Tuesday, March 5, 2013

More Traditional Than You'll Admit:
A Look At OSCARS 2012

Dear Hollywood,

I flew in the face of tradition this year and watched the Oscars the day after it took place, not wanting to stay up til six for a ceremony that yielded little in the way of surprise.

The majority of my predictions came true and the films I thought would win, did win. Many awards were well placed and deserved it, but some were clearly only awarded due a combination of hype, laziness and the influence of popular opinion.

For example, was Jennifer Lawrence really better in Silver Linings then Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty?

No. Definitely not. But Lawerence’s role ticked a lot more Oscars boxes. It was far easier to get behind her then the unflinching and cold Chastain, whose character only let her emotions break through in the final devastating scene of the film. 

Don’t get me wrong, Lawrence is a wonderful actress and will continue to prove to be one of the best, but did she deserve that award more then the others nominated? More then Emmanuelle Riva? No. Lawrence turned in a more subtle, complex and difficult performances in Winter's Bone and Hunger Games. She bought quiet and considered performances and strength to characters whom were difficult to like or even relate to, and that to me is more impressive then her turn as a demented banshee too young to sleep with Bradley Cooper. But I have issues with Silver Linings Playbook, a classic Weinstein example of Oscar transformation. It is sold as a dramatic film about mental illness being overcome by love. But it is not a drama, it is in fact a romantic comedy with little darkness and little realism. 

If Hollywood really wanted to reward a considered film about mental illness which doesn’t wear it’s crazy in neon on its sleeve, it should have turned to Perks of Being a Wallflower. The leads, Stone, Lerman and Miller, out acted everyone in Silver Linings showcasings all the complexities of the human spectrum. Not just, I am crazy, watch me act out.

(Again, I must emphasize I love Jennifer Lawrence, and she was great in that film, but she wasn’t better then the other nominees. Also I am not even kidding about The Hunger Games. She made that movie.)

But I have similar feelings about Christoph Waltz. He is brilliant. A charismatic actor whose performance in Inglorious Basterds stayed with you long after the film was over, and he put in a similarly good performance in Django Unchained. But was he better then Tommy Lee in Lincoln? No. He was just doing what he does, and it didn’t feel like an exceptional stretch. He didn’t do anything which made you change your mind, inedibly mark or surprise you.

But my main vitriol is directed at the amount of criticism served up to Seth MacFarlane, the host. I was expecting a bombardment of lazy and offensive humour, all the worst parts Ted with all the ill thought out depth of Ricky Gervais. But, I found myself laughing throughout. I was not offended once, nor was I surprised by his behaviour, unlike the critics.  One headline from The Telegraph sounded more like a job description for Oscar host, “Seth MacFarlane, the Oscars host, has been widely criticised for a series of "offensive and nasty" jokes at the expense of members of his audience.” Well, duh?

They hired him for a reason didn’t they? To gently poke fun at the luminous gliterrati? The Hollywood royalty? Gently push their buttons in a close to the bone kind of way? At least he tried to be inventive about it, unlike Ricky Gervais, or are you only allowed to make fun of the obvious Hollywood staples if you are deep within it's comfortable folds.

Part of the in joke. Like Billy Crystal. MacFarlane poked fun at traditions of old with a “insert Harvey Weinstein joke here,” and in a rare turn of satirical clairvoyance had William Shatner appear as Kirk, warning him about headlines from the future which deemed him The Worst Oscar Host Ever.

And why? The boob song was why. He sang about all the actresses present whose boobs he had all seen.

I don’t understand how this was offensive? Stupid and childish, sure, but they did get their boobs out and they know, and we know, it wasn’t for any form of vulgarity, or for cheap laughs. It was for acting. MacFarlane pointing it out in a skit about how he will offend the audience, with fake cut aways to their offended faces, is highlighting how he knows he can’t get away with something so stupid if he did it without his tongue firmly in his cheek, and for all it's infancy it is just a plain out silly song. He is only highlighting his puerility and immaturity rather then making the owners of the breasts the butt of the joke, for they did it for art and they are now sitting in their wealth and wonderfully made outfits being watched by the world. Everyone should be more offended by how quickly people got “Jawsed” off the stage. Or how Iranians are represented in Argo. 
Also the laziness of journalists is CLEARLY highlighted when they failed to notice this was a fake cut away of Charlize Theron being offended by the boob song.
It was pre-recorded. Do your homework.

He also got booed for a joke about the assassination of Lincoln to which he retorted “150 years and still too soon?” and for asking Daniel Day Lewis how deep he got into character, and whether he tried to free Don Cheadle when he saw him in the parking lot.  Daniel Day-Lewis lolled his head off to that. He got it!

His Von Trapp joke, in which he restaged the escape of the Von Trapp family in The Sound of Music with his introduction of Christopher Plummer, was inventive and had a film reference in it. That was hilarious. An ode to cinema at the Oscars. SURELY NOT.

He introduced Meryl Streep by stating, “this person needs no introduction,” and then walked off the stage. LOL. If anything I would have liked him to go further, or perhaps push more buttons but I thought he was working safely within his remit. Plus he sang and danced a bit too. His shots at the audience seemed fairly safe and irreverent. Even old hat. He pointed out that George Clooney dates young women, (oh no, we didn’t realise) Daniel Day-Lewis method acts and some people who work in Hollywood are Jewish but Jesus, did you see Ted?

It could have been so much worse. Also America, watch Ricky Gervais' latest effort Derek, and see how someone falls from grace. I will say the musical performances were a bit...well bitty, it was less whiz-bangy then I expected, and dear God, did everyone's face look botoxed, but it seemed to have gained a sense of humour which was both edgy, interesting and not so masturbatory.

I hope he returns, and I hope all the journalists writing about how shit and offensive he was actually watch the ceremony, and unlike the Oscar judges, don't just follow the crowd. 


Ellen xo

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