I've been putting off blogging any thoughts on last night's festivities mostly because, as on any Oscar day-after, I'm over it and want to move on to the eight months of the year when I'm not obsessed with this stuff.
But, you've got to have closure, so:
It was really strange being in Los Angeles for all this. First off, just watching it at 5pm instead of 8pm is bizarre. Its over when it usually starts, and then you're left with this real excitement that all of this is happening around you. The downside to that is that, as far I'm concerned, that excitement produces unreasonable expectations for a night that's really hard to negotiate. Traffic jams, VIP lists, clusterfucking and starfucking... When you're not famous or powerful, the post-ceremony night just reminds you of how much that matters here. That said, I did have a really good time. I just didn't end up sipping champagne with Penelope Cruz at the Vanity Fair party, which is sometimes where a shallow and gay daydream goes.
The ceremony itself, however, totally lived up to expectations. In the boring sense that every favourite won (sans foreign film and the short categories, and in a way, Sean Penn), and in the exciting sense that most of Oscar's makeover really worked for me.
Yes, the musical number blew. Sure, Hugh's opening song and dance was nothing special (except when Anne was on stage, which was fantastic). And oui, some of the montages were very poorly produced (did we need to see all those "Space Chimps" clips in the overlong animated montage, but then for documentary you only show the five nominees. There's like 20 animated films a year and you give each one 10 seconds of airtime) or unnecessary (romance? action? lame). And Steven Spielberg doesn't always need to present best picture or best director.
But the show, overall, was one of the better Oscar ceremonies in recent memory. The new set up proved pretty much perfect, and brought the sense of intimacy that it intended. The show moved along at a lovely pace (even if it was almost 4 hours, it felt like 2). The presenters had some great writing to work with (especially Tina & Steve: host as a duo next year, svp), and the new five-past-winners-present thing was great. And while I was really wary of them fucking with the last-year-presents-this-year formula, the new tradition (I hope) of five previous winners serenading each nominee was really special because it gave every nominee a heartfelt moment of their own. And it was kind of exciting to see what five people would show up to present (best actress - Nicole, Halle, Marion, Shirley & Sophia: classy). Although please stop inviting Cuba Gooding Jr to the awards.
The speeches were heartfelt (Penelope Cruz), powerful (Dustin Lance Black), or fucking hilarious (Kunio Kato, who's "Mr. Roboto" line had me holding back laugh induced urine just as Lance had me holding back "I was a gay kid in a small town too"-induced tears).
And even the winners, as predictable as they were, were not horrible selections. Sean, Heath and Penelope more or less would be the same people I'd give an Oscar to this year if I had that magical power. I still kinda wish it was Mickey, because let's face it: This was his one shot. But all this buzz has helped Rourke's career more than he ever dreamed, and Penn was pretty perfect in "Milk." And I was glad he improved significantly on his erratic SAG speech with a rousing call against bigotry (though he never thanked Milk himself, or his wife, which both seemed like odd oversights).
And while "Slumdog" should not have won pretty much any of the awards it did (especially sound mixing), it also could have been a hell of a lot worse (cough, "Benjamin Button," cough). Of all the best picture winners of the '00s, only "Lord of the Rings," "The Departed," and "No Country For Old Men" were more deserving, I feel. And I know that says more about the Oscar's shitty choices than "Slumdog," but whatever. Besides, Danny Boyle just seems like such a nice dude.
So that's all. Now I'm gonna spend a few more days in the Golden State without having a golden state of mind, which should be nice. But it was a total privilege to be out here yesterday, and a wee bit of a childhood dream, so Oscar '09 will always hold a special place in my gay, shallow heart.