Talking about the Oscars the day after is little bit like seeing that damn tree the day after Christmas. I want to avert my eyes and move on. But despite all my “issues” with awards shows, I was jumping up and down when Cate Blanchett won the Oscar for her magnificent portrayal of Katharine Hepburn in "The Aviator." Now how about Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn as Tracy Lord in a remake of “The Philadelphia Story?” (Never mind, I guess that would be sacrilege—I'm just angling for Hepburn's 6th Oscar!) I thought the wins overall were well deserved although I still think it’s crazy to pit these people against each other. I always squirm when the emotional winners say things like “I always heard that it’s an honor to be nominated, but let me tell you, it’s so much better to be standing up here as a winner!” Um, hello? There are four “losers” that you just passed on your way to the stage! And let’s not get too full of ourselves, it’s just the tally of a bunch of Academy schmoes filling out their paper ballots. I kept reminding Leah that it wasn’t really “true” that these were the best performances of the year!
I was right on all my predictions except for Best Director (Marty, Marty, maybe next time—and don’t worry, you’re about two years away from a Lifetime Achievement Award) and Best Picture (but I was happy for Tom, our "Million Dollar Baby" cast member guest!). I was thrilled that “Born into Brothels” won and hope it brings increased attention to Zana Briski’s work (but I wish she had talked more about the content of her film in her speech).
The telecast was one of those that seems fairly harmless at the time but rubs on the nerves the more you think about it later.
Top 5 Oscar Moments of Horror:
1. Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz Will Now Perform Lap Dances for the Academy Voters. I thought the low-point of the evening was when Chris Rock introduced these two talented presenters by saying “here come the four of them now” or something like that, referring to the women’s ample breasts. I am not a PC watchdog by any means, and can often laugh at jokes that broach the boundaries of good taste, but this one was so offensively retro and demeaning that I don’t even think it would be funny in a strip club these days. Can’t two beautiful women appear on a stage together without reducing them to a couple of nice racks? Can you imagine if Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly were introduced that way 50 years ago? (Oh wait, I know what you’re thinking, and you should be ashamed of yourself! Okay, how about Sophia Loren and Ava Gardner?) Truly a YUCK moment.
2. Here’s Your Oscar But Please Exit Through the Back Door. To be honest, this attempt to “shake things up” by presenting certain categories from the aisles of the theatre didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. But let’s face it, it clearly sent the message that these folks weren’t important enough to get their award on the actual stage. I liked Chris Rock’s joke that to save time next year they were going to set up a drive-through lane in the parking lot. I’d say it was an interesting experiment but that the Academy should go back to letting all the winners go up to the stage with the big kids. And how about the categories where the nominees were already gathered on the stage? Again, not as bad as I feared, but it did make for a few awkward moments. At least the cameras had the decency to avoid focusing on the losers as they tried to leave the stage with some dignity.
3. Adam Sandler Wants to Hump Catherine Zeta-Jones. Whoever wrote this awful bit should never be allowed near an Oscar telecast again. Catherine Zeta-Jones is announced as Adam Sandler’s co-presenter but does not show (already bad since it makes Zeta-Jones look like a flake before we understand that it’s a gag). Sandler doesn’t know what to do so Chris Rock steps in to read Catherine’s lines. All of Sandler’s comments focus on how hot and sexy Zeta-Jones is and how he’d love to get her in the sack and Rock is responding as if he’s her. Ha-ha-ha. Let’s see, we get to reduce yet another Academy Award-winning actress to a sexy pair of knockers AND we get to throw in some homophobia for good measure. The routine might have worked if Sandler was reading lines that he would have actually said to Catherine Zeta-Jones but they obviously didn’t have enough writing talent to pull this off. Bad move—and just when Adam Sandler was starting to get some credibility as a real actor.
4. Child Abuse Is OK If It Helps You Win an Oscar Some Day. I’m happy for Jamie Foxx and thrilled that his beloved grandmother was such an important influence on his life and worked so hard to keep him on the straight and narrow after his parents abandoned him as a baby. But did he ever stop to think how his comments about his grandmother’s beatings would read across the country? Can’t you just see abusive parents clucking to themselves, “See? I know he hates it and screams and cries, but my beatings are making my son into a stronger person and he’ll thank me for it one day.” I loved the rest of Foxx's speech, including how he cried when he talked about his grandma, but I just wish he’d stop saying how helpful it was for him to get repeatedly “whipped” when he was a boy.
5. Jude Law Is a No-Talent Bum/Jude Law Is a Prophet Among Men. Am I talking out of both sides of my mouth if I criticize both Chris Rock’s obnoxious comments about Jude Law AND Sean Penn’s humorless defense of the actor? I thought parts of Rock’s opening monologue were very funny including the bit about Jude Law appearing in every movie this year, but when he launched into how the studios should always wait for the big stars to be available and not hire the second-tier people like Jude Law and others, I cringed. I know he was joking but if anything I’d tell the studios to lose the big stars and focus on that talented second, third, and fourth tier of folks that need a break. I heard that Tom Cruise and some other huge stars wanted to be in “Sideways” and I give huge credit to the director for sticking with the much lesser known cast. But when Sean Penn defended his friend Jude Law, I couldn’t help feel bad for the other people dissed in Rock’s diatribe. I would have been much happier if Penn had come to the defense of Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz, and Catherine Zeta-Jones!
As far as speeches go, I thought Morgan Freeman’s was perfection. I so wanted Annette Bening to win, but oh well, Hilary Swank was awfully good. Am I the only one who thought her “I’m just a girl from a trailer park with a dream” line seemed a bit over-rehearsed? Or was that a line that her character said in the film and I completely missed the joke? Did you notice several close-ups of Andy Hardy himself, Mickey Rooney? I’m glad he scored an invite, he was the number one box office star in this country for several years in a row, after all! Oh, and I have one last incredulous query that I can state in one word:
Beyoncé, Beyoncé, Beyoncé.
Why in God’s name would the producers have this woman sing THREE of the five Oscar-nominated songs? By her third costume change we were all screaming in sympathy for the singers that were overlooked in Hollywood just so the producers could pander to a younger viewing audience. I can’t blame Beyoncé herself, why would anyone turn down such a gig, but it was ridiculous. At that point, she should have just sung a medley of all five of the nominated songs. God knows none of those horrendous songs were worthy of an extended production number anyway, although I liked the boys choir for the first song and Leah pronounced Beyoncé’s French accent “okay.” After hearing that tuneless number written especially for the movie version of “Phantom of the Opera” just so it would be eligible for an Oscar, I think Andrew Lloyd Webber should return his “Evita” Tonys. Cool to have Carlos Santana there but was that really a great song? Frankly I think my brother-in-law was robbed. Jeff wrote and performed a song called “Just a Kid” for the “SpongeBob SquarePants” movie that featured both of my nephews. Did it get overlooked because of SpongeBob’s recent outing by the Christian Right?
And speaking of pandering, am I the only good American who rolled my eyes at the several solemn mentions of our troops in Iraq, including the dedication of the show to them? Of course we all hope they are okay and return home safely, etc., but what the hell does that have to do with the Academy Awards? Blatant pandering, pure and simple. On the political front, the show was pretty tame. Apart from a few wan Bush jokes at the beginning, there was nothing. No one even wears AIDS or other ribbons anymore, do they? But at least now we’re finally at the point where two African-Americans can win the top awards and it’s not such a BIG DEAL because they’re black. That’s some progress, anyway.
Best Chris Rock joke of the evening: “Cate Blanchett was so convincing as Katharine Hepburn that last night Sidney Poitier showed up at her house for dinner.” Now that’s funny!