Oscars make a soft landing on the Rock

If last Sunday night proved anything, it’s that there really is only one true Oscar host.

Only one comedian with just the right combination of sharp observation and subtle expression, so  outrageous yet so beloved for it, so aware of the magnitude of the task yet so utterly unintimidated by it…

…Johnny Carson.

Who, yeah, is still dead. But they showed this highlight clip…and man, you just gotta wonder why they’d shoot themselves in the foot like that. “This is Day 164 of the Oscar telecast,” Carson was shown deadpanning – in 1979. “We just want you to know that we have not forgotten…President Carter is doing everything he can…”

The only one.

Which is not to say that Chris Rock didn’t shake things up a bit….The crack about Passion of the Christ ‘not being all that funny’? Funny. The musings on how black people don’t get dignified movie titles (“You just know Laundromat‘s comin’ soon…”)? Funny. The extended bit about casting mistakes (“If you want Russell Crowe and all you can get is Colin Farrell?…Wait!”)? Funny, and sort of clever.
The frequent pans to the audience during all of this, in which half the audience were howling in glee – and not just the black members, although I am pretty sure this’ll be the last time Oprah sightings will
ever outdo Clint Eastwood’s – and the other half were clearly wondering if their silver shoes would get them back to Kansas? Culminating in a sullenly baffled Sean Penn riding to Jude Law’s defense? Priceless.

Also fairly cute was Rock’s our-man-in-the-theatre skit…albeit I do wish he’d included more of an ethnic cross-section. I know at least one middle-aged white woman whom, asked to name her favourite movie from
last year, would with no coaching whatsoever burble “Oh, The Day After Tomorrow!” Then she’d realise what she just said, think a bit, and add, “But Maid in Manhattan was really cute too…” (Yep, this is my gene pool, folks. Explains a lot, doesn’t it?)

But on the whole, not much happened here that hasn’t been happening on Oscar telecasts lo this last decade or so – just louder, faster and cruder. Homage was paid to Clint and Jack and Warren…Jude Law was twitted re: his ubiquitousness, Tim Robbins about his politics, Michael Moore about his weight. And to my especially intense frustration Rock just sailed right on by the deep, rich vein of 24-carat comedy gold being handed to
him on a platter and let Halle Berry off with some lame crack about ‘Catwoman 2‘. (This, after ABC had shown her tearful winner’s speech about 18,5546 million times. I’m sure Dorothy Dandridge et al were just so
inspired to discover the ‘opportunities’ provided by that Oscar included getting bonked by Bond and clambering around in a latex catsuit…)

Meanwhile…

I would love to know who thought they could get some from Beyonce by booking her to perform, like, all
the nominated songs…OK, maybe it just felt that way. I do know the Counting Crows were in there too at some point – primarily because the gene-pool source kept sniffing “Look at that hair!” – but, really.

On the other hand, there does seem to be a synergy between this woman and the Oscars: both lavishly beautiful, serenely bourgeois, and utterly convinced that the one makes up for the other. I mean, she sang one tune about desperate loneliness (from the Phantom movie), and one about hope and belief (The Polar Express), and I swear, as far as she could emote they were the EXACT SAME SONG. We’re just lucky she doesn’t speak Spanish, or millions of people would now be convinced Che was out there in the hills of Bolivia chasing rainbows.

Plus, OK one song also had Josh Groban. Whoopee. Fantastic voice, easy on the eyes, but…y’know…another
leading candidate in my personal The Earth Opening Beneath Him Would Provide More Entertainment sweepstakes. (Shoemom promptly dubbed him ‘the male Celine’. So I cancelled the plans for the insta-orphaning.)

Prevailing fashion theme was Let’s Make Mr. Blackwell Happy, lots of cool neutral sheaths and tasteful upsweeps. Which I have always figured would be a fine idea, but in the fulfilment leaves me strangely dissatisfied at the lack of imagination…or maybe just the lack of distraction from Star Jones Reynolds, who somehow contrived to be just as annoying as La Rivers only in new and frighteningly unsubtle ways. Really, for an Academy Awards ceremony that was supposed to be so cutting-edge, this whole trip felt a lot like a dull butter knife.

Scarlett Johanssen: “I feel like a princess!” Star: “Oooh, yeah, you’re into the Cinderella look, so am I!” Riiiighhht. Except Scarlett is wearing an elaborately ethereal concoction of antique crystal nestled
in spun-floss curls, and you’re wearing…a pink dress and a rhinestone tiara. Yep, Star honey, you’re In with the Beautiful People, no problem a-tall.

Overall I think the two Commonwealth Kates, Winslet and Blanchett – and doesn’t that suddenly sound like a veddy successful London grocers’? – managed to pull off classy with the most verve; Winslet gets extra points for being one of the few females on the night to actually fill out her cleavage. And however traumatic the inner turmoil (especially whilst choosing scripts) there sure as hell is not much wrong with the Halle Berry exterior. As Shoemom dryly observed, ‘it really isn’t fair to have her stand next to the… heavy… interviewers,. is it?’

On the other hand…what has Renee Zellweger been doing? Suddenly the cute little Skipper doll I adored is all brunette and…bloated, or something. I’m not sure what a Botox overdose lookslike, but this would be a nice illustration of my best guess. Seriously, the woman looks like she’s wearing a cheap latex mask of herself.

Also, for some reason Shoemom has taken a violent dislike to Hilary Swank’s looks. (“That…jawline…!”)  As a semi-fan I tried my best, but about midway through was forced to note that the lady’s two Oscars have come for playing a transvestite drifter and – as Spooky Voiceover Lady so helpfully informed us – a boxer. While her attempts at ultra-feminine in-between (The Diamond Necklace)…well, y’know. I have no idea what it all really means, I just find it sort of interesting.

Suggestion for Martin Scorsese: Move to New Zealand and take an option on the Wizard of Oz sequels. Hey, it couldn’t hurt.

Sure, Jamie Foxx is a phenomenally classy, eloquent man, the pride of Grandmas everywhere…but you know the really amazing part of that speech? When he opened his mouth about half-way through and Sidney Poitier came out. Really. Right down to that soft not-quite-accent. Foxx, as it turns out, is just a natural-born mimic genius. I sure hope he’s not too big to do stand-up now, because I would gladly pay to see more of that.

(Which also reminds me, one more fairly clever crack from Our Host: “[Cate Blanchett] did such a good job of playing Katharine Hepburn, Sidney Poitier showed up at her house for dinner!”)

Deprived by a severely wussy FCC of his A-list material, Robin Williams still managed to score a few gleefully accurate jabs: If SpongeBob SquarePants is gay, he noted, then Bugs Bunny must be his sponsor at Cross- Dressers Anonymous. Cheer up, little sponge-dude; this probably means you will never be forced to star in a movie with Michael Jordan.

‘I would like to thank anyone who had anything whatsoever to do with the making of this movie.” Ah, Morgan Freeman. The one man in the room I’d truly feel honoured to meet…how he rationalises staying in Hollywood all these years would alone be worth the conversation.

Yo-Yo Ma was a nice touch – another man who adds immeasurable class to a situation just arriving within it – but I do wish they’d knock off the audible applause during the Last Call. As Shoemom put it, “They’re all people! Even the less-famous guys!”

Of course, she was a trifle miffed in the first place at that Brando ovation. The Stanislavski method has never been the way into this woman’s heart…which makes the whole deal with Shoedad even more of a mystery. Or maybe not. Anyway, “[Marlon] was always so…so…whiny! Everything was like “Waaahhh! Stella!” she scoffed.
“Brooding, Mom. They call that ‘brooding’,” I explained. And got the Eyeroll of Death for my pains. “Now, Cary Grant, that was a man you’d want to spend time with! He was a gentleman!”
Mm-hm. This, not ten minutes after informing me she also ‘loved‘ Al Pacino. (“But…you said you never saw Scarface.” “I didn’t. The commercials were too stupid.”)

On the whole, I think the right people won. And not just because I develop a reflexive urge to slap Leonardo DiCaprio silly every time I see him, even when I see him without models named Gisele on his scrawny little arm. (I honestly didn’t realise actual people got named ‘Gisele’ in the first place. I thought Flaubert or somebody made it up.)
Sure, the telecast itself turned out to have all the depth and insight of a Hefty bag…but this will also be remembered as the year in which quiet, wise and thoughtful finally won out over big and glossy and star- laden.

Which is nice.

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. lizbee
    Mar 04, 2005 @ 20:43:30

    Much love for your Oscar commentary — but I feel compelled to mention that Cate Blanchett is Australian, not British. Matter of national pride and all…

  2. anonymous
    Jun 17, 2005 @ 21:58:33

    Just found your LJ whilst cruising the Kalan forums – nice job on the entries, although I think I read this particular one or a version of it a while back, you must have sent me an abbreviated version.

    Anyways, you probably won’t even see this until the next time you’re feeling all writer-y after CI is done. So I’ll just leave it as a little surprise.

    – Joe

  3. shoebox2
    Feb 11, 2006 @ 20:08:19

    Awwwww! And a very nice surprise it was, too. Thanks, partner.

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