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Oscar diary

Here are some notes taken during last night’s broadcast of the Oscars while I watched it with my associate YH.

8 pm,  The Red Carpet

 As usual, inane, shrill, tasteless  and with its sheer awfulness making the following broadcast seem like it was written by George Bernard Shaw.

A sample: Miley Cyrus, referring apparently to her upcoming film “Hannah Montana: the Movie,” says to her red carpet interviewer that she hopes to be back at the ceremony next year, one assumes as a nominee. To which YH responds, “She’s fucking delusional.” I’m not so sure.

Also of interest are comments by the music and set directors of the ceremony, who say things like “the theme from ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ with a Xavier Cugat beat” and explain how they want the set to evoke a magical nightclub of the 1930s or the Coconut Brove in 1840. Weren’t the 30s the Depression? Didn’t the Coconut Grove burn down in 1940? Maybe the show reflects the mood of America more than I thought.

And they add, “we want people to say, I want to be there. Look how much fun they’re having.”

Actually, I’m tempted to switch to AMC to watch the last half hour of “Patton.”

8:30 p.m, Hugh Jackman’s opener

I’m a fan of Jackman, but I got to say for the first few minutes of his energetic but largely laugh free song montage about the Best Picture nominees left me thinking, what’s Billy Crystal doing these days? Plus the outsourcing -- couldn’t they get an American to do this? It picks up as they get into “Frost/Nixon” and he enlists Ann Hathaway from the audience to play Tricky Dick in a weirdly erotic duet. She may not get the Best Actress, but as YH points out, she should get the best sportsmanship award.

 Another observation: the faux gimcrack sets, allegedly from Jackman’s cellar, that he had to resort to because of “budget cuts.” More Depression gloom, inadvertently emphasized by Philip Seymour Hoffman’s strange attire, some kind of black turban or toque and what looks like an army blanket thrown over  his shoulders, his expression one of bemused despair , as if he haad spent the day rewatching “Synecdoche, New York.” Or, as YH puts it, “it looks like he should be sitting next to a barrel with a fire in it.”

8:42 p.m, Best Supporting Actress

This year’s innovation. Have five past supporting actress award winners step out of boxes or cryogenic tanks or careers of everlasting obscurity and descend ramps to the stage to confront the nominees with their accomplishments,. It’s like some kind of Illuminati initiation rite. Penélope Cruz wins -- and thanks Pedro Almodovar for making the movies she should have won the Oscar for. And what are those spots on the screen? She looks like she’s being attacked by the orbs of light in “America’s Most Haunted.”

So are we having fun yet? Is?  YH says: “Why is Kung Fu Panda there? Why won’t he go away?” (referring to the background screen repeated loop image from the movie making the Panda’s face even more ubiquitous than that of Angelina Jolie)  And: “I don’t want to be there, with the spots and the Whole Foods brown bag dresses and Goldie Hawn’s face.”

Well, at least I got one prediction right.

8:55 p.m, Tina Fey and Steve Martin and the screenwriting Oscars

 How about this pair hosting next year’s bash? Also, it’s going to be hard to top Dustin Lance Black’s acceptance speech and his reminder that this is all happening in a state that voted to ban gay marriage. This also makes Sean Penn’s edging out Mickey Rourke for Best Actor look more likely.

On the other hand, things are starting to look a little grim for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” which leads all films with 13 nominations. So far it’s two up and two down Will “Benjamin Button be the “Color Purple” of 2009 (Spielberg’s deadly 1985 adaptation of the Alice Walker novel got eleven nominations and no wins)

9:08 Best Animated Feature and Short; Jack Black and Jennifer Aniston

No surprise with “Wall-E.” Nor for me for the Short, “Le Maison de Cubes,” which I had predicted. One reason might be because they knew the Japanese guy who made it would keep the acceptance speech short (“Thank you! Staff! Thank You! Academy”) Usually the shorter the film the longer the speech.

9:14 pm. “Pre-production” awards

We were just wondering what happened to Hugh when he returns for what is traditionally the most boring part of the night, the Art Direction, Costume, Make-Up and what have you awards, the only place it looks like that “Button” might pick up a few crumbs. In an attempt to add interest this year they are structuring the awards so they parallel the actual making of a movie, going from, apparently, the casting of Best Supporting Actress to screenplay and then to this stuff. But what’s most memorable about this segment, fittingly perhaps, are the sets, which are supposed to look like they’re “backstage” but in fact look like some derelict factory or warehouse with piles of dusty boxes, mattresses nailed to the wall, where the armies of those impoverished by oncoming financial collapse will probably end up living, where, judging from his appearance, Philip Seymour Hoffman lives today.

9:31 Best cinematography, Ben Stiller and Natalie Portman

 This is the direction they have to take this show. The proper attitude is absurdity, irony and parody. The unsurprising award to “Slumdog”  is followed by a Judd Apatow short Seth Rogen and James Franco in their roles from “Pineapple Express” watching snippets from “Doubt” and the “The Reader” and laughing hysterically! No wonder Hoffman is miserable. Franco should have gotten Hoffman’s nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role in “Express.”

And if there was any justice that bit should get a nomination for the Best Live Action Short of 2009. Meanwhile, Rogen and Franco are giving out this year’s, to “Spiegelzeugland,” (as I predicted!)

9:57 p.m. “The Musical is Back!”

So why are you talking about “Momma Mia?” Jackman gamely sets forth on a production number that looks like the one in "Blazing Saddles" andis one more reason for Tina Fey and Steve Martin to host next year since they probably won’t sing and dance. And also why Baz Luhrman, who produced this incomprehensible number, should never be allowed to make another musical.

10:08 Best Supporting Actor

Here they come again, lurching forth like the undead! Speaking of which, there’s no suspense about who’s going to win it. One amusing moment: Alan Arkin introducing “Seymour Philip Hoffman.”

Heath Ledger’s family accepts. Surprisingly tasteful, low key,  and frankly dull.

10:14 Best Documentary


Goes to “Man on Wire,” the subject of which, aerialist and magic man Philippe Petit, balances the Oscar on his chin and makes a coin disappear to the delight of the crowd!  YH: “I think we’ve forgotten about Heath Ledger now.”

10:27 p.m

YH: “I’m a little bored now.”

10:56 Best Score and Song production numbers

A. R. Rahman, superstar in India, has now conquered the world. Let the Bollywood explosion in Hollywood begin.

11:07 Best Foreign Language Film

First major injustice of the evening -- “Departures” beats out “Waltz With Bashir.” Not to say I told you so, but I saw that coming.

11:19 p.m. Best Director

At last we have found someone who adds credibility to the ceremony’s music director’s prediction that people will say that these people are having fun. Danny Boyle is having fun. As YH says, “He’s the anti-Seymour Philip Hoffman.”

11:30 Best Actress

I finally figured out what this new presentation system reminds me of: a game show.  “American Idol,” maybe, or “America’s Next Top Model.”  Or maybe even “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.” I must say that although I really disliked “the Reader,” Winslett’s speech had some class.

11:43 p.m. Best Actor

The last category with any uncertainty, Penn beats out Rourke. The speech tarts funny, then reminds the country what a bunch of bigots and fascists we are.

11:52 p.m. Best Picture 

As the Mumbai kids crowded the stage and the Oscar went to “Slumdog,” I kept thinking how nice it would have been if Billy Crystal was there to say, “Jack Palance is the father of all those children”

My prediction scorecard:(of those published) 12 out of 12.

(Best Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor and Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay, Editing and Cinematography, Best Foreign Language Film, Best Live Action and Animated Shorts).

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