Okay. I was going to live-blog the Oscars last night, but then I decided not to. It was going by pretty quickly, and it was pretty much all my friends and I could do to recover from each unfathomable choice in time for the next one. Okay, to be fair, the Academy got a few right.
I’ll put the rest after a jump for spoilers’ sake.
Jennifer Hudson for Dreamgirls was definitely deserved, and Scorsese finally won for directing! Which was awesome. And Helen Mirren for actress and Forest Whitaker for actor. Alan Arkin as supporting actor for Little Miss Sunshine was a bit of an upset, we thought, but a well-deserved one. I picked Little Miss Sunshine for screenplay, too, and I thought that was accurate. And then, cinematography, editing, those were okay. So, really, I guess you could say the Academy did pretty well on the really big awards.
Of course, I was torn on Best Picture, though I do think that The Departed was the best of the three nominated film I’d seen. I picked Babel to win even though I haven’t seen it because it’s Oscar-bait. I’m sort of glad the Academy proved me wrong on that count. On the other hand, The Departed wasn’t the best film I saw last year. That would be Pan’s Labyrinth. I was partially consoled that it wasn’t nominated for Best Picture because it was sure to win Best Foreign Language Film.
BUT IT DIDN’T. THIS IS A COMPLETE TRAVESTY OF ALL THINGS HOLY TO FILMMAKING. Now, The Lives of Others looks like a really good film, and I really am breaking all sorts of rules by being this antagonistic towards a film I haven’t even seen yet just because it beat out my favorite. But I can’t see from the trailer that The Lives of Others is anything more than a really well-done anti-censorship thriller set in Eastern Germany during the Communist regime. Now, that’s a great story, and it needs to be told, and I’m sure that it’s told well. But Pan’s Labyrinth is transcendent. I suggested last night that The Lives of Others won because it’s the type of story that the Academy likes, as opposed to Pan’s, which is a genre film–the Academy traditionally hates genre films. And then my friend pointed out that the great thing about Pan’s is that, yes, it has generic elements–fantasy, horror, etc.–but it competely reworks them and isn’t bounded by its generic elements. And she’s absolutely right–it transcends genre. And THAT is what virtuosic filmmaking is all about. Not that telling good stories well isn’t worthwhile and important and worthy of acclaim. It is. But films that take good stories and tell them in ways that haven’t ever been used before? Is MORE worthy of acclaim. And that’s what Pan’s Labyrinth is. It isn’t a message picture, though there are messages in it. It isn’t political. It’s simply GREAT FILMMAKING. And sometime along the way (or, possibly from the very beginning, when I stop to think about it), the Academy stopped honoring great filmmaking, and started honoring the stories they wanted to see told. Now, someone who’s seen The Lives of Others, jump in here and tell me how wrong I am to diss it before I’ve seen it. And I will see it as soon as the opportunity presents itself and let you know if my raging was in vain.
And the other award that made us really angry was Best Original Song. I mean, seriously. You’ve got three songs from Dreamgirls–two really good ones–and all three of them lose to the crazy weird song from An Inconvenient Truth? We all had to tune out the TV while that one was being performed. It was that bad. My explanation on that one is that the Dreamgirls songs split the vote. Grr. I also would have given Pan’s Best Original Score, which went to Babel. I need to get Pan’s soundtrack…the lullaby music is so hauntingly beautiful.
One other concern–why is it that “Best Animated Feature Film” apparently actually means “Best Animated Kiddie Film”? Seriously. If the Academy were really serious about honoring innovation, they should have at least nominated A Scanner Darkly. There’s a general sense, I think, that animation is for kids, and to subscribe to that belief is to leave an enormous amount of excellent animated films out in the cold. Most of Japanese animation is not terribly kid-friendly, and even that which is (like Miyazaki’s films) also appeals greatly to adults. France has been doing some really interesting things with animation lately, from the super-stylized Renaissance this year to the hand-drawn but extremely innovative Triplets of Belleville (which was at least nominated) a few years ago, neither of which is aimed at kids. Richard Linklater’s rotoscoped films A Scanner Darkly and Waking Life (2001) are both amazing achievements in animation, and yet it seems because these films are not aimed at seven-year-olds, they don’t qualify as “animated” films. I don’t get it. I really don’t. (I will grant the Academy a good move last year on granting the award to Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, which is aimed at both kids and adults, really).
Okay, that does it for my annual Oscar-rant. I will say one really good thing…apparently classy dressing is back in. There were a lot of very beautiful gowns coming down the red carpet, and very few fashion disasters. And weren’t Abigail Breslin and Jaden Smith the absolute cutest presenters ever? Adorable.