06 March 2006

brokeback mountain jokes are officially passe starting...now

EDIT: I've revised some of my thoughts on "Crash," largely because some people misconstrued what I wrote. See below.

Tell me, Oscar, how much do we love black people here in America?

We put them in our ridiculous, thematically-bizarre montages!

We hold their hands in our ridiculous, thematically-bizarre montages!

We let them perform completely out-of-place musical numbers that showcase every negative element of black culture!

Then we give them awards for it! We even let them thank Jesus!

As a grand finale, we award the biggest prize of the night to a film that addresses racism, and everyone gets to feel good about themselves for supporting a film with an Important Social Message.
Look! Two black people in the same shot! 50 points!
At least this crazy white chick is happy.

And just in case you need a reminder of a time when addressing racism was actually considered progressive, look! Sidney Poitier!

I haven't actually seen "Crash," so any criticism I'm giving it can fairly be blown off as gay cowboy resentment. Still, I find it hard to throw my support behind a movie that so many intelligent people have considered mawkish and ridiculous, and doubly hard to support one that turns Matt Dillon into a hero.

Still, "Brokeback's" virtual shut-out from the major awards (nominated for 5 of the 6, won only one, Ang Lee for Best Director) really shocked me-- I didn't think anything could stop "Brokeback," but maybe that's my inner gay man talking. I'm not sure what it says politically that "Crash" won over "Brokeback," other than maybe how much Academy voters enjoy telling themselves that they're not racist. "Crash" no more marks the end of racism than "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?" did 40 years ago, and "Brokeback" losing doesn't mean we hate gays either. Everyone liked to talk about how both "Crash" and "Brokeback" were "important films with important messages," which I think diminishes the artistic achievements of both films, which is supposedly what we give Oscars for anyway. And as Jon Stewart cracked after the "important social issues" montage, making a movie about issues obviously means they will never be a problem again. In the end: lighten up, it's just the Oscars.

But let's not focus on the losers. Or let's, rather, but only by my definition of winners and losers.

Winners in montage
Gay cowboys.

Early on in the night, Jon Stewart said what we've all been thinking and gave us a montage of the gayest cowboy moments in film. Those of us who have taken Richard Slotkin's Westerns class, which includes probably a quarter of the Wesleyan student body, peed in our pants with glee. Remember how well Jimmy Stewart stroked that Winchester '73? Or how about the manly sweating and straining that went into knocking over that stump in "Shane."
Brilliant. And the only montage of the night with a lick of coherence, but we'll get to that later.

Loser in acceptance speeches
Gay cowboys
No one got to make a speech about breaking new ground with gay characters this year, so instead let's focus on how pretty our losing gay cowboys were looking.
Jake is very serious.
Heath is totally OK with not winning, no seriously, it's fine, whatever.

Winner in reaction shots
George Clooney
Within the first 15 minutes of the show, George had gone in my mind from "respectable actor with nice liberal ideals" to "Oh my God, I might have to knock Cary Grant off my list." First he was in bed with Jon Stewart in the opening montage
My inner gay man and outer straight woman are squealing in surround sound.

Then he makes the most level-headed acceptance speech of the night for his best supporting actor statue, noting "So I won't win director" (true) and that he's proud to be part of Hollywood, where they were addressing issues like AIDS and racism early on (not exactly right on the AIDS thing, but we'll let it go).
I am an important social reformer, with delicious cheekbones to boot!

Then he spends the rest of the night giving the best reaction shots to virtually everything, from Jon Stewart's crack about his romantic life
George Clooney will choke a bitch.

to a random woman's thank-you to the Academy for seating her next to George Clooney at the nominee's luncheon.
George Clooney will ravish you thoroughly.


Loser but still looking great
Amy Adams.
Can we all remember her from "Drop Dead Gorgeous" and thank heavens she's alive? Better luck next time, girl.

Winner despite "Cheaper By the Dozen 2"
Steve Martin

Losers in life
Steve Martin's kids
You know... so they don't turn out... weird.

Winners in prop comedy
The adorable guys from "March of the Penguins" and "Wallace and Gromit"
Seriously, how embarassing would it have been if they hadn't won and had to carry those penguins out of the theater?

Loser in coherence
Dustin Hoffman
I know you were in that crazy "Great American Movie Ride" montage in the beginning and everything, but opening the envelope early? Gil Cates is gonna fuck you up.

Winners-- best presenters
Comedians whose work otherwise goes unrecognized by the Academy.

Loser-- clumsiest presenter
Jennifer Garner
Now, if she were still pregnant it would've really been interesting.

Winner-- sense of humor about himself
Mel Gibson.
I have no idea what he was saying, but I'm sure it was self-deprecating and hilarious.

Loser-- no sense of humor whatsoever
Joaquin Phoenix
Seriously, this is the closest he came to smiling all night. Even Johnny Cash managed to pretend to be happy once in a while.

Winners-- improvisation
Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep introducing Robert Altman.
I'm sure it was a lot funnier in person, but they were still pretty fun to watch.

Loser-- improvisation
Lauren Bacall
Forced to introduce a nonsense film noir montage by reading off a teleprompter she clearly couldn't see, the lady did her best. Unfortunately "her best" was awkward for everyone involved, including Humphrey Bogart from the grave.

Winner-- heard but not seen
Stephen Colbert narrating those fake political ads
Bringing a little bit of the Daily Show to you, broadcast network-watching America.

Losers-- heard but not seen
Zach Braff and Joan Cusack as those awful "Chicken Little" characters
Dear Disney: there is a reason this movie was not nominated for Best Animated Feature. Make it go away, please.

Winner-- song performance
Dolly Parton
She got the whole audience clapping and gave us respectable yet visible cleavage! How could anything possibly be wrong with that?

Loser-- song performance
Kathleen "Bird" York
As Jon Golbe put it, "This is like a reverse ad for the movie," the movie in question being "Crash." People escaping from a burning car in slow motion while looking very self-important? They got rid of the interpretive dances for a reason, people. Stop wasting my time.

Winner—irrelevant but a welcome visitor
Henry Fonda
Closing out the “socially relevant movies” montage, Henry was the only one to distract my swoons from George Clooney.

Loser—irrelevant and please don’t come back
Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves
I realize Sandra Bullock was in what is now a Best Picture winner (gag), but when she and Keanu took the stage with the “Speed” theme playing, we were all reminded—oh wait—their last relevant movie came out 12 years ago. Who invited them again?

Winner—seating chart
Philip Seymour Hoffman
Just look at that smug bastard!

Loser—seating chart
Keira Knightley
I spent most of the evening watching her slowly inch away from Jack Nicholson. I mean, I guess she got to be in the front row, but how many times do you think he “accidentally” grabbed her knee?

Jon Stewart
I’m not sure what the people who hated him were expecting… Oscar hosts are supposed to keep the status quo while keeping us mildly amused, and he did just that. I give him points just for bringing Stephen Colbert to the show.

Rachel McAdams
Hosting the Scientific and Technical Awards is always kind of a sign of “next big thing,” but did “next big thing” have to include the sequins on her dress? Ewww..

Larry McMurtry
Jeans with a tuxedo! If this becomes the new fashion trend, consider me on board.

Charlize Theron
Though if that thing had started trying to eat her face, the whole night could have been saved.

Winner—incoherent but loveable anyway
Reese Witherspoon
Not really sure what she was talking about with all that coming from Tennessee and making her bed, but damn if she’s not cute. Plus, it always thrills me to hear a legitimate Southern accent on TV.

Loser—incoherent but probably not his fault
Samuel L. Jackson introducing the “social issues” montage
As soon as the man walked onstage, everyone I was with shouted “Snakes on a Plane!” at the screen, so that was his first strike. But just look at the actual text of his speech:

"Hollywood has never been afraid to challenge our beliefs. Starting back in the earliest days of cinema, filmmakers used the big screen to tackle the biggest issues of the day. Addressing topics such as poverty and homelessness, war and genocide, racism and intolerance. A few classics like 'On the Waterfront,' 'Philadelphia,' and 'To Kill A Mockingbird,' helped change our country. The boldest of these films were more than entertaining-- they were confrontatational, they were passionate. They made us think about who were are as a people and as a nation."

I realize that makes grammatical sense, and the point that “movies make us think” is not only correct but fits in nicely with the evening’s theme of “Go to the movies! For God’s sake! Stop all the downloadin'!”Really, it’s the montage that followed his speech that ruined it. Under the category of “Movies that challenge us” we get... The Grapes of Wrath. To Kill a Mockingbird. Do the Right Thing. OK, so far so good. We move on to… Million Dollar Baby?
OK, I guess with the whole Terri Schiavo thing. And All the President’s Men.

I consider myself generous, but the only thing that movie made me think of was who in the hell would believe that the Central Park zoo would contain feral wolves. After that, anything pretty much found its way in there, and I could barely complain when Keanu Reeves found his way into the montage. By the end it had kind of worked its way from “movies that matter” to “movies you have probably seen and for God’s sake, please buy them instead of downloading them, support Hollywood!” Kind of sad to see them this desperate at only the halfway mark.

As I mentioned before, the montages in general were kind of the highlight/lowlight of the evening. I would put them down as a loser except for how much fun I had exclaiming “What the fuck?!?!” every time a new one showed up. A film noir montage? Really? Who in your target audience was even alive for film noir? And forcing Jake Gyllenhaal to introduce a montage of “movies that are better on the big screen” was just cruel, turning a newly-minted Best Supporting Actor loser into a shill for the MPAA. And, as in the “social message” montage, the definition of “epic” took a beating. Titanic?
OK. Grease?
Uhh… And let’s not even get into the “movies about real people” montage, which really just could have been a montage of this year’s Best Picture nominees.

In the end, the Oscars were what they are every year: irrelevant, ridiculous, entertaining at times but largely a dog and pony show for the American royalty we’ve worshiped for decades now. In 10 years probably only people like me will remember how irritating it was that they played music under all the acceptance speech, much less that Crash stole Best Picture. Well, maybe Jack Nicholson too, because who could forget making this face on national television?


Jeremy Paul said...

Why can't I stop reading totes umbrellas? Why can't I read a book or write a book or build a library? Why, oh why?

After the last project runway, I will be a broken man.

Manda said...

I have to admit I'm addicted to TotesUmbrellas, especially Katey's recaps of PR. And now an Oscars recap? My life is complete.

Joe John said...

Myheritage.com told me that I look like George Clooney. I AM SO HOT!!!

Anonymous said...

i was flailing about during the "movies on the big screen" montage because, guess what, I AM WATCHING THE OSCARS IN MY LIVING ROOM. saying "look how great these movies are in a theatre!" while i see them on my 15 inch TV screen is not the most effective way to make your point, guys.

Anonymous said...

"the day after tomorrow" was stupid, but has been on my mind a lot since i saw it. i believe that it's just a fast-forwarded preview of what's going to happen to this planet due to global warming. think about it - tsunami? check (albeit not in downtown nyc). hurricanes? check. next are the wolves and snowstorms. - kathy

Anonymous said...

while i in no means think that crash deserved to win, i do think that you should at least see the movie before you trash it, especially if you are going to make sweeping comments about the relevance of a film that poses important and unasked questions about contemporary racism.

adam said...

I work for george clooney. eat me, world!

...why can't I stop thinking about jeremy paul?