Doodad Kind of Town

The 2009 Oscars: What a Swell Party it Was!
February 23, 2009, 5:35 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Have you ever loved a big production number at the Oscars so much that you wanted to watch it again immediately after the ceremony?

Have you ever enjoyed the banter between presenters so much that you hit the rewind button on the DVR remote at the next commercial so you could watch it again ?

Nope, me neither. That is, not until this year.

Last year, the nominated movies were great and the ceremonies were dull as dirt. This year, the nominees were a mixed bag, but the Oscar show itself was polished, fun and entertaining. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed the show this much. Or, for that matter, if I ever did.

Much of the credit must go to Hugh Jackman, a dashing and dynamic, triple-threat host (He sings! He dances! He’s funny! Oh, and he’s devastatingly good-looking,too.) As one of the two or three dozen people who watch the Tony Awards every year, I already knew Jackman was everything you could hope for in an awards show host, and then some. But for the Oscars, he took his game to a whole new level.

Jackman’s “recession era” opening production number (“put together in my garage last night”) was funny enough to make you forget you ever saw Billy Crystal. I was cringing a little trying to imagine how they’d make musical comedy out of “The Reader;” fortunately the techno dance number “I Forgot to See ‘The Reader'” was a brilliant, hilarious save. Undoubtedly, though, the highlight was Anne Hathaway’s game and seemingly spontaneous participation in the “Frost/Nixon”parody. Girlfriend can really belt – who knew?

Later Jackman tapped his way through a sorta-fun-but-also-sorta-superfluous medley of movie musical hits. Joining him was Beyonce, working sexy red sequins and a top hat, looking and sounding fabulous. I was quite happy just watching these two, but then they brought out Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens to sing some “High School Musical” crap. And then they had to drag in a number from “Mamma Mia.” This curmudgeonly musical maven would like to ask that the Academy never again reference “High School Musical 3” in the same tribute medley as “Singing in the Rain” or “Top Hat.”

The Tina Fey/SteveMartin moments leading up to the Best Original Screenplay award were some of the funniest in memory. (“Every writer starts with a blank page. And every blank page was once a tree. And every tree was once a tiny seed. And every tiny seed on earth was placed here by the alien king Rondelay to foster our titrates and fuel our positive transfers.”) Please let these two write the presentation banter for every Oscar show for the rest of their lives. They are comedy gods, and this is their world; the rest of us just live in it.

Every Oscar ceremony has its share of heart-tugging moments. Not surprisingly, the saddest of these was the acceptance of Heath Ledger’s posthumous Best Supporting Actor award by his father, mother and sister. As the many cutaways to the audience clearly showed, there was not a dry eye in the house. One might even say that the show’s producers milked this moment for pathos to the point of overkill.

Among the happier heart-tugs was Kate Winslet’s instruction to her father to “whistle so I can find you,” at which point her dad’s shrill whistle emerged from somewhere in the middle of the audience. And there was plenty of celebration at our Oscar party for the multiple “Slumdog Millionaire” wins. Let’s just say, some incriminating videos have been shot of fellow partyers attempting to dance Bollywood-style to the strains of the award-winning song “Jai Ho.”

Myself, I was cheering for my boy Sean Penn, whose portrayal of Harvey Milk was deservedly honored.

A few new features at this year’s show that I didn’t much care for:

The lengthy lovefest surrounding each of the acting awards. What was so wrong with the long-standing tradition of having the previous year’s gender-opposite winner read the names nominees in between film clips and brief bursts of polite applause? Nothing, so far as I can see. So why parade five past winners out for every category and force us to endure rambling, phony-sounding, actor-to-actor tribute speeches, interspersed with shots of embarrassed or teary-eyed nominees? Overindulgent? You bet!

Oh, and the obligatory “In Memoriam” reel (or, as it’s more commonly known at our annual Oscar party, the “Dead People Montage”)? It’s all very nice to have Queen Latifah sing “I’ll Be Seeing You” as the accompaniment, but we don’t actually want to be seeing her. We want to see dead people. And want just one shot of each of them in the frame at one time.

And finally, a few words about fashion.

Muted colors were the rule for this year’s Oscar gowns: lots of silver, champagne, bronze. Those colors may sound expensive, but they actually look subdued and recession-appropriate. Tasteful, sure, but also sort of uninspiring. Kudos to Amy Adams for working a beautiful, structured red gown – even though her necklace was too large and overwhelming for her fine features.

One-shoulder gowns and draped gowns seemed to be the other major trends for the evening. For some, the draped effect worked well (Meryl Streep).

Others looked as if they’d hastily tied a bedsheet around themselves before getting into their limo (Jessica Biel).

My favorite looks of the evening were worn by Melissa Leo, Viola Davis, and Kate Winslet.

Leo’s coppery gown complements both her auburn hair and her fair skin. I’d say this photo does not the same justice to the gown that the show’s cameras did. Leo was glowing and gorgeous on the red carpet.

Davis’ gown is likewise simple and elegant, and looks great with her skin tone.

Kate’s looked great all through awards season, and once again she’s wearing a black, one-shoulder number. And again, it’s all about understated elegance- sleek hair, simple jewelry and just the right amount of interesting detail on the gown.

Worst dressed of the night? That’s a tough call. Everyone these days has a stylist, and everyone at this recession-conscious bash looked (as previously noted) so damn tasteful. I miss the days when you could count on at least one egregious howler of an outfit -where’s Bjork and her swan dress when you need her? Or at least Cameron Diaz with a bad case of bedhead. I mean, Tilda Swinton even put on makeup this year!

But I did get a laugh out of Angelina Jolie’s ginormous emerald jewelry. I’m sure those baubles were expensive, but they kinda looked like something you’d find at the dollar store. In the toy section. And I’m pretty sure Whoopi Goldberg got her dress at TJ Maxx. Sadly, I couldn’t locate a picture of her cheap-looking, ill-fitting, animal print monstrosity of a gown, but I’m sure it’ll be showing up on E’s “Fashion Police” show later today.


3 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Great mention of Fey and Martin. That was a real highlight, and made me pine for the old Steve Martin who wasn’t in Pink Panther movies. Ugh. Jackman was pretty solid overall, I do have to say. He seemed pretty absent for the second half, but brought a lot of energy to the first and seemed really comfortable. I guess the ratings will determine his fate for future hosting, but he did himself a huge PR favor nonetheless.

Comment by Daniel Getahun

Nice writeup. We differ on overall enjoyment of the program, though, as you can see if you read my post over at the Creek.But I agree with you (and Daniel) that Jackman was pretty good. And I liked the Fey and Martin bit, too.

Comment by Rick Olson

Daniel – How true about Steve Martin. Wouldn’t you think he’d be rich enough by now to pass on bad remakes of Peter Sellers’ classics?Rick- The Oscars are far more enjoyable when you’re strongly attracted to the host and/or swigging tasty martinis while you watch.

Comment by Pat

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