' ' Cinema Romantico: Logging the 87th Academy Awards

Monday, February 23, 2015

Logging the 87th Academy Awards

You might recall that Ava DuVernay was snubbed by the Academy in the Oscar category of Best Director. Was she really "snubbed"? Who the hell knows? Everyone thinks they know but no one really does. Because no one really knows what goes on in the mind of an Academy member. Scrutinize all you want, Oscar bloggers, but there is no empirical analysis when it comes to the whims of Academy voters, and the whole ordeal would be less interesting, anyway, if you could break it down by metrics. Which is precisely why I so desperately loved what Ms. DuVernay said in an interview with Gillian Orr for The Independent. Of her supposed snub DuVernay said: "I think what’s nice is the conversation about diversity, inclusion, and representation [that arose]. We need to challenge the industry, to challenge the studios. We need to acknowledge that films should not be told from one point of view and not only one point of view should be celebrated." Hear, hear.

"But," Orr noted in her article, "DuVernay is not bitter. She’s looking forward to the Oscars, which she says will be a 'lovely celebration of the film' and she plans to be there 'in a pretty dress, having a good time.'" So cool your jets, you angry birds of Twitter. Don't get yourself in a CinemaScope lather if your favorites don't win. Ya know why? Cuz in 1998 I got myself in an immature frenzy when Julianne Moore didn't win Best Supporting Actress for "Boogie Nights" (Amber Waves 4Ever) and look! It's 17 years later and that (not really at all except in the deranged catacombs of my mind) egregious robbery is about to be rectified. It all evens out eventually. So put on a pretty dress, or your finest pajama pants, and have a good time. It's Oscar Night. It's the most wonderful night of the year. And remember, the only people who say the Oscars take themselves too seriously are generally people who take themselves too seriously.

In keeping with Michael Keaton's speech at the Independent Spirit Awards where he referenced Narcissus and his presence on the awards trail, the part of the traditional Oscar night Entire Bottle Of Wine will be played by a wine that shares my name.
5:32 PM (CST) - I'd planned on watching  Lady Gaga on DVR during "The Sound of Music" tribute. Then I found out Lady Gaga was singing as part of "The Sound of Music" tribute.

6:49 - The show hasn't started but several precincts are already reporting that Marion Cotillard has won the night for her "getting ready" selfie, one in which she's apparently fronting a fake electronica quartet that she really needs to turn into a real thing.

6:58 PM - On ABC Jess Cagle just announced that the Best Picture category will come down to "'Birdman' and 'Boyhood.'" Trenchant analysis.

The show begins......

7:30 - Neil Patrick Harris takes the stage and the very first star reaction shot goes to.....Nicole Kidman. Because duh.

7:31 - "Best and whitest."

7:35 - I confess, I really liked the opening song & dance number by Mr. Harris, with a crucial assist from an as-ever spirited Anna Kendrick. It cops to a belief in the phrase that grinches eating gruel despise and the Academy adores - Magic of the Movies - with equal parts earnestness and wonkiness, and then gets Jack Black out there to point out a few of the more significant flaws in the business model at the same time.

7:37 - N.P.H. stares down Oprah and doesn't blink an eye when she tries to blow off his joke. Respect.

7:39 - Best Supporting Actor. It's like 1984 Election Night in America and everyone that ain't J.K. is Mondale.

7:42 - True story: I watched "The Rewrite" on Saturday night and in it J.K. Simmons plays the dean of the Binghamton University English Department as a gruff if warm-hearted family man who can't help but tear up at absolutely any mention of his wife and kids. And then his entire Best Supporting Actor acceptance speech revolved around his wife and kids and the importance of parents. As a friend who watched with us texted my girlfriend as this was happening: "J.K. is his character in 'The Rewrite!'" And that speaks to Mr. Simmons' entire career - "Whiplash", "The Rewrite", anything, whatever, he always delivers. A consummate professional.

7:49 - Neil Patrick Harris made a Chris Kyle joke but tied it back to Harvey Weinstein which isn't offset by the "It's a requirement" addendum. We needed Chris Rock to tell the Chris Kyle joke. He would've gone there. You know where. And I say that as someone who liked "American Sniper."

7:58 - Best Costume Design. A friendly reminder that Cinema Romantico's Best Costume Design of the year goes to "Still Alice" for Kristen Stewart's Snoopy t-shirt.

8:01 - "The Grand Budapest Hotel" wins said award and so an ancient Oscar narrative emerges - it's winning all the "little" awards because it won't win the "big" award. Never mind that Costume Design and Makeup & Hairstyling is integral to whatever wins the "big" award but that doesn't fit the narrative so SHUT YOUR MOUTH.

8:03 - What is up with this Bellboy on stage schtick? Is this The Grand Budapest Hotel?

8:11 - "Ida" wins Best Foreign Language Film and director Pawel Pawlikowski gives my favorite acceptance speech of the night. "We made a film in black and white, about the need for silence and withdrawal from the world and contemplation. And here we are....at the epicenter of noise and world attention." And then he stared down the playoff music and won and kept speaking. Because maybe if they scrapped Adam Levine songs they could let these people talk a whopping thirty seconds longer. God, what a concept.

8:17 - I'm pretty sure Steve Carrell just dared Neil Patrick Harris to talk to Edward Norton and Harris didn't take it. And why would you? I'm 65% sure Edward Norton would have punched him in the face. Cheerily punched him in the face, but still.

8:29 - "Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1" wins Best Documentary short and producer Dana Perry, speaking as the playoff music kicks in, mentions that her son, a veteran, committed suicide, automatically prompting the playoff music to cease (thank God someone behind the scenes has decency). An unspeakably affecting moment. A half-minute before you could see Internet memes firing up regarding her pom-pom dress and then she, bravely, took it to the most personal place imaginable. And then she leaves the stage and the camera goes to Neil Patrick Harris and he makes a joke about the dress and you know what? Perhaps (most likely) it was poor taste, but I don't even fault him. I think he was totally knocked for a loop and didn't know how to react. Maybe it would have thrown the entire telecast out of whack but screw it.....they should've just faded out and gone to commercial. No one should have been asked to try and follow up that moment.

8:33 - Harry Belaftonte: "After all, Paul Robeson said, 'Artists are the radical voice of civilization.'"

8:34 - Neil Patrick Harris talking about how things sound better in English accents. If that's your angle then, for God's sake, at least talk to Keira Knightley.

8:35 - "My friend Tim McGraw." Jesus effing Christ, Gwyneth. And I was still, like, one-seventieth on your side.

8:43 - All right. That Miles Teller reference in the "Birdman" homage was pretty damn good.

8:45 - Sienna Miller just took the stage to "Take My Breath Away." Am I suddenly conductor of the orchestra?

Cinema Romantico's Best Dress of the Night goes to Sienna Miller. Because this blog doesn't hide its biases.
8:48 - Best Sound Editing goes to "American Sniper", prompting the left to condemn the sound of said film as including "too many subtle whispers of American flags waving in the wind" and the right to praise the film for including "so many noticeable booms of 4th of July fireworks" to which the actual sound editors replied "what the hell are you idiots talking about? Did you even watch the movie?"

8:51 - Was every cameraman in the building purposely trying to keep Jared Leto off of theirs? Seriously, how did I not know Jared Leto was wearing that until now?

8:55 - Patricia Arquette's Best Supporting Actress coronation for "Boyhood" is complete. And then. She said a bad word, she put on her reading glasses and she unloaded. And you know what? Nothing I could say could communicate or express proper reverence for what she said. So here's what she said: "To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America." 

Shaking the world.
9:03 - Chole Grace Moretz quotes William Goldman, one of Hollywood's most legendary screenwriters, as a means to set up the Visual Effects. Which is, like, the most succinct summation of modern day movies ever. Writers set the table and then all the utensils and napkins get shoved aside to make way for the Visual Effects.

9:12 - That scream from who-knows-who from the cheap seats for the guys of "Big Hero 6" was so righteous.

9:18 - Anna Wintour sitting next to Harvey Weinsein. Which is ironic because Anna is the only one who could order a shivving against Harvey and get away with it. Each one is also actually more powerful than the President of the Academy, who's currently speaking.

9:20 - Neil Patrick Harris's ongoing schtick with Octavia Spencer has taken on the air of one of those David Letterman callbacks that he keeps hammering at specifically because he knows it's dead air. At I least, I think Harris knows it's dead air. Look close and you can start to see the flop sweat. That's what hosting the Academy Awards does to even the most charmingly composed man.


9:25 - Emmanuel Lubezki wins for Cinematography for "Birdman." The real question, however, is this: was Roger Deakins actually in the audience (this was, of course, his 63rd consecutive loss) or was he drunk at a bar in Cabo San Lucas.

9:37 - The Memorial Segment. 1.) Half of society doesn't understand why certain people weren't included. 2.) The producers decide to trot someone out there to sing a power ballad at the exact moment every rule of decorum and common sense stipulates you just fade to black. How does the Academy consistently screw up the one thing that should be utterly resistant to a screw-up?

9:46 - "How far would you go to help someone find the greatness in himself?" Wait, are we sure that's what "Whiplash" is about?

9:47 - God, to be Terrence Howard's PR rep on Monday morning... "Well, Terrence had a bad reaction to some sushi in the green room. Plus, he always gets emotional when he sees Oprah..."

9:52 - "Citizenfour" for Best Documentary. A supremely political moment somehow only feels like the fifth or sixth most incendiary moment of the night. But then the whole auditorium is pretty much under surveillance with or without the government. Hey-o!!!

10:02 - John Legend and Common and a no-nonsense, we're-in-it-to-win-it choir takes the stage to sing "Glory", the Best Original Song nominee from "Selma." It's incredible. It's majestic. It takes the whole damn room up the mountain. The amazing moments and meaning in this Academy Awards are, frankly, overwhelming N.P.H., and it's totally not his fault. What's he supposed to do other than give Oprah a bullhorn and let her take over?

10:04 - John Travolta brought out with Idina Menzel to atone for last year's Adele Dazim sin and somehow, through the grace of L. Ron Hubbard, only proceeds to make it even worse. Are he and Terrence Howard going out on the road together?

10:06 - After that performance, if "Glory" hadn't won for Best Original Song they would have needed to instantly conduct a fake recount and announce it as the winner.

10:16 - I love Lady Gaga as much as anyone. I have a picture of her (with Bruce Springsteen) on my refrigerator. But this "Sound of Music" moment is totally blunting the emotional impact of the previous few minutes......

10:19 - ......until Stefani Germanotta brings the effing house down again and then introduces Julie Andrews herself who somehow brings the effing house down in the midst of already being brought down. I can barely form coherent thoughts at this point. I mean, I'm sure the pre-eminent Internet trolls and professional contrarians and doubting Thomas's will roll their eyes but the hell with 'em - I love this Oscars!!! I do. I.Love.Them. Who needs more wine?


10:30 - Eddie Murphy to present the original screenwriting awards. Could he throw out an Afrim reference? Anyone? Anyone??? No one? No one. ("Because Afrim here is a damn fine screenwriter, as well as accountant and part time receptionist.")

10:32 - Birdman. Screenplay. Don't you want to imagine these four dudes holed up in a hotel writing that movie?

10:35 - "The Imitation Game" wins Best Adapted Screenplay. And look...I am on the record as possessing immense disdain for that screenplay, and I stand by it. I stand by it because it's the truth and I have to be honest. And because I have to be honest I have to say that Graham Moore's acceptance speech and his sudden admission that when he was sixteen he wanted to commit suicide floored me, moved me, made me reconsider all the snarky things I wanted to say in this space (and had literally typed). The Oscars for reasons that I both completely understand and totally can't grasp spark so much social media vitriol and yet......these Oscars. So many people spoke from their hearts. Be a pollyanna once in awhile. You'll feel better.

10:43 - "But the paradox is that true art, true individual expression," Alejandro González Iñárritu upon winning Best Director for "Birdman" says, "can’t be compared." Ha! Tell that to Twitter, Alejandro!!!

10:51 - Eddie Redmayne. Best Actor. "The Theory of Everything." Welp. "Birdman", it seems, is primed to sweep all the big awards......except for Michael Keaton as Best Actor. A friendly reminder that Hollywood really digs movies about themselves but actually prefers performances where actors play other people.

10:53 - To me, the 2014 Best Actress race has never more succinctly crystallized the Oscars. I wanted Marion Cotillard to win for "Two Days, One Night." Desperately. My favorite female performance of the year, and it wasn't close. I hooted and hollered - literally - when Matthew McConaughey drawled her name. But you know what? When Julianne Moore won for "Still Alice", like every human being who cares about the Oscars (or pretends not to care) knew she would, I still smiled and applauded and got emotional. And the standing ovation and slightly extended applause right there at the end told the whole story why - because she's Julianne fucking Moore. She's one of our greats, and has been for a long, long time. She deserved it. It was time. It was past time. Seeing her standing on that stage......it's where she belonged.

11:01 - At this point, no one wants to go to the Vanity Fair party as much as Octavia Spencer. "Why won't he stop talking to me?"

11:02 - Neil Patrick Harris, oddly, manages to trivialize a few of the evening's most significant highlights with his Oscar "predictions". God, didn't he have someone in the wings telling him "Seriously man, just it let it go."

11:03 - I hope that if anything other than "Boyhood" wins Best Picture that Matthew McConaughey crashes the stage to demand the victor hand over his Academy Award to Richard Linklater. "My righteous amigo, my fellow Texas troubadour, Rick Linklater, should be up here hoisting this little dude, this signifier of creative aptitude and taquerias of the soul. Give UP your Oscar, you imitators, you wannabe carpetbaggers, you assembly line manufacturers of hackneyed Hollywood claptrap, for genuine Lone Star art. Somebody, say amen!"

11:04 - "Birdman" takes Best Picture for 2014. And you know what? "Best", not the "best", whatever ("Land Ho!" anyone?), I think it's right. And I think it's right because the Best Picture is voted on by the Academy, and the Academy is the Movie Industry, and the Movie Industry goes back to that opening song & dance number where we view the movies through the gauzy filter of Neil Patrick Harris and Anna Kendrick even if we are aware of and admit to all the flaws pointed out by Jack Black. And even as the rest of us standing outside the Academy whine and moan and kvetch you know where we'll end up next year (this year)? Like Emma Stone at the end of "Birdman", looking up at the illusion, smiling, giving ourselves over to it, whether we like it or not. The movies always win.


Wretched Genius said...

I want to be upset that Boyhood didn't win, but there's no point. Instead, I expect it will follow in the footsteps of Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Fargo and The Shawshank Redemption, still ending up on critics' "Best Of" lists while Birdman has long faded from memory.

Nick Prigge said...

What I thought was interesting - and what I briefly considered writing about until I chose to go another way - was when Inarritu said the thing about how "time" will be the ultimate judge of the art, or something to that effect. One, because "Boyhood's" subject WAS time, of course. Two, because...well, it's true. Time will be the judge. "Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf" lives on, "A Man For All Seasons" has blown away in the wind.

Best Picture, I think, has become a momentary Instagram photo. I don't take it that seriously anymore.

Derek Armstrong said...

Nicely done.

Nick Prigge said...

Thank you, sir. I appreciate that. I concede I gain much joy from creating this post every year.