Oscars, the Grouch

The Departed?


The Departed was the Best Picture of the year?

Oh, sweet Academy, now you’re just picking at the scab that had been festering since last year’s soul-sucking choice of Crash over Brokeback Mountain. Are we really gonna make it two in a row?

Can someone please explain to me – without using the words “Scorsese” or “Infernal Affairs” – what was so amazing about this year’s big Oscar winner?

What I saw in the flick was a decent thriller with a crazy-talented cast. Replace, say, Richard Grieco for Leonardo DiCaprio, however, and it’s nothing that wouldn’t be out of place on the straight-to-DVD rack. Did I witness a director at the top of his game? No, but I will concede that Martin (or “Marty”, nowadays, I’m told) Scorsese deserves the Best Director trophy because, well, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is a sentimental bunch of codgers. Give the guy his statuette for unleashing Raging Bull, GoodFellas, and Casino on the world. Clearly, the Academy doesn’t feel the need to actually bestow an honor for the ostensibly nominated work of that year – oh, no, that is too obvious and would be too much about the, you know, art. Instead, sometimes the Academy likes to dig deep and consider talents’ collective body of work. Hence, we get Denzel Washington collecting a Best Actor award in 2002 for, um, Training Day. A performance for the ages!

But just as easily, the Academy will thumb its collective nose at long-overdue losers (even though blah blah blah an honor blah blah blah nominated) and spite them when, in fact, perspective on the collective body of work is exactly what the talent deserves. Hence, we get Peter EFFING-Lawrence-of-Arabia O’Toole getting flown in looking like death warmed over only to watch Forest Whitaker snatch the Best Actor award for a role that is by all accounts a supporting one.

The biggest (read: only) “surprise”? Eddie Murphy losing Best Supporting Actor for Dreamgirls to Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine. Yet another sentimental favorite trumped the odds-on winner. Not a total loss. Memo to Eddie: you weren’t really acting. Still, wasn’t he supposedly a lock, a la Helen Mirren?

So, basically, the Academy Awards have become a joke. How else to explain why the producers of the show would allow amiable, neutered Ellen DeGeneres to pop up and introduce the proceedings in her best Austin Powers get-up? The costume nominees were displayed on real live mannequins in automaton movement? The Best Adapted Screenplay winner copped to taking Valium? Leonardo DiCaprio pretended to goad a presidential bid from Hollywood’s new Non-Black “It” Boy™, Al Gore?

This year’s telecast was so boring and bloated that it clocked in at well over four and a half hours (including the weak, time-filling official prelude). Every year, pundits are confounded and industry hands are wrung: how the heck does the ceremony stretch so long and drive even the most hard-core film buffs, of which I consider myself one, reaching for the cyanide? One word: montages. Another word: jackasses.

You know an Academy Awards broadcast is bad when the highlight is shadow puppets. I repeat: Shadow puppets.  At the Academy Awards.  And congratulations to the producers for completing their quest to have the show officially become “The Jack Nicholson Gratuitous Reaction Shot Show”!  Trotting him out to announce the Best Picture for the second year in a row (albeit with former “paramour” Diane Keaton this year) speaks volume about the ingenuity, or lack thereof, that went into the whole production.

At least the producers could have had the decency to somehow publicly uncork Dreamgirls’ Beyonce and Jennifer Hudson’s long-simmering animosity and televise a catfight. The only drama we got was the fear that J-Hud’s breast would come flopping out of that bright red number during their “collaboration” on the movie’s three (three!) nominated songs. The consolation viewers got was when the newly-minted Best Supporting Actress thanked everyone under the moon and in the heavens (holla, God!) in her acceptance speech … except for her proud-and-not-at-all-devastated-okay-so-back-da-hell-outta-my-grill co-star. Meow – kitty has claws!

Poor choices on top of a lame telecast are two major strikes. Thankfully, kudos were widely spread among many movies so no monolithic flick like Lord of the Rings or Titanic devoured airtime. The Departed only eked out four awards, and a handful of other movies earned three. We could chalk this up to a stellar year in which diverse entertainment yielded a plethora of choices. Or we could fault the Academy for having no idea as to what it’s doing anymore. Your call.

Yes, the Academy Awards have jumped the shark. Our love affair is over. I was willing to forgive 2005’s mega-depressing Million Dollar Baby beating out Sideways and Finding Neverland, but the one-two punch of Crash and The Departed is just too much to bear. I would have loved for any of the other nominees, however flawed, to pull off a minor upset. (Babel was my choice, and I will defend it to the End Times.)

The fact that Volver and Pan’s Labyrinth didn’t make the short-list kind of hurts. Hollywood just doesn’t make these kind of elegant, imaginative movies and relegates them to Foreign Language Feature and technical awards ghettos (of which Pan’s mercifully won three). Hollywood apparently now feels the essence of Best Picture is captured in obvious, artless remakes of Chinese mob movies.

But, yes, I will be tuned in next year because I am such a glutton for punishment, the red carpet spectacle fuels water-cooler talk for days, and it’s always amusing to watch podium-goers demonstrate how utterly graceless we can all be, even as they’re being honored as industry-leading performers.

Me, I’ll be rooting for Pirates of the Caribbean 3 for Best Picture in ‘08.

What? You know it’s only a matter of time …

35 responses to “Oscars, the Grouch”

  1. g-lock — so much to chew on here i don’t know where to begin. i take your point that the departed isn’t MS’s best, nor was it the best movie of the year. (The Queen won in my book.) But it wasn’t as bad as you suggest either. I just saw it again, and it’s not a bad vehicle. Plus it allowed that guy to get up and babble about his Valium intake, which was a highlight of the evening.

    Even if the Queen weren’t so superior in my book, I don’t think I would have put Babel over Departed. Babel had so many chances to be great — so many amazing components and sequences — but ultimately it fell apart. I much prefered Children of Men when it came to the post-9/11 movie of the year.

    And I kind of liked Ellen’s suits. But not as much as her shoes. I thought she was much funnier than some other recent hosts.

  2. p.s. congrats on your first post proper — though some may recall your post-oscar comment last year as being post-sized!

  3. Scott says:

    I agree with BW about the Departed: not awesome, but pretty darn satisfying. As far as Babel goes, I found it quite confounding — so many great performances, but the whole thing fell apart as it tried so desperately to come together.

    My faves were Pan’s Labyrinth and Thank You For Smoking. I hear Children of Men is pretty darn good. I’ll have to Queue that shit up.

  4. Jeremy Zitter says:

    g-lock! it’s about time you posted ( i knew it would happen eventually, but i thought for sure it would be on a thursday…) anywho, i totally agree with you, but i try not to watch the oscars hoping anyone in particular will win (except whatever/whoever i’ve checkmarked on my oscar ballot–and, for the record, my guesses weren’t so accurate this year… i can’t believe The Little Matchgirl didn’t win!). the oscars have a history of ignoring the best films and awarding schlock.
    this year, i liked: The Proposition, Half Nelson, Pan’s Labyrinth, Borat, Volver, (and, yes) The Departed, and (double-yes!) Casino Royale. I thought Babel was lame (sorry!), a ridiculous fantasy that followed the annoying Crash-tested template for oscar-nomination-surety.

    anyway, this was a super-enjoyable post!

  5. brooke says:

    Babel? Grrrl! That movie would have been better and more plausible if all the characters died in a fluke meteor shower right at the end.

    Frankly, I think the major travesty of the night was that O’Toole didn’t win anything. If not for best actor in Venus (which truth be told, I didn’t see), he should have won something for best animated film. He was that Skeletor guy, right? He played that role with breathtaking clarity. Really, he *became* Skeletor. I mean he even dressed in character on Sunday.

  6. lisa t. says:

    Cheers to Ellen who was f-ing funny and held it together for four l-o-n-g hours.

    Nobody’s brought up the fashion yet…so, I’ll begin: best dress: Gwyneth Paltrow.
    Worst dress: tie between Nicole Kidman and Kirsten Dunst. Biggest goiter: George Lucas.

  7. Dave says:

    The montages were indeed awful, although the Errol Morris thing at the beginning with all those nominees was really great.

    Ellen was funny but not hilarious. Tame as usual. But I liked her costume changes.

    Too bad the Academy can’t revise its choices years later, like take away Gregory Peck’s 1963 Oscar and give it to O’Toole for Lawrence of Arabia.

    Wasn’t it badass when Clint Eastwood stepped in an translated for Ennio Morricone? Who is cooler than Clint Fucking Eastwood?

  8. Marleyfan says:

    Lo siento, pero, I love movies, hate the Oscars, love the Grouch.

  9. Wendy West says:

    Love Love Loved the three-way singfest of Will F., Jack Black and John C. Reilly — especially how they all wanted to go home with Dame Helen as much as they wanted Oscar Gold. I think Sunshine was my favorite movie last year, and had secret hopes that it would depart with the trophy. Barber, interesting idea about reverse Oscars — Dustin Hoffman wins for Tootsie. Judy Davis wins for Husbands & Wives… Anyway, great post, G.

  10. bryan says:

    i also loved that skit. damn, that was funny. and proved once again that john c reilly may be the most well-rounded actor on the planet.

  11. Dave says:

    Ugh, I thought that song was so tedious. It was the rare occasion of Will Farrell not being funny.

  12. Rachel says:

    You know what blows my mind about Clint? When he directs a film he also composes the score. Holy crap! He was the perfect person to introduce Morricone, for so many reasons.

  13. Jeremy Zitter says:

    btw, i thought ellen was/is very likeable and enjoyable, but not funny–at all. give me john stewart (and that brilliant gay-cowboy-subtext montage) any year!

    also, i thought clint was reading the translation off the telemprompter…

  14. Hilary says:

    I totally agree about Peter O’Toole. What a putrid mistake this was. Once again, the Academy reveals itself to be shallow, insipid, inbred and pedestrian. I still haven’t made peace with his loss in 62′ for Lawrence. The crack in my heart grows deeper.

  15. Dave says:

    Dude, I’m sure Clint totally speaks Italian from doing all those spaghetti Westerns. And his translation was so laconic compared to Morricone’s verbal output — it must have been his own.

  16. Ruben Mancillas says:

    Um, I agree with everything except the tenses.

    “So, basically, the Academy Awards have become a joke.”

    “Yes, the Academy Awards “have jumped the shark. Our love affair is over.”

    One of the things I love about this group is that I am constantly reminded that it can be “tough” and certain subjects will likely get you into trouble and then you guys get all hot and bothered about the Academy Awards.

    It’s kind of sweet, really.

    The last time I was invested in an Oscar outcome was when Sally Field won for Norma Rae. My mom and I hugged each other and cheered.

    As you might have guessed, a lot of the movies I saw with Dad weren’t nominated all that much.

    I do love G-Lock’s acknowledgment of the End Times though.

    They are a’ coming and it is only proper to capitalize Them.

  17. Lilly says:

    Has anyone noticed the resemblance between Glenn Ford and Jeremy Zitter. RIP Glenn and Yes, JZ this lurker knows you…well kinda…don’t worry I come in peace. But really does anyone else see it? I don’t know how to post a picture or I would.

  18. bryan says:

    i’m not quite sure what to make of it — and intrigued that lilly the lurker has confessed to knowing JZ — but here’s a link.

  19. Lisa Tremain says:

    I disagree, J. Ellen is/was funny, and made a spectacular joke about how all of America voted for Al Gore…

    Outfits, people. We need to discuss outfits– and overall presentation. Rachel Wietz? Diane Keaton? Jack’s bald head?

  20. G-Lock says:

    Bryan – Ellen was delightful and did what she could with the usual, limp Oscar material. Sadly, though, she came across as too “light” for the proceedings, even though the event definitely calls for glimmers of levity. The Queen featured a great performance in a solid but not grand movie. Children of Men was incredible and had some of the most amazing camerawork I have ever seen/recognized in a film while the screenplay lacked the all-too-elusive X factor. Something was missing.

    Scott, Brooke, et al. – The Departed is an incredibly satisfying film. If you’re a boy. And if you’re willing to suspend disbelief and let plotholes wash over the audience like rain. And I ain’t talkin’ ’bout Leo’s Boston accent. Did Jack Nicholson really not realize that [fill in the blank] was the mole in his midst? Really?!? As for Babel, I don’t know why it resonated so strongly with me. Those scenes with the nanny are just devastating. I feel like it made up for all of Crash‘s crass shortcomings.

    Jeremy – Thanks! We wanted to keep the post timely, so the Oscar discussion just could not wait until Thursday, when my fiance and in-laws usually juggle writing duties. By the way, I LOVED Casino Royale, my first James Bond movie, and put it in my Top Ten of the year, which includes some of the above titles and a few Sundancers plus a throwaway or two (I challenge you to watch Jackass: Number Two and not squirt some pee.)

    Lisa – Kirsten handily wins the worst-dressed award with a bullet. WTF with that collar? On the flip side, Reese Witherspoon looked H-O-T (Ryan who?).

    Dave – The Ennio Morricone poriton was unintentionally depressing and awkward.

    Marleyfan – Big ups!

    Wendy – Girl, I concur. The skit would have been extra amusing had it not been one of about nine hundred tangents of the telecast. Performances, montages, interpretive dances, movie clips … It all added up to too much damn clutter; the sum of the parts was less than the whole.

    Hilary – At least good ol’ Pete got his honorary Oscar, right? Consolation prize before he heads to that Arabia in the sky.

  21. G-Lock says:

    And, Lisa, you reminded me: the biggest surprise of the night was NOT, in fact, Alan Arkin’s win. It was that Diane Keaton was wearing a dress. It was a super power lesbian night between Ellen, Jodie, Melissa, and half of Diane.

  22. G-Lock says:

    … and countless others too closeted to be named.

  23. PB says:

    This post is brave and audacious and comment catching. I must take note.
    What I liked: Jennifer’s boob suspense, cool puppet people and the fact that Forrest finally got a speech–not great but better than the sputter of other award shows (this critque from a sputterer, I acknowledge the irony).
    What bugged me: Montages in search of themes/ points, Eva Green’s dress and eye makeup (and Gael, you are tasty, lose the specks), Eddie Murphy leaving after he lost.
    I love the oscars, since birth practically, but G-Lock, I have to say, there is truth amid the rant.

  24. Lisa Tremain says:

    Yeah, I noticed all the lesbians too. Yay lesbians! And was curious about why TJ Knight is like the only out gay boy on (the not-even-big) screen.

  25. bryan says:

    in case any TGWers aren’t stuck like flypaper to our own Lisa Parrish’s new bloglife, I pass along this link to her own commentary on the Oscars lesbian content …

  26. Stephanie Wells says:

    Parrish is hilarious as always. G-Lock, let’s get you on the regular schedge. And Tremain, I’ll take your bait: WORST dress was Gwyneth Paltrow. For the second time!! (remember tha other boobsmasher she wore a few years ago? She did it again!) And best lesbian on the show: Jodie, of course. How we know she’s one even though she won’t admit it: the way she articulates her esses–somehow, which I can’t explain, it is a dead giveaway. She is the bestbian.

    Finally, no one else (i.e. Jeremy and Scott) liked that sound-effects choir thing, and nobody else anywhere I’ver ead has even mentioned it, but I confess to being riveted.

  27. Ruben Mancillas says:

    Well, yeah, there were a bunch of thespians at the show.

    They are actors, right?

    Wait, are we talking about the same thing?

  28. Lisa Tremain says:

    Gwyneth looked lovely, dammit. But you’re right, she could’ve showed off more boob, like Reese (or, as Parrish would say “Roose”).

  29. Scott says:

    G – C’mon now with the “if you’re a boy” nonsense.
    Talk about plot devices: I’m supposed to feel something when it’s revealed to me that the rifle that shot wifey was given as a gift by the Japanese business man, and that the kids in the desert are the kids of the very same lady? Oh, I guess the point is that we’re all so connected even though we fail to realize…

    The story of the deaf Japanese girl was riveting; I would’ve loved the movie if that was the only part.

  30. Rachel says:

    It’s not the enunciation, Steph, it’s the hands that give her away. Hands with unfeasibly long fingers.

  31. Tim Wager says:

    I’ve always wondered what the bestbian does on a movie set. Anyone?

  32. Scott says:

    Grip? (if it is the hands)

  33. W2 says:

    Eeeeeelectric. Grips move unbearably heavy things around, like cameras. Bestians and Gaffers make sure those lights and such have power.

  34. Stephanie Wells says:

    Oh she supplies the power all right.

  35. the other jeff says:

    The biggest power lesbian moment was when Melissa Etheridge, Queen Latifah, and John Travolta shared the stage.