Since I’m snowed in, figured I’d join the other millions of movie fans who are Monday-morning-quarterbacking last night’s Academy Awards. First, let me say that my faith in the Academy was severely shaken by Marissa Tomei’s win for Best Supporting Actress in the 1992 film "My Cousin Vinnie." Since then I keep expecting to see the Farrelly Brothers get the Best Director nod, because in Hollywood, rocks can grow and pigs can fly. Don’t get me wrong about Tomei. She’s competent, and occasionally engaging (see "The Perez Family"), but I thought Oscar was reserved for the exceptional.
This year was a surprise in that so many of the big movie releases actually didn’t suck. Coincidentally, neither Tom Cruise nor Nicole Kidman were up for any awards. So, already I felt better.
Now for a few highlights…
Chris Rock. Usually I don’t like this guy. He’s mean-spirited and only sporadically original. But as soon as he started ridiculing Jude Law he had my vote. The Monday press has called Rock’s performance both "edgy" and "tepid." Guess it depends on whom you read. For my money, he got the job done.
The New Format. Early on it was clear that these Oscars were being handled a bit differently, from a logistical standpoint. First, for some of the more technical awards, they had all the nominees lined-up onstage before reading the winner. Kind of like a beauty pageant. True, this makes all the losers stand up there like cigar-store Indians while the winner claims his/her award. But it does save time, and both the Academy and the network know that most folks who watch the Oscars don’t care who wins Best Sound Direction in a Foreign Language Documentary or Short Subject Starring Penguins. Also, the presenters seemed to pop up from odd places, like in the aisle, or from an obscure side door. It kept everyone in the audience guessing, and provided more opportunities for camera movement. Good idea.
Best Animated Feature: The Incredibles. Didn’t expect much from this one, but I liked it. Maybe because the dad is a schlub (see an earlier post), who rebels against his sclhubbiness to return to the world-saving business. But of course, he has to sneak out of the house to do it.
Best Supporting Actress: Cate Blanchett. No argument here. She has real stature and screen presence…and she does a damn good Hepburn impression. I think Hepburn herself would be proud. And don't da dress look good?
Best Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman. Well, this has been a long time coming. I was starting to get concerned that Mr. Freeman would leave us before getting his proper recognition. I think he was a little worried too. Personally, I think he earned it for his role in "The Shawshank Redemption," but AIDS trumps prison, and frankly Hanks did an amazing job in "Philadelphia."
Best Actress: Hilary Swank. A great performance in a VERY depressing film. Only one question…why is she married to Chad Lowe?
Best Actor: Jamie Foxx. Anyone not guess this one? I saw "Ray" with some skepticism. Mr. Charles left some pretty big shoes for anyone to try and fill. And up to that point, I’d given mixed reviews to Mr. Foxx: "Collateral" was garbage, but he did do a great job in "Ali." So maybe it was working so closely with Ray himself during his last days, or something else, but Foxx nailed his impression of the musical great AND managed to act. No small feat.
Best Director: Clint Eastwood. I love Clint. Really. But I would have given this one to Scorsese, who’s continuing his record of being snubbed (0-5) by Oscar.
Best Picture: Million Dollar Baby. A great film, but very, very dark. It makes "Under the Volcano" look like "Finding Nemo." I recommend it, but at the snack counter, see if you can get Zoloft instead of M&Ms.
The Aviator. I would have thought this movie would have done better. After all, it’s a solid big-budget film, with a popular star, about a larger-than-life character. But we already had "Ray." So perhaps there wasn’t room for Howard too. The studio probably should have held onto this one for one more year.
Renée Zellweger. She looks like an old lady who’s just eaten a bad peanut. Why, again, is she a star? You had me at ‘go away.’
Samuel L. Jackson. Didn’t call anyone a motherf*cker.
Well, there it is. I wish I could have been crankier. But I’m sure Tom and Nicole will return next year to make my job easier.
Slang of the day: ivory hunter: a talent scout.