Whadidya think, Dana?
This was easily the most enjoyable Oscar ceremony I can remember, though I must, of course, concede that it is the memory of a brain ravaged by the monotony of many previous Oscar ceremonies. But I only went 17 for 24 in predicting the winners, which wasn’t good enough to win the betting pool at the viewing party where I still linger, submitting myself to the glittery postgame sycophancies of the E! network. Thus, I am that much further from paying the legal fees resultant from my courtship of best supporting actress Penelope Cruz. Dang! Still, I must toot my own horn for successfully guessing the winners in each of the six major categories. It is a French horn of the type that should have played best actress Kate Winslet off the stage about 90 seconds into her rather plastic acceptance speech.
Host Hugh Jackman took the stage to what sounded like the theme from Lawrence of Arabia—discouraging music as it implied another long, long, long show. Indeed, the broadcast ran about the same length as the David Lean epic, without the benefit of any Bedouins, but it was far more lively than usual. The best fun was the first hour, when Jackman hustled through a riotous faux-low-budget tribute to notable nominated films. This was the show’s big nod to the economic climate. Introducing it, the Australia star said, “Next year, I’ll be starring in a movie called New Zealand.” (Nice—but would it have been funnier yet if he’d said Micronesia?) Jackman hustled heartily, capturing the right tone for a ceremony that felt conspicuously clubby and intimate even as it strove for grander grandeur.
To wit: In the presentation for each of the four acting categories, five previous winners appeared on stage, each addressing one of the nominees directly. For instance, before my darling Penelope could claim her prize, Eva Maria Saint, Angelica Huston, Whoopi Goldberg, Goldie Hawn, and Tilda Swinton made the scene like Superfriends or like they were about to jump the winner into a gang. (Hawn and Swinton presented quite a contrast in modesty, the former threatening to give her areolae some air, the latter seeming to wear a Slanket.) All in all, this method of presentation was a welcome development. Sometimes it radiated sweetness and the warmth of community; sometimes it felt like an open letter of a mentoring session; sometimes it was just funny, as when the roster of best actors appeared. Robert De Niro, Ben Kingsley, Anthony Hopkins, Adrien Brody, and, uh, Michael Douglas? One of these things is not like the other.
I’ve got much more to say—about Sarah Jessica Parker’s dress (with its Barbarella bustier and Cinderella skirt), about Robert Pattison’s pallor (was he still in costume from Twilight?), about the rather sophisticated autocritique of the Pineapple Express clip (a meta-stoner comedy?), about Beyoncé’s unfortunate top hat, about Sean Penn’s prop-8-aganda, about Mickey Rourke’s epic Saturday-night speech at the Independent Spirit Awards, about whether pink really is the navy blue of India. But first I need to hear our ad critic pal Seth Stevenson chime in with his ideas on whether I should buy my wife an anniversary present at JCPenney.