Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Prestigious Academy Awards

Though I may regret giving this post such a general title later, it was the first that came to my mind. And isn't the first instinct the wisest of all? In most cases, including this one, indubitably. Yes. Last Sunday evening, the 85th Annual Academy Awards broadcasted live from the Kodak Theater in California, and practically every pawn of Hollywood royalty was there to commemorate the occasion. Sure, Leonardo DiCaprio was not present amongst his Django Unchained crowd, nor were Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, but the event was luminous with talent nonetheless. Particularly Seth MacFarlane, the inexplicably charismatic and confident host of the ceremony, one component of the evening I will certainly highlight in detail. The purpose of this post, additionally, is to describe the ceremony overall, as well as comment on the honorees at hand. Might I say, beforehand, that this was one of the better Academy Awards in quite some time (excluding last year's success, of course).

Seth MacFarlane - If you've been keeping up with my blog (and not with the Kardashians), you will be fully aware of my obsessive admiration over Seth MacFarlane. It's amazing--remarkable, even--to think that only a short year ago my obsession took its course, when I began watching every single episode of his animated triumph of cultural satire, Family Guy. Twice. I watched each episode twice. (Except for the earlier seasons, where the animation was rather distorted, a quality that would later be mocked by the show itself when Stewie and Brian go back in time--you'd have to watch the show sometime soon.) Why this fact is so amazing--remarkable, even--is because, a short time after that, his first directorial feat was released: Ted. Again, I have expressed my fawning praise over this film countless times, and, yes, I believe that it should have been nominated for more than one Oscar. More realistically, I strongly believe it should have won every category of Best Comedy/Musical at the Golden Globes last January. Alas, it did not. Bygones. Not really, and Ricky Gervais should definitely consider returning to host. Then, as if the timing could not be more amazing--remarkable, even--Seth MacFarlane is announced as host of the 85th Annual Academy Awards. Imagine my excitement. Oh, that's right, I shared my excitement. From that point forward, Seth MacFarlane has been somewhat of an icon for me, in the sense of adored figure rather than role model, and, through this blog, I've been ecstatically reminding of that fact. Remember: Seth MacFarlane is hosting the Oscars. Such fervor certainly called for high expectations, and, when the ceremony finally arrived...I was beyond satisfied. He was a wonderful host, positively sensational in every way. I might be exaggerating, considering how tantalized I am by Seth MacFarlane. Subjectivity cannot be helped, I'm afraid.
Now, onto why and perhaps how he was so wonderful. For one, his natural sanguinity: Despite the general conservativeness of the audience, as well as their raised noses towards the edgy MacFarlane, he emerged on the stage as one who just did not care what the critics said. Contrary to his original opening--one that involved the original Captain James T. Kirk transmitting his fate as host--Seth MacFarlane was there to host as he would regardless of warnings and political correctness. And, wouldn't you know it, even the upper echelons of Hollywood approved of his humor, which can only emphasize how much I enjoyed it. Beyond his devilish smile (one of those rare, can't-take-your-eyes-off smiles) and spot-on humor, the more theatrical skills. My, what a lovely voice, and what an agile dancer, especially for someone who had no dancing expertise beforehand. For those who still question him in any aspect, perhaps the following will assure you. Surprisingly, he did not enhance the show with one of his varied animated voices, such as the British baby Stewie or the New England patriarch Peter Griffin. This is something, I'm sure, pleased the mature audiences out there, and may just as well restore faith in those who have not seen the show and had their doubts. This proves that Seth MacFarlane is far more than the so-called "man child" he is depicted as being just because he has multiple animated successes on television, and helmed the raunchy, inappropriate Ted. Well, clearly, he knows his boundaries. Unlike that Robin Williams everyone is so fond of, he is capable of being a mature professional. I don't know why I settled on Robin Williams, but he is the definition of unfunny child-comedian. Anyway, Seth MacFarlane absolutely exceeded my anticipations, revealing himself to be a fine Oscar host--best of the past few years, I'd say.

Dashing presenters in a terrific appearance on stage.

Perceptive Predictions - It appears as though I settled on the majority of this year's recipients this year, before the honors were actually given. In other words, I predicted every winner of the evening, the ones that mattered most anyway. If you'll be so kind as to review my previous post, it is clear that what I claim is true. From Best Picture to each acting category, I displayed my cinematic insights quite well this year--seems my abilities to analyze film and the society that surrounds it always improve with each passing year. And, in that process, my ego implodes that much more, visible exclusively on this blog. Who were the victors that evening? The most obvious of the group was Daniel Day-Lewis winning for Lincoln. Presenter Meryl Streep actually left the envelope unopened when she announced the Best Actor, that's how certain the result was. For all we know, Bradley Cooper was the intended Best Actor. Highly unlikely, sadly. Don't be fooled by my lethargic reaction, for I just yawn at the presence of a sure thing. This rings true, especially, for the Best Supporting Actress award, which, expectedly, went to Anne Hathaway for her "awe-inspiring" role in Les Miserables. If you are one of those habitual Oscar viewers, you'd notice the wild, starving look in her eyes just as they were about to announce her name. I'd bet you a nickel if Christopher Plummer said Sally Field, Anne Hathaway would just as likely get up, making an embarrassing scenes. And, god forbid we shame Ms. Hathaway. All she did was have her head shaved and sing one song. A song that's been played over and over to introduce her as a nominee so often that it is implanted in my mind. God damn Hathaway. Moving on, the most challenging category, the Best Supporting Actor, resolved its complex and competitive battle. And Christoph Waltz emerged as the final victor. Granted, I am thrilled for the Austrian actor, one whose talent should be further applied to the realm of cinema, and perhaps will be after his second Oscar win. (No more pompous villainous roles in Green Hornet 2 I hope. That was a joke. Kind of.) Additionally, this win was Quentin Tarantino's sole accomplishment this year--giving Christoph Waltz a second Oscar, following his win for Inglourious Basterds--for the film itself, as I have repeated throughout the season, was unimpressive. That said, his win for Best Original Screenplay is a total farce--it should have gone to Inglourious Basterds, and this is merely recompensing for that loss. I must admit, however, that I was a tad forlorn when Robert De Niro's name was not called, but that's just nostalgic preference I suppose.
The question of who would walk away with the title Best Actress was revealed, to my delight, to be Jennifer Lawrence for her incredible performance in Silver Linings Playbook. I predicted this victory with the utmost confidence and could not be happier for the young actress that I was precise. While walking to the stage, the adorable young lady tripped up the steps, apparently fraught with nervousness at the realization that she won. (Another note: Hugh Jackman actually got up from his seat to help her up. I would have applauded if he had won Best Actor, despite the film's inadequacy. Oh yes, I did not enjoy Les Miserables.) Once more, I am simply overjoyed for Jennifer Lawrence because she so very much deserves the recognition she has been receiving, and will surely continue to receive throughout her career. Very promising young lady. As if I'm one to judge. Lastly, the one prediction that fell short of being accurate was for Best Director. I predicted Steven Spielberg with the most logical of reasoning--that he is a cinematic legend--and the honor ended up going to Ang Lee for Life of Pi. The movie that was "impossible to direct" was, supposedly, achieved by Ang Lee, which must be why he won. Well, a bit of a news flash: The movie was still not directed. My opinion, blunt and harsh, is that the film was a feat of visual effects and computers, not actual humans. Therefore, Ang Lee did nothing worth being recognized for, let alone being crowned Best Director. What did he direct? The animated tiger? The acid trip scenery of the computer-generated ocean? Sorry, but that is not a legitimate movie. First Brokeback Mountain, now this. That's the third time I made that joke. If Steven Spielberg filled his quota with Oscars, perhaps the honor should have gone to David O. Russell, who choreographed his actors so beautifully that compatibility was successfully achieved in the film. He did direct Jennifer Lawrence in an Oscar-winning performance, as well as three other nominated performances of measurable excellence. Despite that one measly hiccup in predictions, I feel the evening was overall satisfying when it came to the winners. Oh, and, of course, the award for Best Picture went to Argo, allowing Ben Affleck to walk to the stage and receive a statuette after all. Though he did require one for directing, and I refuse to let that grudge fade. Admirably, he's been very humble and indifferent to his snub, which allows me to like him more. It's incredible how a few months ago, I cringed at the sight of his shaggy beard in Argo; now, I applaud his Serpico appearance amidst his remarkably excellent film. Best Picture of the Year, by far.

Musical Dedications - Supposedly, the theme of this year's awards ceremony was "celebration of the greatest musicals of the past decade"; supposedly, these included the Best Picture recipient of 2002, Chicago, Dreamgirls, and this year's Les Miserables. While I account for Chicago, for it is, without question, the most magnificent musical of the decade, and perhaps of cinematic history. To commemorate its ten-year anniversary, Catherine Zeta-Jones adorned herself in the raiment of Velma Kelly, and, looking as phenomenal as she did then, performed the film's opening number "All That Jazz".
Next, Jennifer Hudson, post-Weight Watchers cleanse, belted her memorable "And I'm Telling You" number with outstanding vocal ability. (I'm not apt to complimenting musical talent. Needless to say, she was spectacular.) Then, the tribute ended with the cast of Les Miserables singing their respective tunes from the overstuffed, obsequious film. I found this performance to be rather cluttered (like the film) in that all there was to hear was an incoherent "melody" of the songs. That's the issue with an unconventional musical: There needs to be a line between spoken and musical dialogue. As for its involvement in this dedication, I question its purpose, for it is definitely no better than, say, The Producers (starring the incomparable Nathan Lane) or Mamma Mia! Those were far more enjoyable, and more fitting to the genre of musical. Overall, it was a pleasant intermission between award distributions. And to have John Travolta introduce it was suitable as well, if you recall Grease and not Hairspray or that cheesy Christmas video.

Well, that's that. As far as the Academy Awards go, this is perhaps the greatest in a while, if I haven't made that declaration already. Other critics be damned and decaying, Seth MacFarlane proved to be a fantastic host in every aspect. Many claims that his content was outrageously sexist and mean-spirited, and to that I question their state of mind, Did they expect the safe, fluffy humor of Tom Hanks that evening? The Academy hired Seth MacFarlane, people should anticipate the result and not act shocked by his displays, even though they were truly and enormously hilarious. Sexism. Haven't we dealt with that? Unfortunately, he has announced that he will not be hosting the Oscars again, though Ricky Gervais has said that numerous times, and two times he has hosted the Golden Globes. Either way, whether Seth MacFarlane returns or not, I am forever enlightened with the enchanting memory of this year's Academy Awards. The winners were splendid, for the most part at least tolerable, and the festivities were jubilant. Overall, a sensational Oscars ceremony, folks. Until next awards season, this was been swell.

Even he smiled.

What? Did we win?

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