After annoying all my Facebook friends by cross-posting my Tweets for about five hours, last night’s Oscar ceremony concluded just as it began: with Spotlight winning an award. It didn’t win a whole lot in between — in fact, it’s one of the least awarded Best Picture winners in Oscar history — but plenty of other things happened in the meantime to merit a bullet list!
- Chris Rock was … fine. At times it felt like he was both going a little too far and not far enough. It seemed odd for him to be taking shots at Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith for boycotting the show over the very issue he was making so much hay out of all night long. And while he landed some punches during the opening monologue, he came across a little nervous to me, like he saw the line, wanted to cross it, and settled for running up to it. It was neither train wreck nor searing indictment many were expecting or hoping for, but it did land some shots.
- “Writing’s On the Wall” is hardly my favorite Bond song. And apparently Rock and Sarah Silverman, because they treated its performance last night like a big joke. Silverman rambled somewhat randomly in her into, only to throw it over to Sam Smith with a dismissive quip that seemed to rattle the singer. Then Rock capped it by jokingly confusing Smith with George Michael. The whole thing came across a little cavalier to me.
- I was positively giddy when Mad Max: Fury Road was on its little winning streak there in the middle of things. But my excitement was somewhat tempered by the realization that it was cleaning up in the genre ghetto: the technical awards, where many a classic has been consigned to being viewed as a purely nuts and bolts achievement. Still, for a brief moment, based on the reaction to his name being announced, I thought George Miller was going to take Best Director. But it was not to be. Fury Road has to settle for being the night’s biggest winner — six awards overall — and is now tied with A Place in the Sun for third on the list of films with the most wins without winning Best Picture (Cabaret holds the top spot with eight followed by Star Wars and Gravity each with 7). Witness indeed.
- Now can we maybe stop talking about Leonardo DiCaprio and the Oscar? Honestly, him winning last night felt more like an apology for not giving it to him sooner than him giving the best performance of the year. It had become such a cause célèbre, it felt like a foregone conclusion he was going to win. You ask me, he earned it at least twice before (Django Unchained and The Wolf of Wall Street).
- Alejandro González Iñárritu is a fine director. His back-to-back Best Director wins put him in the same company as John Ford and Joseph Mankiewicz. With whom he does not belong. I’m sorry, maybe it’s the ’80s fanboy in me, but if Steven Spielberg wasn’t allowed to pull it off with Raiders of the Lost Ark and E. Freakin’ T., Iñárritu doesn’t deserve it for this. The fact that he’s been a little insufferable leading up to last night didn’t help matters any.
- I watched Spotlight just a day or so before the ceremony. It’s a very dignified film, but one I feel is compelling more for what it’s about than how it’s about it. You can’t tackle a subject like pedophilia among the clergy without it having some power, and I give the film credit for not getting all histrionic and letting the enormity of the crimes speak for themselves. But I also didn’t find it particularly cinematic either. It’s certainly a traditional Oscar choice — lots of stars, big social issue — but my heart’s riding out there on the Fury Road, and it’s hard for me to be objective about a film with such a clear, masterful, cinematic vision not being recognized as anything more than an action movie.
As a whole, the show was sort of just there for me. No huge derails, no classic moments. The Girl Scout cookie bit was cute, but the Star Wars droids wandering on stage to say (a very deserved) hello to John Williams just sat there. Louis CK brought some admiring honesty to the Documentary Short award, but enough with the animated characters giving out the animated award already. In all, it was just a steady, workmanlike pace that got the job done and kept us watching for the entire evening hoping for a elation that never really came (with Lady Gaga’s stirring performance maybe coming closest).
None of which kept me from going on about it for hours on end.