Monday, March 8, 2010

Oh, Oscar!

Well, another wonderful Oscar season has come to a close. After months of movie watching, popcorn chomping, and soda gulping, the race is over, the winners decided, and the pop culture literatti free to move on to new venues and viewings. I found this year's ceremony mostly a blah, a bland albeit glitzy assembly of Hollywood's finest, their outfits, speeches, and schpeels well rehearsed. After what seems an extraordinarily daunting awards season (pushed into March because of the Winter Olympics), the stars have an excuse to look a little worn, their answers and attitudes a little tired, and quite ready to move on with their lives. Following a moderately busy brunch, pal Katrina and I settled in to watch the awards show and unwind after work. This no doubt also meant finding ourselves generously lapping up a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc post-haste, followed by a Merlot (we had just gotten off of work after all), which in turn found us cozily asleep well before most of the major awards were given out. Mind you, we do live on the East Coast, three hours ahead of Oscar time. I guess I will just have to a make a trip west for next year's festivities. So, perhaps my judgement of this year's show is a little harsh and uninformed, but here is what I do know about what I actually watched.
The Red Carpet seemed to lack its usual flash and sparkle, no dress particularly wowing me. Jennifer Lopez and Zoƫ Saldana's outfits seemed too much, clumpy constructions meant to be breathtaking. And who keeps letting one-time Oscar winner Charlize Theron show up looking a mess at the Awards? It also seemed especially amiss of Big Stars. Where was Julia Roberts? Brad Pitt? Angelina Jolie? Tom Cruise? Jennifer Aniston? Will Smith? Nicole Kidman? Halle Berry? Somehow Amanda Seyfried, Taylor Lautner, and Miley Cyrus just don't have that oo-la-la and old world grace (not to mention actual style) to leave us feeling breathless and in awe (instead, I am mostly puzzled how they scored invitations). My fashion favorites for the show were Up in the Air's Vera Farmiga who, besides looking a little high on the red carpet, looked a genuine star in a bouquet of red fabric and shapes, as well as Ms. Blind Side herself, Sandra Bullock. Outfitted in a tight, sleek, gold leafed dress, Ms. Bullock channeled the poise, position, and je ne sais quoa most of the other guests seemed to have missed out on. From the moment I saw her working the carpet, I knew things were not looking so good for my friend Meryl (or any other woman in the house for that matter), as Bullock followed up her amazing year in film with the best dress and the award for Best Actress. Am I sad my prediction was not right? Not at all. Ms. Bullock looked genuine and humble, yet dignified, a true winner in my book, and honestly, it bodes well for performers like me to see an actress mostly known for her comedic roles to snatch up a golden statue (on that note, let's not forget Mo'Nique who also deserves kudos for both film and fashion). And besides, what further form of recognition does Ms. Streep need? I'm betting she still has a lot more Oscar glory to come.
The host and format of the show for the most part left me just as bored as the fashion. The show's opening, starring an all-to-nervous Neal Patrick Harris, failed to make much sense and called for the presence of a Big Star (Nathan Lane? Elaine Stritch? Liza Minnelli?), a bill Mr. Harris unfortunately could not quite fill. As for hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, their performances seemed forced, tasteless, and uninspired. In this case, it seems two (plus a musical introduction) is not better than one. While these hosting duties are by no means an easy task, I was hoping for more from these masters of comedy (and less of Ben Stiller in blue makeup). Perhaps they should just let Meryl Streep host next year's awards. She certainly knows her way around Oscar and in most people's eyes can do no wrong (though I am still scratching my head at last year's Mamma Mia!).
The evening's biggest winner was The Hurt Locker and Kathryn Bigelow, who certainly put the 'Hurt' on ex-husband James Cameron (whom she sat right in front of). In the end, it was the riskier film, the grittier film that took home the prize, perhaps the film whose intentions indeed had the most heart. The film's wins are victories for independent features to come and Ms. Bigelow becomes the first, but hopefully not the last, woman to hold the Best Director trophy. The Hurt Locker's painfully honest portrait of the war in Iraq is a searing glimpse into our America psyche, exposing our secret shame, stinging us more poignantly than eco-friendly Avatar or recession-heavy Up in the Air. As for James Cameron, if in defeat he finds himself sad or lonely, he can always go home to count his Avatar millions (not to mention those from Titanic). The Hurt Locker was a difficult film for me to watch, both gruesome and debilitating, one of the few films I did not see in theaters, but rather on DVD. Though difficult to watch, it deserves taking a look at, through neither rose-colored or 3-D glasses.
So, while the award show itself was a bit of a dud, the reason for Sunday's celebration, the films themselves, still shine and inspire. What a brilliant crop indeed of fine directing, acting, writing, and filmmaking, of inspiring, heartbreaking, hilarious, and thought provoking stories. Though the destination was not what I hoped it to bed, the journey itself was well worth the effort, each film sharing with me a little piece of its brilliance, encouraging me to push forward and continue to attempt art myself. My late winter movie binge was a great escape for me; safe in my cushy seat I was able to find relief, inspiration, and most importantly catharsis.
The sun is finally shining here in New York, and I could not be happier about it. Yesterday was a big day: I attended two auditions (one of which I am called back for), had lunch with SNL's Rachel Dratch (ok, I sat beside her at Curly's, but I could hear her talking), and signed a lease for my new apartment here in Astoria. It seems the ice has melted and both my personal and actual winter are for the most part over. I am looking forward to new roommates, new work, and new possibilities.

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