Where have you gone, Johnny Carson?…

So I got a note from my editor yesterday telling me that he was very pleased with the results of my condense-and-focus job on the article…

[pause while those who know me well pick their jaws up from the floor]

…thank you. At any rate, his only major changes involved tweaking my idiosyncratic grammar into mass-magazine mode…which was kind of a peculiar experience. Not unpleasant, per se; believe me, nobody should be crushed at the discovery that the general public doesn’t share my stream of consciousness.

Just…well, by now I’ve got used to the thing having a certain rhythm and flow – my rhythm – and it feels decidedly odd to have it go off among strangers and come back sounding so carefully mature. [snif] My little article, all grown up and ready to stun the world…

Or something. I’ll know in about two-three weeks, he says, when the article goes up onsite. He also says there’s going to be a reference to this blog in the footer to the article…meaning I suddenly have a whole new set of literary anxieties.

This is after all a very classy magazine – I can tell, because a friend who holds a professorship in political science has heard of it. Which means these very classy readers are going to land @ Shoe Central expecting, like, reams of thoughtful, sensitive pop-culture critiquage, and you can’t just cheerily explain it was all a fluke, ha ha, and hope you like the Transformers review!

Thus I have only a fortnight or so to reinvent myself as a sophisticated, culturally-aware literati of whom same would not be wholly embarrassed to be seen engaging in discussion. Basically, I’m thinking of referring to the French Revolution a whole lot from here on in.
Ooh, and post-modernism. I have never had any clear idea what that means, except that Andy Warhol mocked it a lot, and boy howdy did that turn out to be the place where enthusiasm goes to die. However, it apparently has a lot to do with ‘theory’ and ‘irony’, so I figure I get the usage down pat enough to drop it into casual conversation (“The theoretical irony of robots philosophizing in Transformers is, like, mega-post-modernist, dude!”), and I’m totally covered in any discussion past 1952.

More immediately, this puts paid to my ambition to be the sole Oscar-free blog of 2008…

…I would add ‘except of course http://www.mustardlabelcollectors.org’, except I’m sure the Seinfeld bee probably claims he got his start in one of those Kraft Honey Dijon commercials (“a taste that was meant to bee,” if you’ve forgotten).

Seriously, what was with that little cameo anyway? Granted it might have been trickier logistically to have Pixar mock up a few seconds’ worth of clever, what was preventing the Academy from having someone – maybe David Niven’s streaker dude, since he seems to have been promoted to a sort of official adorably-naughty mascot – run across the stage waving a sign reading Welcome to the Oscars, Now Only $1.98!

Addendum to Hollywood: Nobody cares about the stupid bee movie. Yes, we know it has Jerry Seinfeld in it; we still Do. Not. Care. Even as far out of the cultural loop as I am, I could almost physically feel the great big waves of Not Caring rolling over the land as I waded through the hype. The last time we as a movie-going public cared about a cute-talking-insect flick was roughly around the same time Seinfeld was actually relevant.
Meanwhile you just keep on keepin’ on with the fawning articles and the Amex ads, and now this. It’s like at some point the marketing campaign switched to ‘Hey, at least people still remember Battlefield Earth!” Really weird, watching the hollow shell of Media Buzz form around the vacuum – also sort of ironic, come to think of it. Hey, this post-modernism thing is easier than I thought!

Anyhow, back at the Oscars (“Call now, and we’ll throw in this fabulous shrimp-deveining attachment absolutely FREE!”)

I don’t know. Seeing as how the usual Academy navel-gazing has long since got to the point where even Republicans aren’t afraid to mock, I frankly find it kind of ironic (woo-hoo!) that this morning everyone’s all ‘Bor-ing! Blasé! Common-place!’ The Toronto Star critic, usually as level-headed and thoughtful a chap as you’ll find in this business, actually complained about the lack of a big splashy opening number. What, you’d rather take a chance on Snow White showing up for an encore?

No, folks, better we should be enjoying this moment while it lasts, which – given that producers were still capable of replaying Cuba Gooding Jr’s Oscar moment completely straight – is not going to be long. This was a strangely humbled Hollywood, a chastened Establishment with its lonely eyes turned to Jack Nicholson, who as per usual was too busy trying to remember if this was Tuesday, and frankly Shoemom and I at least quite enjoyed the chance to snark on the outfits in such peaceful surroundings.

For the record, we were quite pleased with the general effort towards glamour and elegance; enough to forgive the occasional fish scale or floral fantasia…or lurking suspicion that the red-o-rama thing was some sort of half-baked effort to show solidarity with the whole ‘Fight AIDS in Africa’ thing, meaning I would’ve had to blow my entire life savings on a plane ticket just so I could slap them all silly in person.

(It was hard enough keeping still during that little ‘let’s honour the soldiers’ Moment. Really, now, people. There are single-celled organisms that would’ve realised ‘let’s have the cute wittle heroes hand out the award right before we hand an award to vicious critics of the war’ was an ill-advised idea.)

Compared to that level of tacky, the occasional spectacular sartorial flop was just amusing; how you could tell it was the Oscars after all.

Stylists, please just lay off Jennifer Hudson, OK? Telling the poor girl that she should draw attention away from her waist was a whole lot of yuks last year, I’m sure, but things are starting to get out of hand. Likewise Cameron Diaz’ pretty pink princess fantasies, from which we learn that multi-$$ designer hip flounces are just as tacky-looking as the ones on the dress your Cousin Flo threw together for her wedding at the Legion. Girlfriend, just put on the ruddy tiara and get it out of your system.

Also, Jessica Alba? Those feathers? Stop that.

I also have it on reliable sources – specifically, from a co-worker who actually reads sites that use ‘reliable sources’ – that Helen Mirren’s dress, lovely and sophisticated as it looked on-camera, flopped dismally backstage on account of the light level suddenly being unable to hide the crocheting beneath the sparkles. Which disturbs me out of all reason, because I have this small-but-stubborn need for Mirren to be Practically Perfect at all times and seasons, by way of balancing out stuff like Jack Palance doing pushups.

Oh, speaking of sparkly thingies, has anybody seen Nicole Kidman today? Because I was getting seriously nervous vibes off that necklace. Like maybe, later that night, seeing her safely asleep, it was planning to crawl out of its case and back round her neck…

…ahem. The montages were also quite good fun – sure, the self-referential fawning is generally kinda icky, but when you run all the winners together like that it’s hard not to be just a little awed by the sheer Star power. At least, until they get to the bit where The Greatest Show on Earth beats out (a not even nominated) Singin’ in the Rain for Best Picture. The post-modern irony helps some, but not enough. Not nearly enough.

So overall Stewart’s little skit featuring the ones we ‘would have seen, except…oops’, was a welcome counterpoint. Again, I don’t really get the complaints; glaringly obvious time-fillers or no, the point is they worked. I see no reason at all why they couldn’t be adapted into a new running feature, even. Greatest Scenes Featuring a Pointlessly Clicky Computer Monitor, for instance. Feather Usage Throughout Cinema History. The list is endless.

Shoemom, on the other hand, was a little peeved by the whole thing. She was raised in the grand tradition of Because Hollywood Says So, you understand, and considers it something of a duty to ooh at every Star and chuckle appreciatively at every telepromptered gag. Except the ones enacted by Those Young People Today, at which point things get a bit problematic.

Because she starts laughing, then has to stop and ask me why, then glares at me throughout the rest of the bit like it’s somehow my fault that Random Dorky Guys (who may have appeared in a Judd Apatow movie, I’m not quite that far into the loop yet) are arguing over who’d make a hotter femme. “So are we gonna actually see Judi Dench here? And if not, can we move on now?”

It goes without saying that she – and I, as it happened – hadn’t actually watched any of the movies involved. Excepting Ratatouille. Which, BTW, I agree with that one critic in Iowa: as the one movie both critics and masses actually admitted to liking a whole lot, it totally should’ve won Best Picture by default. After they showed that one particular clip, of the dozens of itty-bitty critters coming out of the dishwasher with their fur all poofy, I have a feeling that many if not most of the Academy members – at least the female ones – were all ”Hit men in the desert? What was I thinking?”

Although I may now have to take a flier on The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward, Robert Ford, just because I adore movies with long, archaic, pseudo-formal titles. Clearly I’m not alone, either; it was overall a very good year for presenters trying to impress casting directors for future reference. My one regret is that I did not realize my long-cherished dream – well, cherished for about the twenty seconds between the promo and her appearance – to hear chippy-cheeked little Miley Cyrus intone “There WILL Be Blood!”

Other hilights:

— Jon Stewart. Bless the man, at least he tried to be a good host, not just a memorable one. Despite a few on-target lines, he didn’t succeed on either count, but his half-sheepish-half-sincere mein was immensely likeable anyway. Hauling Shy Indie Song Girl back out to finish her acceptance speech is about as gallant as it gets, in his world. Then again, he’s also really, really lucky she turned out to be as harmlessly, not to say succinctly, inspiring as her song.

–Overall the acceptance speeches were rather startlingly on-point. The wit was actually witty, the grace was unforced, the Coen brothers didn’t make me want to smack them upside the head, and Javier Bardem paid tribute to his mom in Spanish. Even Daniel Day-Lewis survived his Hanks Attack (more on that below) by virtue of being so…well…yeah. What’s not to love?

I especially get a kick out of the winners who really, honestly believed they had no shot. It’s seriously difficult to resist a Post-Modern Goth girl sobbing helplessly about ‘I’m learning so much from you guys!’ or a pretty Frenchwoman delirious with joy…then again, so was Cuba Gooding Jr. And he was definitely wearing a better outfit. You just know somebody somewhere is dying to put Ellen Page in a kiddie flick with talking penguins, is all I’m sayin’.

— Man-oh-man, were those Best Song Nominees not. At all. The Enchanted numbers were actually doing quite well off acknowledging this, since as gentle parodies of Disney tunes they work just as well set against the Kodak Theatre experience…right up until they hauled out Random Idol Semifinalist Dude (I’m assuming) to croak out the most incredibly, soul-destroyingly, excuse-me-I-have-a-date-with-the-gas-oven-now awful Love Theme ever not performed as a duet with Celine Dion.

Seriously. The previous song, which featured a Harlem choir wailing about finding new ways to look at the world and reaching for your dreams no matter what and then hauled an adorable eleven-year-old out front for good measure – suddenly it begins to feel like a lost Marvin Gaye masterpiece, in comparison with this thing. And this, please remember, is what happens when Disney tries to parody itself. If you try to think too hard of this universe as one in which Ratatouille simoultaneously isn’t eligible for Best Picture, your head becomes very very hurty.

— So…um…Tom Hanks. Beloved idol of millions. Yup. Heartland hero, introducing the soldiers, trust entire and automatic. Erm…I guess that means I’m the only one who’s starting to suspect his body’s slowly being taken over by the Plastic Pod People, here? No, work with me for a sec. That narrowing about the eyes, that little frowsy thing his mouth does even when he’s clearly trying to force it to smile…y’know, I’m just asking, has Tom Cruise been seen in his vicinity lately? (Come to think of it, that would explain Nicole’s necklace, too. The Xenian Diamond Torture, why not?)

— Best evidence (not involving Sean Penn, anyway) that this whole thing just might be a giant meta-gag on the participants: Presenter Colin Farrell slips…makes a quick joke…then stares out at the audience for a full ten seconds as it sloooooowly but surely sinks in that he could have just announced that he’s the reincarnation of Shakespeare and here’s the new play to prove it, and the collective Hollywood establishment would care less than they do about Seinfeld playing a bee.

— Shoemom: “So he’s saying that Cate Blanchett actually played Bob Dylan?”
Me, between mental eyerolls: “No, Mom. And – just for future reference – she didn’t play that    pitbull, either.”
Shoemom: “Hmph.”
[time passes, we arrive at the Best Supporting Actress nominees]
Shoemom: “Wow, that sure looks like Bob Dylan…”
Me [sullenly]: “Fine, yeah, whatever. But she still didn’t play that pitbull, OK?”

[sigh] If anybody has any other helpful suggestions, bring ’em on. Meanwhile, stay tuned for future efforts…

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…. More