Monday, February 28, 2005

CBC: Katrina Onstad's play-by-play Live Oscar Blog

This is CBC's excellent Oscar blog. Some of the comments are right on the money. Note that it's in reverse chronological order.

By Katrina Onstad,
February 27, 2005

Sunday night was Oscar night - that annual orgy of Hollywood self-congratulations. arts writer Katrina Onstad weighed in with her live perspective on the Academy Awards telecast. All night long, she analyzed the speeches, Chris Rock's performance as host, the dresses, , the syrupy songs, the winners and (more amusingly) the losers. Here's her online Oscar journal.

February 27, 2004 - 12:18 p.m. EST
People will complain about the general flatness of this year's Oscars: Whither the high drama? Whither the Benigni lunacy? The Berry-Brody kiss? Sure, the Where's Waldo placement of the presenters did get a little strange, but to all the naysayers, let me remind you: Last year's evening stretched into THE NEXT DAY. And it was just hobbit after hobbit toddling up to the stage, running down the names on the New Zealand voters list. Tonight's ceremony was only a little over three hours (just like The Aviator, no?), and enlivened by Chris Rock, proving that what makes him funny isn't foul language but a fearless kind of outsider eye. He nailed the opening monologue and brought the Oscars out of the Kodak Pavillion and to the moviegoers, but then he nearly vanished. Next time, more Rock, less talk.
Still, some drama occurred. The clearest winners weren't that clear after all: Swank over Bening, Baby over Aviator, Clint over Marty. Since most people haven't seen many of the nominated films -- the combined box office of the five best picture nominees is abysmal -- it doesn't feel like the public had the same level of investment as last year (people love Frodo very deeply), and I would bet that audience numbers will be down significantly. One person who probably won't tune in next year: Martin Scorsese. He didn't get the award for best body of work, which is what a best director award for The Aviator would have been; Clint took it - deservedly -- for best directing. But don't cry for Marty, unless he follows through and makes Taxi Driver 2. Then you can cry, for a full three-plus hours.

February 27, 2004 - 11:50 p.m. EST
Million Dollar Baby wins Best Picture. Poor Martin Scorsese. The guy finally made a movie that wasn't too violent or too weird, a movie about loving Hollywood, a movie about a dreamer and a doer, a historical legend and still, still...nada. It wasn't his best film, not even close but surely he's locked in a bathroom stall right now going: What do you people want from me??? (Paul Giamatti may be passing him Kleenex under the door.) If we were to pretend that the Oscars are just, then Baby's win makes sense; it was an old-school melodrama, a movie-movie by a director on a roll, and The Aviator just didn't (okay, I'm saying it) -- didn't fly. Eastwood's cucumber cool at the podium confirmed it: this was his moment, and he didn't mind the bask one bit.

February 27, 2004 - 11:40 p.m. EST
My God, Clint Eastwood is trim. The vibrations in the house when he wins Best Director are positively palpable. People love this guy. The official Oscar carver should get out his knife for Scorsese's Honorary Award, to be ready in about ten years.

February 27, 2004 - 11:35 p.m. EST
Okay, so Jamie Foxx wakes up the whole snoozy occasion with a wicked, all-notes-hit speech for Best Actor. Starts with a genuine shout-out to the man he played, Ray Charles (note to Julia Roberts: it's nice to mention the person whose life you appropriate for your own gain), then goes on to name-check Sidney Poitier, Oprah, Halle Berry: "I'm taking that responsibility tonight." Then brings the mood down with the grandma speech. Sniff, sniff. He delivered.

February 27, 2004 - 11:21 p.m. EST
Spain is in the house! Alejandro Amenabar jogs down from the bleachers to take Best Foreign Film for The Sea Inside.
The Vanna White women are there after all. I feel oddly relieved. But where's Jack Nicholson?

February 27, 2004 - 11:15 p.m. EST
Sean Penn opens the Best Actress nominees with a mysterious defense of Jude Law.
Hilary Swank snatches it again from Annette Bening, who looks a little...taut. Quoth Swank: "I don't know what I did in this life to achieve all this..." Well, it wasn't appearing in The Core. Really, did we think we'd ever hear from her again with all the crap she's done since Boys Don't Cry?
But good for her; Swank was killer in Million Dollar Baby. Her speech was somewhat less dynamic than her performance, however, though I suppose I'm glad she didn't get all hysterical, as best actresses have done of late. Still, I hate it when actors thank their lawyers and publicists, reminding us that we're all complicit in a big greedy cash grab. This leaves it up to Jamie Foxx to breathe a little life into this thing...

February 27, 2004 - 11:03 p.m. EST
Did P Diddy just call the film Polar Express "hip" and make a little plea for world peace?
For God's sake, Beyonce, sit down. Spread the work, sister!
This is truly the most appalling, saccharine kind of Oscar nominated song: "Give your dreams the wings to fly..." Must go rub face in snow on porch to stop gagging.
Gotta love a sung speech. Best song winner gets the first original moment of the year.

February 27, 2004 - 10:56 p.m. EST
Yo-Yo Ma? It's a far cry from Rob Lowe do-si-do-ing Snow White. This year's Oscars is such a subdued affair.
The deceased montage is always a painful exercise. Popularity rules the Academy Awards, even in death. The dead toilers and backgrounders start the reel (they threw in Reagan at the beginning to keep people on their toes), eliciting a smattering of applause which grows to a great crescendo by the time they get to Brando. Why don't they just put up a big No Clapping Until the End sign, for God's sake? Weep for the gaffers, you thankless tier-one celebrities!

February 27, 2004 - 10:44 p.m. EST
Aw, Vancouver-born Hubert Davis lost best short doc for Hardwood, but it's still such a charming film. And he was about a head taller and ten times better looking than any other nominee. And the guys who did win got cut off mid-speech; nasty.
Rock retrieved the moment with a killer joke about how soon they'll be giving out the awards "in the parking lot." He's right; the new staging has made the night a little perkier, but it was weird to see Scarlett Johansson giving out the tech awards from way up in a box like one of the grumpy Muppets, either Statler or Waldorf.

February 27, 2004 - 10:32 p.m. EST
Cruz is gone. Hayek ate her so she could double her potential workload.
I never know how to feel about the "ethnic matching" at the Oscars -- Hayek introduces the first Spanish song to be nominated at the Oscars; black actors introducing black actors.
Wait -- distracted from cultural commentary by sight of Antonio Banderas singing and grooving on his barstool to Carlos Santana's mean licks. I don't speak Spanish, but ears are universal and they hurt.

February 27, 2004 - 10:25 p.m. EST
Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz are finally seen in the same place at the same time.

February 27, 2004 - 10:16 p.m. EST
Score one for Canada's own Chris Landreth and Ryan, his ridiculously innovative movie about former animator Ryan Larkin. Landreth is an intense dude, which is fair enough. I mean, he pretty much invented something completely new.
I'm digging the chattin' from the aisles thing. Keep it goin, keep it goin'...

February 27, 2004 - 10:12 p.m. EST
Someone just tried to assassinate Jeremy Irons. Ralph Fiennes ("There's only room for one of us!")? The blonde guy from Brideshead Revisted whose career never took off?

February 27, 2004 - 10:10 p.m. EST
Beyonce's busy tonight. I guess she wasn't allowed to touch The Counting Crows song; only the truly gifted can interpret genius.

February 27, 2004 - 10:04 p.m. EST
What movie DIDN'T Sidney Lumet direct? A filmmaker of heart and unabashed political intent. Four-time Oscar shut-out. America's Norman Jewison! Forget The Wiz; he made Twelve Angry Men, Serpico, Network. He's a hang-back director, not shy to let a good script do the talking. Burped them out in the last decade, but the fabulous Running on Empty with River Phoenix as the son of 60s radicals on the lam makes up for the fact that he's now directing Vin Diesel.

A generous speech. Love it when the veterans wax nostalgic.

February 27, 2004 - 9:54 p.m. EST
Introducing honorary Oscar winner, Sidney Lumet, Al Pacino says "The Porn Breaker" instead of "The Pawnbreaker." It's hard to speak clearly with so much hair weighing down on your brain. (P.S. -- Why wasn't Pacino nominated for his fantastic Shylock in The Merchant of Venice?)

February 27, 2004 - 9:50 p.m. EST
Alexander Payne and Jim Alexander take best adapted screenplay for the beautiful Sideways, probably the film's only award tonight. Payne looks like he wants to get out of there, then comes back and makes a plea for artistic freedom that gets a little nod from Paul Giamatti, who showed up after being cruelly snubbed. He even wore a defiant little scrubby sponge thing on his chin, surely a screw-you to the Academy.
I heard Payne and wife Sandra Oh just bought a house in my neighborhood in Toronto. I look forward to increased property values. And borrowing a cup of sugar, some milk and the Oscar.

February 27, 2004 - 9:37 p.m. EST
The Counting Crows are still together? And now they're fronted by Malcolm Gladwell?

February 27, 2004 - 9:35 p.m. EST
An understated moment for Johnny Carson then a win for Born Into Brothels, the doc about kids raised in the red light district of Calcutta. The Oscars are constantly a strange juxtaposition of excess and human tragedy -- Nice dress! Down with child poverty! -- but the filmmakers are radiant, and the film touching. Aww. I'm moved! Moved by the Oscars! It got to my Grinchy heart.

February 27, 2004 - 9:27 p.m. EST
Best supporting actress clips: Virginia Madsen acting opposite Paul Giamatti, which reminds me of Thomas Haden Church opposite Paul Giamatti. Truly performers bettering each other.
Alas, Cate Blanchett played Oscar royalty, and takes it. She's eloquent and deserving and fast on the podium. God bless her. Get The Aviator a broom -- it's a sweeper!

February 27, 2004 - 9:20 p.m. EST
Miss Piggy and Johnny Carson. Shrek. Didn't Jar Jar Binks show up one year? It's bad enough when these cheese-between-two-blocks-of-wood lines are delivered by human mouths but animated creatures call even more attention to the true suckage of Oscar night writing. Chalk up the increased audience laughter at the sight of Pierce Brosnan bantering with the Edith Head character from The Incredibles to deep, deep shame.
The Aviator wins Best Costume Design. Old and fussy takes it again.

February 27, 2004 - 9:15 p.m. EST
Love Rock's White Chicks jokes, but is there something weird about diamond encrusted Hollywood whities laughing at the movie-going habits of the inner city?

February 27, 2004 - 9:11 p.m. EST
Hey, they did away with the Oscar hander-outer Vanna White types. Shave off another two minutes!
Weird how Drew Barrymore over-enunciated the word "Beyonce" in some strange burst of Euro-appreciation.
Beyonce looks flowery singing this year's Triplets of Belleville-not-going-to-win song.

February 27, 2004 - 8:58 p.m. EST
Robin Williams using punch-lines like: "Hello!" and "You go, girl!" might (MIGHT) not be as excruciating if Chris Rock weren't also on this planet.

February 27, 2004 - 8:50 p.m. EST
Morgan Freeman takes best supporting actor. Okay, he's good, the proud owner of a career and-a-half, and he makes it look easy -- what a comfortable presence -- but that 20 second clip of Clive Owen is thrilling. Repeat to self: Oscars are not about rewarding the best performance. Greatness in art is immeasurable anyway. Clive Owen loves you.

February 27, 2004 - 8:47 p.m. EST
Renee Zellwegger has not eaten since Dec 13.

February 27, 2004 - 8:45 p.m. EST
Gil Cates is shakin' it up. Doesn't open with best supporting actress but instead has all the art directors line up in a row like they've just given a piano recital, then the winner struts past the losers with a spit and a feh.
Cruel, but we just saved four minutes.

February 27, 2004 - 8:38 p.m. EST
Prediction: More shots of "lefties" whenever Michael Moore is mentioned. So far, Spike Lee and Johnny Depp nodding earnestly during Rock's hiliarious anti-Bush spiel.
Love how he then sends props to the troops; no correlation. Ah, Hollywood. "Good luck, limbless troops! Give it up for Halle Berry!"

February 27, 2004 - 8:35 p.m. EST
Oh my God. He's funny! Chris Rock is funny! Relief. Relief. "There are only four stars, the rest are popular people." Zekactly. The tie is off, and now the gloves...

February 27, 2004 - 8:34 p.m. EST
I love how there are always one or two wildly inappropriate inclusions in the "Movies are great!" montage. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure and Charlie Chaplin together at last.

February 27, 2004 - 8:20 p.m. EST
Cate Blanchett using words like "approximate" and "revelation" gets a big blank stare from the interviewer. Smarty Pants are not in fashion this year, Ms. Cate!
Kirsten Dunst brought her brother; Jake Gyllenhaal brought his sister, Maggie. Guess they're actually broken up. Let's hope for some Jolie-style sibling tongue-on-tongue action.
Could Clive Owen be better looking?

February 27, 2004 - 8:11 p.m. EST
Red carpet madness: Annette Bening has been media-coached. The unknown ABC dude got her on the podium, asked her about pregnancy and she answered: “It’s a complete joy and honour to be here…”One of us, one of us!
Long hair is the theme, according to Halle and Gwyneth. Free and easy. Casual. Summery. Except Laura Linney, who decided not to wash her hair for several weeks in anticipation. Radical choice.

February 27, 2004 - 7:53 pm EST
It’s good to have an Oscar survival kit, so some of us, no names mentioned, are sitting knee-deep in bottles (okay, boxes) of wine, blister packs of Wake-Ups, beef jerky, whatever it takes; fewer “helpers” than found in the trunk of Hunter S. Thompson’s car, a little more than at a family picnic. This thing could go on for five or six hours, but after a mere twenty minutes of Star Jones on the E! Network, waving her be-jeweled microphone in the face of every celebrity of colour who scraped up a ticket (“We’re gonna open some doors tonight, Spike!”) I’m already sleepy. Must…adjust…attitude.

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