Glitz and glamour
The Academy Awards attracts 43.5 million viewers for the country’s oldest awards show. Hollywood’s brightest stars are set to emerge once again from the seclusion of their high-security mansions to pay tribute to the world of cinema at the 77th annual Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars. The Los Angeles event will air live on Sunday, on ABC.
Tuxedoed men and scantily-clad women will run a red-carpet gauntlet of questions from the likes of Star Jones and nip-and-tuck queen Joan Rivers. Once inside the new Kodak Theatre, the rich and famous will endure a new barrage of witty insults, courtesy of first-time host Chris Rock.
The producers of the three-hour extravaganza have pinned their hopes for a younger audience on the coattails of Rock, who will tone down his controversial, profanity-laced humor for the event.
There’s a nifty fail-safe, just in case, in the form of a seven-second delay of the live broadcast, upped from last year’s five seconds. Producers are taking no chances with Rock, who already has started the buzz with comments made during a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly. He called the awards show “idiotic” and claimed no straight black man would watch it.
Junior Sean Tallant disagreed. “I think the Oscars are cool, because you learn about good movies that might not make it to Eau Claire theaters,” he said. “Watching famous people make asses of themselves is fun, too.”
The Academy Awards show is no stranger to controversy – that’s part of its appeal. In 1972, Marlon Brando declined to accept his Oscar for best actor in protest of the Vietnam War.
Just two years ago during an acceptance speech, Michael Moore said, “We have a fictitious president … from a fictitious election,” before he was booed from the stage.
For the few men and women nominated for an Academy Award, though, it’s worth enduring the controversy, egos, long-winded speeches and technical awards; it’s even worth that excruciating moment when nominees’ faces are shown as the winner’s name is read, so that everyone glued to their TVs at home can watch the losers try to hide their disappointment.
The whole gaudy, indulgent affair is worth it for a chance to bag a golden statuette named Oscar, that bald-headed little man who makes and breaks careers with the simple tearing of an envelope.
At the top of every studio’s wish list is the granddaddy of all Academy Awards, the Oscar for Best Picture. It’s also one of the hardest awards for fans to predict. Sometimes there is a clear favorite candidate, like last year when “The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” won all 11 awards it was nominated for, including Best Picture. In other years, there is no clear front-runner, causing sleepless nights for movie moguls and Vegas odds-makers. This year is one of those years.
The film with the best chance of taking home the Best Picture Oscar is “The Aviator,” director Martin Scorsese’s tribute to eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes, said film critics and Hollywood Insiders. It garnered 11 nominations, the most of any film this year. Leonardo DiCaprio, as Hughes, is nominated for Best Actor. This epic has everything Academy voters typically fawn over: lavish sets, bravura acting and a long-running time.
Freshman Matt Lichtenwald wasn’t overly impressed with the film, “It was OK, maybe a little long, but I’d rather see ‘Ray’ again.”
“Ray” is a film about the life of musician Ray Charles, who died last year. Jamie Foxx, also nominated for Best Supporting Actor this year for his role in “Collateral,” gives a tour-de-force performance, right down to his mimicry of Charles’ unique piano-playing style. “Ray” stands the best chance of upsetting “The Aviator” or “Million Dollar Baby” for best picture honors, but only if Foxx doesn’t win in the Best Actor category.
On the surface, Clint Eastwood’s latest directorial effort, “Million Dollar Baby,” appears to be yet another film about the sport of boxing, but in actuality, this riveting film is more about relationships and the human condition in general. Boxing just happens to be the setting. Eastwood, Hillary Swank and forever underrated Morgan Freeman all turn in exceptional performances. One highlight is seeing Eastwood cry on screen, a first in his 50 year career. One thing that could hurt the Oscar chances of “Million Dollar Baby” is the controversy regarding its take on euthanasia.
“Assisted suicide is a slippery slope,” said Martin Webb, a philosophy lecturer who teaches “Ethics of Health Care” at UW-Eau Claire.
“Suicide is still legal,” he said, “but the moral and legal implications involved in assisted suicide are many.”
“Sideways,” the only comedy nominated for Best Picture this year, is a hilarious road-trip movie through California’s wine country.
Unfortunately, comedies rarely are nominated for Best Picture, so the cast and crew should be content with their five nominations. Only five comedies have won the Best Picture Oscar since 1960; the last one was “Forrest Gump,” more than a decade ago.
The other long-shot candidate in the Best Picture category is “Finding Neverland.” This film is a biopic about the life of British author J.M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan.
Dazzling set design and noteworthy performances from Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet are highlights of this British talkfest.
According to www. gambling911.com, Vegas bookmakers list the odds of winning the Best Picture Oscar for “Ray” and “Finding Neverland” at about 20 to 1, while “The Aviator” is the odds-on favorite at 1 to 2.
Odds also are good that the 77th Academy awards will see laughter and tears, stars becoming intoxicated and making fools of themselves and one movie crowned the Best Picture of the year.