83rd Oscar post mortem


The opening Best Picture montage bit in the 83rd Oscars Broadcast, satirically visiting each Best Picture nominee within an "Inception" framework, almost had me thinking that they'd pull it off, with James Franco and Anne Hathaway filling the roles of genial, energetic, funny,  hip hosts without the squirmy mordant edge of Ricky Gervais. But then right away some problems emerged.

First of, all the recollection that a variation on the same idea was done by Billy Crystal to much better, classically hilarious effect back in 1997. It served as a reminder of how much his hosting talents -- perhaps the best thing he's done in his career -- are missed.  This reminder was not helped by Crystal's appearance on the show a little later. Though, perhaps not to rub it in, he was not funny.

The second problem was casting Alec Baldwin in the bit. Not that he wasn't good -- his dry humor was perfect for this kind of thing. But, once again, it only served to point up how superior his co-hosting stint with Steve Martin last year was to the incoherent, tedious farrago about to unfold.

If this Oscar broadcast had any distinguishing features, it was its brevity and weirdness. At around three and a half hours, it was on the shorter end of the spectrum, but time is relative to quality and so it seemed one of the longest since Rob Lowe sang and danced with Snow White in 1989 (hey, at least they had more chemistry than James and Anne). And though that number was pretty weird, it was no weirder than Kirk Douglas at 94 hitting on Anne Hathaway and Melissa Leo, or Bob Hope appearing through the magic of hologram technology to loom over the proceedings like a black-and-white Wizard of Oz -- a reminder that, back in the day, he wasn't very funny either.


In a sense, the broadcast had the merit of mirroring the winners. With "The King's Speech" and "Inception" both taking the most Oscars with four awards, the Academy shows a desperate, schizoid impulse to placate the old-timers (note this article in the "New York Times" about the upsurge in Boomer moviegoers) and get with the kids. The sad thing is that instead they demonstrate that they are not only incapable of tapping into a younger, irreverent sensibility but also clueless when it comes to exploiting their own rich if meretricious heritage.

That is why "True Grit,"  one of the best films of the year and certainly better than "The King's Speech" and "Inception," won nothing. It (and "The Social Network," too, when you come right down to it)  is the perfect fusion of one of the most venerable of genres with cutting edge auteurs. It's the future of Hollywood, if they ever recognize it.

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