Monday, March 10, 2014

The 2014 Oscars: An Uninvested View

Last year I did do a big write up on the show the academy put together. However this year it is not going to be as big. Why? One simple reason: Lack of investment.
It wasn't lack of investment in the show. Like many of you I always enjoy watching regardless of who the nominees are because it'll typically be a pretty entertaining ceremony. Can't exactly say I was in it 100% back in the day when movies like Iris and Gosford Park were getting a lot of buzz when I was in 8th grade. Still that was before my perspective on film as an art form changed and I got more into many different titles than just the mainstream crap I was watching at the time. In my adulthood I usually am able to keep up with at least some of the titles based on what I'm interested in and not who is and who isn't nominated. I was ready to get sucked into the world of Gravity long before the critics and academy were jumping all over it. Yet somehow this year I managed to not see a single movie nominated for best picture. Which is completely polar opposite of the 2007 Oscars where not only did I see all the best picture nominations, I saw them all in theatres.

As a matter of fact despite seeing a lot of popular titles last year these are the only ones I saw that were nominated (In some sort of back assward order I see them listed on wikipedia):
-The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Nominated for Best Visual Effects, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing)
-Iron Man 3 (Nom for Best Visual Effects)
-Star Trek Into Darkness (Nom for Best Visual Effects)
-All Is Lost (Nom for Best Sound Editing)
-Despicable Me 2 (Nom for Best Original Song)
-Saving Mr. Banks (Nom for Best Original Score)
-Get a Horse! (Nom for Best Animated Short)
And of course the movie I will not stop loving as long as I live:
-Frozen (Nominated and WON for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song)

A list mostly consisting of fun or exciting movies instead of intense and dramatic like the academy usually goes for. Frankly I'm still surprised I haven't seen a lot of what was nominated yet. Like I stated earlier I've been wanting to see Gravity for a while. Also I remember seeing a couple trailers for American Hustle and thought I could get into it. Then lastly while I wasn't interested in Wolf of Wall Street at first, but once I finally saw a trailer to it I was excited to get to it. So it's not for lack of interest in the movies. That's definitely not it. Not seeing a lot of the nominees does make my "credibility" as an artsy fartsy film fan (as depressing this is to say) go down a little bit... or so it seems. But I'll take the romance over the pretentiousness. I saw all the above movies, with the exception of All is Lost, with my wife. And like most movies I've seen in theatres the last few years it has been with her making them dates over artistic experiences. Which is fine, even better in fact. We see good movies. Movies I'd see anyway whether it is in theatres or not. I also don't have as much free time or money on my hands as I used to dropping the number of movie going experiences down a bit, limiting some of the more "Me only" titles to infrequent lone visits (Sometimes going alone is the best!) or renting via Red Box/Netflix/VOD.

With that explanation done and over with onto the actual show.
I did not watch the red carpet, pre-show interviews/dress commentary. I've never had an interest over the years even though I have watched it before. To me the show is the... well... the show itself. So no commentary on the red carpet.
The first thing, of course, we're introduced to at the Oscars is the host. This year was Ellen DeGeneres. I wouldn't say I was disappointed in this decision. I've just never personally been a fan. I know a lot of people like her which shows in her popularity with her TV show. I've never been a fan of her comedy but I don't hate her either. My go to example that is crazy obvious is Finding Nemo. Like most I did enjoy Nemo. And I would even say I liked Dory, thinking the character was pretty funny. Not as hilarious as most people thought. There were many times when I was annoyed by Dory and part of it was Ellen's delivery. Sure she's fun and goofy, but it gets old to me after a while. I was neither angry or excited by the host this year. Despite my normal lack of enthusiasm for Ellen I did enjoy her hosting performance a lot. I found myself charmed by her personality and plenty of the jokes were really funny. It wasn't bombastically huge in skits like last year with Seth MacFarlane but that's okay. Not every year can have a skit to the hilarious level of "We Saw Your Boobs." There was one bit this year that really stuck with me as I'm sure it did to many.
Between awards Ellen would walk up and down the aisle talking to all the different celebs. One bit in particular she was asking if anyone was hungry and if she should order a pizza. At first I thought it was a cute bit that gave me a little chuckle, if not trying too hard to be funny in a way. Then a couple of awards later an actual pizza guy shows up and they start handing slices out in the first few rows! I thought this was an excellent follow up to a goofy joke. It was a nice and unexpected twist to what could have easily been passed off as a cheap, simple joke of "Man! This show is so long! I bet you guys are hungry!"

In terms of the ceremony itself there were a few odd choices.
I see the continuing tradition of making Best Supporting Actor be the first award is sticking. Not a bad idea. I think it keeps people interested from the start instead of going through the technical and less admired awards go first. I almost think it would be a good idea to mix them up even more. That way we don't go from one cool award to 4-6 less exciting rewards just to get to a decent award followed up with another cool one. Maybe have the best supporting actor, then best shorts, then maybe animated (cause there is a big enough audience for that), go back to another technical, then BOOM! Best Supporting Actress. I think it may help get people to watch the entire show than just a few short chunks.
The other odd choice was the montages and things they're honoring. Of course they always do the cutaway to the other ceremonies and awards outside of the main show. That I've come to expect. But what was with the hero montage? What was the occasion? What was the reason for showing a seemingly random set of clips to movies with all kinds of heroes? They never did a follow up or even commentary on the subject matter before or after. They just came out and... oh look... a montage. The did the same with animation. Don't get me wrong, animation is one of the coolest things done in movies, but why? And it was handled like the animation thing. There was no special reason aside from "ANIMATION IS AWESOME!" Well I already knew that. You could have freed up a couple minutes of that time for something else much more worth looking at for a special reason. What I don't know. But those felt very unecessary in the end.
Speaking of unecessary... why are we feeling the need to take time out to honor The Wizard of Oz? Sure it is a classic that has withstood the test of time. And yes it was the 75th anniversary... but why? An anniversary that comes out to a nice to look at number is good for a home video re-release but we don't need to take time out of a once a year show that is already reeeeeeeally long to honor it. Everyone in the audience both there and at home have seen it and/or know it's impact on film as a whole. And yes, 75 years, that's a long time. Just tell me why Pink gets to come out on stage and sing the entire song of Over the Rainbow from a movie that is almost a century old. Yet Idina Menzel only gets to sing a short version of Let it Go. A song that is up for the Oscar that freaking night making it really relevant for her to sing that song over the ten billionth cover of an old song!

Oh yeah... Adele Dazeem... that was pretty funny. I wonder what kind of shit John Travolta caught backstage after that one.

The whole show did feel like a bit of a mess. More than just Travolta messing up, too. There were times where Ellen was very poorly timed with her cues. Other times when her bits with the celeb audience just wasn't working. And I know it's live so mess ups are going to happen, but some of the speeches were so lazy and unprofessional. They lost their spot so bad they had to bring attention to it. Then going back to the way the show was arranged it all felt so sloppy. Even the speeches weren't as memorable as last year.
Last year I felt there were a lot of great acceptance speeches. An exceptional year. Many were quick and straight to the point while also heartfelt. Except Tarantino. He was kinda a pretentious douche in his. But this year they were very uneven. Granted you can't expect them all to be a similar level, but c'mon. Whatever happened to playing them off like in the old days? Some people you let go on and on and on and on. Like Jared Leto, first win of the night. He just kept going and going. I get he wants to mention the theme of Dallas Buyers Club, having to do with the struggle of AIDS, but I'm pretty sure everyone in the audience knew about that so you didn't need to add the extensive detail that belongs at a fundraiser or something. Also I get you want to thank your mom and brother for being an inspiration. I just think you could have taken all that stuff and pulled it together to a nice, neat package that would have been even more impactful. A similar thing happened with Cate Blanchett toward the end. She just kept on going like she didn't care... and the director of the show didn't seem to care either cause they played off others earlier. It felt very uneven, and frankly unfair. I did enjoy Matthew McConaughey's speech. Again a little long, but more enjoyable than the rest.
Another sloppy bit is something I've had a problem with since they re-introduced it. Why... why do we need more than five nominees for best picture? It makes everything look so unbalanced. Majority of the categories are 5 nominees, some less, but best picture has turned into the politically correct version of an award show. It's like they want to make sure plenty are included so no one gets hurt. And it usually boils down to 2, maybe 3 different movies in the end. It was really obvious the year The King's Speech won, for example and this year was no different. Without having to see the movies I was figuring it was going to be either Gravity (the up and comer win), American Hustle (Oh c'mon it had Oscar bait all over it!), and 12 Years a Slave (which did win unsurprisingly). That leaves 6 more titles that didn't have a chance. If anything I would rather my movie was nominated against 4 others instead of 8. Getting a nomination against that many feels like you just got the participation award at a school sporting event. Like they said "You showed up and you were good enough." instead of "You are one of the elite!" Yes there were hundreds of movies released all over the world last year so being in that <1% is an honor. It also seems like it would be a slap in the face being the best picture nomination no one can remember. Cause the audience is only going to think of those top 2 or 3 at best.

Without seeing any of the movies this is my assumption of what the best picture nominations would have been if it was back down to 5 (in alphabetical order):
-12 Years a Slave
-American Hustle
-Dallas Buyers Club
-Wolf of Wall Street.

I may be off on one or two, but I think that's the way it would have gone.

This year wasn't exactly a memorable year. Keep in mind it wasn't that bad. It just wasn't anything to write home about. The jokes worked for the most part. There were some clever bits here and there. The awards were varied with the exception of Gravity taking everything technical, so it kept the show interesting and unpredictable. And Ellen was a wonderful guest who I wouldn't mind seeing again.
Still so much of it was sloppy and poorly produced. It is nowhere near as bad as the 2010 awards but that was an exceptionally bad and sloppy year with little to no redeeming value. Outside of very good choices for the winners. And while the selfie bit that literally broke twitter was fun... it's a one off joke that I can see being overly referenced or even re-attempted one day in another form. The birth of a new bad joke that started out fine that didn't need to be repeated.
If you watched it I hope you enjoyed it. Cause I did for the most part. I just wasn't that invested in the winners for reasons I already explained. Did I still have fun? Definitely. For a show that lasts so long I did get through it with little issue.

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