Sunday, 22 February 2009

My Oscar night thoughts

The night of the Oscars is over. For the 81st time. And for the 81st time the Academy made lots of absurd choices, I think. First of all, Slumdog Millionaire swept the Oscars, winning eight awards out of ten nominations (and actually only losing the sound editing award, since it had two song nominees and one of them won). Well, I can't say it was a bad film, but it just didn't deserve sweeping. It was actually the most emotionally rewarding of the nominees and that's why it won. Last year they rewarded some dark, violent films and this year they needed a change - a lighter mood, even though Slumdog Millionaire is a film about the misery and the society people are living in as well, but it's a film full of hope, which I think made it into the small sensation it is. But still, I don't think the film deserved most of its awards - definitely not the original score and original song awards. I wanted Thomas Newman to win the Oscar for composing WALL-E and co-writing the nominated song from the film, but the Slumdog hysteria was just too big to ignore. And no matter how touching the film is, I don't think its screenplay was actually quite deserving of winning best adapted screenplay - the film just didn't have much real character development and there were some holes in the narrative as well. But I don't want to be too critical, because I actually enjoyed the film and I think that it was the best film they could actually choose out of the five they nominated.

Anyway, I just didn't care - even remotely - for most of the winners. Sean Penn won the best actor Oscar for playing gay activist Harvey Milk in Gus Van Sant's Milk, defeating the actual favorite Mickey Rourke (for his surprisingly touching performance in The Wrestler - a film you should give a chance!). Sean - no matter what a great actor he is - already won an (undeserved) Oscar a few years ago and this time he was up against two actors in superior performances. Not only Rourke, but Frank Langella as well, but Langella does mostly stage and his performance just scared voters, I think. Anyway, then Milk won original screenplay for gay writer Dustin Lance Black, whom I wrote about a month ago. I have read his script for Milk and while I really enjoyed it and I think it was a complex and intelligent script (he did some fine research), I still don't think he deserved to win. Not for the actual script. He won because voters wanted to acknowledge the film and because of all the gay marriage ban stuff in the USA. I myself am impressed by the personality of Harvey Milk and his fight for equal rights (I just watched the documentary about his life, which I think is far more impressive.) But I just wanted Martin McDonagh to win the Oscar for In Bruges, which - hands down! - was my favorite film of the year and my favorite, favorite script. It was just witty, quirky, funny, absurd, hilarous, well structured! Everything a great original screenplay should be! And WALL-E! Don't blame me for liking an animation! Don't be prejudiced! Just go and watch WALL-E! It'll make you realize that a great script isn't just the words. It's about creating a story and there are many, many ways to create a story! Then there is Kate Winslet's Oscar! Some people think she was due. I don't. To me Meryl Streep and Mellisa Leo and Anne Hathaway deserved it more. And to me Kate Winslet will remain a look-at-me-I'm-acting type of a performer. This woman should learn what subtlety is. It's something which make your performance real and not full or yourself as an actor!
Anyway, there was another major upset and that was in the foreign language film category, where Japan beat the front-runners (it was considered the least likely victor, actually!) and won the Oscar. By the way, Heath Ledger won for best supporting actor and I'm still confused about the presentation. Hollywood stars just didn't feel comfortable and they felt guilty, for some reason. And Penelope Cruz for supporting actress - while a classy choice, because her performance is definitely very good - simply wasn't the most deserving nominee. But with the Oscars it's always about politics. Meryl should soon win her third! Really!

And about the show - they really tried to make it differently this year, but it didn't work fully. I liked some of the presentations - the acting categories were presented by five past winners of the same category (which cared for many standing ovations).

The best actor presenters (for example) were Robert De Niro, Anthony Hopkins, Michael Douglas, Ben Kingsley and Adrien Brody, while the best actress Oscar was presented by Sophia Lorren, Shirley MacLaine, Nicole Kidman, Halle Berry and last year's winner Marion Cotillard.
But I really don't get the original song presentations - they made a tribute to great musical songs, but didn't actually allow the nominees for best song to perform their whole songs (instead they put them in a three minutes medley, which was kind of absurd!). And actually the story thing didn't work that well.

But that's it. Until next year. I hope for a better show and for classier choices.

P.S. By the way, Dustin Lance Black had a very beautiful speech about gay rights. Not too political and very inspiring. I'll upload it once it's on youtube.


  1. Dustin Lance Black's speech

    As for the topic of your post, I am hugely disappointed about the Slumdog triumph, but that's it. I think that two Milk's Oscars are well deserved, as well as Wall-E and Penelope...

  2. But Slumdog didn't really have a competition. Milk is a very good film indeed, but films like that just get acting/writing Oscars and lose best picture. I think that both awards are well deserved, but I would have voted for Mickey Rourke or Frank Langella for best actor and for In Bruges for original screenplay. Anyway, I'm no Slumdog fan, even though it was touching and very energetic and I loved that. But I don't get it winning every category - def not the music categories. And what's all the fuss about its screenplay? I really don't get it. It had holes in the narrative... what impressed them that much?

  3. I do admit that my criticism of Slumdog is a bit stupid, since I once watched small bits and pieces from it... nevertheless, I think I watched enough to believe that it's more of a piece of crap than anything else, and that giving 8 Oscars to a film only because it's touching is kinda unprofessional... but thats just me.

    P.S. Word verification would not let me post it earlier - don't you want to change the settings?