Let's Talk Oscars

A Statue for Michelle Williams and Other Oscar Wishes That Won't Come True
All about the Academy Awards.
Feb. 25 2011 11:50 AM

Let's Talk Oscars

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Actress Michelle Williams. Click image to expand.
Michelle Williams, Oscar nominee

Oh, Troy,

Dana Stevens Dana Stevens

Dana Stevens is Slate's movie critic.

Your last post made me wish I shared both your verbal acumen and your Oscar-viewing tradition. I love that you watch the ceremony with the same group of friends every year, and that you already know which one will be holding forth on the significance of Trent Reznor's rock legacy.

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My own Oscar viewing patterns have changed radically since becoming a movie critic. I used to view the Oscars as a night of fun and frivolity; I'd go to house parties where we wore thrift-store prom dresses and drank champagne and made lasagna, yelling in from the kitchen to ask who just won what. These days, I watch the show alone, in a state of hyperfocused attention—not because I'm invested in the outcome, but because I'm wondering what I can possibly bring to the conversation that's new. But I don't mean to suggest that Oscar night is all work and no play. I'll stock up on good snacks and a better-than-usual bottle of wine, and there is that one friend who calls me during commercial breaks to analyze the dresses.

And now can I stand up for The Kids Are All Right? I know there was a school of thought that found the movie staid and sappy, Lifetime-movie-of-the-week-ish. All I can say is that I wasn't among them. I found the script sharp and funny and the tone of mild social satire pleasantly Eric Rohmer-esque (even if the movie this year that most evoked the late French director was Mike Leigh's Another Year—a near-perfect tragicomedy of manners that was nominated for best diddly-squat). And then there was Annette Bening, turning on a dime from imperious to petty to fragile to droll. Compare that library of human emotions to Natalie Portman's two hours of frantic wide-eyed scampering in Black Swan. (The estimable blogger Sheila O'Malley delivers a delicious encomium to Bening's performance, and a fair assessment of the shortcomings of Portman's, here.)

I know better than to show up with a wish list to the Oscars—it'll just wind up crumpled in front of the TV in a puddle of tears—but it would be a kick to see Bening pull off a best-actress upset. Though if I could really custom-design my own ceremony, I'd probably hand the statuette to Michelle Williams for that incredible vanishing act of a performance in Blue Valentine.

As for what question I would tweet-ask a nominee: Of course I'd have to administer sodium pentathol to get a straight answer, but I'd like to get Banksy to level with us about the extent to which graffiti-artist-wannabe Thierry Guetta was in on the Exit Through the Gift Shop joke. The movie makes pretty explicit that Guetta's wildly successful career as the street artist "Mr. Brainwash" was enabled by the imprimatur of Banksy's art-world stardom. But was Guetta a collaborative co-prankster or an unwitting dupe? Knowing the answer to this might change my experience of the film—but either way (with the proviso that I haven't yet seen the Afghanistan war doc Restrepo) it's my favorite to win in the documentary category.

So on Sunday night, as you revel with friends and I huddle anxiously in the blue TV-screen light, shall we tweet? Or do you want to save your impressions till we reconvene here Monday morning?

Yours in solidarity,

Dana

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