The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
In a number of ways, the Oscars got it this year.
The Academy Awards were on a big nostalgia trip in 2012 with nominees like The Artist and Hugo, and rather than run from it, they indulged that with a set in the Kodak Theatre — or as host Billy Crystal called it, the Chapter 11 Theatre — that looked like Old Hollywood, costumed popcorn sellers working the aisles and bumper segments with stars reminiscing about first movies and favorite movies. It occasionally crossed the line into nauseating, but it gave the show a cohesive feel.
And the show got that it’s somewhat troubled. We started with a film-clip montage that showed Billy Crystal being coaxed into hosting again by stars including Justin Bieber, who showed up to bring the 18-24 demographic. Later, he joked that Oscar was really shooting for the post-retirement-age demographic. Crystal did a nice job of relying on the bits that made him seem to be an obvious choice to host when Eddie Murphy bailed. No, he’s not Oscar’s host of the future, but he got the show through rough waters, and he was a vast improvement over last year’s Anne Hathaway-James Franco debacle.
Natalie Portman made a revealing comment to ABC’s Robin Roberts when she hailed Crystal’s selection because he won’t be mean. When you consider some of the thin skins in that room, the threshold for mean is pretty low. But if the Academy is overly concerned with having a nice host, it will be hard for them to gain an edge with audiences outside the theater.
As for the awards, they were predictable, save for whether Viola Davis or Meryl Streep would win best actress. For the record, I went seven for eight on my predictions, and the one category I got wrong I was happy to lose if it meant Meryl got Oscar No. 3. Between three of the acting winners we got a range of terrific types of speeches, from best supporting actress Octavia Spencer’s genuine surprise and emotion to best supporting actor Christopher Plummer’s quick wit to Streep’s heartfelt speech. Though she is the most revered actress of our generation, she never seems that way when she speaks.
Overall, it was a good ceremony, and it clocked in at just over 3 hours, a veritable sprint for Oscar.
Now that Oscar has all that nostalgia out of its system (what could be left?) it’s time for the Academy to start looking forward to how it will make these awards relevant in the 21st Century. Who will be the hosts of the future, the show format and the award format that will take this event forward. One note there would be to please, please, please go back to five best picture nominees, just try to spread it around more. Get over the idea that just because it’s a big studio film it’s not Oscar worthy and just because it’s an indie auteur film it must be great. There has to be a way to do this without a lumbering list of nine films in which we know there’s only a handful of true contenders.
This was a rebuilding year for Oscar, and a year it seemed to understand itself, particularly its shortcomings. Now it’s time to start addressing those instead of getting a laugh out of them.
Here’ the live blog from Sunday’s Oscars. If you want to read it in chronological order, start from the bottom and scroll up.
No surprise, The Artist, a risky and retrospective film, won best picture for being truly visionary and entertaining. Fun that they brought the dog on stage.
The room got a lot smaller during this moment in Meryl’s speech: “I really want to thank all my colleagues, all my friends. I look out here, I see my life before my eyes – my old friends, my new friends. Really, this is such a great honor, but the thing that counts the most with me is the friendships and the joy and the love, the sheer joy we have making movies together.” She’s a big movie star thanking fellow big movie stars, but I think anyone who loves their work and loves their co-workers can identify with that. (11:40)
Meryl breaks through to get No. 3! (11:29)
The cool thing is Rooney Mara will play this role two more times. (11:27)
Not digging the mixing of the single presenter for the top acting prizes, which has been traditional, with the tributes, which they had done the past few years with multiple presenters. With one presenter, everyone’s tribute started to sound the same. Everyone was so amazing, able to do something no one else could do. (P.S.)
Clooney goes 0-for-2 this year. Some people are surprised, but Jean Dujardin’s turn in The Artist was a really unique once-in-a-lifetime turn. I look forward to the translation (my high school French is doing nothing for me here) of the last comment in his speech. (11:25)
The In Memoriam segment with Esperanza Spalding singing What a Wonderful World was the best attempt thus far at making this portion of an awards show a performance piece, but being respectful. (11:15)
That’s so great that Darth Vader has an Oscar. (11 p.m.)
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich