Tuesday, March 01, 2011


The Oscars are over for another year. Done and dusted. The month-long barrage of pre-show promos with Hathaway and Franco was more relentless than funny. But those ads still outclassed anything the duo managed to pull off on the actual show. Granted their writers did them no favours. But even apart from the material, Franco seemed – if not zoned out – then at least majorly preoccupied. Hathaway was in Liza Minnelli mode, channellng that studied giddiness and “spontaneous” giggle that Liza worked to death decades ago. The two seem like nice people. And I doubt their movie careers will suffer any negative fall-out from the jumbo-sized egg they laid . But I wouldn’t expect the Academy to be pestering them for a repeat performance. I have a mental image of the pair proving what good sports they are by appearing on SNL to do a parody of their disastrous Oscar gig. And, you know what, that won’t be funny either.

When Billy Crystal strode onstage partway through the proceedings you could almost feel the audience’s urge to leap up and shout “Don’t Go away!.” But he did – and the lameness settled in more or less permanently. I fully expect to see the Academy courting Crystal for hosting duties in 2012. Not much about the night actually sparkled. Still, though I’m no Russell Brand fan, his shtick with Helen Mirren was well-written and nicely played. Bullock was smooth. Gwyneth Paltrow looked fine in the audience. But onstage for her song , it was all deathly pallor and sour grimacing. It’s been noted elsewhere that Randy Newman’s been nominated umpteen times for writing the same song. In his defense, I can only say occasionally he varies the tempo. And some years it wins. This turned out to be one of those years. And the usual king’s ransom in flashy gowns was duly displayed. But as the years go by, the actresses wearing them seem less and less able to walk from point A to point B with any semblance of grace. Most of them ambled up to the podium like gussied up cowhands. Oh for the days of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer poise classes! Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem’s joint appearance had them looking like grimy prisoners in a spaghetti western jail who – for some convoluted reason – had been crammed into white dinner jackets three sizes too small and pushed out for a slow trot around the prison yard. But the award for scruffiest pairing of the night had to go to a cadaverous Matthew McConaughey (who looked an awful lot like the character Bale played in THE FIGHTER) and Scarlett Johansson whose hair had just lost a fight with a mix-master. If they were going for the “two drunks who’ve just been thrown out of a seedy tavern” look, then, mission accomplished.

As for the distribution of awards, well, THE KING’S SPEECH took the big ones, as predicted. And I was relieved when Portman’s name was actually called. All that press buzz about Bening making a last-minute surge had me a bit worried. Normally, I’m all for Bening, but I found THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT just too smugly entrenched in its own political correctness. And I really did think Portman was the best in the field. She certainly had the best-looking dress of the night. Almost as good as that killer green number Angelina Jolie wore to the Globes (you know, when she was fixing Brad’s tie).

My prediction that Melissa Leo’s Oscar season shenanigans would cost her the trophy proved dead wrong. I’ll never understand why this performance was so universally acclaimed but it obviously was. As far as I’m concerned, her Oscar night antics brought her string of crass ungainly acceptance speeches to a fittingly shrill crescendo. Determined as ever to be the one everybody notices, she gasped and hollered and vogued and cussed. With a hapless Kirk Douglas caught reeling as collateral damage in her all-purpose spin dryer. But as I’ve said before, there’s no denying the fact that Leo’s talented. After her (richly deserved) FROZEN RIVER nomination a couple of years ago, I believe she was trying to get a particular movie project off the ground. A film about the making of WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE. With her new Oscar-winning clout, perhaps she can now make it happen. I see Leo as Joan Crawford and – ideally – Susan Sarandon as Bette Davis. The set might be fraught. But I have a feeling the onscreen results could be an awful lot of fun