Sunday, March 05, 2006

Actors must be stopped

I sat out Oscar season but did watch the show. I can't comment a lot because I saw none of the Best Picture nominees (despite their repeated plea for big screen viewing, I'll wait for the DVD).

It was fitting that Crash won Best Picture on the same night Robert Altman was given an honorary Oscar. The message was clear, at least to me: actors control the Academy, and the big winners are an expression of their own selfish preferences. They like acting showcases with little regard toward craft and structure, or history for that matter. From that frame of mind, I can see how a series of L.A. stories with a large multiracial cast would have its appeal.

Jon Stewart made a very noble effort to ground Sunday's ceremony in reality, but the Oscars came across as more pretentious than ever. His "Oscar's salute to montages" comment perfectly captured my criticism of the ceremony: we like to celebrate the films we used to make, and hold out some small hope that the films we choose tonight might join the pantheon.

Things I liked: the cameos in the opening, which was a fitting tribute to Jon Stewart's self-deprecating nature. The Best Picture clips shown before commercials, without introduction. The history of cowboy homoeroticism. The fake Oscar campaign commercials, narrated by Stephen Colbert. That Ludacris was the most well-spoken presenter of the night. Jack Nicholson's "I'm not kidding, it says Crash here" look on his face.

Things I disliked: Lauren Bacall's lack of preparation (and glasses) for an unnecessary tribute to film noir. Philip Seymour Hoffman, so respected by actors, doing actors a disservice by his mumbling, pointless speech. Diana Ossana on sedatives, which should have been funny but was instead slow and painful. Only two surprise winners. That much of the ceremony is already forgettable.


Anonymous said...

Whoa! Really! Don't start trashing Crash until you see it. I had the same reservations, and got hit over the head, again and again. Too bad Thandie Newton wasn't there last night--she really was the star.
BTW, I love your ever-witty comments to Columnist Manifesto, and regularly laugh out loud. It's a real treat to read your blog now too. Just "B"

Neel Mehta said...

Welcome, B. Feel free to stop by anytime.

I'm not really trying to criticize Crash so much as the acting community. I tend to dislike films that actors favor, like The Anniversary Party or Gosford Park.

I like improvisation when it comes to comedies. But in dramas it's different. Replacing narrative structure and tight direction with actor riffing strikes me as vaguely self-important and meandering. It's experimental in a way that most audiences cannot appreciate, like we had to be there to be in on the joke.

Maybe Crash is different than what I've been told. But I rented the DVD in October and didn't watch it then, so it's a low priority.

craig kaye said...

I too havent had the opportunity to see Crash, yet. I do, however, relate it to something akin to "The Life of David Gale" winning the Oscar. Nonetheless, I plan on checking out Crash this weekend.

Neel - great write up on the highlights (and low-lights) of the Oscars.

Moral Turpitude said...

I saw Crash and I thought it was just ok. But then again I don't like movies that bring me down. I'm an escapism kind of gal.

But yeah...totally agree. The awards were butt-boring. And what was with all the skin-colored dresses?

Neel Mehta said...

Craig: Let me know what you think of the movie.

MT: From what I've heard, it sounds deliberately depressing, so I'm further tempted to stay away. And right on with the colorless fashion; Naomi Watts in particular looked terrible.

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