So the Oscars happened last Sunday. I watched them in a pizzeria in Silver Lake. This post is a little delayed - I took a couple of days off of blogging. Sorry!
I was, of course, thrilled that Slumdog Millionaire won just about everything it could. I read a few comments that this reflected the increasing "globalization" of Hollywood. I actually disagree, but only about the degree, not the kind, of "globalization." Hollywood has had a global reach since its very early days. There have always been people from other countries working in Hollywood, and Hollywood has always made movies about other countries. Greta Garbo was Swedish. Some of our finest directors have been from other countries -Hitchcock, Billy Wilder. Heck, most of our monsters - Godzilla, Dracula, Frankenstein, King Kong - are from outside the US. Even some movies that seem very "American" can be mostly foreign. Titanic, for example, is a classic American blockbuster. But the director, James Cameron, is from Canada, the Titanic was a British ship, it sank in the North Atlantic, Kate Winslet is British, and the movie was mostly shot in Mexico. Slumdog Millionaire just extended a decades-long process to another country. Some argue that this leads to homogenization. I think that's nonsense. Just look at the list of movies nominated for Best Picture. They're incredibly diverse. To say nothing of all the nominated movies in all categories. An awards ceremony with both "Hellboy II" (Makeup) and "The Duchess" (Costume Design) has a very broad reach.
I liked Hugh Jackman as a host, particularly the fact that he was very upbeat and excited. I like Jon Stewart, but I think I prefer Hugh Jackman's style for hosting the Oscars. It was refreshing not to have any snark or sarcasm, even though I love those when I watch The Daily Show. I thot his homage to the musical was fun, but didn't quite work - it had nothing to do with this year's Oscars (Beyonce, of course, was great). Speaking of musical numbers, combining the songs for Slumdog Millionaire with the other nominated song was interesting, but next year I would like to see all the nominated songs. Seeing the orchestra playing the nominated scores was cool, but the scores all seemed to blend together. I was watching them with a musician, and he explained that they just take the themes from the scores (or something like that), and that he would have preferred to hear the actual soundtracks. I concur.
I loved how they had one or two presenters give multiple awards, like production design and costume design. Good call. That really sped things up, which was great. I was also very happy that they dropped the idea of having the winners of lesser-known categories accept their awards from the audience. I thot that was tacky.
Having previous winners pay homage to this year's acting nominees seemed a little much. It was great to see people like Robert De Niro and Sophia Loren, but it got a little sentimental. These people have been nominated for Oscars - do they really need more adulation? I also don't like the fact that they don't do this for the other categories - do actors and actresses really need yet more attention than the below-the-line talent? But other people that I have talked to, particularly women, have been very positive, so it worked for some people.
Ben Stiller's imitation of Joaquin Phoenix was funny, but it detracted a little from the actual award (I think it was cinematography), and if you weren't aware of the reference, it probably seemed weird. The Oscars do have a worldwide audience, and not everyone watches Letterman. Natalie Portman, however, played her part well.
Tina Fey and Steve Martin were perfect. Gotta love them. The montages of action, comedy, and romance movies were all well done. Loved James Franco responding to his own performance in Milk. Queen Latifah singing while the montage of people who passed away was a very nice touch. I liked the multiple screens behind her, and was bummed we could only see one. Danny Boyle said that for the people in the theater, the show was great, and I believe him.
The camera work and the editing of the ceremony were very good.
The acceptance speeches were good to excellent, and mostly charming. Love Penelope Cruz and Kate Winslet, both great. Heath Ledger's family was very gracious. Sean Penn was funny and humble, not qualities normally associated with him. I was glad he won. Philippe Petit, the French tightrope walker who walked across a wire stretched between the twin towers of the World Trade Center, was very funny. A coworker just watched "Man On Wire," the documentary that won the Oscar, and can't stop talking about it.
The dresses were almost uniformly gorgeous, with the exception of Reese Witherspoon's, which wasn't great. Anne Hathaway seems incapable of taking a bad picture or wearing anything less than a perfect dress.
Overall, a good night. The Oscars are constantly experimenting, and the Academy seems to be learning from experience. Here's hoping that next year's is even better.