It was great to see Kathryn Bigelow accepting an Oscar as the first female to win as Best Director, and it brought me a sigh of relief to see Jeff Bridges finally take home a prize that could have (and should have) been his many times in the last 35 years. Though I was pulling for Meryl Streep and her elusive third Oscar, I thought Sandra Bullock’s speech was the evening’s highlight. However, every year we hear about how different and how retooled the Oscar show is going to be. Then we sit down and there it is, the same misjudged and overinflated marathon we watched the year before. A decision had been made, quite disrespectfully to my way of thinking, to hand out honorary Oscars in November rather than on the main telecast, supposedly to save precious TV time. So, why then did we get a 15-minute tribute to John Hughes? I admit I was the wrong age for Hughes’ films, which mean nothing to me, but did he really warrant the kind of treatment one expects when paying tribute to a Hitchcock or a Spielberg? I would much rather have seen Lauren Bacall get her Oscar “live.” And where was 1949 Best Actor nominee Richard Todd in the “memoriam” reel? Are the 1980s now the height of Hollywood nostalgia?
And we still got the requisite pointless montage (on horror films) and the laughable dance piece. Whenever the telecast has tried to be a variety show, it has spelled disaster. This has been the case every single time I’ve watched the Oscars (and I’ve seen 40 of them). It was dumb when they used to “dance” the costume nominees, and it was dumb last night, watching wonderful dancers interpret The Hurt Locker. Can you say “kitsch”?
As a concept, I like having five stars come out to talk about the nominees, but it did bring the show to a screeching halt. If the Best Actor and Actress presentations were separated by an hour or so, then it wouldn’t feel so numbing. And did you notice how many presenters said “And the winner is…,” rather than the kinder-gentler “And the Oscar goes to…”? Was this accidental? I’m fine with the use of “winner,” which is more honest. Are we supposed to pretend that nobody won or lost? But the tackiest bit of the night was the orchestra launching into “I Am Woman” following Bigelow’s speech. The Oscars have caught up to the 1970s!
Meryl Streep has been nominated in the Best Actress category 13 times and won only once (Sophie’s Choice). Katharine Hepburn was nominated 12 times and won 4 Oscars. For all the praise and accolades heaped upon Streep, she is starting to look overlooked, even ignored (at least each year at Oscar time). Yes, she also has three supporting nominations and one win in that category (Kramer vs. Kramer), but Streep hasn’t heard her name called out at the Oscars since 1983.
I actually had a better time last night than in most years, simply because I agreed with more of the choices than I usually do. The ten Best Picture nominees seemed to do what they were supposed to do, broadening Oscar’s reach for the TV audience. And it surely was a blessing not to have full performances of the nominated songs. After all, the song category is the one hanging on by a thread in terms of relevance, so why give it more time than any other award? Now if we can just get Meryl that third Oscar, all will be right in the world, at least in the skewed, magical, and addictive world in which Oscar rules.