanic for the greatest # of Oscars, coupled with the fact that it became popular Against All Odds in Hollywood, and put big $ signs in movie exec’s eyes where they didn’t expect to see them. It’s a fairly consistent scheme, so I have no problem with the choices. Hollywood is a reassurringly insipid world.

    I was surprised, though, that somebody slipped Stan Brakhage into the death montage. It’s depressing that his death (or life, I guess) wasn’t as popular as, say, John Ritter’s – but it was a tiny moment where I started to give a damn.

  13. I still can’t get over the fact that “Lost in Translation” won for best screenplay. This is a story about a woman who is so bored that she accidentally falls in love with Bill Murray. She’d get rid of all this ennui if she’d only get a freakin job. The title should have been “Lost in my Navel.”

    (I suppose that it goes without saying tha Sofia Coppola tells this story like no one else in the world could.)

  14. Fuck that Peter Jackson didn’t comb his hair. He hasn’t combed it EVER – and he’s fat, always poorly dressed, and the hottest director at present. That’s what you call power.

  15. The screenplay for Lord of the Rings won best *adapted* screeplay. I think it’s fair to say it deserved that particular award as much as any winner (in that category) in Oscar history.

  16. c,

    I’d have to disagree. I loved the movie, but your assessment has to be one of the best I’ve heard, ever! What more would you want from a movie, than to be about a woman so bored she falls in love with Bill Murray?

  17. I got a freakin’ job. And I’m still bored.

  18. Does anyone know what instrument Sting was playing? It looked like an over-sized toy harmonica attached to a small wooden boat – a “boatmonica” if you will…

    As somebody watching with me said, “I am waiting for the Jack-In-The-Box to pop out.”

  19. A bunch of people who live for the approval of strangers, having their egos stroked on national TV.

    Now that’s entertainment. I don’t know how I’ll make it to next year’s show, life is so empty without it.

  20. Does anyone know what instrument Sting was playing? It looked like an over-sized toy harmonica attached to a small wooden boat – a “boatmonica” if you will…

    I think it was a hurdy gurdy.

  21. Sorry, but awards shows serve only to further the financial goals of the industry. Sometimes they get it right, often they get it wrong, but I lose no sleep over the outcome. “Best” picture? Give me a break.

    When are the “Awards Awards”?

  22. “…jack in the box…”

    LOL@ dlc!

    Mac Daddy Hoon is right. It was a hurdy gurdy.

    Strange isn’t it?

  23. This is all banter, Critic — I don’t think any of us actually takes the Oscars seriously. Personally, if I ever found myself agreeing with most of the Academy’s choices I’d worry that something had gone dreadfully wrong.

  24. What amuses me most is that this ceremony brings out the bullshitter in most of us. It’s probably just a pet peeve of mine, but when someone says this or that actor can’t act I wonder if that someone has ever acted. Or when someone says “what a terrible song!” or “she can’t sing!” I wonder if that someone has ever written a song or sung professionally. Critiquing a screenplay (especially one as skillfully crafted as LOTR) without even knowing how one is formatted is a lot like saying someone’s a terrible mechanic when you don’t know a drive shaft from your dipstick.

    Now, there’s nothing pretentious in saying “I hated that performance” or “I thought that was a boring movie” or something along those lines, because it doesn’t imply that you can do better. You just didn’t like it. But if you describe something’s quality as low, you’re just blowing smoke if you can’t even begin to perform in the medium in question.

  25. Les,
    Isn’t that true about 90% of the stuff discussed here? Who here is a foreign cum economic policy expert? Yet we all have our own opinions about what we would do differently, no matter how unqualified we are. At least with music and acting, we know what we like and that’s all that matters (though it may not be art).

  26. Mo,

    I NEVER discuss economics because I don’t understand the first thing about it.

    And whether you love a work of art or hate it, it’s still art.

    But I hear ya.

  27. Les,
    You are the exception, not the rule. This site is in a lot of ways the equivalent of the sports fan message board. I enjoy the discussion, even if much of it is uninformed (mine especially). Criticism is merely human nature.

    I was more or less paraphasing, the old saying, I don’t know art, but I know what I like. Some say Dogs Playing Poker is genius while some think it is idiotic. Some love pre-Reformation, post-Christianity Western art, some, like myself, wonder how many different ways can you show Madonna and Child or the Crucifixion.

  28. Sean Penn needs to eat more fiber.

  29. The Triplets of Belleville was nominated for best song and best animated movie. It should have gotten both but won neither.

  30. You’re absolutely right, Mo.

    It’s just one of those things with me, I can’t explain it. I need therapy, I think.

    No wait. Booze. I need booze. Thanks for helping to remind me!

  31. The LOTR screenplay award was hardly the worst abuse of the “adapted screenplay” moniker. Some years ago Kenneth Branagh’s film of Hamlet was nominated for the adapted screenplay award, and that was for a literal retelling without any edits to the Bard’s original play.

  32. My favorite part about the Awards this year is that the show was shorter than usual. After several 4-hour ceremonies, it was nice to see them keep up the pace.

  33. And taking Tolkien and making a movie from it had to be quite a lot of work.

    Sure, but since when do we hand out awards based on the labor theory of value? I understood why it took so long to make the trilogy when I finally saw Return of the King — just watching the last half hour takes six years.

    I would have been happy to see “Kiss at the End of the Rainbow” win, but I think the best song of the nominees was the Triplets tune. (And the movie was damn good, too…)

  34. I think the second song from Cold Mountain, the Costello piece that was named “Scarlet Tide” I believe, was the best of the bunch. I appreciate the LOTR score and some of the songs, but the Annie Lennox piece had no business getting a nomination. It works to some extent in the processed version underneath but cannot stand as a song on its own. Plus, Lennox cannot keep pitch or tone without computer assistance.

  35. First, the Oscars are about rewarding persons in the industry for doing the best job of employing members of the academy. Lord of the Rings employed alot of people, and it made money doing so, meaning there is more money available to employ more academy members on something else.

    Think of it this way: If the Oscars were given out by an “academy” of government contactors, there’d be a category for “Best Public Works Project” and the winner would be the Boston Big Dig.

    Second, “Kiss at the End of the Rainbow” should not have even been nominated for best song, because the reason it fit so well in “A Mighty Wind” is that it is a mediocre cliche. I do not even recall hearing the LOTR song when I saw the movie. Sting’s song from Cold Mountain was much better.

    Third, am I the only one who feels the academy was honoring Errol Morris for past work, but not really for Fog of War? Capturing the Friedmans was much more intriguing (and the flaws are addressed adequately in special features on the DVD). Errol Morris has done much better than Fog of War: Compare Mr. Death; Compare Thin Blue Line; Compare Fast Cheap and Out of Control.

  36. Les — I’m totally qualified to talk smack about Annie Lennox, since I have actually performed a slowed-down, acoustic-guitar, wussified version of “Like Lovers Do” on at least two Greek islands. Also, I once wrote a song for my mom’s birthday.

  37. Peter: “Kiss” is a good song because it’s such a perfect parody of so many bad songs.

    As for Morris, I haven’t seen Fog of War yet — it only just opened here in Baltimore this past weekend — but I suspect you might be right. In a fair world he would have gotten his Oscar for Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control. I also suspect he benefited from some members’ desire to cast an antiwar vote.

  38. Peter, “Lord of the Rings” employed people in New Zealand. Hollywood doesn’t give props for that. It’s the “exporting of America,” don’t you know.

  39. Anyone else notice Leni Riefenstahl, in the “In Memoriam” section, pass by without any sort of comment? No boos, nothing.

  40. All of the songs sucked, they always do, so it’s not really worth mentioning that a bad one won. Jesse’s right about the LOTR script though. The real puzzler was “editing.” Why four endings? And no one who didn’t read the books could figure out what was going on. I can’t believe there weren’t scenes left on the floor where someone pointed at a map and explained where they were going and why.

  41. “Les — I’m totally qualified to talk smack about Annie Lennox, since I have actually performed a slowed-down, acoustic-guitar, wussified version of “Like Lovers Do” on at least two Greek islands. Also, I once wrote a song for my mom’s birthday.”

    I once tripped on an accordion and it made a noise (or it may have been a concertina…).

    Besides (to Les), I don’t think saying Annie Lennox (or anyone else) sucks is necessarily the same as saying you can do better. It has more to do with who _their_ peers are. I think we can all agree that last year’s Detroit Tigers sucked mightily, and at the same time acknowledge that any one of them would leave me bruised and beaten and covered in my own waste in any sort of baseball-related competition.

    At least that’s the sense that I mean it when I say Journey sucked not wisely but too well.

  42. Jesse – Bill Murray didn’t win because the prize is for acting.

  43. If Murray didn’t get an Oscar for Ghostbusters or for Groundhog Day, he ain’t never going to get one.

  44. John,

    Lennox’s pitch was spot on. I didn’t detect any computer help.

    JDM,

    There was only one ending and that came at the end. The parts immediately preceeding the ending felt like endings because the major action and plot of an 11 hour long motion picture was over. After 11 hours and a huge cast with a variety of relationships, you don’t drop the curtain as quickly as you would at the end of a typical 1 1/2 to 2 hour movie.

    Making the books work on screen as well as they did was a monumental achievement.

  45. You can say that Bill Murray wasn’t acting, but it’s not like Sean Penn’s ever demonstrated anything other than brooding, dark caricatures (Fast Times’ Spicoli aside).

  46. Norman,
    “At Close Range”
    “Falcon and the Snowman”
    “Colors”
    “We’re No Angels”
    “Carlito’s Way”
    “The Game”
    “Sweet and Lowdown”
    “The Thin Red Line”
    “I am Sam”

    A short list of performances that weren’t brooding, dark, or caricatures.

  47. How well did “The Triplets of Belleville” do?

  48. I stand humbly corrected Les. Still, I loved Mystic River, both book and movie. I’d be more inclined to reverse the Supporting and Actor awards…..or give Bill Murray the award for Best Actor. I’m not a huge Penn fan, but I think the award was more of a “lifetime” achievement award and there was no way a comedic actor was going to win the coveted best actor award – unless, he’s put in the dues more than Murray has.

  49. Well, I for one would say that it is one thing, to fight for your country in wartime, even though it is led by Hitler, and another to work directly for the Nazis to keep Hitler in power.

    Were all the German conscripts Nazis, because they fought for Germany? Please.

    Leni Riefenstahl helped make Hitler what he was. There was no war on then.

    I guess, as long as people know about her mention at the Oscars, and they’re cool with it, then there’s nothing for me to say about it.

  50. J.

    I see what you’re saying, but you can measure a sporting organization’s suckiness (or non-suckiness) with numbers. You can’t do that with an artist.

    Matt,

    You have to post at least snippets of recordings of those songs for all of us to enjoy. Again and again.

  51. Gabriel,
    Wouldn’t your point about her helping to make Hitler exonerate her from some of the worst atrocities. She brought Hitler up when he was just a political firebrand, not a murderous tyrant that killed and tortured countless Jews. She did revolutionize the art of filmmaking, even though it was for a misguided cause. Heck, “The Birth of a Nation” is still considered a monumental film in history despite the pleasant light it places on the KKK. It changed the art form forever and introduced many techniques that are part of basic filmmaking today.

  52. Leni Riefenstahl…”Triumph of the Will”… doesn’t it ring a bell?

    No one finds it odd, the appearance of a Nazi propagandist in the “In Memoriam” segment of the Oscars, without any sort of comment whatever?

    Well, maybe it doesn’t.

  53. Gabriel,

    Leni Riefenstahl is DEAD. Deceased. Gone. Thus her appearance in the “In Memoriam” segment of the Oscars doesn’t look exactly out of place, does it?

    Moreover, since the Oscars are awarded to recognize ability and not virtue, and since Leni Riefenstahl undoubtedly was a very able filmmaker, I see no reason not to recognize her competence. It’s pretty much like saying that Erwin Rommel was an outstanding general, or that Wernher von Braun was damned good a rocket scientist.

    For all I know, people usually don’t boo when von Braun is mentioned. So why should there be boos for Riefenstahl?

  54. Bill Murray deserves an Oscar for Ground Hog Day.
    LinT wasn’t that entertaining to me. The story was dry. There were scenes that didn’t do it for me. Bill was fine all the way.

    What was it about Bill, and the joke by the emcee,
    was Bill about to walk out???
    Billy Crystal is NOT the right person,
    and the only reason I would hate to see him go,
    is that I know they would pick someone worse.

    I vote for Bill “hollywood” Clinton.

  55. I’ve been playing a hurdy gurdy for 24 years. One is lute shaped and made in France(the vielle a roue) and the other is a Hungarian tekerolant hit the hurdy gurdy explained part of the site above for further info. Sean

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