Oh sure, I've been hemming and hawing for months about how overrated I think Capote is, but that film gets a reprieve from my venom henceforth because the only award it won was the only award it deserved. Meanwhile, I had this horrible feeling as the night wore on that Crash was somehow going to take the Best Picture award. It started with all the Memoirs of a Geisha love and intensified when the eventual Best Picture winner took home the Best Editing prize. It was at that point that I said, "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout Willis!"
Look, I don't hate Crash as much as some; I even like parts of it a lot and would not have been disappointed at all had Matt Dillon won the Supporting Actor award (which he did do at the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday). But the film was probably the least deserving of all five Picture nominees (along with Capote), and to my mind, its win puts this year's awards right up there with the horrors of Driving Miss Daisy winning, or even Rain Man; or, as time goes on, the continued disbelief I encounter at the very thought of Kevin Costner and Dances With Wolves (a movie that is easily 30 minutes too long) beating Martin Scorsese and GoodFellas (a movie that is nearly-perfect) for director and picture.
I have to give credit where credit is due. IMing with Karina (the now-former editor of Cinematical) last night just before Director and Picture were announced, she nailed it. She said Ang Lee would win the Director prize but Crash would take home picture. I had that nervous feeling myself, but I didn't really believe they would split this year. But I guess what this proves is that Hollywood really isn't as liberal as everyone makes it out to be. In many ways, Crash was the safe choice, which is often the case with Best Picture winners.
In other news ...
In second place for worst award of the evening: Best Cinematography for Memoirs of a Geisha. I wasn't surprised by the Art Direction and Costume awards, but Cinematography? You've got to be kidding me. That movie was so damn dark, I literally couldn't see half of it. And how the hell do you give the prize for Cinametography to Geisha when its competition is the exquisite The New World, the stunning black & white (and integral black & white, which is the important part) Good Night, and Good Luck, and the brilliant Batman Begins, not to mention the lovely landscapes of Brokeback Mountain. Geisha didn't deserve a nomination, let alone an award.
Otherwise, I actually don't have much to say about the other prizes. They were all kind of predictable, and I wouldn't argue with any of the others even if personally I had other favorites in mind. George Clooney's torture scene in the otherwise annoying Syriana still gives me chills, and I have the utmost respect for the guy. Aside from being more talented (in front and behind the camera) than most people give him credit for, he's incredibly self-effacing, self-deprecating, and not at all full of himself. And even more importantly, I don't believe it's an act. Sure he comes from a famous background and had some help getting his first acting jobs, I'm sure, but he also struggled. He was on a lot of bad TV shows for a long time before he finally hit with ER, and I seriously believe he actually appreciates his success. I thought his acceptance speech was the best of the night, and even as he became a bit political, he did so in a way that was personal and reflective as opposed to demonstrative, bitchy and annoying.
The Academy must hire a new producer for this damn show. Every year everyone complains about how long the show is and every year Gil Cates continues to not do the very simple thing which would easily help cut between 15-30 minutes from the broadcast: get rid of all the celebratory montages, with the exception of the "In Memoriam" one. Anybody who has read this space knows that I am a huge fan of Film Noir, but that montage was totally unnecessary. Same goes for the earlier one featuring political/social activist films. It's not that the montages on their own aren't occasionally interesting and well-made; but they're certainly not necessary, and for a show that is always so bloated and last night ran over by 30 minutes, why include them? Everybody uses them as bathroom breaks anyway. The best part about the montages last night was that they allowed Jon Stewart to ad lib one of his best jokes of the evening about running out of film clips.
Before I talk about Stewart as host, one other gripe. What was with that ugly ass set? The Academy spends millions of dollars on this show and that set, so how did they wind up with a cheesy marquis and a hideous script-like font for the word "Oscar." It bugged me all night, as did the fact that they put up every presenter's name on the marquis. It wasn't just ugly; it was tacky. I know who the hell John Travolta is -- you don't need to throw his name up there. And as a side note on the production, that number for the song from Crash? WTF?!?
Jon Stewart: I love him, and I think overall he did a great job, but he also suffered the same fate as Chris Rock the year before, something which I also blame on Gil Cates' stodgy, tired, old production: Stewart is simply too cool for the room, and whatever he was trying to do, I kept seeing the hand of conservative AMPAS and producer Cates saying, "Don't go too far." I think it took him a while to warm up; I think many of his adlibs were better than much of the written material, although the Bjork/Dick Cheney joke totally made me laugh. The Three 6 Mafia/Scorsese ad lib was pretty funny too. But these back-to-back performances by Rock and Stewart -- two of the funniest men on earth -- simply go to prove that the Oscars are the hardest room in town. I thought he acquitted himself well. He was funny. He moved the show along when he was able to do so. But of course, the other problem which both Stewart and Rock encountered and is again directly related to Cates' crappy production, is that when the show starts to run long, the host has to disappear. So you get all the written material and the adlibs out of the way and suddenly you run through two screenplay awards, director and picture, and maybe even first an acting prize or two, and the host is nowhere to be seen. I'd love to see Stewart come back and do it again. I thought the opening bit with all the previous hosts passing was also pretty funny a better kick-off to the show than that stupid, way-too-long animated sequence which was totally forgettable (and in fact, completely forgotten until someone this morning asked me what I thought of it).
I think that's it. I'm over Oscar this year. I'm too busy right now, and that Crash win pisses me off too much. As much as I loved lots of films this year, it wasn't an extraordinary year for movies, just a very good one. On to predicting 2006 ...