Monday, March 08, 2010

Oscars 2010: A Brief Commentary


The Siren doesn't have much to say about the Oscars this year. She went to a swell party full of lively, smart, funny people and enjoyed herself.

Bravo for Katherine Bigelow, smashing the glass ceiling. I do wish that in her speech, she had been a little less overwhelmed and a little more like the lady above, costume designer Sandy Powell. Ms Powell, who appears to be about eight feet tall, sashayed on stage wearing a drop-dead high-fashion dress and gave a perfectly poised speech that made it clear she thought she deserved to be up there. I loved that; the Siren doesn't dig false modesty. And Powell also captured the Siren's heart by mentioning all the costume designers who don't do period pieces, and who are ignored year after year by the Academy. Costumes, no matter what the film, are extremely important to an actor's performance, as Louise Brooks could have told you. For the climactic scene in Pandora's Box, G.W. Pabst took her favorite suit and soiled and tore it; she said she went on set feeling "as hopelessly defiled as my clothes." How short-sighted for the Oscars to go, year after year, only to clothes of the past or some imaginary future.

The evening was marred by the decision to move the honorary Oscars to some kind of dinner thing in November. You wanna have a banquet, awesome, go for it, but do not deprive me and others who care about the industry's history of the opportunity to see Roger Corman, Gordon Willis, John Calley and the fabulous Lauren Bacall on the stage during the actual ceremony.

Many people have suggested that the John Hughes tribute took up time that rightfully belonged to the old-timers. Well, the Siren grew up with Hughes' movies and some of them have a permanent place in her heart. They're a part of the Siren's adolescence and so she regards Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink with the kind of nostalgic affection that precludes rational analysis. So it probably was with the people who decided on that whole presentation. It was nice to see Molly Ringwald after all this time.

But the Siren would have deep-sixed that horror montage in a New York minute.

And the Siren also agrees with Glenn Kenny about the death montage. This isn't quantum physics. All you have to do is come up with a reasonably complete list, a nice melancholy piece of music and some good clips. Given that simple formula it is kind of astonishing that this key piece of the evening is so consistently mucked up. Hire the TCM guys, okay? They do a great job year after year and don't try to gild the lily.

On the plus side, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin were very funny and I kind of loved the Neal Patrick Harris dance-cum-Sally-Rand tribute. Oprah Winfrey's speech to Gabourey Sidibe was very touching, Sandra Bullock was funny, and bravo to Mo'Nique for her Hattie McDaniel tribute. (The Siren didn't see Precious and won't, as she absolutely does not do child-abuse movies; the Siren just appreciated the sentiments.) Overall it was a fine ceremony that made the minutes fly by like hours, as Addison would have said.

I just really hope the DVR recorded The Oscar.

15 comments:

Dave said...

Re: John Hughes. I grew up with Hanna-Barbera and Warner Bros. cartoons. Doesn't mean I want Yogi Bear and Speedy Gonzalez getting a clip show at the Oscars.

Just sayin'.

Mythical Monkey said...

Re: the honorary Oscars, I agree with you 100%. It's bad enough that the Academy missed them the first time around, they can't take a couple of minutes from somewhere and devote it to someone whose career was important enough to earn an honorary Oscar? Especially when one of them is Lauren Bacall -- when she's 100, she'll still be the classiest broad in the joint.

Simon said...

Lauren Bacall's awesome, and I wanted to see her rip everyone a new one. Especially the Twilight people. You know what? I kinda wanted her to throw her shoe at them. like that Twitter thing or something. That would've made my life.

The John Hughes thing--no offense, cause I had an obsession with this guy when I was eleven--basically said fuck you to anyone else rude enough to die the same year as the director of Pretty in Pink. David Carradine, people.

Yojimboen said...

Apart from expressing my personal opinion that next to P&P’s The Small Back Room, The Hurt Locker is very thin gruel indeed, I can’t, and won’t, touch this.

Re Ms Powell, I’ve met her once or twice, and tried to like her, but failed miserably. Not because of her talents, which are large and undeniable, it’s just that she tends to carry herself as if she had something dead on her upper lip. Beginning her acceptance speech with “Ooh, I already have two of these…” was par for the course: self-confident lamb dressed up to disguise offensively immodest mutton. She is not liked by many peers (or any that I have met), and not as a result of professional jealousy; I once heard a Costume Designer much more honored and decorated than she remark when Ms Powell’s name came up: “Ah, yes, what is that four-letter word for ‘diva’, beginning with ‘c’?

Donna said...

As much as I adore Ferris Bueller's Day Off and a host of other John Hughes films, I was not pleased to see Lauren Bacall relegated to a wave from the audience. Dammit, she deserved a rousing Standing O, one that she could see where she did not have to turn around. She's a classy dame and deserved her honorary moment on the big show. Siren, I agree, hire the TCM guys for the In Memoriam.

The Siren said...

Re: John Hughes -- I have been pondering. I honestly didn't mind a small special tribute; I do think the way they did it was excessive since, if I may rephrase Simon's quite accurate assessment, it pretty much back-burnered anyone else who died last year. I mean hell, Ingmar Bergman and Antonioni both died in one year and neither one of those titans got a squad of stars (or, in this case, mostly former stars and by the by WHAT has happened to Judd Nelson?) standing around discussing their greatness.

Y., oh yeah, I totally got that she's a bitch from her speech. It's just that I LIKE that in a woman. Why do you think I worship at the altar of Crawford and Davis? I would ten times rather have someone up there being like her or like Shirley Maclaine ("I deserve this") than bosom-heaving fakety fake sobs like Gwyneth or bubbly just-folks nonsense from Julia Roberts. I think both those ladies grind the bones of assistants to make their exfoliating powders and the girlish act just turns me into Margo Channing watching the Sarah Siddons Society. And so while I was watching Bigelow, all tall and muscular and gorgeous I was ready to KILL her if she cried.

Ben Alpers said...

Next to P&P’s The Small Back Room, The Hurt Locker is very thin gruel indeed

This.

If you haven't seen The Small Back Room, run, don't walk, to your Netflix queue! For some reason, it's usually seen as a lesser entry in the Archers' canon (perhaps because it was a return to B&W after the Technicolor magnificence of Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes?) but it's a truly wonderful film. Just as good about bomb defusing and so much more interesting about everything else than The Hurt Locker, which was an accomplished piece of filmmaking with fine performances, but has nothing to say about war or even about people.

Vanwall said...

Well, I wouldn't kill her if she cried, but it wouldn't go with the dress, so I was confident she wasn't gonna flutter and fade after her first words, astringent as they were - she walks the walk. She may be a professional 'c' word, but frankly, she was professional in the manner so many are not - praising others who were probably never going to have that opportunity because of an unofficial prejudice - rare enough in that business, or many others.

Otherwise the O's were meh, except the Dude acknowledging his Dad - "Sea Hunt" abides - damn straight! "Dances with Smurfs" lost as expected to "The Danger UXB Mine Episode, Extended Version", mostly, I think, because there were more live humans between segments of carnage. Altho that "UXB Mine" episode was a model of economy in jacking up the intensity - and no CGFX.

I was furious they slighted Bacall, Corman, Willis and Calley - no goddam respect, too bad.

Jeff Gee said...

Ah, to be watching Tony Bennett in The Oscar for the first time! "You finally made it, Frankie! Oscar night! And here you sit, on top of a glass mountain called "success." You're one of the chosen five, and the whole town's holding its breath to see who won it. It's been quite a climb, hasn't it, Frankie? Down at the bottom, scuffling for dimes in those smokers, all the way to the top. Magic Hollywood! Ever think about it? I do, friend Frankie, I do..."

Dave said...

re: The costume lady. As much as I admire her chutzpah, I also wonder if it wasn't something like Dana Stevens described it today; a message to the Academy to look past fancy period stuff and maybe give a trophy to someone else. Then again, she could just be a distaff Frankie Fane.

As far as Hughes goes, given the outpouring of "oh, he meant so much to our generation" today (especially from my long-suffering wife), I can see maybe a montage, but to then bring out that parade of aging has-beens to remind you Gen Xers how old you're all getting was the killing stroke. In the words of Owl Jolson's father, "Enough is too much."

The Siren said...

Dave, agree on all points. And definitely I think the costume lady was, as Vanwall puts it, " praising others who were probably never going to have that opportunity because of an unofficial prejudice." It didn't used to be that way; Edith Head won for modern-dress costumes many times. But it's been period-only for as long as I can remember.

Gareth said...

Yowza. I just took a look at the costume design nominees and it's even more biased toward period and/or fantasy than I expected: the only non-period/fantasy winner in the last thirty years was The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert in 1994 and I'm pretty sure that wasn't for Hugo Weaving's tank top. The only half-contemporary year I found was 2006, when The Queen and The Devil Wears Prada were nominated.

Trish said...

I thought Kathryn Bigelow rocked. Not only did she win, but at 58 she looks fantastic. Considering talk of Linda Hamilton's mental illness, and the appalling physical appearance of Suzy Amis - who is Mrs. James Cameron - it's lucky Bigelow got away from him when she did. And thank goodness she didn't call attention to her historic win. She is a director first and foremost. And she is responsible for one of my most beloved bad movies - Point Break.

I recently watched a documentary about four young friends in search of John Hughes' house. It's called "Don't You Forget About Me" and it does a far better job honoring Hughes than the Oscars did...

Larry said...

I was just happy to see a journalist win two Oscars and a former journalist bum-rush the stage and hijack another person's Oscar speech. Somewhere, Walter and Hildy are smiling.

Buttermilk Sky said...

I quit watching the Grammys when they began to treat classical music winners the way the Academy treated Lauren Bacall. Now I have to stop watching the Oscars, too.

I like your suggestion about leaving the In Memoriam segment to TCM. They wouldn't ignore Henry Gibson.