Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Late to the Party



Even though it's two days after the Oscars and pretty much the whole country is talking about something else, we decided to let our loyal readers out there know what we thought of the show in general and its host, Chris Rock, in specific. No doubt our perfect Oscar Prediction List makes our opinion of the show itself much more relevant.

First, the show itself. Because we watch it from Los Angeles, we're much less sensitive to how long it lasts than our blogging brethren on the east coast. Even a "long" show finishes between 8:00 and 9:00 pm, which leaves plenty of time to get to bed early for a good night's sleep to start the week. We thought this year's show moved fairly swiftly -- no excrutiatingly long commercial breaks, no half time show -- except for the momentum-killing musical numbers. The category from whence they originate, Best Original Song, is really a relic of an earlier era in Hollywood (when studios made musicals and pop stars wrote original songs for films that ended up on the charts) that ought to be, if not abolished, then certainly revamped. Most movies feature either an original score or previously recorded popular music not written for that particular film and thus not eligible for this category. So the Academy needs to get with the times and figure something out.

The other thing that bugged us about the show was the "In the Audience/On the Stage" experiment. We're not opposed to nominees in the less flashy categories getting some facetime on international television, but the firing squad-like nature of all the nominees standing in a line on stage and the fact that the in-the-crowd winners never got anywhere near the stage was insulting to those winners and nominees alike. We understand that the vast majority of the viewership tune into the Oscars to see the stars, but that doesn't mean that the less famous nominees and winners don't deserve to be honored in equal measure.

It's beneath the Academy to let the award presentations for categories like Best Short Film and Best Animated Short Film turn into an in-the-stands sideshow not even worthy of cheesy reality TV. Unlike most of the people who watched the Oscars, we've seen Wasp, the winner of Best Short Film, and it deserved to be honored alongside films like Million Dollar Baby and The Aviator. If anything, Wasp was more moving than either of those films, and its director, Andrea Arnold, should have been accorded the right to step on stage and give her acceptance speech like the rest of the winners not relegated to the audience ghetto. And don't talk to us about "saving time" by eliminating a walk to the stage. First of all, the Kodak Theatre isn't that big (so they're not saving more than a few seconds), and secondly, the Academy can seat the nominees wherever they chose to; they're the ones who stick those nominees in the back.

Now, about Chris Rock. As far as recent hosts go, we could do without Billy Crystal (the Vinny Testaverde of the Oscars) and Whoopi Goldberg. We like Steve Martin in general and enjoyed his hosting gigs. As for Rock, we're not huge fans but much of his act we do find funny. We're not fond of his harsh delivery nor the fact that he's trying to do Richard Pryor material 30 years after the fact. It would be different if he was actually doing something to advance the dialogue instead of trotting out old racist tropes, but hey, that's his schtick, and he's made a lot of money from it.

We liked the first half of his opening set. He wasn't afraid to make fun of Hollywood, and you could tell that he wasn't killing in the room, but we think he might have been killing most other places. We found his "If you can't get Denzel and can only get me, WAIT" bit particularly funny, because that's exactly how movies get made. Tom Cruise is always the first star you try to get for a male lead, Julia Roberts for a female. Then you go down the list. Russell Crowe, Jude Law, Clive Owen, etc. It sounds farcical but it's actually how movies get sold to studios. As for the Jude Law portion, which clearly upset Sean Penn, we agree that he has been in a lot of movies lately, but we do think that he's a pretty damned good actor. Not a star -- not Tom Cruise -- but someone with good looks who can actually act. (He's clearly a better actor than Cruise, by the way.)

The last part of Rock's set, however, was disgraceful. It was pandering to his audience, as the cutaways to out-of-touch movie stars applauding and guffawing clearly revealed. It's not that Rock went political. Fine. That's his choice. What upset us was how he tried to cloak his Bush-bashing with the preface of "Bush is a genius..." as if that would be enough to pull the wool over 52% of Americans' eyes as to what he was about to say. His statement that he thought Fahrenheit 9/11 was "beautiful" was truly laughable, and his joke about Michael Moore (that he should have done the documentary Super Size Me, since he'd already done the research) did nothing to counter his endorsement, though their juxtaposition seemed to suggest that's what he intended. And his Gap analogy was completely wrong. So wrong that we've decided to fisk it.

First, the "cash register decifit." Bush inherited a recession. There never was a surplus -- it was only on paper. Then, September 11th happened, which did, unfortunately, have a negative economic impact. Then, there is Rock's crack that Bush decided to invade Banana Republic. Never mind that Banana Republic and The Gap are owned by the same company (which also owns Old Navy). Bush didn't exactly start a war with a benevolent yuppie-wear store across the mezzanine; he invaded a country whose leader was a vicious Stalin-like dictator who ignored the world at large (if you can use those words to describe the U.N.), funded suicide bombers and gave asylum to our enemies. Oh, and by the way, everyone else in the mall thought he had toxic tank tops, too -- even the man Bush replaced at the register.

But then, if Rock had said all of that, he wouldn't have gotten the laughs that he did. Of course, he wouldn't have embarrassed himself, either.

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