Monday, March 06, 2006

My Oscar Morning After

Before anyone starts moaning, I will give you one reason to be very, very happy that Crash won:


The Siren can't be the only person who is sick to death of having a 20-car-pileup of high-quality Oscar-bait movies crowded at the end of the year, when she has social obligations competing with her ability to get the movie house. Meanwhile, for the first 11 months of the year the Siren can be found frequently staring at the movie ads, unable to fathom that her local multiplex features only a witless romantic comedy, Vin Diesel's latest stab at immortality, a big-screen version of a video game and a horror movie so violent it makes Halloween look like Lady and the Tramp.

Anyway, some other disconnnected thoughts about the Oscars, in no particular order.

To whoever decided to do actual, full scenes from the Best Picture nominees this year instead of trailers: God bless you.

To whoever decided that the way to showcase the glories of film noir is to show lots of their trailers: Are you nuts?

Some very, very odd choices for the "epic" section (Butch Cassidy? ET?) and even for the "social conscience" montage, which was probably the best of the evening.

Keanu Reeves, handsome as ever, is clearly the Robert Taylor de nos jours.

Eric Bana has ears that are terrifyingly reminiscent of Clark Gable's.

Charlize Theron seemed to be channeling Claudia Cardinale, which was a bit odd.

Keira Knightley may well be the most gorgeous woman in Hollywood right now, but it was Meryl Streep who dazzled. When you are 20 years old and a dream of beauty, you have to work at NOT looking ravishing. Meryl is pushing 60. Her gown was perfect, her makeup was perfect, she was poised and charming and most of all, she has left her glorious face alone.

What is up with the awards to Memoirs of a Geisha? The cinematography and art direction consisted of one tired cliche after another. Rain on pagoda-style roofs. Twisting streets full of those utterly fascinating Asian merchants selling utterly too-too exotic wares. Cherry blossoms, for crying out loud. I could throw a dart at Mikio Naruse's filmography and hit a better-looking movie, and he was famous for shooting quiet interiors.

Blech to the costume award to Geisha, too. Year after year it's the same thing now: The award must go to a period piece or some kind of fantasy thing. The whole premise behind that is faulty. Any actor can tell you that the way a character dresses has a huge influence on a performance. You do not move or present yourself the same way in different clothing. A costume designer can have a huge impact on a contemporary movie. Take a look at Match Point, where the outfits of each character change with their changing fortunes, mirroring what's going on with each of them. The costumes in Geisha just added to the movie's overall phoniness, with its body-conscious (?!?) kimonos and simple, chic little geisha hairdos.

One last gripe about Geisha: both the costume designer and the cinematographer talked about the courage it took to make the movie. Come again? the novel sold what, five million copies? How much courage do you need to take a huge bestseller and dumb it down even further for an American audience?

*Note: Unfortunately, now that I read Filmbrain and my fellow Cinemarati bemoaning Crash's win, I'm thinking maybe the movie wouldn't have added that much to my local multiplex. I didn't see it, so I am just trying to look on the bright side. Trying. Really trying.


Peter Nellhaus said...

Even worse, my Significant Other is mad at me for not taking her to see Geisha after seeing the clips. This is the same person who loves to lecture me about looking past Hollywood hype!

Did you fall over laughing at the end of "It's Hard to be a Pimp"?.

I figured I would provide an alternative to Monday morning quarterbacking on my blog, especially since I wrote about Jon Stewart's "film career".

boisdejasmin said...

Memoirs of Geisha walks the same trite, overdone and cliched path that killed many attempts to make a movie with some sort of Asian theme in Hollywood. Predictable is the word.

Bill said...

As far as Crash goes, I've seen better films and I've seen worse. It doesn't surprise me that it won. At the risk of repeating myself, it's not nearly as good as some people would have us believe, but it's not nearly as bad as others make it out to be.

Of the movies I've seen, I would have preferred The Constant Gardener. I had some stylistic issues with it, but I can live with them.

Gloria said...

By the time "Memoirs of a Geisha" was released here, I had just treated myself to a DVD home season of Japanese films, and had just seen again Ukigumo "Floating Clouds")

Honest, just having beheld Miss Takamine's topping tragic heroine (isn't she great as Magnani there?) : who wanted to see a phoney-japanese Cinderella story? So I didn't spend any money in it (helps to make ends meet)

The Siren said...

Peter: do you remember when they used to say that to win Best Song, it had to be something that wound sound good played at a wedding? June may be more interesting than usual this year.

V., you're right, Hollywood's history with Asian themes is generally lousy. I would have preferred re-viewing "The World of Suzy Wong" to "Geisha," though. At least the Hong Kong footage was glorious and the costumes were better.

Bill, I didn't see *any* of the Best Picture nominees so I didn't have a dog in that fight. I would have liked to see Brokeback win, but c'est la guerre. Sometimes a film gets a curious boost from being unjustly passed over.

Gloria: Alas, the one film I missed this past season was Floating Clouds. I could kick myself. I waited too long to get tickets and it sold out. A fellow Cinemarati told me, though, that a DVD may be released in the U.K. this year. I am crossing my fingers. I share your love for Takamine. She has been glorious in everything I have seen her in.

The 'Stache said...

Siren ? bless you, bless you! You have finally cracked the mystery of Keanu "Whoa!" Reeves for me. He IS Robert Taylor ? beautiful, bland and boooring with that dead stare in his eyes.

The Siren said...

:) Round-Headed Boy, I have been enjoying your blog and meaning to add you to the blogroll, but I dread venturing into the html thickets. I thought it was rather apt too! Taylor was so beautiful, and even rather good every once in a while, as is Reeves. But neither man seems to have his heart in most performances.

Gloria said...

(I actually believe that Keanu Reeves looks like a young lean version of Peter Ustinov... In fact, in youthful pictures, Ustinov somewhat looks like a slightly tubby Reeves)

Running to take cover...

ZC said...

I could throw a dart at Mikio Naruse's filmography and hit a better-looking movie


Joshua said...

There was a great slide-show at Slate about the relentless period-piece Costume winners. The only two non-period winners in the last several decades were All That Jazz and Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and both films feature more sequins and ribbon than Ladies Figure Skating. Costume designers hate it too, it turns out, and in their guild awards have several categories to stop this from happening, but nonetheless are more-or-less forced to nominate Geisha et al because viewers at home aren't impressed by contemprorary costuming and have no idea who costuming helps even contemporary films function. And I know the Oscars are designed to be middlebrow, but the failure of the Academy to even nominate intelligently, gracefully constumed contemporary films (like Transamerica or The Squid And The Whale) is surely another bad sign.

The Siren said...

Zach: thanks. In a way, it's unfair, like comparing my blog to "City of Nets." But "Memoirs" just stank.

Joshua: Thanks so much for stopping by! Your post made me happy. I swear I felt like a voice in the wilderness. Over at the Cinemarati it seemed I couldn't get anybody to even comment on the sorry state of the costume awards. Contemporary movies used to win Oscars quite frequently in the Golden Age, so clearly this is a failure of some sort of education.

Brian Darr said...

The reason I didn't comment about your take on the costume awards is that you said it perfectly (or so it seemed to this guy who hasn't actually seen Memoirs of a Geisha or Match Point but agrees with the principle) and I didn't just want to post an "amen".

Anonymous said...

I never thought of Robert Taylor or Keanu Reeves as boring or bland. I do think that Taylor was a much better actor. Underneath the pretty boy looks, the man could act.

As for Reeves, he wasn't much of an actor twenty years ago. He has improved with age, but I don't think he'll ever be as good as Taylor.

The Siren said...

Hi Juanita, it is nice to see you are still scanning the archives! I was being flip, but I didn't really mean it as a diss of either. Taylor had his moments, notably Party Girl and Johnny Eager. And Reeves is a better actor than he is often given credit for. But Reeves is more callow on screen (though he must be 40 now) than Taylor.