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The 2013 Oscars: Some Thoughts
Well, the 2013 Oscar Telecast has come and gone, and now all the pundits and bored movie geeks will be firing up the social media with their thoughts and opinions about what worked and what didn't, which wins were a snoozefest and which were completely OUT OF LEFT FIELD, and--most of all--why the Oscars are a creaky old dinosaur that no one watches anyway and that we'll all spend twelve months complaining about before watching them again next year. So, allow me to add some flames to the fire.
First and perhaps foremost, I was relatively pleased that the Academy apparently saw fit to sort of spread the wealth this year. Life of Pi's four wins placed it at number one numerically, followed by Argo and Les Miserables at three wins and Lincoln, Django Unchained and Skyfall at two each. No one film dominated, with Pi and Les Miz sharing dominance of the "minor" categories but nonetheless allowing others to sneak by. The upshot of this was that there also were few shutouts among the major contenders. The Master and Beasts of the Southern Wild were 0 for 3 and 0 for 4, respectively; multiple nominees Flight, The Hobbit and Snow White and the Huntsman also went home empty-handed, as did a number of films up for but one award. Most of the major snubs, however, came during the actual nomination process, a discussion that will come later this week.
Next, I have to say that Seth MacFarlane was a pretty good Oscar host. He walked a fine line between reverence and barbed snarkiness, allowing good jokes and one-liners at a fairly regular clip while only occasionally crossing the line of decorum one worries that the creator of Family Guy would have trouble discerning. In particular, the sequence where he allowed himself to be roasted by "Captain James T. Kirk," a very game William Shatner, was pretty amusing.
Now, as to the surprises of the night. There weren't many. Most of the categories I failed to call were tough to call in the first place; indeed, I was 18.5 for 24, not a bad percentage. However, there were three wins out of that 5.5 that genuinely surprised me.
First, I called Robert DeNiro to win Best Supporting actor, citing statistics concerning the few films nominated for all four acting categories, as well as the fact that DeNiro is a living legend who has seldom had such an Oscar-worthy role. The fact that he is a well-liked and HARD-WORKING Hollywood fixture who hasn't won an Oscar in three decades also gave him the edge, in my opinion, over Tommy Lee Jones (a more recent winner with a serious reputation for irascibility) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (a much more recent winner whose film, frankly, didn't have the traction of the other two). Christoph Waltz's win, therefore, was one of the biggest surprises of the night. After all, he won for a Quentin Tarantino movie just three years after winning FOR A TARANTINO MOVIE. Either this portends a major shift in Academy thinking towards the kind of films Quentin Tarantino makes, or they simply LOVE Christoph Waltz. Not to knock Waltz's performance--it was wonderful, and only second or third to DeNiro's in my opinion. But I was surprised. Perhaps the Academy was also apologizing for the widely-perceived snub of Waltz's co-star Leonardo DiCaprio in this category?
Anyway, the second big surprise for me was, honestly, Brave's win for Best Animated Feature. Now, I know many are thinking, "Is he serious?" After all, since the inception of this category it has seemed to belong to Pixar Studios. Barring Cars 2, the studio has been guaranteed a nomination each time it had a movie in contention, and the original Cars' still-baffling loss to Happy Feet notwithstanding a nomination has generally equated a win. Indeed, this was one of the few categories my best friend called that I missed; he feels that Pixar truly OWNS this category, and I must confess I called Wreck-It Ralph in part to prove that assertion wrong. Also, the fact that the critics were rough on Brave, yet fell all over themselves to praise Ralph and Frankenweenie, as well as the fact that the latter two movies had more wins in the awards season, both seemed to me to indicate that Pixar might actually lose to Disney Studios for the first time. Thus, even though I liked Brave slightly better than Ralph, I went with the latter, and called one wrong (incidentally, I have to admit personal feeling for Silver Linings Playbook also cost me the call on Adapted Screenplay).
Now, for the true surprise of the night--the tie. There have been VERY FEW ties at the Oscars in the modern era, in part due to rules put in place to avoid such a thing. Apparently, however, these rules are less stringent on the "minor" categories, which is how the Best Sound Editing category ended up with a tie between Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty. By the way, this is why I say I called 18.5 categories--I take partial credit for getting one right, but I would not have guessed a tie. You know, though, the REAL surprise was as follows: I called Skyfall to win, but my friend called Zero Dark Thirty. So, between us we called both winners. I was highly amused by that, and impressed by the extraordinarily strange event.
Oh, yeah, one more surprise. I managed to see all five nominees for Best Animated Short before the show, but have yet to see any of the other ten nominated shorts; even so, I somehow called all three winners. I realize it was pure dumb luck in two of the categories, but it amuses me all the same, and I was genuinely surprised by this.
So, it was in many ways an interesting night, and the awards distribution was intriguing. Within a few days I will be posting a list of who should have won, were the awards based solely on merit, but I do think that most of the people who won were not undeserving. That said, I would like to address a couple of the issues of the show itself.
One, it surprised me that they decided to excise the honorary Oscars from the program, doing instead a brief segment akin to the one for the Scientific and Technical Awards; I frankly feel that they did a disservice to the person who would have otherwise gotten the award during the show.
Two, I continue to be angered by the Oscar's insulting misunderstanding of the importance of music in movies. I will be covering this far more in depth in upcoming posts, particularly as concerns the nomination process, but every year I hear about tweaks to the Original Song and Original Score categories designed to make the categories more relevant to the average moviegoer, and in particular I hear about changes to the way songs are presented during the show. This year, the presentations of the songs on the show were ALL OVER THE FREAKING MAP! No matter how PATHETIC their attempts at presenting the nominated songs during the telecast, Oscar producers usually show at least SOME consistency. I really do wish they'd just go back to live performances of the nominated songs. I also miss the olden days where we could actually hear pieces of the score during the show.
Next, the Bond clip show was... not that good. I like the idea of using the Oscar telecast to celebrate fifty years of Bond, but whoever put that clip show together failed.
Finally, I suppose the changes to the In Memoriam segment have been intended to save time, but I really liked it back in the day when they actually showed clips of the movies/ productions for which the late lamented folks honored in the segment were best known. Also, I'm certain they've become much more exclusive in who to include in this segment. Again, this must be a time-saving device, but I feel it to be an insult to those who end up on the cutting-room floor. I know I, for one, am upset that they ignored Levon Helm; though he is best known as a musician, he has had a lengthy relationship with the movie industry, including several roles as an actor, and his exclusion displeased me once I was reminded of his recent passing. Also, HOW IN THE HELL did they forget Andy Griffith?!? Though he is best known as a television ICON, he has had numerous movie credits, including one of the most egregious Oscar snubs in recent Oscar history, his delightful turn as an irascible old coot in Waitress. Finally, though I would need to double-check the list of mentions, I think they overlooked Larry Hagman, Phyllis Diller, Mel Stuart, Sherman Hemsley, Dick Clark, and Whitney Freakin' Houston. To this I say, "WHAAAAAAT?"
Anyway, I'm sure my gripes are minor compared to most people's, and whatever issues I have with the show, there is no doubt I will be back to see it again next year. In the coming days I will be posting my take on who SHOULD have been the top contenders this year, and who SHOULD have won. I've also been meaning to post a critique on the Oscar nomination process, as I understand it, along with my ideas for awards that they SHOULD have. Hope you have enjoyed this post, and I look forward to hearing what others have to say.