Monday, February 23, 2009


Being that this is a post-Oscars ceremony gifted with the 20/20 vision of hindsight, I can't and won't portray my personal "picks" as having been 100% spot-on. In fact, this -- like many years before it -- was yet another example of my (sort of) apathy towards the Academy Awards.

It's not the excessive glitz or completely over-the-top show of wealth and privilege that stymied me this year, even in the face of the economic problems we as a nation are facing.

Nor is it that this year's films were substandard or awful. For the most part -- at least from what I saw thereof -- they are not.

It's just that, while I remain and always will be a big movie fan, this year's films really did very little to blow up my proverbial skirt, so to speak.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona, about a three-way sex romp in Spain, should have managed to pull me in, but ever since Woody and Soon-Yi I've lost my appetite for Woody's films. And I had so little interest in seeing Milk and Frost/Nixon that, I must admit, I would have preferred to watch reruns of Iron Chef America than either of those films.

The one thing I really was pleased about regarding this year's winners overall was the fact that appropriateness -- despite the aforementioned over-the-top extravagance of the entire procedure -- won out. Slumdog Millionaire deserved its honors, although I can admit I didn't see the film. I'd seen enough of it pieced together between critical reviews, interviews, and reading the entire premise -- not to mention the Mumbai violence that occurred recently -- gave me the sense that this was the Little Film That Should. Or could.

And did.

I didn't see Milk, but I'm glad Sean Penn won an Oscar, not only for bringing to light the story of Harvey Milk but just for pure talent (whether it's true Mr. Penn is a known raging homophobe is almost ancillary).

I'm thoroughly glad that Kate Winslet -- finally -- won an Oscar. I've seen several of her films -- although thankfully I have still avoided seeing Titanic -- and each time out of the gate she makes whatever movie shine that much brighter. I didn't see The Reader, but as they say in Rhode Island, it's about damn time she won.

While I was a bit disappointed The Wrestler failed to win anything, I can say -- after having watched the film -- that it doesn't shock me. The film's gritty, honest portrayal of the dark, dingy world of professional wrestling was well done on all fronts, and it would have been great if Mickey Rourke had won an award for his portrayal of Randy "The Ram" Robinson. But given that the film was so unapologetic in its frankness, and the depth of the pathos that oozed from each frame of the film, it doesn't shock me it didn't garner any awards. I think the whole "Mickey Rourke is back" thing was enough. And many people before me saw the intricate, ironic parallel between The Ram and Mickey Rourke's careers. How hard is it for a washed-up has-been -- albeit one with talent -- to portray a washed-up has-been with almost emotionless dexterity? Personally, I thought the entire film was a well-done commentary but little more than that. And I am a little confused as to how Marisa Tomei won for My Cousin Vinny -- for an overly sharpened New Yawk accent -- yet walking around half-naked for more than half of The Wrestler she didn't. Her character in this film had serious emotional depth and gave the film another degree of balance, and yet, this time, nothing. Oh well.

Finally, though, what more can be said about Heath Ledger's final achievement of winning an Oscar? Firstly, I saw The Dark Knight and the truth is the film is far from the candied humor that the Michael Keaton/Val Kilmer/George Clooney farce. With Batman Begins, the series returned to a serious, adult storyline and addressed serious issues. Put another way, Heath Ledger's Joker was far more appropriate to the film than was Jack Nicholson's version; how many actors can upstage and completely out-act Jack Nicholson? Not many.

Being that this award was given posthumously, I do wonder whether he would have won if he'd lived to receive the award. Frankly, I'm inclined to believe he would not have won had he not passed away. That's not to say he didn't steal that film; he did. Watching him onscreen was almost as uncomfortable as watching one of the icons of the late 80's horror movies right before the kill. The Joker's quirky, jerky mannerisms aside, the sheer intenseness of his portrayal of the role was far more memorable than anything else in the film, but being that this was his final role, I think the Academy did the right thing by giving him an Oscar that they may not have otherwise. Last night's Oscar to Heath Ledger was, for me, a sign that this year's ceremonies, despite the glitz belying the country's woes aside, were very much appropriate. I'm not sure if I'll bother seeing any of the films addressed in last night's ceremonies, but I can say with certainty -- for the first time in quite some time -- that the Academy finally got it right.

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