Monday, February 27, 2012

Mimi's 84th Academy Awards Wrap

The Muppets, 2011, Kermit, Jason Segel and Miss Piggy

When it comes to analyzing the 84th Annual Academy Awards, I have decided to begin by posting here some of the best links to the after Oscar's chewing frenzy. Here are five links I like, and I hope others like. I will add some thoughts of mine.

There is good news for the Oscar TV ratings. Preliminary figures show that there were about 4% more viewers in the USA of Sunday's ceremony than last year. The ABC telecast drew an impressive audience of 39.3 million. That is up from last year's 37.9 million.

My take is that the Academy accomplished this by doing three things: (1) Bringing Billy Crystal back for the 9th time; (2) the expert use of special effects that captured the audience when Crystal made his entrance; (3) a smashing opening number; (4) nominating the black actresses from The Help, and the Mexican actor Demion Bichir from A Better Life, both broadening the viewer base; (5) the producers Brian Grazer and Don Mischer kept the viewers entranced as they intermixed more amazing effects during the course of the telecast.

Crystal made a
faux pas
here and there along the way. They clouded his over-all performance, such as donning black face and doing a caricature of Sammy Davis Jr., a la Saturday Night Live in an abominable reference to Midnight in Paris. Davis could not have been a grown man in the 1920s.

Smokey, as Davis was called by his friends because of his chain smoking, was born in 1925, and was tap dancing with his father and uncle in the 30s in a theater circuit that was clinging to a dying vaudeville, as well as performing in some Southern Juke Joints. Davis met Frank Sinatra in the mid-40s.

Sinatra was impressed by his extraordinary voice and dancing ability. He took Davis under his wing, and they became best friends.

With Sinatra behind him the doors began to open, allowing Davis to gain recognition for his many talents. Whomever put that character into the "magical" taxi has no sense of history, besmirched Davis, and they polluted Allen's script with bad taste.

The analysis by Scott Feinberg in The Hollywood Reporter of the top six awards, "Oscars 2012: Why the Academy Voted for the Films and People That It Did (Analysis): THR awards analyst Feinberg performs a postmortem on the major categories to try to understand why the Academy made the choices that it did," is excellent. It is one of the best I have ever read. Enjoy the read.

I posted a protest of sorts on this blog along with the Oscar nominees (see the January 25th post), because I was shocked to see only two best-song  nominees. I asked myself, "Why in my many years of following the Academy Awards, have I never seen only two song nominated?" Again, Feinberg answers my question.

If you want more than two nominated songs next year, tell the Academy now. I, like Feinberg, expect a revision of the rules, and the Board of Governors usually do that within three months after the Academy Awards. Get cracking!

Jessica Chastain in an Alexander McQueen
The second biggest event at any Academy Awards Gala is always the fashion. This year, Jessica Chastain made quite a splash, along with a number of other well-dressed ladies and gentlemen.

One of the big things that helped the Oscar race this year was the quality of the motion pictures. For instance, all of a sudden out of the movie-race first film festival gate of 2011, Berlin, came an Iranian film with which American audiences could relate.

It won the first award of many, the Berlinale's top prize, the Golden Bear. Thanks to the acting chops of the two leads and an excellent writer-director, it took home an Oscar last night for Best Foreign Language Motion Picture.

Iranian writer, director Asghar Farhadi's stirring Farsi-language drama about people struggling to communicate with one another. A Separation, in which no one seems to be able to communicate with anyone else, came to the Oscar's with a string of international awards behind it.

 In an additional gesture of support for the movie, Farhadi was among the list of original screenplay nominees. It is only the second Iranian film nominated in the category, and it is the first from Iran to win an Oscar.

The animated films were so good this year it was hard to choose the nominees, much less the winner. Unfortunately, Cars 2 did not make the nomination cut. It was the neurotic lizard Rango, voiced by Johnny Depp, who strolled away with the statuette, and I think many were happy, including myself.

I was pleased that the Pakistani short documentary Saving Face won. It is about the problem of male abusers in Pakistan throwing acid on women's faces.

I am a member of the Facebook private group, Pakistani Feminist Group, and I was ecstatic. I posted on the page, and tweeted right away. It is difficult movie to watch, but the problem is enormous in Muslim countries, and light deserves to be shone on such a barbaric act.

The motion picture The Artist has all of the points on the spreadsheet to win the Best Picture Oscar, which it did. Musicals do not often win Oscars these days, and I have loved the movies since I was five years old.

The first movie I remember seeing in a theater (actually, only a store front borrowed for the night to show a few "flicks.") was a black and white silent short. I was so fascinated by it that the projectionist, who would become my stepfather, let me see it two more times before he closed the theater for the night. I can still play that movie in my mind.

But, my love in last year's movie season was showered upon Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. I think my fellow literature majors probably would agree. The Artist had all the razzmatazz, but Allen's movie had all the intellect and colorfulness of 1920s Paris, the city of love, which he portrayed in a fascinating creative way.

Some reviewers have characterized last nights show as plodding and boring. Au contraire, I found it faster paced than many predecessors, and not completely predictable. Hats off to producers Brian Grazer and Don Mischer, and the entire production cast and crew!

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