(slightly out of chronological order, because I wasn't taking notes at the time)
I enter this one feeling a bit out of touch. The nominees all seem to be sober, adult dramas. Therefore I haven't seen them. The only best picture nominee I have seen is Good Night, and Good Luck, and I have to admit I found it...a little...dull. I mean, David Strathairn is terrific always, and the visual recreation of the 50s is stunning, and the topic is fascinating, but it kind of ends up lacking a story. I mean, I thought the reason you made a regular fiction type movie, instead of a documentary, was so you were free to impose narrative on real events.
The show opens with a funny opening montage of past show hosts turning down the gig. So far so good. But Jon Stewart's monologue seems kind of awkward, inspiring an "Uma -- Oprah" style of uncomfortable tittering as he makes sort of politically oriented jokes that just don't quite seem to work...because they're not funny enough, or wrong for the crowd, or something. I don't know, I just know I find myself wincing for him when he delivers the joke about the Oscars being a rare "place where you can watch all your favorite stars without having to donate any money to the Democratic Party," immediately followed by the one about how the Academy must be happy to be able to "finally vote for a winner." I know he's funnier than this. Is that two people walking out? Who are they? Or are they just going to the bathroom?
Anyway, by the end of it he's starting to get his host legs a bit and has made an actual funny joke that goes over well:
"Björk could not be here. She was trying on her Oscars dress and Dick Cheney shot her."
Stewart does contribute one thing that is hysterically funny, a bit later in the show: parodies of political attack ads. They are for the best actress nominees. So you get things like Keira Knightley's cheekbones are "sprinkled with God dust," or "Judi Dench...not a dame! She put out my eye in a bar fight!" And then they're "paid for by a shadow organization which is absolutely not Felicity Huffman* for best actress," or "paid for by Reese Witherspoons's* mother."
*I can't remember exactly which "paid for" went with which actress.
Also, Stewart introduces a hilarious montage showing just how...gay...many classic cowboy movies look.
Overall, he ends up feeling like a funny guy, but a bad fit. Even his funniest (to me) jokes don't seem to get the live audience laughing. A couple of them flop so badly I expect to see tumbleweeds rolling across the stage.
Nicole Kidman is first presenter. I don't like her with blonde hair. I don't know what it is with redheaded actresses that they all have to go blonde eventually. Red is better! Anyway, her hair, skin, and dress are all the same vague shade of beige, and she seems to have passed the point of no return with regard to the plastic: the Michelle Pfeifer point where a formerly good actress becomes a stiff, botoxed approximation of the features that made her famous, incapable of moving sufficiently to ever really act again. It's sad. But at least she's already done Moulin Rouge!.
George Clooney wins best supporting actor for Syriana. I haven't seen it. But his speech is really good, and since it plays off one of Stewart's less successful jokes in the opening monologue, I'm tempted to think it's purely extemporaneous. Which would make Clooney kind of a genius.
Ben Stiller comes out in a green bodysuit. The joke is that he thinks he's being green-screened, so that he will appear to the home audience, and on the monitor, as a floating head. Of course, he's not. He's just wearing a dumb-looking green bodysuit. Paul observes that Stiller is missing the shame gene. I opine that this is probably beneficial in a comedian. However, the schtick seems to go on too long.
This is one of those things that perpetually bugs me -- they are SO QUICK to start gong-showing the award winners off the stage, and yet they let the presenters just go on....and on....and on. Anyway, the award for special effects goes to King Kong. Which, it had really good FX, even though I was kind of bored, so it probably deserves them. They were better than the ones in Narnia, anyway.
Reese Witherspoon comes out as a presenter, also in beige, but a livelier design. And she's still young and her face is mobile. Actually, she's a great actress, I love her. But I used to like Nicole Kidman, too. Let Nicole's stony visage be a lesson to all of today's talented Hollywood ingenues: all the plastic surgery isn't really worth it if it destroys your ability to act.
But we'll see. She has lots of upcoming features -- we'll see if they're as bad as Bewitched. Maybe she's just stiff because she doesn't like presenting awards. Or because her dress is too tight.
Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit wins for animated feature. I haven't seen it. The only nominee I have seen in this category is Corpse Bride. The Wallace & Gromit guys are wearing giant dorky bow ties, which is cute, and they have little bow ties which they affix to their statuettes. Also cute. They thank Helena Bonham Carter. I am confused and ask Paul if she ALSO did voice talent for THEIR movie. Paul says, no, she just smooched them when they went up. Paul says, "Poor Tim Burton."
I say, "He's dating Helena Bonham-Carter, he's doing all right."
I appreciate the vivid colors of her silky blue outfit and his bright red shirt when they show them in the audience. Later, it will turn out that the Oscar pundits hate HBC's dress. I'm not sure what their problem is. One online quote: "It looks like something a gaudy guest would wear to a wedding. In the '80s. In New Jersey." It just seems way out of line to me. I'm guessing the style pundits got the beige memo (see below).
Dolly Parton sings her nominated song for Transamerica. She sounds pretty good singing it. I say, "You know, for as much plastic surgery as she must've had, she looks pretty good. Except for the Melanie Griffith lips." Paul says, "She was old when I was a kid." I say, "That's what I mean. And she looks as tacky as ever, but her tacky has kept up with the times. That's not easy to do. Ya gotta admire the woman." Paul nods. The song is okay. I don't hate it, but, I can't remember it later.
Commercial break. Time to cut up the blue shropshire and the d'anjou pear, and put the frozen edame pods in the microwave.
Naomi Watts presents. In beige. Was there a memo? There must've been a memo. Pale blondes, wear a shade virtually identical to your skin and hair!
Her version has shaggy whatnots on the front, which Paul observes are in exactly the same shape as Björk's swan dress. Somehow, this doesn't make me like it any better. I find myself agreeing with the style pundits on this one.
Jennifer Aniston presents in...black? Dark grey? Not sure. At least it isn't beige. But, overall, there's something kind of dispiriting about her dress. The style pundits seem to like it, though. I'm convinced style pundits like things nice and dull.
Memoirs of a Geisha wins a costume award. I love the costume award. Costume sketches are beautiful, an art form in themselves. I'm still not really interested in seeing the movie. I don't know why. I just get a distinct lack of excitement when I contemplate watching it.
Will Ferrell and Steve Carell give the best make up award to The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. They are pretty funny, with their bad makeup. Again, comedians benefit from not having a dignity gene. But they give the presenters soooo much time compared to the winners. This just isn't right.
Okay, now I'm getting tired of all the annotating -- you know, links and everything -- so from now on if you want to see the IMDB entry, you just have to look it up for yourself.
Rachel Weisz wins best actress in a supporting role. She is pregnant and has chosen a lovely empire-waisted black gown in light of that. Also, I get a kick out of the fact that the ponderous announcer voice has to say her previous movies are The Mummy and The Mummy Returns. Go Rachel.
Lauren Bacall introduces a montage of film noir. She seems to be having trouble with the teleprompters, which makes me feel horribly embarrassed for...not her, she still has her dignity, embarrassed for whoever was arranging her appearence and didn't check that out ahead of time. The montage leaves me feeling like I need to see more film noir. But I wonder about the relevance. Were they just looking for something for Lauren Bacall to do?
Charlize Theron comes out as a presenter. Her dress really doesn't work. Weird giant shoulder bow and random criss-crossing ribbons, all in a sad kind of greyish-green color. This is one where I actually agree with the style pundits. Her hair looks nice though.
March of the Penguins wins best documentary. Is anyone surprised? It was the clear audience favorite. The guys accepting are French and their English isn't so good, so they make do with a few words, and lots of cuddling of giant stuffed penguins. Paul wonders how they got such large items past security, and speculates they might be inflatable.
Jennifer Lopez makes a presentation while wearing her grandmother's curtains. The problem isn't really the cut (soft and flouncy) or even the color (somewhere between light olive and dark chartreuse) -- it's just that it doesn't quite work on her. Somehow it looks like she's wearing someone else's dress by mistake. Plus, she is obviously having trouble taking a full step -- why is a dress that flouncy so hard to walk in? Seems like poor engineering to me. The style pundits like this dress.
Addendum: Entertainment Weekly had Lopez in a list of unfortunate makeup choices, as having used too much artificial bronzer. This could explain why the dress color doesn't look righ, if she picked it out with different makup.
Performance of a song from Crash. Boring song, cool-looking performance art with burning cars and zombies and stuff. Pundits will later make fun of this production number, which I really don't understand, since -- would they enjoy this boring song more without flaming cars and zombies in the background? I doubt it.
Selma Hayak comes out. I almost love her dress. I love the rich blue color, the shimmery fabric, and the cut from the waist down. However, it has a weird sort of "pull my breasts over to one side" thing going on from the waist up. Still, the overall effect is that she looks hotly gorgeous rather than constipated/emaciated, which is a big plus. The original score oscar she is presenting is given to a guy from Argentina for Brokeback Mountain. He beats John Williams...twice! The Brokeback theme is the most instantly catchy as played by Itzhak Perlman, but that's all I know.
Jessica Alba presents sound mixing with Eric Bana. She got the beige memo. And it's not a good beige for her, it clashes with her tan. She's wearing one of those super-dropped square necklines that always looks awkward to me -- you know, like your breasts are trying to drop down to your waist. Those seem popular this year. Good thing she's so cute. King Kong wins.
Ludacris (in a spiffy black velvet jacket that makes him look like a 19th century romantic poet) introduces the performance of "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from Hustle & Flow. Huh. I remember when "Blame Canada" was considered controversial. It's a fairly catchy song musicwise, the lyrics are awfully repetitive, but -- I don't know, I'm just not comfortable with the whole mainstreaming of pimp imagery. And faux-prostitutes dancing about on stage. And when the lead female sings "witches jumping ship" I'm pretty sure that's not the original lyric.
Then it wins. Okay, whatever. Maybe it's social progress of a kind. I'm just glad I don't have any kids I have to explain this to. Still, the guys accepting are fun. Really excited, and they both get bleeped and talk about Jesus. And presenter Queen Latifah looks lovely in her strapless black gown with tiers of ruffles.
The In Memorium montage always makes me cry. I'm a sucker. But -- no James Doohan? What's up with that?
At some point the president of the Academy comes out and gives a speech introducing what will become a minor recurring theme: "watch movies in the theater -- not on your TV!" But when he mentions "watching movies with a bunch of strangers," I have to add, "who won't shut up." As if Hollywood makes no money from DVDs, anyway. They're just greedy. They want to make all that money from DVDs, then make just as much as they used to make from theaters, even though theaters are shrinking, overpriced, and subject me to annoying ads.
Jennifer Garner trips as she walks out, which is moderately exciting. She got the beige memo. At first I think she might be pregnant -- empire waist, cleavage falling out of her dress -- but I don't see an actual bump. Turns out she is no longer pregnant. She has recently given birth.
There seems to be a pattern emerging. Kong gets the technical Oscars (Visual Effects, Sound Editing, and Sound Mixing). Geisha gets the pretty things oscars (Cinematography, Art Direction and Costume Design).
Robert Altman gets a special award, presented by Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep. This is the best presentation of the night -- a strangely scripted faux randomness, or real randomness (who can tell?) meant to be reminiscent of Altman films. It manages to be really compelling, the actresses prove they can, wow, can they act, and they are still cute without that whole "I can't move my face" look. Paul observes that the only thing missing, is that they don't make out. Maybe off camera. A man can dream.
We discuss Altman's films. Paul likes them more than I do. The ones I think are okay, he thinks are good, the ones I think are pretty good, he thinks are really good. We agree that The Player is brilliant, and that Nashville is boring. Altman's work in the 70s is exactly what I don't like (in general) about 70s films. The soundtracks are muddy, the palettes are muddy, the pacing is leaden, and the themes are so stonily serious that even the comedies are sort of humorless.
Paul likes everything about the 70s more than I do.
Ziyi Zhang presents the award for Best Film Editing to Crash. She is the cutest presenter of the evening so far. Her top is black and glittery and she has great hair. Maybe I do have to see Memoirs of a Geisha.
Hilary Swank comes out. She is wearing the same shade of dispiriting grayish black as Jennifer Aniston, and looks half-starved, in that way that actresses do. I heard that she was giving up her Chuckanut Bay house out there in the used-to-be-wilderness where gigantic houses are owned by rich people and you can't take the trail down to the bay anymore.
At some point in here is a montage of "socially aware" Hollywood pictures -- you know, things like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. At least this montage is relevant, but it comes when everybody's sort of montaged out. I mean, I like seeing montages of movies, just because...I like movie clips! But most of the time I don't feel any more enlightened afterward -- Oscar empty calories -- and wonder if we need quite so many of these montage things, and maybe we could give the winners a little more speech time? You know?
Philip Seymour Hoffman wins best actor for Capote. All the performances in the clips look good. The only one I've seen is Joaquin Phoenix in Walk the Line.
Reese Witherspoon wins best actress for Walk the Line. I have seen that movie, and she was good in it, so I can't complain.
Brokeback Mountain wins for best adapted screenplay. I notice that all the best picture nominees seem to be adapted from something. There seems to be some confusion -- it is introduced as though the screenplay is based on a short story by Annie Proulx that has only been published in The New Yorker, but Larry McMurtry talks glowingly about, I think, bookstores in his portion of the acceptance speech. Partner Diana Ossana is clutching her Oscar with visibly white knuckles while he speaks.
Uma Thurman got the beige memo. Crash wins for original screenplay. director & co-writer Paul Haggis wins cool points for quoting Bertolt Brecht.
Ang Lee gets best director for Brokeback Mountain. Ang Lee was a very good director before he made The Hulk, and I am willing to believe he is a very good director again.
Crash wins best picture. I'm surprised it didn't go to Brokeback, given Lee's directorial win. Maybe everyone was seized with the same desire to spread out the awards. A little here, a little there. No big sweeps or anything. People who thought Brokeback was the better movie instantly suspect Academy homophobia, which doesn't explain why it won three of its eight nominations.
Great gaffe: Crash producer Cathy Schulman, thanking “my husband and my wife” as the gong show music drowns her out. I assume it was a misspeak caused by panic, but maybe she's poly. You never know.
All in all, kind of a disappointing evening. Stewart didn't blow me away as host, nobody wore anything excitingly strange, nobody did anything off-script, and I didn't like any of the songs.
The shropshire cheese was really good.