Ruminations on the 85th Annual Academy Awards

The 2013 Academy Award for Best Actor In A Leading Role went to Daniel Day-Lewis for his magnificent performance in Lincoln, shocking approximately no one. Presenter Meryl Streep didn’t even bother to look twice at her envelope, and Mr. Day-Lewis himself seemed just a tiny bit bored with winning so many awards. Despite the fact that ol’ double-D L is my favorite actor, I personally was unmoved. Not because I didn’t think Mr. Day-Lewis was amazing as Lincoln, but simply because, well… Daniel Day-Lewis was amazing as Lincoln, but he’s almost always perfect. Watching him topple Joaquin Phoenix was like watching Ivan Drago pummel Rocky out of existence. Watching Daniel Day-Lewis defeat Denzel Washington was like seeing Goliath eat David… seeing him stomp Hugh Jackman was like watching Apocalypse destroy Wolverine. Watching him beat Bradley Cooper was like seeing the Persians win in 300… which I guess they technically did do, so I suppose I’ve created a perfect metaphor. The point is, Daniel Day-Lewis was whatever the opposite of an underdog is. A mighty titan in his field, it seemed no one could take him down. And no one did. And no one was the tiniest bit surprised when no one did. And that typifies the Oscars for the year of our Lord 2013.

Daniel Day-Lewis at the 2013 Oscars

I’m not really qualified to discuss the subject of the Academy Awards because I haven’t watched them for many moons. I’m not really sure what they’re supposed to be at this point, but in theory it’s something to do with honoring high-quality films. In practice, you end up watching a bunch of people whose films are “high-quality” in the same way as the Tokyo Subway Attacks were a “relaxed way to spend an afternoon.” There were presenters like Paul Rudd, star of Halloween: the Curse of Michael Myers, and Melissa McCarthy, star of Whale Wars, who looked terrified. Kristen Stewart’s droning monotone proved she can’t even pretend to have a personality for sixty seconds. She hobbled about on crutches, presumably after being crippled by Jesus for brazenly considering herself to be an ‘actress.’ Shouldn’t these people have to make a decent movie first, or is that actually asking too much? When gigantic, angry leprechaun Liam Neeson shuffled out to present an award, he was a breath of fresh air because at least he was trying to be as scary as possible, instead of attempting humor like everyone else.

When I was but a lad, I followed the Oscars fairly closely. The older I got, the more I realized that they were just a non-offensive, purely political way for those in the film industry to put on tuxedos and choke their chickens. I understand that pretty much everyone knows this and it’s no secret, but I was a bit slow on the uptake, largely due to a childhood spent huffing paint in quantities most doctors and housepainters would deem “unhealthy.” I did realize that the Oscars are pure sham, fully and irrevocably, right around the time Return of the King won Best Picture. Coincidence? That’s between me and the being Ang Lee refers to as “Movie God.” Since then they’ve increased the amount of films nominated for Best Picture from five to nine for no practical reason that I can discern, other than perhaps creating more hope in the world to crush. They’ve also lately had hosts like James Franco attempt to damage their credibility as much as possible.

Just because they’re a farce with no meaning doesn’t mean they can’t be fun, though; after all, what is life itself, if not a farce with no meaning that can sometimes be fun? Are the Academy Awards not a perfect metaphor for day to day life? Get up, get dressed, and go through the motions; politely ignoring the fact that you neither know nor care about ninety percent of these people and are just here for the attractive ones.

So I decided to watch the show this time around, because I was curious about Seth MacFarlane as a host and I hoped to see Anne Hathaway win and Tommy Lee Jones lose. I’m still a little shocked by the amount of popularity MacFarlane has managed to net himself, but he is a likable and charismatic host, and the fact that he sings pretty well gives him something on Billy Crystal. He did a fine job, albeit as polite and unoffensive as any other host. I do have to admit his joke about the actor that really got into Lincoln’s head being John Wilkes Booth was worth a chuckle, and at least he seemed sincere when he admitted his film Ted was a mediocre effort, before inexplicably introducing the titular teddy bear from that picture to present an award.

I was charmed to see Anne Hathaway get her Oscar, because I thought she killed in the otherwise pedestrian and uninteresting Les Miserables. As much as I do think Tommy Lee Jones did a good job playing a cranky lizard man in Lincoln, I wanted him to lose because it seems like he’s always a cranky lizard man. If you disagree, please watch Lincoln and Batman Forever back to back. It warmed my black soul when Christoph Waltz deftly severed Tommy’s Lee Jones, because I enjoyed Django and couldn’t get enough of Waltz’s dark dentist character.

Speaking of Django: Quentin Tarantino took the Best Original Screenplay award and his speech was, in a word, beautiful. He didn’t thank an assortment of trivial nobodies; he didn’t try to highlight the plight of orphans in Bangladesh; he didn’t attempt to make awkward jokes in his ‘just won an Oscar terror’ voice. Instead, Mr. Tarantino spent the majority of his time on stage essentially bestowing appreciation upon Quentin Tarantino, and explaining how the characters he created would live on forever as icons. He made a half-hearted attempt to thank his cast, but ended up seeming to take the credit since he was the one who cast them. Let’s be real: his true inspiration was himself. Classy. Or at least entertaining.

There was a tribute to the James Bond films, as they’ve now reached their 50th anniversary, and the Academy must have faced a doozy of a humdinger of a conundrum over which legendary thespian was worthy to be spokesperson for that great and classic franchise. There are so many prodigious talents that have helped shape that great series over the years. Sean Connery. Christopher Lee. Daniel Craig. Christopher Walken. Paul McCartney. Diana Rigg. Ursula Andress.  Or, if they just wanted someone hot, they could have called Eva Green. Or Famke Janssen, or even Denise Richards. They could have gotten Peter Dinklage to pretend to be Herve Villechaize. Really, they had unlimited options. They could have asked anyone except Halle Berry. Nothing against her personally, but Mad Cow Disease would have made a better Bond Girl than her. Seriously, she was, like, the worst Bond girl ever – not one of the worst, the absolute worst ever– why did they ask her to talk up the tribute? Have these people even seen Die Another Day? That movie, and Ms. Berry’s performance therein, are a fecal blemish on Bond’s record and should really be redacted from the canon rather than celebrated. But it was nice to see that Shirley Bassey can still sing Goldfinger despite being over a century old.

When it came time to present Best Picture, they brought Jack Nicholson up on stage. I tittered with excitement, thrilled to see him again because I’ve been a big fan, but he then turned the podium over to a videoconference with First Lady Michelle Obama, who rambled for forty five minutes about how magical the movies are. Uh… okay, well, I suppose movies are pretty great, yeah… oh, okay, Argo won? I didn’t see it.

Well, at least I gave it the old college try. I have actually seen very few of the nominated films, but I suppose it was a decent show overall. Next time, I will make more of an effort to huff a bunch of paint before the telecast.

2 Comments on Ruminations on the 85th Annual Academy Awards

  1. It is odd, while I appreciate that Daniel Radcliffe has tried to distance himself from Harry Potter, it does beg the question: what is he doing up there? It’d be like Seth Rogan or Shia Le’beef’ presenting an award.

    You certainly wouldn’t expect Michael Bay to present something to an esteemed director.

    And why have nominees at all if you’re not going to show the criteria or points they earned? I still don’t know what it’s based off of. Is the best musical score based upon how you felt while watching? Is Best Picture given for topical story and cinematography? Give me numbers and points damnit.

    Course, they’d benefit greatly by giving out honorable awards for the worst movies of 2012, that’d engage me. They have nominees to have losers right? Why not have all of them.

    • The Oscars are supposedly chosen by industry professionals who vote only within their own field. Ideally, this would mean that they, being the pros, would have insight into the craft that us peasants would not and would vote accordingly. Being a ballot, though, they’re not required to give any reason whatsoever and presumably all have their own way of coming to their decisions, so I guess there’s no way of knowing if the choices were made based on the emotional respons elicited by the work, the technical virtuosity, or just the popularity (it’s probably the popularity). I agree that some kind of point system would make it more interesting… maybe a panel of advisors like they do with the Nobel Peace Prize? After all, if it’s good enough for the Nobel Peace Prize, it’s damn well good enough for the Academy Awards.

      As far as ‘worst’ movies go, there’s always the Razzies, I guess.

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