This type of title is getting to be a habit with me, but really, it’s not like the Academy doesn’t have a year in which to plan the show.
THE HOSTS: In a ham-handed attempt to attract a more youthful audience, Anne Hathaway, 28, and James Franco, 32, were picked to co-host. She emphasized her ability to be very bubbly, very skinny, very flirtatious, and to continuously change her size 6 outfits (according to answers.com). She leaned towards her co-host or hugged his unresponsive arm in desperate non-verbal attempts to shift him out of his catatonia – but he refudiated her. Debate raged this morning among my elder fitness students about whether Franco was stoned or just rude. In any event, he kept his unpleasantly stiff body and unfocussed eyes turned away from his over-smiling co-host – and his audience for that matter.
The only discernable qualification these hosts had for their roles, in retrospect, is that like the bulk of show's cast of characters, they are white. Both hosts easily managed to avoid the pitfalls of being witty, clever and/or interesting. They weren’t “youth” – they were “the 50s.”
Just a quick Puke Award for her in an ill-fitting tux with sparkly extreme stilettos and him unhappily dragged up as Marilyn. Never were two images more unfortunate. Was this meant to pass as a bit of modern gender bending? Jack Benny was much better at it.
Apparently Franco didn’t even turn up for the big celebratory after-party he threw at some new bar he owns – and didn’t even let the event planners know he was skipping town. Someone buy this guy a scholarship to charm school.
THEIR BETTERS: In just two minutes, Billy Crystal showed them how to do it. He was funny and raised the energy level of the audience immediately. My posse and I were screaming at the TV for Billy to stay and finish the show, to no avail. We’d also take Whoopi or Ellen back. Just give us someone who actually knows how to MC and can make it fun.
THE PRODUCTION: Some of the canned bits were pretty good. But even where the production was impressive, the talent was distasteful. The memorial section, for example, was stitched together nicely, but did we have to have Céline Dion singing in the background?
SPEECHES: The British acceptance speeches were generally written, rehearsed and delivered with wit and fluency, while the Americans fluttered around as if they had just received news of their nomination in the middle of a drinking jag. The disingenuous “who me?!” reactions were, well, embarrassing. I’ve been a fan of Melissa Leo’s since “Homicide” days, but after her flighty speech I’m over her. Hey people, you’re all dressed up sitting at a front table for a reason: you might be called upon to say a few words. Get your shit together.
LIVE ACTION SHORTS: The hands-down inarguably worst of the five live-action short films won the Oscar. Go figure. Check out my review here.
THE RED CARPET: We made the horrific mistake of starting our Red Carpet viewing on E! where we suffered serious WTF? attacks in reaction to the excruciatingly insipid, sexist commentary. What a relief to find Robin Roberts and Tim Gunn on ABC. One felt bad for Annette Benning whose husband Warren Beatty babbled incoherently while she was trying to be glamorous.
CLOTHES: Do you remember that brief window – just a few years during the height of the feminist movement – when there were many ways to dress for awards nights? Some women wore tuxedos, some pant suits, some dresses. That is no longer, it seems, an option. Everyone was in a ball gown – not even one set of pants, let alone a shorter dress. Everyone wore grotesquely foot-binding stilettos and every woman was girly. Not a punk, not a dyke, not a non-conformist of any sort to be found. A sliver of Jennifer Hudson turned up with some oddly shaped globes revealed in her deep cleavage. Cate Blanchett upset the commentators with an odd dress built around a bulls-eye highlighting her chest. Will no one rebel? Must dress-up always mean serving as a walking ad for certain over-priced jewelry and clothes designers?
POLITICS: There were two mentions of union workers in acceptance speeches and one reminder by the director of Inside Job that none of the Wall Street criminals were serving time: that was as political as it got. No Native American gal accepting on behalf of Brando. No red ribbons – or any other color as a matter of fact. No mention of Wisconsin, of the war on women’s rights, of spontaneous democracy in the Middle East and north Africa, or high unemployment, of… well, anything real.
GENDER AND AGE: I spend more and more of my life muttering “men, men, men” no matter what is going on: television, movies, politics, sports. As opportunities in this country contract, women are being pushed into greater invisibility. But with movies it has ever been so. To end this piece, here are just a few select figures (published prior to yesterday’s results) from William Briggs, Statistician to the Stars!, to put things in context. The whole piece, comparing Best Picture winners to the most popular pictures, is worth reading:
All but one of the Oscars for Best Picture had a leading actor. The only one missing a man in the leading role was the picture All about Eve, starring Bette Davis. ...
There was only one Oscar winning movie with a leading actress older than 50: Jessica Tandy in Driving Miss Daisy…
The old—get it?—adage that once a woman pushes past 40, her chances of appearing in a major motion picture drop precipitously. Men are allowed to age and still be considered worthy of watching.