Monday, February 25, 2013

Oscars 2013: who pulled off the dress

All this Oscar stuff! I look forward to it, I really do, and I’ve watched it for 30 years or more, but about 45 minutes in I always wonder what it is in me that triggers such self-punishment.

First there was this guy, this Seth somebody, Macfarlane or something. Looked like a used car salesman to me, or a Scientologist going door to door. And at first he’s pretty good, pretty funny, snappy and slightly jabby like you’re supposed to be. Then all of a sudden a GREAT BIG SCREEN slowly lowers down from the ceiling, and on it is. . .

William Shatner.

I have no idea why William Shatner is on this show. I like William Shatner, I admire his chutzpah (and he is Jewish, did you know that? From Montreal), and I do notice how he pops up everywhere, but heaven’s sake, here? It made no sense. Anyway, he went on and on about predictions Macfarlane would be considered the worst host in Oscar history, a statement that was eerily prescient.  Obviously this part was pre-recorded at his own convenience, because in the whole six hours or so, it was the only speech that sounded polished and un-muffed. But, moving on.

I did notice things, and I wrote them down on sticky notes as I watched, and by the end of most of the evening (I bailed at 9:00 o’clock after 3 ½ hours, though they had yet to perform the last, final, agonizing, closing musical number) I had a string of them as long as your arm. I finally had to stick the stickies to the stickies.

Screens kept dropping down. William Shatner? (one sticky).

How many standing ovations? (another sticky: everyone and his dog seemed to be getting one. If everyone is the best, then nobody is the best.)

Old singers. Shirley Bassey knocked my socks off for her sheer style, even if her voice faltered a bit. She nailed that last note, however, and looked elegant and even sexy, owning that stage. (Proving the old song was right: there is nothing you can name that is anything like a Dame.) Babs Streisand was a bit more disappointing, appearing frozen in time except for her very rusty pipes. She’s now a low contralto, and too careful for fear the fragile instrument will break (which it will, and soon). The tribute to Marvin Hamlisch was very touching however, as he did indeed leave us much too soon.

OK, two stickies down. Oops, some of these have things written on the back too: metal dresses.  Everyone was shiny last night, or almost everyone. Like they’d been dipped in molten gold or something. Well, if WE had personal tailors and dressmakers who fitted our gowns exactly to the contours of our bodies. . . no, we wouldn’t look that good, but at least we’d look better than we do now.

I took note of older women trying to pull off the gown, and most can’t. I liked Shirley Bassey’s netting idea: it looks like you’re showing a lot of skin, but you aren’t. It’s a soft-focus thing, and skaters use it to make sure everything stays in place.  I also liked some of the three-quarter sleeves on dresses: us women pushing 60 generally can’t flaunt a lot of upper arm. One older dame, well, 50 isn’t old, is it? – but she wore a white sleeveless gown and loose hair and looked a proper strollop. It just didn’t work. Do something else. Do what Nicole Kidman did, pull back the hair in a twist and let wisps float loose in front, a combination of structured and free. I have spoken.

(A tip, girls – nothing to do with the Oscars – if you’re a certain age, do not wear a low-cut dress with a push-up bra, or décolletage as they call it. Don’t, because even if it looks OK in the mirror, when you sit down to talk to somebody it will all squish up and wrinkle, just like the skin on your throat. Nothing worse than a wrinkled décolletage.)

I have George C. on one sticky. Oh yes, George Clooney! He said he sewed the beads on his girlfriend’s dress, and I hope he did. Later the host threw him a small airline bottle of booze, and he opened it and tossed it back. That George.

People who died. Every year there are a lot of them, and Old Hollywood is pretty much gone now. They always have that pre-recorded tribute, and it’s touching. But I am SO glad they did away with the former practice of having the audience applaud. Some dead people - big stars - got whoops and cheers (a standing ovation?), some just a smattering, and a lot of them dead silence because they were just “connected to the industry” or something, adapted the screenplay for Death of a Salesman or some other such nonsense and really weren’t important, it’s not like anyone ever heard of them.

WHAT was up with Renee Zellweger? Thank God she had two or three other presenters with her. My God! She couldn’t read. She has always been oddly squinty-eyed, but now she looked bizarre, and when she turned sideways her face sort of disappeared like it had been pushed in. Was she on something, just put in eye drops, or what? Richard Gere was sort of holding her up as she swayed (not that I would mind that), and when he showed her the card with the winner on it and said, “You take this one", she tilted her head very oddly and squinted her eyes almost shut and sort of pushed the card away. The next one was even stranger, because it was her turn to read the winner and instead she frankly handed the card off to someone else, Queen Latifah I think, who can still see. Has illiteracy struck her at a mature age? I wonder what has happened to Miss You-Had -Me-At-Hello.

That little black girl didn’t win. Good, because nobody can pronounce her name anyway, and we don’t need another Lindsay Lohan. If she wants to act, let her come back in 15 years.

Ang Lee is such a surprise, so humble and quiet. What a genius, responsible for a huge variety of movies that I can’t remember right now, but I’ll look them up. He can do anything, it seems, even be consistent. I won’t see Life of Pi, having suffered through the book, but I’m sure it’s good.

I was genuinely touched when the ethereal Daniel Day-Lewis won for Lincoln, and his wife leaped up and wouldn’t let go of his hand. I don’t know where else to put this, but there was a hideous Lincoln joke from Macfarlane that got a big laugh: "The actor who really got inside Lincoln's head was John Wilkes Booth."  It prompted a groan at first, but then he did some sort of "what? What? Did I say something?" and everyone roared with laughter. I know human beings are herd animals and will go along with just about anything (Hitler comes to mind), but this just seemed extreme.

But why was I so surprised? This is the States! The Vice President is running around telling everyone to go out and buy a shotgun! Hey, Lincoln couldn’t have been killed with a pea shooter, could he?

A musical mystery. There were some scenes shown from a foreign film called Amour, about an old couple: it looked like the wife was terminally ill and the husband was trying to help her die. The piano music however just mesmerized me because I had heard it before, and had no idea who wrote it. I finally decided it must be Schumann. Ransacked my CD collection and found very little Schumann on piano, but poked through another CD with SCHUBERT on it and hit pay dirt. Now I can find it on YouTube: the internet is kind. (It was the Impromptu #3 in G Flat Minor, in case you want to hear it yourself.)

And finally, as they say on Inside Edition: when they dropped another screen down from fairyland with Michelle Obama on it, I thought: Fixed. Rigged. Best Picture HAS to be Lincoln, but it was that other one, that – what’s it called anyway? Argot? Ingot? But I don’t watch this thing for the movies.

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