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The Oscars

For some people, it might be the biggest night of the year, and for some it might be another one of those things when the next day you go, “Oh, that was last night?” But whatever your attitude, the 78th Annual Academy Awards, hosted by Jon Stewart of “The Daily Show,” proved to be what it always is – an awards ceremony where the movie industry pats itself on the back and hands out a number of shiny, man-shaped statues.

In the spirit of hard-hitting journalism, a few of us at The Spectator have decided to share some thoughts on what made the event either a cornerstone of the film world or a totally embarrassing flop.

Managing editor and film review contributor Trevor Kupfer will weigh in with what we’ll call a “critical analysis.”

What are you wearing?

For those of you out there who can never get your fill of banal celebrity gossip and runway posturing, the Academy Awards proved once again to be a hotbed of high fashion and epic vanity. To this day, I’m a little miffed that people always cite Bjork’s swan dress when talking about what not to wear.
The woman is insane and should be allowed to dress any way she wants. But I digress.

Senior Gina Johnson said she thinks all the “pre-game” attention to fashion may be a little unnecessary.

“You can only really care about what they’re wearing for so long,” Johnson said. “I don’t know why we’re supposed to gush over celebrities.”

Good point, Gina.

Trevor’s take: For my money, I don’t know if it got any better than Larry McMurtry accepting his Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar in jeans. Typically, stars’ red-carpet fashion choices are going to follow stars for years, either haunting them or glorifying them. McMurtry just walked up there looking like the spokesman for Menards as if to say, “Hey, I’m gonna be comfortable when I win my award, and to hell with anyone who doesn’t like it.” Besides, it’s not much worse than that horrid thing Charlize Theron had on her shoulder or that torn taupe disaster Naomi Watts called a dress Sunday.

Let’s keep it moving

These ceremonies can get a little long. To keep things moving along at a faster pace, it seemed like the network was making an effort to essentially push speakers off the stage by gradually increasing the volume of the transition music. Even Paul Haggis and Cathy Schulman were unceremoniously cut short during their acceptance speech for Best Picture. Johnson thought the attention to time might have been a good gesture gone wrong.

“I don’t know how hard it must be to keep their speeches short, but I don’t think they have to be thrown off the stage,” she said.

Trevor’s take: This comes up every year as a serious problem for both the producers and audience. Perhaps the only respected awards ceremony left, Cannes Film Festival, lasts for about a week. Try keeping speeches short at the end of that bender – not an easy task.

For us, however, these speeches can absolutely suck. Ever since Morgan Freeman’s speech last year, it seems people are starting to follow the formula of a swift, clean blanket sweep. “I’d like to thank everybody who had anything to do with this film.”

Of all the acceptance speeches Sunday, I was the most blown away by Gavin Hood, who went up on stage and made a bold statement instead of a tedious speech. He simply asked Hollywood to recognize foreign films because they are just as good and use the same formulas for drama. Too bad the academy wasn’t listening at the time and won’t be listening – ever.

Best Picture

It seems as though this was the year of the underdog. Media firebomb “Brokeback Mountain” was the favorite for the award, but Paul Haggis’ “Crash” walked away with it. The critically acclaimed drama took home three Oscars in total.

As expected, the academy wanted to earn some more viewers this year (as is the case every year). So instead of picking the best film, the Academy chose the most popular film.

How many years would you say that a foreign film has won best picture? How often are films that America doesn’t distribute nominated? What about great directors like Truffaut, Godard, Fellini, Antonioni, Bergman and others? The sad truth is that Hollywood wants to bathe in its own glory and have a popularity contest with itself – that’s the Academy Awards.

Best Actor

One of my personal favorites, Philip Seymour Hoffman, thankfully was awarded Best Actor for Hoffman’s performance in “Capote,” the story of egocentric writer Truman Capote during his research for “In Cold Blood.” His portrayal of Capote as a self-serving icon was right on, and many of Hollywood’s smash-and-grab actors hacking away at historical character profiles might want to take note.

This year was a great year for acting performances, and each nomination was deserved. But often, the Academy will give out what I like to call “makeup” awards.

These are the kind of awards that say, “Oops, our bad that one year you were really good and we didn’t give it to you.”
Can someone explain to me why Denzel Washington won for “Training Day?” Wait, I already know why – because he was superb in “Malcolm X.” Sean Penn was good in “Mystic River,” but he won for a bulk of nominations that never got him a statue. One of these years, mark my words, Martin Scorsese will get a statue, but not for his newest release. He’ll be accepting his Oscar for “Taxi Driver.”

Best Actress

Whether or not you’re a die-hard Johnny Cash fan should have had little to do with your enjoyment of “Walk the Line.” And if you can get past the crawling southern accent, Reese Wither-spoon’s portrayal of June Carter might have been the extra key needed to make it happen.

Trevor’s take: Witherspoon’s win wasn’t a big surprise to anyone Sunday. At least it shouldn’t have been. But at some point, we have to look back on it in bewilderment. The second she won, I received a call from my brother asking, “Did ‘Legally Blonde’ just win Best Actress?”

I had the same reaction to Jamie Foxx’s “Ray” Oscar. Foxx began as a comedian who could do fantastic impressions of Bill Cosby and Ray Charles. On some level, he won an Oscar for one hell of a job impersonating a celebrity. In the same year, Cate Blanchett won an Oscar for an impeccable impersonation of the most-loved actress Hollywood ever had: Katherine Hepburn. It was the last chance they had to nominate and honor Kate – not Blanchett, but Hepburn.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our somewhat over-due wrap up of the Academy Awards. If you managed to get through the whole thing with a friend and a bowl of popcorn, good for you. If you didn’t watch any of it, well, maybe even better for you. But regardless of how we all feel about it, at least the annual appearance of the awards gives us all an excuse to sit around and watch a bunch of movies to catch up. Hey, it’s important. The Academy said so

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