' ' Cinema Romantico: Logging the 86th Academy Awards

Monday, March 03, 2014

Logging the 86th Academy Awards

"You probably noticed there was no fancy red carpet tonight. That'll send 'em a message." - Steve Martin, 2003 Oscars 

"Why do you come to the Academy Awards when the world is in such turmoil? Because art is important. And because you believe in what you do. And you want to honor that. And it's a tradition that needs to be upheld." - Nicole Kidman, 2003 Oscars

Ukrainian crisis. Terrorist attack in China. Massacre in Nigeria. Venezuelan protests. The Middle East keeps on keepin' on. Meanwhile, a bunch of famous people walk a red carpet in Hollywood in clothes that cost $75,000, give or take.

This morning I watched "Museum Hours" for the third time, a film that likely should have been in my 2013 Top 10, but every list is arbitrary anyway and I didn't feel a single viewing of Jem Cohen's film was enough time to fully digest such a beautifully contemplative film. And it made me think about tonight. It made me think about tonight because it's a film very much about how we selectively choose to see the world. I see the world for what it is. I do. I know what's happening and how awful it can be and awful it is, and I know that a silly little (big - really, really, really big) awards show does not matter one single iota in the grand scheme of things.

Part me of identifies with Martin, noting the farce of striking the red carpet for the 2003 Academy Awards in light of the had-just-started Second Iraq War, as if such an action were akin to legitimate political protest. But part of me also identifies with Nicole's words from the stage post-Best Actress win that same night. I do think art is important and I do believe in the movies' purpose and I do want them to honor that and it is a tradition that needs to be upheld, and if that makes me an absurd sentimentalist, well, fuck it. Maybe I am. Of course, I am! And I will watch the Oscars tonight, no apologies, knowing full well what's happening most anywhere else, but still trying to find the joy in what's right in front of me.

Cinema Romantico's Best Dress of the Night goes to Sally Hawkins. Because this blog does not hide its biases.
5:30. Twitter is telling me that Sally Hawkins, my beloved favorite for Best Supporting Actress (who has no chance), is acting off-kilter on the red carpet, leading to suspicions that she may be slightly tipsy. And this seems to be a potentially bad thing. Which simply exposes America's Puritan roots. Those drunk Brits freak us out apparently. Maybe I really should move to London? Have another drink on me, Sally.

7:17. Some guy is interviewing Sandra Bullock on the red carpet regarding her collaboration with "Gravity" director Alfonso Cuaron. She says it helped "sort out a lot of life things." The guy says he's glad she "sorted it all out." Sandra replies: "I didn't sort it all out. I'm still problematic. I'm just not as problematic as I used to be." The show hasn't even technically started but that might already be the best line of the night.

7:23. Lady Gaga is at the Oscars. I was not informed this was a thing that was happening. If she could take a selfie with Marisa Tomei...

......the show begins......

7:30. Bruce Dern does not applaud as Ellen takes stage. Dude's already ornery.

7:31. Ellen makes obligatory Leo joke. Leo smiles, a little, mentally saying: "You gotta WORK for my laugh."

7:33. Liza Minelli's blue hair streak overpowers Rinko Kikuchi's blue hair streak in "Pacific Rim." Fact.

7:35. Amy Adams did not go to college. My motherfucking soul sister.

7:38. Matthew McConaughey sitting with his legs crossed at the Oscars has forged a whole new brand of dapper.

7:41. "ANNE HATHAWAY! I FORGOT WE HATED HER!" screams the Internet, uniting in a collective rage as she takes the stage to present Best Supporting Actor. "THE PITCHFORKS! QUICKLY!" Jennifer Lawrence breathes momentary sigh of relief.

7:44. Jared Leto. Best Supporting Actor for "Dallas Buyer's Club." I confess, I dug his Independent Spirits Award speech in which he essentially thanked EVERYONE just because I thought it was a brilliant dig at everyone criticizing him for not thanking people right. But his Oscar speech was just what an Oscar speech should be and I loved how he even employed a narrative trick - a little sleight-of-hand in building up to and then referencing his mom. (Though I fully expect Slate to dock him points for referring to the Ukraine as "dreamers". Those Slate mo-fo's grade Oscar speeches hard. Oscar speeches are graded, right? Like standardized tests?)

7:45. Important moment to note that Bradley Cooper of "American Hustle" lost Best Supporting Actor which is both a terrible thing and a wonderful thing. It is terrible because I adored "American Hustle" and, in fact, gave it my Best Picture vote for the Online Film Critics Society (over "12 Years A Slave" and "Gravity", and I will stand by it 'til the heavens fall). It is wonderful because the nonsensical Internet outrage directed toward "American Hustle" may just sort of fade away if it fails to win any Oscars in which case everyone can find something else to direct their unhealthy rage toward. Thus, I am openly cheering for it to go winless tonight. #wecandothis

7:47. Jim Carrey: "Don't patronize me."

7:52. Pharrell Williams takes the stage to sing the Best Song nominee "Happy." Goes into audience. Forces Oscar nominees to dance with him. Amy Adams volunteers her dancing skillz and then immediately sits back down with a dismissive look as if she's the haughtiest diva in the whole auditorium. Funk to Indifference in four seconds. Trump that, Blanchett. TRUMP THAT!

7:58.  Naomi Watts presents with Samuel L. Jackson. I bet if Sam went all Jules Winfield on her she'd simply get that Watts "Are you out of your MIND face?"

7:59. "American Hustle" loses Best Costume Design to "The Great Gatsby." But still, Lady Edith Greensly's v-neck dress makes Daisy Buchanan's flapper dress look like a Pilgrim's ankle-length petticoat.

8:02. "Dallas Buyers Club" wins Best Makeup. Thus, my bold attempts to go zero for 46 in Oscar predictions fails.

8:10. Ellen just gave Bradley Cooper a consolation prize for failing to win Best Supporting Actor. Odds just went off at 5-1 that Bruce Dern spits in her cosmo at the Vanity Fair Party upon losing later in the telecast.

8:22. Gravity wins Best Visual Effects. Which is appropriate because we just caught a glimpse of Madam Julia as "Erin Brokovich" in the Hollywood Heroes montage (because Hollywood is comprised of heroes who are very heroic) and this Oscar was as foregone as that Oscar.

8:24. Oh, Zac Efron. Oh no. The Oscar presenter that launched a thousand Vines.

8:25. This is a good point in the telecast to point out how disappointed I am in how tame Arcade Fire dressed.

I really thought Arcade Fire was going to wear matching leisure suits made with material culled from the rings of Saturn.
8:31. I bought a bottle of French red for my traditional Entire Oscar Night Bottle Of Wine solely to show support for my most significant rooting interest of the night - "Just Before Losing Everything", the mesmerizing French live action short film by Xavier Legrand. I'm up off the couch! I'm throwing phantom punches! I'm stoked! Let's.......instead the shamefully schlocky terminal disease "Finding Neverland" wannabe "Helium" wins. I give up. (Not really, of course, just symbolically.)

8:37. "20 Feet From Stardom" wins Best Feature Documentary and Darlene Love proceeds to pocket the proceedings by going off script singing "His Eye is on the Sparrow" so beautifully that the orchestra conductor is ordered to stand down.

8:40. Kevin Spacey takes the stage to present the Honorary Oscars which were actually already presented in November. Let's give him the floor, shall we?

"The deeply gifted Angela Lansbury. Who at 88 years old is about to return to the London stage."

"Steve Martin. Whose craft and genius has kept us all in stitches and thought for a very long time."

8:44. I like Brad Pitt's hair. But then, what do I know?

8:48. Best Foreign Language Film. "The Great Beauty."

8:52. I think Amy Adams was just texting while Tyler Perry spoke. Seriously. That girl is winning the whole night.

8:58. U2 just received the most unearned standing ovation in history. Or is their standing ovation just grand-fathered in, like Dubya's?

9:05. And Ellen just cemented her Hosting Victory...

Close cousin of Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze's "Washington Crossing the Delaware."
9:10. Ellen's selfie literally breaks Twitter. America wins.

9:11. Christoph Waltz up to present Best Supporting Actress. First nominee is my preferred Sally Hawkins for "Blue Jasmine." Her clip ends and......the screen goes black and then the camera can't even find Sally to let her bask in that half-second glow. Which is so sad and so perfectly illustrative of how that magnificently neurotic performance has just sort of fallen by the wayside during awards season.

9:16. I suppose it says something about me that when Lupita Nyong'o wins Best Supporting Actress for "12 Years A Slave" I feel complete joy solely in the form of utter relief for Jennifer Lawrence not winning so she doesn't have to deal with anymore goddam Internet sniping. This is what it's come to. Which is horrible. And which isn't to suggest in any way that Nyong'o wasn't deserving. She was. And her speech was joyful and grateful and from the heart. I'm happy for her. Going forward I just desperately wish people cheer for whoever they want to win without having to tear down another nominee in the process. (They won't.)

9:29. Amy Adams. Bill Murray. The next "True Detective."

9:30. Bill Murray's sudden and seemingly entirely un-prompted and off-script shout-out to Harold Ramis made me applaud and shed a tear. I know Murray had some sort of not completely explained beef with Ramis that likely was not entirely Ramis's fault and, well, God help me, I want to believe with all my might that Murray was being sincere in that moment.

9:37. "Gravity" wins Best Cinematography and Best Editing. Oscar Thematicists (?) will tell you this points to "Gravity" winning all the small (technical) awards to pave the way for "12 Years A Slave" winning Best Picture. I have no idea. And I don't care. I'm still rooting like a madman for "American Hustle" to lose everything.

9:44. "American Hustle" loses Best Production Design to "The Great Gatsby"! Still pulling down an o-fer! WE CAN DO THIS!

9:59. Bette Midler, apparently part of the Hollywood Heroes theme for playing CC Bloom in "Beaches", comes on stage to sing "Wind Beneath My Wings" in honor of those in the industry who passed in the past year. I watched this instead.

10:08. Did they forget about the screenwriting awards? No. I'm being serious. It's 10:08! They have 22 minutes! And Idina Menzel is singing! Cheryl Boone Isaacs: "Writers? Screw those insecure introverts. Skip 'em. We'll give those off camera. Like the Folk awards at the Grammy's."

10:10. Standing ovation for Idina Menzel (whose name John Travolta mangled, apparently having skipped the presenting practice run-through) for singing "Let It Go." Look. I adored "Let It Go." But you CAN'T just give a standing ovation to anything. You can't. It obscenely devalues the standing ovation. Please. Be judicious.

10:21. "The mind of a writer can be a truly terrifying thing. Isolated. Neurotic. Caffeine-addled. Crippled by procrastination and consume by feelings of panic, self-loathing and soul-crushing inadequacy." - Robert DeNiro

10:29. Spike Jonze wins Best Original Screenplay for "Her." The "American Hustle" o-fer rocks on!

10:33. "It was definitely a transformative experience. And it's good because it took so long that if not it would be a waste of time."- Alfonso Cuaron, winning Best Director for "Gravity"

10:35. Next Award is Best Actress. Meanwhile Adèle Exarchopoulos, who gave the Best Performance Of 2013, male or female, in "Blue Is The Warmest Color", who was inevitably not nominated for an Oscar, is back home in France rolling a cigarette, staring forlornly out the window and reciting her favorite poem. "His eyes are vast holes where phosphorus burns / And his make-up renders more frightful in turn / The bloodless face, the sharp nose, of one who dies."

10:43. Cate Blanchett wins Best Actress for "Blue Jasmine" which has pretty much been foregone since 2011. And I was rooting for Amy Adams, sure, and I would have taken a swig of whiskey and run outside in the 7 degree temperature and bayed at the moon if she'd won, but I've got no sour grapes for Cate. She brought it. And I love her speech. Singling out her fellow nominees before anyone else and pointing out that films with female leads are not "niche experience" and "in fact, earn money" and then getting in the parting shot of the night. "The.World.Is.Round.People." Rock on, Cate.

10:48. Jennifer Lawrence takes the stage to present Best Actor. She looks at someone in audience and says "Why are you laughing? Is this funny?" For five fleeting and indescribably glorious seconds, I thought JLaw was about to go straight Tommy DeVito on a seat-filler. "Why are you laughing? Is this funny? Am I a clown? Do I amuse you? How the fuck am I funny? What the fuck is so funny about me?"

10:51. Matthew McConaughey wins Best Actor for "Dallas Buyer's Club" and......hoo boy. That speech. Lordy, lordy, that speech.

In fact, let's just go ahead and say that "12 Years A Slave" won Best Picture ("American Hustle" goes zero for ten, garnering victory against Internet outrage in defeat) and get back to McConaughey's speech. (With each passing year, the less interested I'm becoming in Best Picture. Maybe because my own personal Best Picture was "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" and all our own personal Best Pictures are all that matter to each of us.)

In his acceptance speech, McConaughey dropped references to God and his Dad in heaven with gumbo and Miller Lite in more or less consecutive sentences. Which I loved. Because as a non-practicing Lutheran who totally respects (and in many, many ways) understands the atheist viewpoint, I still hold onto a belief in God (with a Miller Lite in a Corinthians koozie) and eternal paradise while simultaneously knowing full well that if God and eternal paradise will not allow whiskey and Lady Gaga to pass through the pearly gates that I would prefer no part of it. And so I like imagining faith and rock 'n' roll in collaboration. And I think that's what McConaughey, in his own laconic, rambling way, was going for.

And I loved his mantra. "Keep on chasing." Most, I assume, will consider McConaughey preaching about himself being his own hero as the most televised form of solipsism of all time (Slate? Are you out there?) but examine it more closely. It's not so much about being your own hero as chasing a better version of yourself. Maybe I will be accused of overanalyzing it but, hand of (uh oh!) God, in the moment it happened, that's what I felt and thought. And besides, could anyone other than the dude who gave that speech give that performance (and the performance in "Mud")? I rest my case.

Thus, I say to Amy Adams......keep on chasing. You'll get there. Surely, as God is Matthew McConaughey's witness, you will.


Wretched Genius said...

I thought the same thing while watching McConaughey's speech. I knew people were going to call him egotistical or narcissistic for what he said, but I interpreted it as saying that he was always trying to be a better man than the one he is today.

Also, Roger Deakins is now 0-12 at the Oscars. For shame, Academy.

Lexi said...

This is great.

Andrew K. said...

What the hell was up with the camera after Sally's speech? One of my only real "goddamn it, what sort of trash is this" moment from the ceremony. Especially since they gave her an excellent clip.

I don't know if Matt was going for that in his speech, but in an evening unsubtly devoted to movie heroes that awkwardly syntax he used to call himself his own hero was...uncomfortable.

(Roundly offended that Amy's clip wasn't her telling Irving "I just didn't know you were conning me", or at the very least: night club dance break.)

Nick Prigge said...

Brad: Yeah. Poor Deakins. I mean, this just wasn't going to the year. He was just one of the four props opposite Lubezki but you've gotta believe that some year HE'S going to the Lubezki. Don't you? Or should that have already happened?

Lexi: Grazie.

Andrew: You know, the Sally moment didn't even make me mad. I mean, it DID, but it made me mad more in that way of getting a sad, knowing smile, where you're just thinking: "Of course, that was going to happen. It couldn't have happened any other way."

The McConaughey speech.....like I said, I interpreted it as him saying he was always chasing for a better version of himself. You're right, though, given the theme of the night that perhaps the phrasing was poor. I half-wonder now if McConaughey decided mid-show to tie his speech INTO the theme? It seems like something he might do.

Alex Withrow said...

Great round up here.

I don't know what was better: Darlene Love crushing it on stage, or Bill Murray's eager applause when she was finished.

And yeah, Murray's concise and poignant dedication to Ramis was beautiful. Looking right into the camera. Perfect.

Nick Prigge said...

It was perfect, wasn't it? And it was kind of in line with what you were talking about in your Oscar post - it was a surprise. An off the cuff moment. It kind of makes you wish more presenters might go off script, if only for a moment.