Let's Talk Oscars
Entry 5: A nightmare of bad jokes, worse timing, boring awards, and uninspired spectacle. What did you guys think?
Still of Bérénice Bejo and Jean Dujardin in The Artist.
© 2011 The Weinstein Company. All rights reserved.
If you had told me one year ago today that this year’s best picture winner would be a foreign, indie, mostly silent, black-and-white mash note to the golden age of cinema, I would have thought, well, great, that’s exactly the kind of crazy thing the Oscars should reward! Better that than some big-studio Prestige Picture foofaraw, or a Cliffs Notes biopic, or an issue picture that’s 50 years behind the times. And I would have been pretty excited about Guy Maddin winning an Oscar.
Well, even if Michel Hazanavicius did bite Maddin’s style, I didn’t mind the parade of goofy French people climbing up on stage to thank the academy in charmingly stilted fashion as Michel and Bérénice looked on, their wild grins saying, basically, “Can you believe this merde?” I think my favorite surreal only-at-the-Oscars moment in any speech tonight was Ludovic Bource, the winner for best original score, gesturing up to the balcony to say, “Zhank you Zheila E. and all the musicians.” That’s right: He thanked Sheila E. but not Bernard Herrmann.
It was clear when Meryl beat Viola that my Driving Miss Skeeter theory of The Help’s ascendance was not to be. (As predicted, I lost five bucks at the neighbors’ Oscar party, although my The Help Chocolate Cream Pie Martini was a big hit.) Meryl’s speech, self-effacingly self-aggrandizing, was a highlight of the night, and what I think we’ll look back fondly upon 10 years from now even as it takes us some serious brain-Googling to figure out what won best picture. And she deserved that standing ovation, as did Christopher Plummer; I’d like to think that if the audience had known they were soon to give those standing Os they might have thought twice before leaping to their feet for Octavia Spencer, who is very talented but maybe not yet in those guys’ league.
What did you guys think of the ceremony? Are we agreed that the only thing worse than Billy Crystal was Billy Crystal’s enunciation? That seeing Figwit win an Oscar almost made up for not hearing his song? That the Christopher Guest mini-mockumentary about the Wizard of Oz focus group was the only video package that worked? (I feel churlish saying such a thing, but even the In Memoriam segment was kind of a dud—a parade of names in a classy font with little offered in the way of context for anyone who wasn’t, say, Elizabeth Taylor.) That the prettiest dress of the night was worn by best documentary short winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy? That the Bridesmaids, in general, did some excellent presenting work? (Scorsese! Drink!) That the very idea of Christopher Plummer saluting his fellow nominee “Jonah” is basically unbelievable? That Descendants co-screenwriter Jim Rash transformed his career with his Angelina-esque leg, cocked forward just so as Alexander Payne gave his acceptance speech? And that despite these lovely moments and many more, the show was generally awful, a Crystal-meth nightmare of bad jokes, worse timing, boring awards, and uninspired spectacle?
So sorry, Greg P. Russell!
Dan Kois is a senior editor at Slate and a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine.