Whoever planned this year's installment did a fine job. To be sure, there was a lot of room for improvement relative to previous years. But the pre-recorded segments were actually interesting -- I especially enjoyed Michael Mann's gloss on American cinema -- and I actually felt like I was learning something when they showed behind-the-scenes clips for awards like Sound Editing.
While Little Miss Sunshine wasn't close to being my Best Picture, I was happy Alan Arkin won. I really dig his manner. And I was excited to see Pan's Labyrinth pick up awards it deserved and even more excited to see Latino filmmaking get more recognition from the Academy than ever before.
Cate Blanchett looked fabulous. Clive Owen looked like the sort of man I'd die for if I weren't at the far end of the Kinsey scale. Kate Winslet looked like the sort of person I'd actually like to, um, know. And Peter O'Toole, sadly, looked like a man who wouldn't live to see next year's event.
Speaking of sadness, there was a strange moment when, while we were watching the nominees for Editing being announced, United 93 came up. Sami made a comment about not wanting to buy into the film, which led me to explain, since he hadn't seen it, that it's not nearly as exploitative as it first sounds and is actually a well-made, if confused, film. That discussion piqued Skylar's interest, leading her to ask a series of questions about the film.
At first we equivocated. But eventually we told her as much of the truth about the film's topic as we could. She seemed to be affected by the story, but was cheered up by the thought that she knows a Mark named after Mark Bingham. I even got out the biography and showed her the photo of Mark and cpratt, which further brightened her mood.
It was deeply amusing to see my partner flood with fury whenever anything to do with Clint Eastwood came on the screen. But, personally, I was sort of pleased to see him make the effort to semi-translate Ennio Morricone's acceptance speech for the audience. The latter moved me greatly with his heartfelt thanks to his wife.
Although it was nice to see Martin Scorcese finally win an Oscar, I didn't think The Departed deserved to be Best Picture. The editing, though, was superb, so that award made sense to me. As my partner pointed out, it would have been astonishingly cruel to have Coppola, Spielberg and Lucas out there to present the Best Director award and then hand it to someone else. Personally, I would have preferred to see him win that award, but have another picture win Best Picture.
The musical number with John C. Reilly, Jack Black and Will Ferrell was funny, as those things go. The nominated songs themselves were nothing special. I got sick of seeing Jack Nicholson. Helen Mirren may have been the hottest woman in the audience. She certainly had an awesome dress. The respect paid Al Gore seemed both genuine and a little creepy. Maybe he should make a movie about hunger and disease in Sub-Saharan Africa.
I noticed that the commercials were more noteworthy and, for the most part, good -- at least in a formal sense -- than in years past. I guess the Oscars are becoming more like the Super Bowl in that regard. I'd have to say that the Wes Anderson spot for American Express -- a whole two minutes long -- was one of my favorite commercials ever. I suppose its quality could be used as an argument against Anderson's aesthetic, since he was able to distill so much of it into a craven short. Still, I've watched it several times and remain deeply amused:
You could teach an entire class devoted solely to analyzing the layers in that baklava of irony. Maybe I will.