Gather Ye Ringwalds
I blushed upon your nominating me as Slate's Beau Brummell. If I believed I'd earned that distinction, then I would thank my custom-knitwear designer, the Barneys warehouse sale, and God, in that order. But come on: Christopher Hitchens is pretty styling whenever he undoes his third button to rock the BHL look.
I like where your head's at regarding songs and scores, but wouldn't a Crazy Heart sequel be titled Crazy Heart 2: Heart Crazier? Yes, it's too bad we won't hear "The Weary Kind." Instead, producers Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic are promising to put a total of 70 dancers on stage, which could be excitingly tasteless, given the level of good sensitivity demonstrated in a recent interview. Shankman told the AP that the show would steer clear of current events: "Neither Haiti nor Chile are nominated." Sheesh—so much for the rumors that San Andreas would pick up a surprise lifetime-achievement award.
A reader below chides us for not devoting even one word to the screenwriting categories. OK, here are 93 words about the screenwriting categories, not including the caveat that the whole of my prognostication technique is to imagine what would look good in congratulatory suck-up ads in Variety next week. Inglourious Basterds will win the Oscar for best original screenplay. Up in the Air, sure to strike out everywhere else, will win for best adapted screenplay, the beneficiary of an Oscar-race meta-narrative: It's Gotta Get Something. It also helps that Up in the Air is a savvy—and some would persuasively say smarmy—piece of work. The "should-win" entry in its category is In the Loop, with its plot deftly high-farcical and its dialogue missle-strike quick—so quick, in fact, that I wonder how many voters couldn't process the quips made in British accents.
But enough about film. Let's get down to what really matters: Glamour with a capital g that rhymes with d that stands for drool. Zadie Smith is sharp on the topic in "Ten Notes on Oscar Weekend," an essay in her recent collection Changing My Mind:
La La Land! Red carpets; semisacred actors in an exclusive Valhalla; parties beyond imagination; jewels beyond price. Over Oscar weekend, an automatic journalism rehashes these eternal ideas, the accounts in newspapers precisely matching the tall tales of the cab driver who brings you in from the airport.
It's a tasty piece—a clean modern cocktail mixed with the ice-cold extra-dry gin of Joan Didion's confessions, a rinse of Martin Amis' Moronic Inferno, the bitters of Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One, and a Day of the Locust garnish.
As long as I'm putting in plugs, I promise that you won't regret watching The Red Carpet Issue, an excellent hourlong documentary airing on Sundance throughout the next week. Director Olivier Nicklaus—who is French but soft-pedals his Tocqueville-izing—playfully maps the nexus of stars, reporters, photographers, artisans, luxury merchants, and mortals that has developed in the 15 years since Prada and Uma rewrote the rules. Among other things, the movie teaches us how to read the pre-show and guess which actresses might have made a $250,000 just for putting on their earrings: "If her hair is up or cut very short, she may well be getting a check."
The Red Carpet Issue offers something for everyone. For US Weekly readers, Nicklaus gets E! personalities to articulate how the game is played—and also to give tips on air-kiss-blowing. For the Esquire types, there are Euro-babes like Monica Bellucci, who charmingly explains that it's liberating to have "relationships" with fashion houses: "It's better to do a good commercial than a bad film." And—good God!—why had nobody told me about Anna Mouglalis? (One or two of the portraits I just linked to might be a teensy bit unsafe for work, but they're worth getting fired over.) Anyhow, Nicklaus also tosses the Social Text gang a bone by spinning golden oldies about the flow of images and the empire of signs. And fashionistas will be awed by the extraordinary access the filmmakers got to the House of Chanel, with Karl Lagerfeld giving the tangiest quote: "The red carpet can be a den of bad taste—be warned—with a femininity worthy of transvestites."
In the interest wrapping up quickly—I'm running late to a fitting with my haberdasher—I present you with three videos to entertain yourself with during the slow parts of the ceremony.
- Bob Dylan's "Things Have Changed" (from Wonder Boys) is one of my favorite Oscar-night musical performances. He was beamed in from Australia, and his face fills a screen in the auditorium like that of a god wheezing warnings about what the folly of the assembled shall sow. Or like Shoshanna's cackling over the Basterds inferno.
- "A Matter of Loaf and Death" is 50 hours away from an Oscar for best animated short.
- "Jersey Shore Presents: The Hurt Locker & Inglourious Basterds"
There's really no way to follow the Jersey Shore crew's Iraqi adventure—The Situation: "Yo, bro, put ya helmet on!" Pauly D: "I'm not puttin' my helmet on—it takes me 25 minutes to do my hair"— so I'll end with an air kiss here.
Troy Patterson is Slate's television critic.