I'll be adding little bon-mots here and there throughout the night, so this post will be changing for the next four hours or so. Just hit refresh, if you will...
As per usual, the night begins with Barbara Walters. I rarely watch these specials, but I heard she's gonna talk to Mickey Rourke, so I'm tuning in. Now my memories of these pre-Oscar specials is that Ms. Walters talks to Oscar nominees. But here, in a gross display of ABC/Disney "synergy," we have an interview with the Jonas Brothers! Jesus, who cares? Do they really think 8-year-old girls are watching this show? Meanwhile, the rest of the audience is tuning out completely. I, myself, am watching the show with the sound cut down (an action that can cut the gonads off ANYTHING on TV). By the way, is it me, or do the Jonas Brothers look like weird aliens or something? They're odd.
Ahhh. Anne Hathaway. What a sweetheart. I've liked her ever since THE PRINCESS DIARIES--not a good movie, but an obviously star-making performance. I thought she was charming in THE DEVIL WEAR PRADA, and am looking forward to RACHEL GETTING MARRIED, which I haven't seen. I like her palpable realness--she's reminds me of a few friends of mine; she doesn't have any of that star bullcrap going on. Plus she's quite adorable (those eyes! that smile!). Now, can I say that Barbara's questions are incredibly softball in nature?
Gosh, how great is Mickey Rourke? I was always sad he'd gone by the wayside, movie-wise, and I love that he's back. His love of his dogs--the subject of much attention here at the Nose, where we're all animal lovers--is radically recognizable to me. Hearing him talk about how his dogs have helped him through the hard times is something I think many, MANY people can relate to. In fact, I think there's a myriad of good movies in this subject matter; maybe one could be developed with Mickey in mind. Anyway, I think he's going to make smarter choices this time around; he's had a rough time but I think he's come out the other side a better person. At any rate, his performance in THE WRESTLER is clearly the best of the year, even if he doesn't win the Oscar. As he said at the end of his interview, after admitting winning the Oscar would mean a great deal to him, he eventually comes to the conclusion that "you can't eat it, you can't f--k it, and it won't get you into heaven." He's great!
All I have to say about Hugh Jackman is: a highly untested talent, moviewise. But on stage, I think we see the real guy. It's funny hearing him talk about being mistaken for being gay after his big success on stage as the VERY gay Peter Allen in THE BOY FROM OZ. Jackman has had an amazing career so far--it should get even better for him. A very versatile performer. I'm way excited about seeing the Oscar program now!
Now we get 30 minutes of red carpet arrivals. But wait...hasn't the red carpet been seriously undermined this year? I hope so. I'm not a fashion bug, so I don't like to comment on how people look or what they're wearing (for the most part)--therefore, the red carpet is a little boring to me--completely devoid of content. So I won't be saying much about it. It's such a bundle of uncomfortable, embarassing posing.
Cool to see Michael Giacchino as the musical director (he did the scores for THE INCREDIBLES, RATATOILLE and the upcoming STAR TREK). Good change from Bill Conti, who did it for years. Awesome set and it's great to see the orchestra on the stage!
Pretty funny opening number (loved Anne Hathaway as "Nixon").
Nice montage of past supporting actress winners--and now we get the first award, with Whoopi Goldberg, Goldie Hawn, Tilda Swinton, Eva Marie Saint, and Anjelica Huston. Inventive (but time-eating) variation on showing a clip from the movie; each gives a brief monologue about each performance. And the Oscar goes to: Penelope Cruz, for VICKI CHRISTINA BARCELONA! She's sweet ("I wonder if anyone's ever fainted up here--I may be the first!") Wrong on thing one, I was. This makes either (1) Meryl Streep a lock for Best Actress, or (2) DOUBT the first movie in history to be nominated for four acting awards without a win.
Yaayyy! Our girl, Tina Fey, with Steve Martin, giving the writing awards. Beautiful graphics accompanying the clips! And the Original Screenplay Oscar goes to: Dustin Lance Black, for MILK. Got this one right. But I'm sad--I wanted WALL-E or IN BRUGES to win. Nice speech by Black--very moving. And now Best Adapted Screenplay (after Steve Martin's admonition to a staring Fey: "Don't...fall in love with me!") goes to...Simon Beaufoy, of course, for SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. Right on this one, too. 2 for 3.
Jack Black and Jennifer Anniston team up to give out the award for Best Animated Feature: WALL-E! (3 for 4! Love this movie! So deserved!) Best Animated Short goes to "La Maison De Petit Cubes" (missed this one, though I still think "Lavatory Lovestory" looks more entertaining--anyway, my score goes down to 3 for 5).
Daniel Craig and Sarah Jessica Parker give out the award for Art Direction: THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON wins this one, as expected (in fact, so far, there have been no upsets). And for Costume Design? The Oscar goes to: THE DUCHESS (again, as expected). So now I'm up to 5 for 7.
I'm liking the show so far. Beautiful look, nice pacing, direction, and writing.
And we also get MAKEUP out of the way. The Winner: THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (again, as expected). What a blase acceptance speech from Greg Cannom. Guess winning three of those things does that to you (he previously won for MRS. DOUBTFIRE and DRACULA).
For Cinematography, we get Natalie Portman and a destracted, gum-chewing, and ridiculously bearded Ben Stiller, I guess doing a Joaquin Phoenix riff ("You look like you work at a Hassidic meth lab, said a game Portman). The award goes to Anthony Dod Mantle's work on SLUMDOG. Still no upsets, and it's looking more and more like we're not going to get one. I'm now at 7 for 9.
Great little Judd Apatow short (with a hilarious moment with Seth Rogan and James Franco reacting to Franco's MILK love scene with Sean Penn). And an amazing Baz Luhrmann production number with about a thousand people on stage (including Beyonce) and a wild collection of movie songs referenced. "The musical is back!" Let's hope Hugh is right!
Now we have Alan Arkin, Joel Grey, Christopher Walken, Cuba Gooding, and Kevin Kline giving out the Supporting Actor award. A funny Cuba Gooding rakes Robert Downey Jr. over the coals. And the award, naturally, goes to the incredible Heath Ledger for THE DARK KNIGHT, making him only the second actor in Oscar history to win the award posthumously. Very touching, seeing his family accepting the award for his daughter, Matilda. 8 for 10.
Best Documentary (introduced by a film by master documentarian Albert Maysles) given out by the year's biggest documentarian, Bill Maher. And the Oscar goes to: MAN ON WIRE, with a wonderful Oscar balancing act by the film's subject, Phillippe Petit! For Documentary Short Subject, the winner is "Smile Pinki." (Dang--missed it!) So now I'm 9 for 12.
Now we move into the post production awards. After a chaotic action film montage (which at first looked like your typical car commercial), Will Smith gives the award for Visual Effects to BENJAMIN BUTTON. (10 for 13!) This is, I think, the last win for the BUTTON team. Sound Effects Editing goes to THE DARK KNIGHT (WALL-E was robbed--10 for 14 now). And Sound Mixing goes to the excited team from SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. A surprise. 10 for 15. And now we have the Film Editing award: SLUMDOG again, making my tally 11 for 16. I really like, by the way, how they've grouped the awards; it really is economical!
Eddie Murphy--the latest NUTTY PROFESSOR--is on tap to give the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian award to comic genius and the original professor, Jerry Lewis. An award that's been a long time coming! It's good to see Jerry! The world won't see his like ever again!
SLUMDOG wins again in the Original Score category; And then we get the winner, A.R. Rahman, singing the percussive "O Saya" and "Jai Ho," with an inventive mash-up of Gabriel/Newman's "Down To Earth." A beautiful production, culminating in a second win for Rahman's score. Boy, Danny Boyle looks blown away by how well his movie is doing! My current tally: 12 for 18.
DEPARTURES, from Japan, has recently been gaining steam with the really REALLY hardcore prognosticators, and it turns out they're right: it takes the award for Best Foreign Language Movie (I would have given it to WALTZ WITH BASHIR or THE CLASS, but so be it--12 for 19 it is).
It never fails. I always get choked up by the IN MEMORIAM segment. But, though I liked Queen Latifah's rendition of "I'll Be Seeing You," I didn't like the way the segment was directed; it gave short shrift to some of the departed, whose names were a little difficult to read sometimes. This is a misstep; they should always fill the screen with this segment, so we can see the names of those lesser-known behind-the-scenes people.
Okay, so now we're to the top four. And here's Reese Witherspoon to give the Oscar to Danny Boyle for Best Director, who's accepted the award with a Tigger hop that he promised his kids he'd do if he ever won an Oscar. No complaints here with Boyle's win: he's been a top feature director ever since SHALLOW GRAVE in 1995. And he seems totally charming.
Shirley MacLaine, Halle Berry, Nicole Kidman, Marion Cotillard, and Sophia Loren get a standing O before handing out the Best Acress Oscar. You really get a sense that these tributes from one actress to another are very emotionally affecting for the nominees. Anne Hathaway especially looked touched by Shirley MacLaine's praise. But it's the lovely Kate Winslet who wins for THE READER, giving a spirited and eloquent speech.
And now, the most suspenseful award of the night, given by Robert De Niro, Ben Kingsley, Anthony Hopkins, Adrian Brody and Michael Douglas. The award goes to now two-time Oscar-winner Sean Penn. But even he seemed sorry to take the award from Mickey Rourke, whom he called "my brother." An excellent speech--funny, unoffensively political, and generous.
By this time, Best Picture is a foregone conclusion. SLUMDOG wins again (my final tally: a not-so-great 15 out of 24--which is about what I usually do, because I always go for the underdog). Anyway, the audience is a winner this year, too. Even as the 81st Academy Awards clocks in at 3 hours and 22 minutes, it was such a creatively-mounted production (bravo, Bill Condon and Larry Mark) that there can be no complaints. Except that, hopefully, in 2010, they'll be a better slate of films to fete.