Let's Talk Oscars
Entry 6: Who will be my generation’s Billy Crystal? An aged Will Ferrell?
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Hey, gang! I had such a good time watching this years Oscars!
No, I didn’t, really. But ABC’s Robin Roberts kept breathlessly saying words to that effect throughout the preshow, in what played like a heroic effort to wash her own brain, so I thought I’d follow suit.
No, in truth, I had merely an OK time. But my perspective is warped. I’d steeled myself for something far drearier. The first two hours moved along at a good pace, and the third only felt like it was 200 minutes long.
The Artist does not arouse great passion in me, but I remain—despite the best efforts of best actor Jean Dujardin, who last night tap-danced with a hamminess registering low on the Benigni scale of Euro- buffoonery —fond of the French. I found Ludovic Bource, Dujardin’s colleague and countryman, to be suave in his bearing, even if I did not share his enthusiasm for the Oscar percussionism of “Zheila E.,” whose band, in a minor accident of staging, had been corralled in an opera box. And I warmed to Bérénice Bejo, who was as refreshing as a breath mint and fresher than a pea shoot in her pale green gown.
Hey, by the way, may I drop some context on you? I took my laptop out to a bar to transcribe my notes, and I am now eavesdropping on a discussion about Bejo. One party has ventured that she—who is married to her director, Michel Hazanavicius—is, like, “the Rebecca Pidgeon of France.” Her interlocuter countered, “Nobody knows Rebecca Pidgeon. Everybody knows who what’s-her-name is.” Uh, touché?
With wins for The Artist, The Iron Lady, and the documentary Undefeated, producer Harvey Weinstein had the best night of anyone at the don’t-call-it-the-Kodak Theatre. Anthropologists devoted to studying high fives need to check out the swagger of the paw he planted on The Artist’s producer, Thomas Langmann, who looked like the love child of Diego Luna and Peter Lorre. Moreover, Weinstein’s wife, Georgina Chapman, runs the fashion label Marchesa, which also had big night: George Clooney’s special friend wore one of its dresses, and Clooney fondled its ass for the benefit of the red-carpet cameras.
So Harvey is most definitely back on top of the town. He may even once again reign as “the fucking sheriff of this fucking lawless piece-of-shit town," as he once described himself to New York Observer reporter Andrew Goldmsan, whom he had in a headlock at the time.
Dan is asking if I thought the moment presented by the Christopher Guest players—which mocked up a test-screening audience for The Wizard of Oz—was the only filmed bit that worked. I’m the wrong person to ask, having been pulled out of the moment by a line delivered by Fred Willard: “I play sax in the Cab Calloway band.” You see, because New Yorkers were watching the Oscars, we were not watching a swinging American Masters documentary on Calloway on Channel 13. (Stage whisper to everyone else: Viewers like you may be luckier. Check your listings.)
In any event, I was touched with the montages—directed by Capote’s Bennett Miller—that found actors talking about their movie love in terms that combine the directness of a confession and the energy of a pitch. The highlight may have been Robert Downey Jr., no stranger to bad vibes: “I want to be transported, not that where I am is intolerable, though it might be.”
I’m not going to complain about Billy Crystal. He is old and he is a comfort to many. I just want to look into the crystal ball and wonder who my own private Billy—the Billy of my generation—will be. Who will still feed me when I’m 64? Which SNL alum might develop into an Oscar host overstaying his welcome in the year 2030? Will Ferrell? Tina Fey? Kirsten Wiig? Now that I’m thinking about it, I wonder if, next year, it would be totally insane for Lorne Michaels to produce this show?
Can you explain why the telecast’s director held a long reaction shot of Steven Spielberg after Iran’s A Separation won best foreign film? I am tempted to interpret it as a breakout of a bizarre Hollywood-geopolitics fantasy where we root for Spielberg to pull a Munich on Ahmadinejad?
Can we bear to parse the Cirque de Soleil number?
What was the meaning of Angelina Jolie’s presenting her thigh? With what degree of irony did she proffer the limb? And what was the audience, admiring it, supposed to do? Have you heard any stories about parties spoiled when fanboys tried to lick the screen?
What did you make of the pinup popcorn girls marching the aisles? Did they inspire anyone else to make popcorn? Or were my defenses especially weak last night?
Dana, please explain me to myself.
Troy Patterson is Slate's television critic.