Monday, February 23, 2009

If there's no Oscar party, did the show actually happen?

I watched last night's Oscars even though my heart wasn't really in it. My friends and I didn't have our usual party this year, so it was just Kate and I at my apartment eating Indian food and frozen yogurt. (We did honor the spirit of the party by sticking to Best Picture nominee-themed food.) I'd only seen two of the five Best Picture nominees and a couple of the other movies. 2008 was a bad year for me for the Oscar contenders. As a result, I didn't have my normal level of investment in the awards ceremony. But when it came time for the show, I couldn't stay away.

I enjoyed Hugh Jackman's attempts to liven up the proceedings. His opening musical number was funny, but I could have done without the salute to movie musicals later in the show. Every year the show's producers throw in a salute to something or other, and unless it's done exceptionally well, it falls flat. The presenters were forgettable, except for Tina Fey and Steve Martin, who I think should host the show next year. They had the best material and have the kind of comic timing that most hosts have to fake. When he wasn't singing, Jackman was invisible. Maybe that was part of the show's format changes, but I like the show better when the host pokes fun at the stars and their reactions.

At first, I liked the way the presented the acting awards, with five former winners each saluting the nominees. Christopher Walken could have brought Joel Grey out in his suit pocket. But by 11:30, I just wanted the show to be over. Instead, we had to sit through tributes to the Best Actor and Best Actress nominees, and the segments dragged. (Plus, I might have been the only one to notice this, but in the Best Actor category, one of the former winners they trotted out was Anthony Hopkins. Another former winner introduced Frank Langella and said something that his performance as Nixon was instantly the best one the movies had ever seen. I checked on IMDB, and my memory was correct: in 1995, Hopkins was nominated for the same award for his performance as Nixon in "Nixon." I wonder if his reaction to the praise for Langella was "yes, that's right, Frank's work was much better than mine in the same role," or if instead he thought "Hey, Oscar writers, I'm right here!")

The whole show felt forced, like those of us watching at home were all going to have a good time no matter how miserable we all might be. Next year my friends and I will have to bring back the party. While I enjoyed relaxing at home without a crowd and the corresponding mess, we always have fun when we watch the Oscars as a group. And it would be better for my eating habits. I'm still full from last night's chicken curry.

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