' ' Cinema Romantico: In Lieu of the Montage

Thursday, January 09, 2020

In Lieu of the Montage

The ancient lament is that the Oscars are too long. This goes all the way back to the very first Oscars, held at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, more of a dinner party, really, than a ceremony and what dinner party in history didn’t go on too long? The late William Goldman, however, in the pages of the extinct Premiere Magazine, once posited an intriguing counter-argument: the Oscars aren’t long enough. This, he suggested, was because the Academy Awards were too concerned with stuffing the show full of fluff when they could instead build their production around numerous clips of the nominated movies. Like, say, rather than just reiterating that, hey, “BlacKkKlansman” is nominated for Best Editing, why not show that scene of the last prank call to David Duke (Topher Grace) concluding with the perfect capping long shot from above, marking him as the butt of a perfect cosmic joke, really letting the viewers at home get a sense of the scene’s rhythm? Maybe such a scene would be giving too much away, but you take my point. These are theoretically the best movies Hollywood has to offer and wouldn’t you better promote them with thoughtful curation of clips rather than inapt filler?

My Beautiful, Perspicacious Wife brought this to my attention during Sunday’s telecast of the Golden Globes after a couple people trotted out for the seventh, or eighth, or ninth time to “introduce” one of the Best Picture nominees which yielded a brief montage of clips from (un)said movie. They didn’t always “introduce” these movies, as I recall, either at the Globes or at the Oscars, but these montages are now also sadly evocative of how nominated actors get introduced too. At the 1997 Academy Awards, when the Best Supporting Actress nominees were announced, Julianne Moore’s name for “Boogie Nights” was accompanied by a clip where her character, adult film actress Amber Waves, and her youthful charge, of sorts, the infamous Rollergirl (Heather Graham), are snorting coke even as they talk earnestly. Forget for a moment that ABC put a clip of Julianne Moore snorting coke on the teevee in primetime and instead focus on how this scene gave a quick, revealing window into what made Moore’s turn so grand, creating a motherly, druggie space cadet out of thin air.

Extended clips are meant to convey what a performance, or a movie, or a part of a movie are doing. These modern montages, on the other hand, convey nothing, less highlights than bullet points, compiled by some junior business analyst dispatched by a so & so who thinks all movies are filmed in one take to find the most Eye-Popping Moments per Burbank Focus Groups. Indeed, in the run-up at Sunday’s Golden Globes to Tom Hanks being given the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement, we were treated to a litany of the Hanks hits. It was an impressive collection of titles, absolutely, but it reminded me of a Time Life CD ad, Soul Hits of the 60s or something, scrolling through song after song after song, offering snippets of a few, glossing over the rest, lip service rather than illumination.

Why not compile a package of clips demonstrating how Hanks is, as My, Beautiful Perspicacious Wife frequently notes, the master of the regional American accent? Moreover, why show just a split-second of that closing sequence to “Captain Phillips” where Hanks brilliantly lets the control of his performance give way to an acute outburst of emotion? If you really want to illuminate what makes Tom Hanks a genius then all you need to do is cue up that whole scene and let it run.

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