Friday, March 12, 2010

the white elephant

Somehow, it managed to get worse - and more embarrassing - with each passing hour. And the hours passed oh so slooowly.

Where to begin, where to begin - that's the conundrum here. Let's see...

There's Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin behaving like two old burlesque comics, with Martin literally turning into Mr. Magoo before our eyes.

But much worse was the bizarrely gratuitous, wildly hypocritical montage celebrating a genre that has almost never been nominated for - let alone rewarded with - an Oscar. That would be horror movies.

Much, much worse, however, was the inexplicable celebration of a hack filmmaker/producer who directed a scant eight movies, only two of them any good ("Sixteen Candles" and "Planes, Trains & Automobiles"), and produced scores of really lousy films. That would be John Hughes.

And even worse than that was a weird, unweildy display of dull "interperative" dancing matched up with the nominated film scores - a spectacle so bad and so drawn-out that it made one nostalgic for the mundane awfulness of Debbie Allen's past Oscar-show concoctions.

But wait! Much more worse (worser?) was the condescending dismissal of film personalities who represent experience and knowledge - Lauren Bacall, Roger Corman, Gordon Willis and John Calley - who were reduced to audience members while someone representing the dismal future of film was given the spotlight on stage. That would be Mylie Cyrus and Taylor Lautner. (BTW, Bacall et al were given their "honorary" awards at an event hosted - seemingly clandestinely and at some secret location - way back in November. Sounds like a much better event to me.)

Much worse, however, was the Oscarcast's orchestra giving the hook to Ric O’Barry - protagonist of the best documentary, "The Cove" - because he attempted to enlighten the viewing audience about his on-going campaign to halt the capture and brutal slaughter of dolphins in Taiji, Japan. Who's he think he is anyway? A star? Mylie Cyrus?

But topping that were the toxic “personal tributes" - in which celebs were made the stand in a line-up, without even a podium to lean on, and fawn over and pander to each and every nominated best actor and actress. That would be arse-kissing of the highest/lowest (take your pick) sort.

Ah, but much, much worse was the Academy's reliably awful "In Memorium" segment, legendary by now for snobbishly overlooking people who worked hard to make the industry look better than it actually is. This year, at long last, the Academy got caught with its petty bias showing when it made the jaw-dropping mistake of purposely ignoring Farrah Fawcett, while celebating Michael Jackson who, by my recollection, made only one - count it - one film. That would be the execrable "The Wiz."

But also overlooked were:

James Whitmore
Ricardo Montalbán
Bea Arthur
Gene Barry
Marilyn Chambers
Edward Woodward
Henry Gibson
Don Galloway
John Alvin
Edward Judd
Molly Bee
Phil Carey
Steven Bach
Jimmy Boyd
Salvatore Samperi
Sydney Chaplin
Ken Annakin
Jack Cardiff
Simon Channing-Williams
Jody McCrea
Mort Abraham
Frank Aletter
Harve Presnell
Fred Travalena
Ed McMahon
Ruth Ford
Melvin Simon
Lou Jacobi
Betty Lou Keim
Joseph Wiseman
Al Alberts
Paul Wendkos
Carl Ballentine
Perry Wilson
Dan O'Bannon
Connie Hines
Alaina Reed Hall
Rose Kaufman
Richard Todd
Bryan O'Byrne
Maggie Jones
Clint Ritchie

How difficult is it to keep a list of who died and when - and then honor those lost people? And how many extra seconds does it add to the show’s self-indulgent, sprawling running time to flash the faces of these departed? If that’s too much trouble for the Academy, maybe it should start licensing Turner Classic’s In Memoriam, which is always definitive. Of course, the Academy can't even figure out if its memorials represent the preceding calendar year exclusively or if they should cover the span from Oscar show to Oscar show. Decisions, decisions.

Congratulations of sorts go to Bruce Davis, the executive director of the Academy, and to Adam Shankman and Bill Mechanic, producers of this year's Oscarcast. Congratulations because, well, they won. The Oscarcast had is best ratings in years, particularly in the much lusted-after 18-to-34-year-old demographic. A dubious achievement, indeed. Yes, an audience was lured and reigned in, but did that audience actually like what it saw?

Or were the viewers as dusgusted as I was?

We'll find out next year when they tune in again. Or not.


Natalie said...

Well put!

Tom said...

I wouldn't lose sleep over the Motion Picture Academy's omission of Fred Travelena and Connie Hines. lol. And some of those people you listed were indeed in the Oscar montage.

You know, I thought the same thing about Steve Martin's spectacles. Why couldn't he have put in contacts? For Pete's sake.

jbryant said...

I would've sworn Bea Arthur was in there, but I may be thinking of the in memoriam segment of SAG or another awards show. Hard to keep up. If they left Richard Todd out, that really sucks, considering he was once nominated for an Oscar. Seems like that should get you right in!

Leaving Farrah out seemed churlish. Even though she didn't have a great movie career, she did make several, including a couple opposite Best Actor winner Jeff Bridges.

joe baltake said...

Natalie, Tom & Jay- Thanks for the input.

Jay, re Bea Arthur, she was definitely omitted from the Academy's In Memoriam. Her name, along with Fawcett's and Montalbán's, have been singled out in more than one Oscar post mortem this year.

To be completely honest, I'm not sure about either Todd or Jack Cardiff. They may have been included. This year, given the Academy's bad rep in this particular area, I tried to jot down every name included - which wasn't easy because the images came and went so fast and some of them weren't even identified. The first few images, presented at a distance, were particularly indiscernable. Plus, the Academy's PR branch, not surprisingly, doesn't print a list of the names included in its yearly In Memoriams.

But, Tom, I must challenge you on your comment about Fred Travelena and Connie Hines. My stance is that anyone who ever made a film deserves to be remembered when they pass, no matter how minor they may have been ("minor" being a relative term, of course). If the movie industry can routinely indugle itself with voluminous end credits that go on and on for minutes, why can't it allot a few seconds to those souls no longer with us? It's bad form all around.

Sally said...

Yes, the powers won. All they cared about were the ratings, not honoring the best of the film industry. John Hughes was a joke who had been forgotten about for years - until he died. The horror reel was ludicrous. How are we to take these awards seriously when it was clear it was geared towards teen morons, past and present. Oy!

Millie said...

Excellent post!

I didn't watch the Oscars this year, but I did watch many clips on YouTube. The In Memorial was utterly horrible! And the disgraceful way they treated Lauren Bacall, Roger Corman, etc...

I am almost part of the "demographic" (15), but I sure as heck was not happy about all time given to Miley Cyrus and THE TWILIGHT CAST!??! What?!

Anyway, a great post!

joe baltake said...

FYI. Everyone honored in death on the Oscarcast and listed in my post died in 2009. Well, almost.

Zelda Rubinstein and Pernell Roberts, both included in the Academy's tribute, actually passed in January of this year. And wasn't Roberts mostly known for TV, for "Bonanza"? That was the Academy's excuse for omitting Farrah, right? James Doohan, of "Star Trek" fame, was also largely a TV star. He died in 2005 and was honored In Memoriam by the Academy in 2006 ... and in 2007! Go figure.

That same year, 2007, the Academy elected to ignore Adrienne Shelly, whose 2006 death by murder was huge news in the industry. (Her much-anticipated final film, "Waitress," was due for release about a month following that year's Oscarcast.)

Anyway, Wikipedia, my source here, provides the most exhaustive listing of celebrity deaths each year. Here's the link for 2009:

Kirt said...

You missed the interruption caused by "Lady Kanye" - Elinor Burkett - the debunked producer who took the mike away from short subject winner, Roger Ross Williams. That was pretty bad, although admittedly the Academy had nothing to do with it. I think.

joe baltake said...

The Burkett incident was odd, frightening and amusing all at once - none of which can be used to describe the Oscarcast.

wwolfe said...

I'm happy to say I have a very fond, sharp memory of Fred Travalena as a movie actor: he plays a disc jockey who plays "That'll Be the Day" for 24 hours straight in "The Buddy Holly Story." The scene where he's talking to Buddy on the phone as the cops are trying to break down the door to the disc jockey's booth is played with great verve and humor by Travalena, capturing in a few moments the rebellious sense of breaking loose that animated so much of early rock and roll. That may be just one moment, but lots of actors never get even that much of a chance to shine on film.

joe baltake said...

Bravo, Bill! You said it perfectly.

Kevin Deany said...

You're spot on with your comments Joe.

The low point (among many) was the tribute to horror movies, introduced by Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart. Here again, you have to wonder - didn’t anyone think this thing through? Stewart says horror movies haven’t been a part of the Oscars since “The Exorcist”, back in 1973. Well, what about “Silence of the Lambs”, which swept the 1991 Oscars? Not a horror movie? Well, they had clips from it in the horror film montage. Duh!

And in a year when Oscar honors Roger Corman, there's no footage of a Corman-directed horror film, save for a glimpse of "Little Shop of Horrors." Wouldn't a shot of say, Vincent Price and the swinging pendulum, be better than "Leprechaun"? Again,the logic of it all escapes me.

J. Kaiser said...

Those were my thoughts exactly during that debacle they called an Awards Show. Particularly the interpretive dance segment and the tribute to John Hughes.

As for the Horror montage. When it was introduced, it was said that the last horror movie to get any real Oscar recognition was "The Exorcist" back in 1973. Yet when the montage played out, there were at least two or three snippets from "Silence of the Lambs" which cleared the Big Five at the Awards for 1991.

Whoever was in charge this year, knew nothing about movies.

As for the omissions in the memorial, they claimed that Jackson was included because the documentary about him last year, while Fawcet was omitted, because she was mostly known for her television work. WHAT A CROCK!!!

Sadly, because of the so-called ratings success of this years show, we can probably expect the same idiots in charge next year.

joe baltake said...

John & Kevin: Thanks for the passion about the debacle known as the Oscars. -J

Tim said...

John Hughes was given the kind of tribute accorded to no other filmmaker within memory - not even Orson Welles!

J. Kaiser said...

Kevin - Didn't see yours before I posted, but glad to see someone on the same wavelength.