Monday, February 26, 2007

Sracso Eht

Disclaimer: The following is Little Earl's personal opinion only

First of all, The Departed:

Yeah yeah, "token award" this, "not Scorsese's best" that, but you know what? I'm glad he won it and I think he deserved it, for several reasons:

1. There weren't really any overlooked masterpieces this year that deserved to win it instead (I know a lot of people feel strongly about Children Of Men, but that's another post). It was a better year than 1987, for example, but it was not the greatest year for movies (discounting, of course, the ones I have yet to see). If I were an academy member, I might have possibly voted for Stephen Frears, since I did think The Queen was a better film overall than The Departed, but it's not better by much, and it wasn't so great that I would have wanted to see Stephen Frears walk up there instead of Martin Scorsese. The bottom line is: If Scorsese didn't deserve it, then who did?

2. It was better than the last two films for which he was nominated. If they were itching to give him a token Oscar, I'm glad they gave it to him for this movie instead of Gangs Of New York or The Aviator.

3. He got to receive his Oscar from Coppola, Lucas and Spielberg. For a fan of the 70s like myself, this was one of the most moving Oscar moments I can remember. First of all, when the three of them walked up there, I was almost blown back to the wall from the sheer talent and magnetism that was emanating from these three incredibly God-like, majestic, and handsome figures. Secondly, I felt a strange sense of gratitude that these three were still alive and healthy and active. Even though their hair was all grey, the three of them looked exactly the same as they always did. It was like, "Yep, there they are. No mistakin' 'em for someone else." Third, they were pretty funny. Coppola and Spielberg boasted about how they'd all won Academy Awards, and then Lucas bumped in and said meekly, "Hey guys, I never won an Academy Award." Then after a pause, Spielberg said, "So then why are you here?" It was perfect because you knew it would be absolutely traumatic if those three guys were up there and Scorsese lost, so they undercut it with having Lucas mention that he never won it either. But of course, Scorsese won it, and I realized it would have been some much more anti-climactic if he had won it for something else earlier and accepted the award from...who even remembers? With these three guys there to give it to him it was really ice on the damn cake.

Ultimately, I was so concerned with all the "Is Scorsese gonna win" talk that when I actually sat back and thought about it after the show was finally over, I realized that The Departed, for all its supposed deficiencies, is probably the best Best Picture winner since at least A Beautiful Mind and possibly since American Beauty. It's fun and watchable but not dumb. Unlike most of the other recent winners, it actually seems like a film that people will want to watch in 20 years. Somebody on Slate pointed out that what the Oscar show "lacked most of all—and this is not its fault—was a movie that really excited audiences. People liked The Departed as entertainment, but who loved it?" I nodded at first when I read this, but then I thought, "Yeah, but if the kind of movies that people 'love' are Gladiator, Chicago and Return of the King, then count me out." In summary, The Departed was not a flaming masterpiece, but it was better than the films that have been winning awards for the past ten years, so frankly I'm glad.

Now on to the rest of the show:

Given what they had to work with, I thought the Oscars did a really good job of nominating essentially the best movies of the year. I thought that four of the Best Picture nominees deserved to be there, which is more than I can say for any year since maybe 2001. And I didn't even mind Babel being there either (as long as it didn't win), because at least it was different and interesting. So although I've read a lot of griping on the internet, I was relatively impressed overall.

Ellen was safe and bland. Jon Stewart was great but apparently he offended everyone in the actual room, so I guess they decided to get someone nice for the people present at the expense of the TV viewer. Hey, it's not my show, they can do what they want. But sitting here at home, I'd rather have someone edgy and clever, if I could choose.

Some of my favorite highlights:

The Jack Black-Will Ferrell-John C. Reilly skit - especially Jack Black saying something like, "Peter O'Toole, I know you're all legendary and British and everything, but I will take you down!" and Peter O'Toole sitting there wondering what the hell was going on.

"Ladies and gentleman, Academy Award-winning screenwriter Ben Affleck."

Robert Downey, Jr. presenting the award for visual effects: “Visual effects: they enable us to see aliens, experience other universes, move in slow motion, or watch spiders climbing high above the city landscape. For me, just a typical weeknight in the mid-’90s.”


yoggoth said...

I started watching it past the halfway mark. I was writing a Chaucer essay and the first half of the oscars is always boring anyway. I was also struck by how much I didn't care about most of the films this year. Usualy there is one I can root against which gives me a reason to care. The documentary category seemed more interesting than the feature films.

Oh, Lucas does not look nearly as good as he used to. Coppola looks decent, but Spielburg looks like he's got 30 years left in him. Jewish genes I guess.

Little Earl said...

Lucas looked fine. Compare Lucas to Peter O'Toole, who really did look like he was about to die any day (although I wish him a long and happy life, of course).

So what films did you root "against" in the past? I can almost see a new kind of broadcast being born: the Inverse Oscars.

And listen to this: "I was writing a Chaucer essay and the first half of the oscars is always boring anyway." Oh ho hum Muffy, perhaps I'll leave my Chaucer essay for another time and peruse the telly for a change. You know the first half is always a DREADFUL bore. Well let me get you your slippers Percy.

yoggoth said...

Hey now, isn't Peter O'Toole 25 years older than Lucas?

Little Earl said...

Only 12 years older.

Here's some more Oscar links:


ninquelote said...

I'm sorry that I didn't watch the Oscars this year so I can't really make too many comments.
I'm glad Scorsese won, even if it was only because he had it coming for all of his other great movies.
I agree that there weren't too many good movies this year, but I still think that academy and the studios miss out by not searching out more indie films to nominate. (I'm going to root for Brick until the end of time no matter what any of you say.)
I also hear the foreign category was full of gems also.

Little Earl said...

Both the foreign film and documentary categories looked pretty enticing and eclectic, I will say that. As for Oscar not reaching out to indies, lately they've actually been in the habit of nominating people in the acting categories for movies that nobody would have gone to see otherwise. I'm thinking of Ryan Gosling for Half Nelson, or Penelope Cruz for Volver, or that chick from Maria Full Of Grace. I mean these aren't the Independent Spirit Awards we're talking about; these are OSCAR nominations. It's the difference between a movie that disappears into obscurity or a movie that people will remember and watch years later (whether we like it to work that way or not). I mean, they could have nominated Sacha Baron Cohen for Borat, or Matt Damon for The Departed, but those are movies that got plenty of attention and press as it was. They were under no obligation to nominate Ryan Gosling, but they did it anyway, and to me that says that the Oscars are not a total joke.

I guess I still need to see Brick, but first I've got to finish Sin City. I just watched the first half last night, and damn, it was hard to turn it off. But I had to go to sleep.

yoggoth said...

I'm not very impressed with the Oscars myself. All the talk surrounding them sounds suspiciously like english grad student nonsense. Eddie Murphy deserves an Oscar? Yeah, in the same what that Aphra Behn is a great writer. The idea that it matters who wins best picture is as silly as the idea that writing ecocriticism helps the environment. In terms of national competitions I'd put it below the superbowl but above the PGA tournament in cultural importance.

ninquelote said...

Well said yoggoth. I don't really hold the oscars in high esteem. I mean Penelope Cruz in Volver!? That movie was playing in 2 different theatres just in my zip code. It's not like she's an unknown spanish actress.
You're right, these aren't the Independent Spirit Awards because nobody knows what the fuck those are. That's why these movies stay in obscurity.

Little Earl said...

But see, you guys have to realize a couple of things:

1) You aren't really the target audience for the Oscars. You guys are sharper and smarter than most of the American moviegoing public. But for that section of the public, I think the Oscars serve a good function. They're valuable because, at their best, they call attention to (what I often feel are) valuable little bubbles of insight and wisdom in the vast wasteland that is popular culture. Maybe some suburban loser will go rent Letters From Iwo Jima and learn something interesting about life. I find it hard to harbor too much hostility towards something that calls attention to at least a few things I like about American popular culture. The time I get mad at the Oscars is when they call attention to movies that I don't feel represent valuable ideas in our culture - but no one will ever agree on such a standard.

2) Compare the Oscars to the Grammys, which really are totally ridiculous and basically irrelevant. The Grammys have always been so far off the map that they've never even been worth paying attention to. At least the Oscars nominated movies like Taxi Driver and Apocalypse Now and Pulp Fiction for Best Picture. Imagine the Grammys nominating punk albums! Never happened. I'm not defending the Oscars as the summit of good opinion, but they've always had at least one toe in the edgier side of their industry.

But yes, the winner of Best Picture is very meaningless. As I said before, I just like reading the nominations and could care less about who actually wins. As far as Eddie Murphy goes, I also doubt that he deserved an Oscar, but none of us have actually seen the movie, so who knows? The Oscar talk is completely meaningless, but at least it's a break from overtly negative and unproductive subjects such as war, politics, and economics.

yoggoth said...

Another theory is that talking about the Oscars lets us forget about actually doing anything about war, politics, and economics.

I do appreciate the possiblity that worthwhile films will be seen by a few more people in Iowa. But isn't it possible that this good will be outweighted by the message that the stars of movies and their personal lives are the only interesting thing happening in America?

My recommendation: do away with best actor awards altogether and give more awards for various genres. Or spend more time examining the movies and their subjects. The current Oscars are mostly just an ego massage for the Hollywood royalty.

Oh, and don't let anyone give a speech about anything.