Oscar Telecast Report Card
As of 4am, I've already watched the telecast twice, and I'm sure these won't be the last. Fair enoughthat's pretty much how I roll anyway. But this year actually felt special. Tomorrow or the next day, after I've caught up on some sleep, I might run through some more of the particular highs and lows for this broadcast, but I can't go to bed without sharing Numero Uno:
The Focus on Film Somehow, Oscar almost never takes this obvious lesson, but the Academy Awards show should entertain a wide audience while also serving an ambassadorial, gently informative purpose for all of the arts it recognizes within commercial filmmaking. Repeatedly, Laura Ziskin's telecast bridged the gap between insider know-how and popular perspectives by bringing the "technical" awards (which really are artistic awards!) to clear, thrilling life: through the brilliant use of the Sound Effects chorus, the multi-screen demonstrations of film editing, the well-staged tableaus of the nominated costumes, the snapshots of sound engineers and visual effects supervisors practicing their crafts in quick, clear glimpses. The montage of scenes from Foreign Language-Film winners ceded a well-earned spotlight to a perennially trivialized category, making a good case for viewers to follow up on La Strada and Z and Dersu Uzala and Closely Watched Trains. Errol Morris' opening montage of nominees was also equalizing and accommodating of a full range of nominees, ranging from celebrity actors to documentarians to composers. For once, this show actually seemed to love the cinema, not just the clothes and the self-congratulation, and it demonstrated an eagerness to explain and to share that love.
Otherwise... Hooray for Marty and The Departed and the lovely, articulate Thelma Schoonmaker, Hooray for the heartwarming win for The Danish Poet in Animated Short Film, Hooray for new Oscar winner Ari Sandel's lovely stump-speech on behalf of live-action short films, Hooray for Al and Leo's earnest pitch about Greening the Oscars and resisting climate change (which made its point beautifully without coming across as flaky or empty idealism, like Richard Gere turning on his heart-light to Mao Tse-tung), Hooray for Ellen, Hooray for deft play-along improvs from Scorsese, Streep, Eastwood, and Wahlberg, Hooray for Robert Downey Jr. shucking the TelePrompTer and cracking a great joke, Hooray to Ennio Morricone for expressing his gratitude and generosity in Italian, Hooray to Clint Eastwood for translating on the spot, and a huge Hooray to the speeches by Forest Whitaker, Melissa Etheridge, Alan Arkin, Michael Arndt, Milena Canonero, and all of the others that implied a strong sense of the winners' individual personality while also saying something clear, admirable, diplomatic, and impassioned that all of us could relate to. A shame about Jerry Seinfeld, the writers-on-film montage, the Jack/Will/John schtick, and the same old boring-presenter twaddle, but all in all, this was an exemplary telecast. A