I wasn't that excited for this years Academy Awards, because let's face it. 2008 was a sucktastic year for movies. I hadn't seen most of the nominees, and none of them were surrounded by extremely positive buzz. It was mostly "pretty good" films in a sea of "astoundingly mediocre".
The Academy was definitely feeling the pressure, as seen by the amount of press they were putting into advertising this years "changes". Some were good, some were disappointing, and overall it was a solid meh. I watched to see Ledger win the first posthumous Oscar, and that's about it. But I did get caught up in some things. It's the movies. I dare you not to.
First off, Hugh Jackman. Oh Hugh. Yes, you are the sexiest man alive, according to a questionable magazine that apparantly has the last word on attraction. He wasn't bad as a host, managing to be at least as funny as the last Stewart run. I loved his confidence, especially in the first number where I laughed out loud at the milk carton Batpod, Anne Hathaway (yes! Don't judge. You chuckled at the potential Frost/Nixon forbidden love too), and the complete lack of anything pertinant to The Reader. His enthusiasm for song and dance got a tad old after a while, especially with the whole "musicals are back!" rigamarole. Once Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens got on stage, I was ready for a return to the old formula of showcasing the Best Song Nominees--sidenote, I really missed that part. I loved getting fully acquainted with the songs, and the mash up right before announcing the winner didn't do it for me.
But as long as we're talking about Zac and Vanessa, let's get to my main complaint about the 81st Annual Academy Awards. Where the crap were the freaking celebrities?!? It looked like the first row was packed with all the nominees, and the entire theater behind them was full of faceless extras, or sound and editing people. And most importantly, WHERE WAS JACK NICHOLSON????? It's just not an awards show without Jackie Boy sitting front row center, wearing those sunglasses that allow him to look both old man creepy and lecherously cool. I mean if it wasn't for a nomination, I bet Meryl Streep wouldn't even be there. The whole thing had a B-list feel that left me feeling dirty and cheap. I mean Zac and Vanessa? Miley Cyrus? Robert "Edward" Pattinson? Apparently teenage girls wrote the guest list. Please, kill me now. Even Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie looked more stiff and uncomfortable than usual. And that's saying something.
Also, my last complaint (maybe)... Sean Penn? Again? Hasn't the man won enough? We get it Sean. You're edgy, and outspoken, and take dangerous roles and pull them off. Bully for you. But I wanted it to be Mickey Rourke's turn. I don't really know why, but I was rooting for that man to win in the worst way. It's not like I've seen The Wrestler, or really have any intention of seeing it. But America loves a success story. Just look at Robert Downey Jr. We are estatic when someone makes a spectacular comeback, and man was Rourke's one for the ages. Plus, I really wanted to see a randy hobo pimp accept the Oscar. Please Academy? Couldn't you have done this one for me?
But the Awards were not without their charm. The majority of presenters was full of inspired groupings. I have a slight crush on Jack Black, and dug the easy way he and Jennifer Aniston (who is totally hot, even though she feels some need to validate that fact all the time) interacted. And the ever elegant Natalie Portman and Ben Stiller. Who doesn't a love a well placed Joaquin Phoenix jab? I know I sure do. And I secretly want Tina Fey and Steve Martin to run away together and make small bundles of hilarity. But the definite highlight was the montage set to Pineapple Express. I don't think I've laughed so hard at a contrived awards show sketch in my life. I almost died at James Franco's sudden thoughtful expression after the Milk kiss. And a lauded cinematographer saying "suck it"? Priceless.
Finally, a quick runthrough of the wins that brought me joy. When Wall-E won I nearly jumped out of my chair. I was so nervous about all the Kung-Fu Panda upset predections, and it's great to see that the Academy didn't deprive Pixar of an award they fully deserved, especially after the Best Picture snub. Also, I was fully expecting Gus van Sant to win for director, and LOVED it when Danny Boyle won instead. His films are always a little odd with plenty of quiet beauty (even when it involves running from Rage infected "zombies"), and I was pleased to see someone so beneath the radar take home the big prize. And then there's Kate Winslet, looking gorgeous and humble and honestly so pleased to receive this honor. I loved her speech, loved her dress, just loved her.
Still, this year was kind of a bummer, with no tense anticipation or real competition. The overall feel was apathy, and that does not make for a great Oscar show. But the previews for upcoming movies gave me hope for the 82nd Academy Awards. With Public Enemies, Up, Watchmen, and my personal favorite, 500 Days of Summer opening soon, there should actually be some shows worth watching this year. I can't wait.