Monday, February 23, 2009
The Oscars - This Guy's Perspective
Possibly the most asked question today might be "Did you watch the Oscars?"
In the past, if someone asked me, I would reply, "yeah, kinda". This year, I watched snippets of the 81st Academy Awards through commercials of the Blackhawks tilt against the Minnesota Wild then flipped over to it fully after the end of the Blackhawks game (to my wife's relief). Much as it is for my wife when she watches hockey, it was always difficult for me to stay focused on all the shenanigans going on during the Oscars. But through all the song and dance routines (I wasn't sure of Hugh Jackman's singing capability, but I thought he certainly hit the end of the show tune menagerie pretty well) and strange "homage to comedy" skits, there were a few things in this year's presentation that resonated with me.
Firstly, I'm always impressed to see people who can only speak a little bit of English brave the treacherous waters of the most difficult language while they are standing in possibly the biggest spotlight of their career. A great example of this was Kunio Kato accepting the award for the Best Animated Short Film (La Maison en Petits Cubes), plus his reference to the Styx song by quoting the line "Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto" reminded me that a good sense of humor transcends any language barrier.
This leads into something else that impressed me: in the good portion of the show that I saw, I did not notice anyone going on longer than the allotted time in their acceptance speech. For me, there is often an uncomfortability inherent in watching these speeches, much akin to when I watch ice skating once every four years in the Olympics. I always feel horrible for the skater when they fall, ruining all the long hours that they trained for this one moment, and I always feel bad for the individual(s) who run out of time recognizing those who brought them to this pinnacle of their enterprise (though I also recognize that sometimes people can take advantage of the opportunity). I thought Heath Ledger's family handled the situation perfectly as they accepted the award on behalf of Ledger's 3 year-old daughter, Matilda - they were grateful, yet understated; they let the achievement of their beloved family member speak for itself.
A quick note, I'm almost always impressed with Will Smith's charisma when he's forced to ad lib. Could we see him host an Oscar night sometime in the future, maybe?
I really enjoyed the personal recognition of the nominees for the Best Actress, Best Actor, etc. I thought this was an excellent way to recognize everyone who was nominated. You could see that even though most of the nominees didn't win the actual hardware (the statues are made in Chicago, by the way), many would take away fond memories of peer recognition from the ceremony - and in the film industry, peer recognition can be an excellent consolation prize. I realize all of the nominee blurbs were scripted, but the pathos that was lent to the situation by the words of the former winners and the nominees' reactions was touching (ie. Shirley MacLaine speaking to Anne Hathaway). On a personal note, I enjoyed seeing Ben Kingsley and Michael Douglas, two of my ageless favorites.
To sum up, I liked this year's Oscar presentation. I thought Christopher Walken looked a bit disheveled, but that's all part of the fun. I also really liked the clips showing winners of the past - a reminder that watching the Oscars is watching history in the making. Also, with the awards honoring everything from art direction to sound mixing to best director, plus the annual remembrance not only of the actors and actresses, but of all the publicists, camera operators, and other unsung heroes of the movie business that have passed on, it is a humbling reminder that hundreds, if not thousands, of real people have contributed hard work and valuable time to provide a 2-hour escape for the rest of us on a Saturday evening.
Oh yeah, one more comment from the show last night: I'm sure going to miss Paul Newman.