The Oscars

The Franco-Rogen Bit Deserves a Dissertation

Dana and Seth,

It has indeed been a pleasure, and Seth was indeed onto something in marveling at Sophia Loren’s choker and the head-body dichotomy its presence suggested. He’s got a keen eye for detail. Daring to look at the big picture, I myself thought Loren looked—all due respect, signora—like a brothel madam from an old-time planet of lizard people.

The monthslong Oscar party is done, and the hangover is a little less tolerable than usual, maybe the worst in the three years since Crashbested four pictures you’d want to see a second time (or even, for that matter, a first time). Also, bubbles go straight to the head, and the joyful fizziness of last night’s Slumdog Millionaire production number contributes to the headache: Picking up the Diana Vreeland maxim I invoked earlier, it is possible that the navy blue of India is actually saffron. But pink pops better on screen.

Speaking of screens, a riot nearly erupted at my Oscar party during the in-memoriam montage, which was the worst of its kind on record. We were frustrated by seeing images of the remembered dead on too many small and various screens within the Kodak Theatre, a tableau captured by ceaselessly moving cameras, as if the director were Paul Thomas ADD-erson. We couldn’t get a good look at any of the honorees until the end, when Paul Newman flickered back to life in the fullness of the frame, so hot that four female guests spontaneously deliquesced.

In a separate but related problem—the problem of screens within screens, that is, not of the melting women—the show would frequently present video of a nominee in a small box on the screen while, in a faint blue, in smaller boxes yet, sundry snippets of nominated films flashed in the background. Which character evinced a talent for appearing in one of the smaller boxes at sober moments? You guessed it—Po from Kung Fu Panda.

There are two final crumbs of Oscagraphy among my artichoke-dip-stained notes:

  • The most grating aspect of Penn’s speech was the show of self-congratulation in his salute to Gus Van Sant. To paraphrase, what Penn said was, Either a director yields to my brilliance or he does not; Gus Van Sant does, and I therefore thank him.
  • The Franco-Rogen bit deserves a full-length critical appraisal. By full-length, I mean a Ph.D. dissertation tricked out with all the jargon about the contingency of gender performance and reader-response approaches to the late Pirandello. For starters, it had five or six layers of media analysis. (Franco: “Who do you think is a better actor, Ronald Reagan or Barack Obama?”) It rendered strange the familiar Apatovian ideas about masculinity and dude-hood. And it reimagined The Reader as a stoner comedy, a piece of criticism roughly in the same ballpark as Jackman’s terrific reduction of it, in the opening number, to something like the time on Sprockets when we dance.

And with that, we may safely leave the Academy Awards behind—actually, no, no we may not: The push for a supporting actress nomination for Mo’Nique in 2010 has already begun, and her movie doesn’t even yet have a release date. I can already sense the backlash to The Lovely Bones backlash beginning to lash back. And I have already made plans to spend next January in Los Angeles, where I will be campaigning personally for Penélope (for both Nine and Broken Embraces) with the passion of a Kenyon College junior canvassing Ohio for Obama.

Join me, won’t you?