Eating Crow as a Midnight Snack

March 06, 2006
A thought by James Berardinelli

Okay, I'll start by admitting that I blew the call about Best Picture. So the rumors of Crash's ascension were not overstated. (I saw Carrie Rickey of The Philadelphia Inquirer on Friday morning, and she voiced a suspicion that Crash might win. Roger Ebert said the same thing.) Ultimately, since I don't believe either Crash or Brokeback Mountain was close to the best film of 2005, I wasn't disappointed. But I was nonplussed.

My final tally: 13 out of 21, or 62%. That puts me about where I expected to be. I was done in primarily by Memoirs of a Geisha, which inexplicably stole three awards. Of the majors, Best Picture was my only slip-up, but that's not as impressive as it might seem, since most of the other winners were heavy favorites. Outside of the minor categories, the Academy Awards had only one surprise, and that was unveiled at the end.

It's probably not a revelation for me to say I was bored. With speaker after speaker coming to the microphone to recite a shopping list of thank-you's, how could I not be? George Clooney was the only one to have a legitimate acceptance speech. It wasn't a great one but, when compared to everyone else's, it was masterful. Philip Seymour Hoffman stumbled and bumbled around for about two minutes (and didn't bark once) and Reese Witherspoon prattled on forever. (Why didn't Bill Conti strike up the band and put her out of her misery?) Only a few recipients seemed truly thrilled: the director of Tsotsi (Gavin Hood) and the Best Song recipients, who appeared stunned by their victory.

The time has come for the Academy to institute a "no thank you" rule. Winners get 60 seconds to speak but the moment they start thanking anyone, their mike is killed. If all a winner is going to do is thank people, he/she might as well say nothing.

The montages were a waste of time, apparently designed to pad out the running length so it could reach the 3 1/2 hour mark. After all, a longer telecast means more commercials and more money. ABC didn't want to risk the golden calf crossing the finish line before 11:30 EST. To add insult to injury, one of the montages was essentially an advertisment for movie theaters. Then there was the Lauren Bacall embarrassment. Not only couldn't she read the teleprompter, but she appeared fragile and unsteady on her feet. Robert Altman wasn't in much better shape, but at least he had a legitimate reason to be there. Bacall's appearance was ill advised and sad. Much better to remember her as the sultry siren of the screen than the struggling woman who stumbled over her lines last night.

What the hell was that on Charlize Theron's left shoulder?

The Ben Stiller comedy bit was cringe-worthy, but no more so than the Tom Hanks "warning" to those who would overstay their on-stage welcome. Everyone was depressingly well behaved. Was I the only one who was disappointed that Jennifer Garner stayed on her feet? Not that I would want her to be injured, but if she had taken a tumble, it would have injected a little life into the proceedings. Nothing like a pratfall to break the monotony.

About Jon Stewart... His fans are out in force today, praising his work. In my view, he was adequate but not memorable. His best stuff was the pre-recorded material: the opening skit and the poltical commercials for the Best Actress nominees. During the course of the evening, he had his share of sharp one-liners, but they were no more remarkable than off-the-cuff observations offered by Chris Rock or Steve Martin or Billy Crystal. His opening monologue was amusing but lacked an edge. It reminded me of the kind of thing Jay Leno and David Lettermen use to start out their late night TV shows.

I'm not sure the Oscars needs a host. How much did Stewart really contribute? The presenters do all the real work, even if they look like zombies reading their material off the teleprompter. Next year, if the host is going to remain, why not do a little out-of-the-box thinking in the selection process? My choice would still be John Cleese. If Cleese can rip Graham Chapman at his funeral, what would he do with this holiest of Hollywood love-ins? (My gut feeling is that it will be Crystal or Martin.)

I did not fall asleep during the Oscars because I was multi-tasking. That was the only way to stave off total boredom and to feel like I wasn't wasting 210 minutes of my life. Next year, I'm going to DVR the ceremony and start watching around 10:30. I guarantee I'll be caught up before it all ends and I'll be able to skip 21 choruses of "Thank you."

Perhaps the most depressing thing of all is that last night, I missed Michael Moore. As inappropriate as his speech may have been, at least it was unique and spontaneous. It generated some heat. Last night was like going to a high society banquet. Everything was pristine and in its place. No one behaved badly. It's what every bride and groom hopes for on their wedding day, and what every guest secretly dreads. Mistakes and mishaps give events character. (Nothing went wrong at my wedding. At my sister's wedding, a photographer tumbled down a flight of stairs and bled a lot. Guess which ceremony is more vividly etched in the memories of those who attended both?) But the only character evidenced by the 2006 Oscars was one of blandness. A year from now, I'll be hard-pressed to remember any of the winners.