Monday, February 25, 2008

The Oscars

Last night's relatively uninteresting Oscar telecast, hosted by the usually amusing but apparently inhibited Jon Stewart, offered little in the form of meaningful entertainment. Stewart, the erstwhile host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," proved that he is far more easily irreverent in the confines of his distant New York studio than in a room full of mega-celebrities and potential guests for his show. Sly and acerbic comedians, apparently, have but one path when hosting the program: neuter themselves when hosting the Oscars - and resort to hackneyed jokes about the show's length and Jack Nicholson's notable presence. (Did he really introduce tired old Harrison Ford as "either a international movie star or a car dealership"? Are we certain that this show employed the services of the long gone writers?

Certainly, though, there were several moments of interest which confirmed that, occasionally, sparks of originality do not go unrewarded. The victory of No Country for Old Men in the Best Picture category, and the accompanying wins of Joel and Ethan Coen for Best Director(s) and Javier Bardem for Best Supporting Actor, may have been enough to cleanse the lingering sense of disappointment and disdain from the recent Best Picture win of Crash two years ago. Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, in winning for Best Song for "Falling Slowly" from their wonderful gem of a film "Once," illustrated that a tune need not originate from an animated film to win.

Why the the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences insists each year on allowing its president to make a presentation is still perplexing. With the erosion of viewers from the telecast and the perennial complaints of the program's length, no reason - other than vanity - remains to justify the presence of the Academy president, who no viewer knows or recognizes.

Viewers with a sense of the macabre look forward to the montage of actors, crew, and other various showmen who passed away during the year preceding the telecast. Typically, one can gauge the audience's fondness - or even familiarity - with the deceased by the level of applause accompanying the late performer's appearance in the montage. This year's level of applause was oddly subdued, and only the very recently deceased Suzanne Pleshette, Heath Ledger, and famed Swedish director Ingmar Bergman received noticeable levels of applause. Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni, sadly, received little in the form of clapping. One cannot help but feel a pang of regret, or even sorrow, for those who lived just a bit too long and received little, if any, applause because no one else from their era remained in the audience to applaud them.


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