. . . Monday February 28, 2005

Between a Rock and an Oscar

It wasn’t the most memorable year in movies and it turned out to be one of the more forgettable Oscar evenings. There were some highlights and lowlights. Let’s review:

The Host
There was so much concern about whether or not Chris Rock would go over the edge. In truth, his performance was barely edgy at all. His opening monologue was good (for him, just fair) and his offsite at the Magic Johnson Theater was enjoyable and even culturally interesting, but it still played more like something you’d see on a late night talkshow. Chris Rock is the funniest man in America. A good performance doesn’t seem like it’s good enough. His best moment of the night was when he compared The Passion of the Christ to Soul Plane. That gave newbie viewers a glimpse into his genius. I would’ve preferred that he had opened the trenchcoat and showed it all. Who exactly are we so worried about offending? It’s a friggin awards show.

Coolest Evolving Storyline
The host, the winner for best supporting actor, and the winner for best actor all happen to be black men. It was barely noticed this year. It would’ve been totally shocking less than five years ago.

Easy Pickings
You know that Jamie Foxx’s mouth was watering throughout the show. There were so many boring and forgettable speeches that taking the prize for the evening’s most memorable moment would be a breeze for Foxx. And he easily took the crown.

Best Speech
While Foxx will be lodged in our memories, the best speech of the night was given by cinematography winner Robert Richardson of the Aviator.

This evening for me is dedicated to my mother, who has spent the last 45 days in the hospital. And I’d like to say thank you to all the nurses and the doctors that have taken care of her, as well as her friends. I love you, mom. Thank you.

Best Dress
This was easily the worst dressed Oscar crowd in years. The best look belonged to Halle Berry who is in the middle of an incredible run of looking perfect every time out. Still, Hillary Swank’s tight dress and exposed back (was that JLo’s old dress worn backwards?) won the night and will certainly place Swank atop all of the most popular photo lists on the web. But again, the real story of the night was the horrible and non-fitting gear worn by most of the stars.

The Write Stuff
The coolest one-two punch of the evening came in the writing categories. Kaufman took home the award for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (maybe the movie the year) while Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor won for Sideways. That’s a hell of a lot of writing firepower in one night.

Bummer of the Night
Of course it was painful to see Scorcese go home empty-handed yet again. But look at it the other way. What if he had failed to win for masterpieces like Goodfellas and Raging Bull but won for an afterschool special like The Aviator?

Fred Travelina Award
Jamie Foxx was incredible in the otherwise only decent Ray. But it’s interesting to note that both he and especially Cate Blanchett won awards in part because they did great impersonations of famous people.

Blowhard of the Night
The idiotic moment of the night belonged to Sean Penn who showed up looking like he had just been booted out of a Hollywood version of an Irish bar and defended Jude Law who Chris Rock has poked fun of in the opening monologue. Law needed no defending. Penn was immediately rushed to the Betty Ford wing for actors who take themselves way too seriously (Hollywood’s most overbooked destination).

Horrible Direction of the Night
Whose idea was it to give out some awards while the presenters and recipients were standing in the in the aisles of the theater? Brutal.

Best Speech turned Worst
No doubt about this one: Swank. How did she allow herself to drift away from the trailer park story and into thanking her lawyer’s accountant’s agent’s publicist’s set-caterer?

Song, Song, Sung
Any longtime reader of this blog knows that I love Beyonce as much as the next guy, but what was the point of having her sing three songs, none of which was really suited for her skills? And if you’re going to have her sing three of the songs, then why not let her take on the last two? How does one decide to draw the line at Antonio Banderas (whose voice was just bad enough to make his wife’s dress look good)? Here’s a crazy idea. How about letting the people who sing the song actually sing the song? I know this would mean putting talent over fame in the Banderas case, but it’s worth considering. And special thanks to Adam Duritz of the Counting Crows for answering the age-old question of whether a ridiculous hairdo can disract people from the fact that you’ve gained 40 pounds and are singing the theme song to a cartoon. (The answer, incidentally, is no.)

Honest Moment of the Night
Christina Aguilera was asked what she thought of the evening’s musical performances. Her answer: Uh, I guess they were pretty good.

Set Design
Wow. That was bad. The set looked like it was recovered from some outtakes from an 80s sci-fi show. And Natalie Portman was the only one whose dress matched that backdrop perfectly.

Self Promotion Hiccup
Worst promotional moment: When P Diddy admitted to Joan Rivers that he designed his own suit.

Exciting Moment of the Night
During Jeremy Irons’ presenting moment, a load bang could be heard. I was half-hoping that Paul Giamatti blew a gasket and decided to just stand up and open fire in the theater. He would’ve easily gotten off for being temporarily justified.

Best Oscar Feature of the Night
No Billy Crystal song and hence no listening to people who think he’s just so creative and talented and hence no deep and painful feelings of alienation for those who have at least half a brain.

Concentration is important!