Surprises at the Oscars
Considering that just about all of my picks for last night's Oscars were wrong, I thought there were a lot of surprises in the winners. My favorite movie, Zero Dark Thirty, was shut out of every award (besides that tie for Sound Editing,) so though I didn't agree with many of the winners, at least the awards got spread around a bunch of different movies, with no clear overall winning movie. If a piece of conventional rom-com mediocrity like Silver Linings Playbook can win a major award (Best Actress), at least a great movie like Django Unchained can take two (Supporting Actor and Original Screenplay.)
Same thing goes for Life of Pi, a visually beautiful and technically amazing movie that was pretty thin on every other aspect of moviemaking. Was Ang Lee the best director of the year? Probably not. But I take great comfort in knowing that a (generally) wonderful director like Ang Lee now has two Best Director Oscars, and Ben Affleck has zero.
Speaking of which, I wonder if Argo would have become such a popular choice for Best Picture if Affleck had been nominated for Best Director, and the Academy hadn't been driven to reconsider its lukewarm response to the movie when the nominations were decided? The directors' branch of the Academy, who shut Affleck out, wasn't nearly as impressed with the movie as the Academy as a whole was. Either way, whenever two different movies win Best Picture and Best Director (like when Crash won Best Picture,) it usually means they got at least one award wrong. In my opinion, both winners this year will look pretty questionable in the future--I just can't accept a movie that stars Ben Affleck winning Best Picture. He's gotten to be a pretty good director, but he's still so flat and unbelievable on screen.
As for Seth MacFarlane's hosting job, I liked the song and dance numbers intended to appeal to the geriatric viewer, but too many of his jokes were mean. If a joke is mean but really funny, that's one thing, but most of his jokes were mean and not nearly funny enough. (Gawker cut his jokes into one video.) The one exception was the video of him propositioning Sally Field in the green room, and I mostly liked it because of how game and funny she was. "I've got a bottle of wine and some Boniva, we'll have a great time" was his best line of the night (starts at 0:42 in the Gawker video.) I admire Sally Field for doing a skit that hinged on her admitting she had no chance of winning an Oscar this year, something I can't imagine hardly any other actor doing.
I was happy to see Quentin Tarantino get an Oscar for writing Django, but did you notice that instead of praising his cast, like most people would do, he pretty much said that he deserved an additional Best Casting Oscar for the amazing job he did casting them in his movie? Considering he didn't get his first choice cast members in many, well-publicized cases, maybe some of the credit should have gone to the actors.
My favorite comment about the night was Matt Singer's tweet: "Silver Linings Playbook is a movie made entirely of Oscar clips." Which describes why I don't like that movie better than anything I've come up with yet. The best suggestion I heard was from a friend who pointed out how much more awesome it would have been during the In Memoriam tribute (which included MCA!) if Barbra Streisand had sung "Sabotage".