Sunday, February 25, 2007

Let's keep it decorous-ACADEMY AWARDS 2007

There was a recent chat with Laura Ziskin (a major producer, who produced this year's Oscars) and Ellen DeGeneres.  Ellen was opting for spontaneous Oscar moments and Laura emphasized the importance of a controlled environment.

Guess who had the last word.

The 2007 Academy Awards was a viewing experience that, to me, must represent what eating a bowl of cornstarch is like.  Yes, with Ellen as host, there was to be no rude moments like Chris Rock joking about Jude Law's lack of U.S. stardom and audiences preferring junk to art.  And no spontaneous outbursts a la Michael Moore allowed as well.  And no naked streaking as occurred over thirty years ago.

Instead, Ellen did the "golly gee I'm here with all these Big Stars" schtick--which was rarely funny. One exception was the "Spielberg taking digital photo of Eastwood" routine.  And the rare moments of respite from tedium came from people like Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Carell, Greg Kinnear--and the directorial troika of Spielberg, Coppola and George Lucas.  Maybe it's time to return to having multiple hosts--the COMIC RELIEF trio of Billy, Robin and Whoopi, though, on the recent HBO telethon, they showed advanced age and complacency replacing former irreverence, would be preferable to Ellen's leave-no-tables-overturned approach of fake niceness.

The best documentary feature went to the worthy, well-meaning but mostly boring and static AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH.  The best song went to Melissa Etheridge's PSA announcement jingle which played over the tedious film's end credits.

I liked THE DEPARTED, and by 2006 standards, it is a very good film of its era, but giving it Best Picture at the expense of Eastwood's superior LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA was a mistake.  At the same time, I was happy to see Scorsese get his Lifetime Achievement award in the guise of Best Director.

As of this writing, I haven't seen THE LIVES OF OTHERS (the foreign-language feature winner) yet, but I hope it received the award for merit rather than worthiness.

And I wish that Peter O'Toole and Forest Whitaker could have tied (in the same way that Barbra Streisand and Katharine Hepburn tied in 1969).  Both performances were equally worthy of honors.  It was poignant to see the look of surprise/disappointment on O'Toole's face.  Unless someone comes up with a middle-of-the-road valedictory project (sort of like the Rob Reiner film about dying of cancer that a bald Jack Nicholson is now making with co-star Morgan Freeman), it looks like O'Toole's final chance to win Best Actor has occurred. 

And then there was the contortionist dance troupe, which I guess Laura Ziskin chose for showing the West L.A./Brentwood/Beverly Hills arts donors how much "good taste" she has.

I'm reminded of Jack Lemmon's remark at the beginning of the 1985 Academy ceremony.  Lemmon told the audience about shortening the ceremony: "Brevity is the soul of wit.  And tonight, we're going to have a very soulful evening."

Substitute the words "safety" and "safe" for "brevity" and "soulful" and you have the 2007 fiasco in a nutshell.


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