Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Drunk on Foolish Pleasures: Oscar Ramblings

Another Oscar season has come and gone. Here are some incredibly random thoughts on Sunday's big night.

I don't care about what "the interwebs" says (it is just a series of tubes, after all) -- I thought Ellen DeGeneres did a terrific job hosting the Oscars. Let's face it: the job is nearly impossible. No one can host the damn thing and please everyone. Ellen's mean joke about Liza Minnelli put to rest the notion that she is too "nice." Ordering pizza for the front row was funny, and when the pizzas finally arrived, I thought it was odd that most of the celebrities grabbing a slice did not grab one for their spouses. Maybe they all planned to share their pizza slices by both chewing in toward the center, Lady and The Tramp style. Because if there's one thing I believe about celebrity relationships, it's that they are based on the same sense of deep love and unending commitment as that shared by cartoon doggies.

Several websites reported in the wake of the Oscars that, although Ellen took her famous, record-retweet selfie with a Samsung Android phone (Did money change hands for that bit of promotion?) she was actually tweeting backstage from an iPhone. Hee hee! Ya burnt, Ellen.
Speaking of tweets, this was the year F This Movie! discontinued the practice of live tweeting the Oscar ceremony. Hopefully, this did not cause anyone distress. We just found that it was well nigh impossible to tweet about something and enjoy it at the same time. Actually, some of us feel it's impossible to watch the Oscars and enjoy it at the same time. That being said, I recommend that all of you, at one point in your life or another, watch the Oscar ceremony with Adam Riske. Dude is hilarious.

If you simply cannot break your Twitter addiction, even on Oscar night, may I recommend our very own Erich Asperschlager's "#fakeoscars" tweets? He announced early on that he was replacing the red carpet with a slip 'n' slide, and later when Travolta made his now-famous gaffe introducing Idina Menzel, Asperschlager tweeted that Travolta had introduced her as "Royale With Cheese." Dude is hilarious.

Pharrell Williams's performance of his nominated song "Happy" was terrific, especially the part where he jumped into the audience and invited celebrities to dance. Meryl Streep has moves. "Why you no dance, Jennifer Lawrence? Don't be stuck up."
One measure of Pharrell's popularity (or the immense popularity of the Despicable Me franchise) was the reaction in my family room during the Pharrell number. The two children in the room went nuts, dancing and cavorting. It was super cute! And maybe a bit disturbing to see the true power a catchy pop riff. When the screen behind Pharrell flashed the image of a minion, I thought the 5-year-old was going into a state of religious ecstasy.

Conclusion? Minions + Pharrell = Heroin for Children.

Why is it that the older I get, the sadder the "In Memoriam" montage makes me feel? (EDITOR'S NOTE: It is because each year JB draws closer to death.)

I was happy that 20 Feet From Stardom won Best Documentary, though right before the award was announced, I was commenting to our group that I thought it was at a disadvantage over weightier fare like The Act of Killing. I will not gloat over this win, though I championed this film early on. @JimLovesMovies on the Twitter machine expected me to be insufferably smug about the film's victory.

News to Jim: I am insufferably smug about EVERYTHING.

The fact that 20 Feet From Stardom took home the trophy got me wondering why Good Ol' Freda wasn't even nominated. Freda was my favorite documentary last year. I would have liked to hear director Ryan White's acceptance speech.

Monday morning the newspapers, radio, and the world wide web were full of complaints about the show's problematic length. Want to make the Oscar broadcast shorter? Here are my suggestions:

1. Start on time.

2. What's with all the singing? I love The Wizard of Oz as much as the next guy but do we need to celebrate its 75th anniversary by allowing Pink to sing? I think not. The "In Memoriam" montage is enough; we do not need Bette Midler belting out "Wind Beneath My Wings" to prove that these people will be missed. This is the Oscars, not the Grammys; the live performances of the nominated songs give us enough music for one evening, thank you.

3. Perhaps make it a rule that each Oscar telecast can only contain ONE inspiring montage of film clips. This year's "Everyday Heroes" montage reminded me of a crude commercial for Netflix. Look, Academy - you don't have to "sell" us on movies. We're all on board for movies. THAT'S WHY WE'RE WATCHING THE GODDAMN OSCARS. We love the movies so much, we will sit through THIS.

4. Like the Grammys, give more awards in advance. Save only the big ones for the actual live broadcast. Handing out 24 awards in 2 1/2 hours is a goal that is well nigh impossible for presenters and recipients who love to talk and talk.

5. One presenter per award. No reason for banal banter-- read the nominations and then the winner! Imagine!

6.  Most of the audience already knows the films nominated for Best Picture. You do not have to choose bored-looking celebrities (I'm looking at you, Harrison Ford -- though you're looking at a teleprompter) to introduce them. This would also solve the problem of the god-awful, unrepresentative clips the Academy always chooses to represent the film.

7. The host can only go into the audience ONCE.
8. Elect Matthew McConaughey "official mascot" of the Oscars and have him begin each broadcast by explaining any new rules and slyly intoning, "Alright alright alright." He has proven he's into it.

For the last decade or so my lovely wife and I have thrown an Oscar party, and we have developed some ironclad traditions. At some point in the evening, Doug always takes off his pants. Patrick loses the Oscar pool every year because a) he votes for what he feels deserves to win and b) he does not give a shit. Every year, my wife sculpts an Oscar replica out of Merkt's Cheese. We call it "The Choscar." It is decorative and delicious. Last year, our Choscar looked like this:
This year, because of some nonsense involving flight delays, my wife was late to our own party. I was forced to prepare the Choscar myself. This year, our Choscar looked like this:
Someone at the party suggested that my version be dubbed "The Cheenis."

We have always attempted to theme the evening's appetizers to that year's Best Picture nominations. Needless to say, we were not happy when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided to expand the slate of nominated films to ten a few years back. That meant more work and more calories. Fortunately Patrick and Erika now share snack duty with us. Here is our menu from last Sunday night:

Anti-Gravity Tang Cocktail: Just the thing for when you’re drinking alone!

Captain Phillips

Captain (Morgan) Navy Seal Grog: Two of these and you’ll gladly let someone else drive the boat— three and you’ll go into shock.

Irish Soda Bread and Jam: Just the type of comfort food you need when the Catholic Church steals your baby and sells it. You’ll search and search and never find a better appetizer… or your lost son.

12 Years a Slave
Salami Northwraps: See, in the movie the character’s name was Solomon Northrup, so… we thought this would be funny, but it’s probably racist.

Assorted Sandwiches: Just the thing for when you’re sitting on the couch, watching TV. How long did it take you to get here? THREE DAYS? From Billings?!!

Dallas Buyer’s Club
Rodeo Salsa: Because “rodeo salsa” is a thing, right? Also, there’s AZT in it. Alright alright alright!

Sushi: Theodore goes out on a creepy date, and they eat "Asian Fusion." I don't know what that is, but Whole Foods sells ready-made sushi, and we couldn't think of anything else, so....

American Hustle
Assorted “Science Oven” Snacks: Erika actually set our kitchen curtains on fire preparing these! Does my comb-over look okay?

The Wolf of Wall Street
Hookers and Cocaine: Or maybe they were brownies and powdered sugar. These Quaaludes must be really old…I don’t feel a thing…
As I have written about exhaustively, both here and here and here, the Academy almost always gets it wrong. With the benefit of history, we see how boneheaded so many of their choices were. So this year 12 Years a Slave wins Best Picture, and maybe that's a good thing! But how much of an honor is it really? It will merely join the ranks of shitburgers like Broadway Melody, Cavalcade, The Greatest Show on Earth, Around The World In 80 Days, Titanic, The English Patient, Gladiator, The Artist, and The King's Speech.

Most weeks in this column, even when I'm not talking about the movies, I really am talking about movies. But this week, because I'm talking about the Oscars, I'm not talking about the movies at all.


  1. A couple thoughts

    1.) do you really think 12 Years a Slave will rank among the worst of the Best Picture winners, as you have compared it here? I still haven't seen it, so I'm legitimately asking.

    2.) Even on Oscar night, I can see Patrick saying something like "I'll take You're Next to win Best Picture this year." That's how much he votes for what he feels deserves to win.

    3.) Ford looked bored as hell to be at the Oscars, and I agree it's pointless to have to reintroduce every Best Pucture winner, elongating an already excruciatingly long ceremony. You're third point also would help speed things along.

    4.) I thought Pink did an excellent randition of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow," and I don't usually like her.

    5.) Ellen was awesome as the host.

    I also like to watch for the acceptance speeches. Nyong'o and McConaughey gave the best ones, I thought, as they seemed genuinely gracious and grateful in accepting their awards.

    Also, can we put an end to rolling out old, crazy stars who barely seem to know where they are to help present awards? It's just cringe-worthy *cough*KimNovak*cough*.

    1. That sound you heard Sunday night was a thousand Vertigo fans un-masturbating to Kim Novak.

    2. Whatever dude, you're the one who went home early. #Vertigoo

    3. '@sometimeskelly Pink's highest note was a fifth lower than Idina's. Everyone calm down.' Ya burnt Pink. I have nothing against Pink, I think she is great, just bringing some perspective haha. Plus not many people can sing like this with this nonsense going on around them, I thought you guys might find this fun:

    4. I'm on Taye Diggs' side in the Diggs-Menzel rift. Sorry Gabby.

    5. I'm a bit disappointed about that comment Adam, they aren't in a boxing match their marriage has broken down and they both have to go through a divorce which isn't nice for either of them. Just because you're a fan of Taye Diggs doesn't mean you have to take 'sides' in his break up. Even though Taye has probably cheated on her, I really don't want to get involved in on the rumours surrounding their separation, they probably didn't want it to end that way and they are now trying to move on and raise their child in the best way possible. Let's not forget Idina has had a long-term problem with incredibly low self-esteem and is on medication for Depression, I really wish people would just let her be the artist she wants to be rather than zoning in on her personal life. As someone who deals with Depression, we are very fragile people and it doesn't take a lot to push us right down. Unless that was I joke, in which case I apologise! I still think you're really great Adam it's just I take some things very seriously.

    6. It was a joke. I am impartial in celebrity relationships.

    7. I thought it would be a joke I am sorry! I am overly sensitive sometimes, I am working on it though.

  2. All I meant was that however good or bad the winner is, it has to join the company of some real stinkeroos. To suggest that 12 Years A Slave is not a masterpiece would be to reveal that I am an insufferable racist.

  3. My coupla thoughts:

    1) I liked Ellen a lot too - she's still got it as far as stand-up comedy goes. I'd watch an hour set of hers any day - I actually dreamt we were pal-ing around last night - it wasn't sexual but I woke up with an erection anyway - true story!

    2) Bette Midler singing fuuucking "Wind Beneath My Wings" was the exact moment I changed the channel from the Oscars. Coincidence? I think not.

    3) I swear it's not just because I'm horribly racist but I don't think 12 Years a Slave was the right choice for Best PIcture (though probably not as bad as some that you listed). I think a lot of it was technically well done and it certainly had some powerful moments, but was anyone supposed to even "like" the movie? Is there any reason to watch it again other than if you enjoy watching Black people get treated like animals? Why do they so often seem to pick "One and Done" kind of movies for Best Picture?

    Anyway, I did probably watch more of the Oscars than last year but it still has to be the most extravagant waste of fucking time there is. Would have been more fun had I attended your party - I'm quite partial to cheese penises.

    1. I don't think 12YaS so much that was supposed to be a movie that you "like" or "enjoy" as much as it is "important." Maybe? That's usually how these things go, I think. Whatever.

    2. I can see how it was important and I don't really want to bash the movie - it did have an effect on me - but I'm not sure Most Important Picture and the Academy Award for Best Picture are or should be the same thing. It's certainly important for us to have movies about slavery, or the Holocaust or AIDS but is it fair that they sort of get socio-historical bonus points while the other contenders are judged solely by their artistic merits? It doesn't seem fair that voters are put in the position of feeling guilty NOT picking a movie like 12 Years a Slave (or a song like "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp")?

      Also, I guess this probably isn't a discussion worth having because the Oscars are stupid?

    3. I think Sol has a good point. I think the whole Oscar experience is icky when it comes to a socio-historical movie. For example, can you be happy if you win an Oscar for the movie about AIDS? Sure, but then you look like Steve McQueen when he jumped up and down in elated victory after giving a shout out to Solomon Northrup who I'm pretty sure wouldn't give a shit that his movie won the Oscar for Best Picture. You know, because he had important things to be concerned about.

    4. Didn't the best supporting actress winner Lupita Nyong'o sort of refer to that in her acceptance speech. Something about her own elation juxtaposed against the films subject matter etc.

      Related personal note: I have never seen Schindler's List. I am sure it is good, I just don't want to put myself through that ringer.

    5. But we can't really have it both ways, right? I'm momentarily annoyed when something fluffy like The Artist wins best picture, so shouldn't something heavy like 12 Years a Slave be preferable? 20 Feet from Stardom beats The Act of Killing because one is a feel good movie and one has the power to change the world. But if that's the movie the Academy liked the best, I guess it should win. Same for 12 Years a Slave.

      And then I remember it doesn't really matter. We should just treat the Oscars like someone else's Top 10 list that we don't agree with. "Well, those aren't my choices, but good for you."

    6. I think Adam has a good point about me having a good point.

      But yeah, it is icky, ESPECIALLY in the context of an event as frivolous and decadent as the Oscars. WEALTH, FAME, BEAUTY, slavery, FASHION, PARTIES...

    7. Patrick - maybe not that "both ways" but we can have great movies about heavy subjects. Like maybe I'm weird (ok, I am) but Schindler's List I think works both to give you a powerful connection to an historical event and a great "movie experience" - I can watch it every couple of years. 12 Years a Slave on the other hand, while it does succeed in bringing history to life in a way that facilitates more empathy than a textbook, I don't think it works that well as a movie. It has some good performances and some beautiful cinematography, but it's more a series of (horrible) events than a cohesive narrative. For example, if it weren't for the title, I would have had absolutely no sense of the passage of time and given that it is the title, shouldn't we have FELT those 12 years he was separated from his life and family? (Sidebar: Was it appropriate that they bleeped out the word "nigger" during one of the clips? What the hell is THAT saying?)

      And then I remember it doesn't really matter... :)

    8. Sure, yes. I just can't figure out if what's being said is "It shouldn't have won because of its subject matter" or "It shouldn't have won because it wasn't good." And that's all obviously subjective. I've heard people claim that it won because it is IMPORTANT or because of the Academy's white guilt, but that seems to take away from everyone's accomplishment. And if it means a black filmmaker directed a Best Picture winner after 85 years, I'm fine with it.

      Again, I'm on record as not loving the movie, but I can't begrudge it the Best Picture win. I'm certainly no less upset about it than I would have been happy if Wolf of Wall Street had won. Both carry the same amount of significance. It's all just future trivia answers anyway.

    9. I agree with all of that and I see that I'm suddenly holding the award up to a higher standard than it deserves - I guess because I don't like the whiff of racial pandering (or an unfair playing field) I get from this selection (which is purely conjecture).

      I should also say I'm not UPSET over the pick or anything and my discussing it is more of an intellectual exercise than an attempt to define what is "Oscar-worthy" - that is certainly a trivial pursuit!

    10. Regarding the "both ways" comments, I think it would be nice for something to win that is both interesting/important AND entertaining. That's why The Wolf of Wall Street would have been a good choice in my opinion, as well. It's both, not to mention it's expertly made. That's sort of why I thought Argo was a good choice last year. To me, anyway, that movie has historical significance and is entertaining at the same time.

  4. I did like Bill Murray's tribute to Harold Ramis.

    1. oh yes. That was great, too. I appreciated that he did that.

  5. I think 12 Years was a great movie. I've heard a lot of people say its cold (including on here). I disagree. I felt quite a great deal from it. I also find it quite relevant (see Steve McQueen's acceptance speech). As for a narrative, you see someone go on a journey, coming out changed at the end of it. Remember, he salvaged his own soul BEFORE he became free again (SPOILERS). So I think it works rather well.

    If you didn't like the movie, thats fine. No you're not a racist. That joke is already tired. Can we please bury it already.

    If you haven't seen it, and want your own opinion, go see it. If you like it or hate it, come away from it with your own POV, not trying to seek out confirmation bias.

    Like Patrick said, agree or disagree, this is just other people's list. Doesn't change yours.

  6. I had a mini Oscar party of my own with my best friend and my very close friend Lyndon. Lyndon doesn't really know much about movie politics so he kind of jumped in the deep end with Ingelinn and I. We were commenting constantly about all the Oscar bullshit but also who we like and don't like in terms of the people in the audience and making a huge amount of jokes and sarcastic remarks. I think this makes us far more entertaining than the weird Sky Panel we get here in the UK and I think we deserve their job more than they do. We kind of made no noise when 12 years a slave won. Not that I'm not happy for it, but I was really just unsurprised. I also found it incredibly uncomfortable viewing.

    I actually squirmed in my seat when Solomon was being lynched, which resulted in this woman putting her face in my ear and telling me to stop interfering with her enjoyment of the scene. Seriously those were her words. I think she needs a doctor. She doesn't seem to get the point that is really not what this film is there for. Ingelinn and I spoke to her afterwards and she really was on a different planet. It is very important to me to be a respectful viewer, but I did wriggle a bit in my chair for this one part and I really couldn't help it, plus I was being very quite. I think this woman is a bit unstable.

    Anyway I divert, I really agree with the 'Everyday heroes' montage comment, that was completely unnecessary and I too really enjoyed Ellen hosting I like the comment that it is just someone else's top ten list, I think I will be able to accept that at some point. I haven't got there yet so still make loud yelling noises at the TV. I have never been so incredibly emotional about Best song. I felt a bit daft for caring so much about these awards, but I was almost crying and then jumping for joy. I don't know, when something that I care about that much gets awarded with that kind of award, I guess that is how I react!

    I also loved any shot of Sally Hawkins and Cate Blanchett. Those two are so adorable, particularly Sally who looked so over-joyed about being there. Being on British soil we were particularly happy for her. And being a little bit in love with her I enjoyed seeing her so happy.

  7. While ive never really been into the Oscar's as such, Ive become increasingly less so over the years as my jadedness and annoyance with "celebrity culture" grows. The ceremony comes across as too much about the backslapping and photo ops than about celebrating modern cinema. So, I just don't bother with it. Umm, yeah, that's it.