Blackwolf the Dragonmaster's Diary of Magecraft

Being a Chronicle of the Inner Secrets of, and Spells of Magick as Wielded by, the Philosopher of the Internet and Unofficial Sorcerer-in-Residence of the City of New York

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Location: New York, New York, United States

As New York's Unofficial Wizard, my mission is to encourage the Mortals of Manhattan to imagine responsibly!

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Blackwolf @ the Oscars, Part Five

Well, the inevitability of Scorsese losing out as Best Director --- again --- is all but cast in stone. But at least, Marty boy gets to be on stage, albeit for the purpose of presenting the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. That's the one they give to the individual in the biz whose humanitarian efforts bring credit to the field. And this year, the lucky Hersholtian is Roger Mayer, President and CEO of Turner Entertainment Company. Why? Because he supports the Motion Picture and Television Fund, and the National Film Preservation Foundation. "Marty's Film Foundation has been a leader in the film preservation movement, just as Jean Hersholt was a leader in the Motion Picture and Television Fund --- and, interestingly enough, Mr. Hersholt contributed the land upon which our Hospital, Retirement Community, and Alzheimer's Unit were built; so, there's a real connection there," Mr. Mayer commented.

Roger also paid tribute to the 6 Board Chairmen and 7 heads of production who were employed during his quarter-century's association with MGM, "who either backed up our endeavors or weren't exactly sure what we were doing, but let it all happen anyway. And then came Ted Turner and his cohorts in Atlanta, who understood the importance of all this and kept it going when the funds were pretty short." Today, it's not just the studios who take on the responsibilities of fighting for the cause of film preservation: it's organizations like MoMA and Eastman House in New York; UCLA and the Academy Archives in L.A. --- and especially the Library of Congress.

Mr. Mayer concluded his short remarks by referring to his wife of 52 1/2 years: "They say nothing lasts in Hollywood. Well, love really does. So does 'Taking Care of Our Own.' And so too does the art of film, if we can properly preserve it." Wise words, indeed. I only wish that they had not had to serve as prelude to the telecast's lowest point, in which Annette Bening introduced Yo-Yo Ma. His performance of one of Bach's unaccompanied suites for solo cello served as musical backdrop for the annual Oscar Necrology. Here was the most foolish segment of the entire show: The repeated applause during Maestro Ma's solo was, quite simply, uncalled for! You call THIS respect for the dead?

Making his Oscar debut as a presenter --- and (ick!) allegedly "keepin' it real" for the brothers was that odious Sean (Puffy) Combs. He had the task of introducing the evening's last nominee in the Best Original Song category, Believe, from The Polar Express. That blarsted Beyonce sang the song again (Oh no!), this time teaming up with Josh Grogan, who'd recorded the original solo. Stop Beyonce before she croons again! your Dragonmaster was thinking. At that point, Prince, (long live "Batdance!") was called upon to recap the five nominated songs; as previously noted, Jorge Drexler's Al Otro Lado del Rio (The Other Side of the River) from The Motorcycle Diaries was the winner. Senor Drexler didn't bother thanking everybody --- he just crooned an excerpt from his song, and said thank you before leaving the stage.

Sean Penn next took to the stage, grunting that he wanted to answer "our host's question about who Jude Law was." When he did, he then presented Best Actress to Hilary Swank for Million Dollar Baby. This girl from a trailer park will obviously be a force to be reckoned with for some time to come. Then Gwyneth Paltrow came along for the Best Foreign Languge Film Oscar, which was given to Spain's entry in this category, The Sea Inside, the story of, in Alejandro Amenabar's words, "a man who, despite his desire for death, spread so much life around him." It is the 4th major Oscar winner in this category, and the 20th consecutive nomination as well. Ole!

And then, "the black Jedi Knight that's a sex machine to all the chicks, Mace!" --- er, Samuel L. Jackson --- showed up to give out the Original Screenplay Oscar. Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry and Pierre Bismuth won for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but Charlie was not too thrilled, I don't think, about his triumph. He actually wanted to leave the stage? Well, I guess that solved Louis' problems for the night! Just do Actor, Director and Picture and then we're outta here!

Charlize Theron was first to take the stage. Just as the Planet had wished, Jamie Foxx won for the title role in Ray; I'm not even gonna bother reliving the damn moment about his grandmother. Let's face it, we all speak to our parents in our dreams; your Dragonmaster is no exception to this. Suffice it to say, Jamie becomes the 10th actor to be nominated for Oscars both Lead and Supporting Roles in the same year. Penultimately, there was Milady Julia (Julia Roberts, that is!); and, of course, 'twas old Clint Eastwood, successful in this, his 8th Academy Award nomination.

Blarsted Malpaso Company! They win EVERYTHING! Clint even thanks his now 96-year-old Mom for, among other things, her genes. "To make a picture in only 37 days takes a well-oiled machine .... I watched Sidney Lumet, who is 80, and I figure: I'm just a kid, and I've got a lot of stuff to do yet." Oh goody!

Well, that left only Best Picture --- and Dustin Hoffman, who started this little adventure in voice-over, now joined by La Streisand. "So happy to give this to you again," quoth beloved Yentl --- "Clint!"

For me, the more significant comments re the triumph of Million Dollar Baby come from the film's co-producer, Albert S. Ruddy. "It's the 3rd award ceremony we've gotten to in this category," said he. "I'd tell you every time I started going to this thing, I'd say I'm gonna enjoy myself, whether I win or lose. But believe me, as Arnold said, 'It's better to win!' I'm gonna sit down, get a piece of lemon pie with the real filling, I'm gonna look at this, and then I'm gonna die and go to heaven!" Hooray for you, Albert!

And at last, mercifully, Chris Rock wrapped everything up thusly: "Hey, that's our show for tonight. I hope everybody had a good time. Yo: goodnight, Brooklyn! Yo!" And by the official time of sign-off, at about 11:45 pm Eastern time, we had battled through 3 hours, 40 minutes --- probably the shortest Oscar telecast in recent memory! Seems to me that Gil Cates made good on some of his promises, while most of them did not exactly work out as planned. As far as I'm concerned, gimme Billy or Whoopi any day of the week. Oscar fans, you have until Sunday, March 6th, 2006 to see what happens next. Maybe by then, ol' Gil will get back to directing for the big screen!

Blackwolf @ the Oscars, Part Four

Next on the Kodak Theatre stage was Annie Rossen, who introduced the returning Beyonce (Beyonce, again? Come onnnnnnnnn!!!), who sang the next Original Song nominee, Learn to be Lonely, from Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera --- with Lord Lloyd Webber himself taking the piano; and veteran composer-conductor Bill Conti leading Oscar's orchestra for a record 17th time (NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!).

Here now was the point in the telecast where things were about to implode upon themselves. It all started when Chris Rock introduced "comedy superstar Jeremy Irons." Suave, sophisticated Jeremy --- a comedy superstar? OK, I can understand some of you Mortals for hating Jeremy for doing Dungeons & Dragons: The Movie, but other than his role as Scar from The Lion King, I have yet to see Jeremy lay one or two one-liners 'pon us! Anyway, when Jeremy presented the Oscar for Live-Action Short to writer-director Andrea Arnold for her film Wasp, she responded thusly: "I'm not really used to this kind of thing. I'd like to thank everyone who worked on the film; the beers are on me when we get home. In English, we'd say --- I'd say --- that this is the dog's bollocks!" For those who were wondering, Wasp follows the adventures of 23-year-old Zoe, and her chance meeting with an old flame, offering the mother of four a temporary respite from her boring, miserable life.

Laura Linney was the next presenter; she was assigned to Best Animated Short, giving the award to director Chris Lambert, for the inspiring true animated story, as it were, of Ryan. Ryan is Ryan Larkin, one of the most influential figures in the history of Canadian animation. Having wasted his subsequent years on cocaine and alcohol abuse, Larkin now lives on Montreal's version of skid row, and this dramatic toon tells his tragic story. In addition to thanking the film's hero, director Landreth saluted the Academy for "continuing to support short filmmaking in all its forms. I cannot tell you how cool that is!"

Well, Chris lad, maybe you can't tell us how cool supporting short filmmaking is, but this much is certain: it still wasn't enough to save this show from getting stale. Kate Winslet (aka Rose DeWitt Bukater, the other half of the love story that IS James Cameron's TITANIC), presented Cinematography. Bob Richardson, upon receiving the award, dedicated it to his mom, "who has spent the last 45 days in the hospital." He even thanked "all the doctors and nurses that have cared for her, as well as all of her friends." (One of those rare occasions where you wanted to cry --- for all the right reasons.)

Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek hosted the Sound portion of the show, starting with Sound Mixing and Re-recording --- this, for you technofiends out thither, is the Oscar that goes to the Production Sound Mixer and the Re-recording Mixers --- in this case, Greg Orloff, Steve Cantamessa, Scott Millan and Bob Beemer for Ray. Scott found it impossible to express how lucky he and his team were to work on the Ray Charles saga; yet considered the team lucky that Taylor Hackford, the film's producer-director, was able to exercise that creative freedom. Yeah, sure. Next came Sound Editing --- and leave it to venerable sound mixing and editing legend Randy Thom, C.A.S.; M.P.S.E., to set the record straight for all us sound-loving wannabes:

"Certain Academy Awards like Sound, Visual Effects, and Film Editing are sometimes referred to as technical awards. They're not technical awards," Randy explained. "They're given for artistic decisions --- and sometimes we make [those decisions] better than other, and I guess we made a couple of good ones on this one." Randy and his partner Michael Silvers got theirs for making their artistic decisions for The Incredibles. Still, the TV critics, I would wager ye, would rather rant about 'technical awards' than they would about 'artistic decisions'. Juicier newsprint, you see. Salma was then left alone on stage to introduce Antonio Banderas and Carlos Santana as they performed the eventual winner of the Best Original Song Oscar ---- the first-ever song to be written specifically in the Spanish language, to be more precise: Jorge Drexler's Al Otro Lado del Rio (The Other Side of the River), from The Motorcycle Diaries. Again, alas, for the second time in the telecast, no English subtitles were provided for the benefit of non-Spanish speaking viewers (Louis, you need to really work on this!).

The next award to be presented was Documentary Short, and Natalie Portman did the honors by giving the award to Mighty Times: The Children's March the story of "how the young people of Birmingham, Alabama, braved fire hoses and police dogs to help end the segregation era of 1963." Robert Hudson and Bobby Houston from Tell the Truth Pictures, Inc., accepted the Oscar for this, the 5th consecutive Academy Award nominee to be produced for the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center.

"I've been sitting in my bathtub since I was 8 years old, practicing this Oscar speech," Hudson told the audience. "And it never quite stayed the same. Bob and I live and work together. If you're watching us on TV, don't try this at home. He directs, I produce." Waitaminnit, lemme get this straight: this guy sat in a tub practicing an Oscar speech while washing himself when he was an 8-year-old? Oooooh, kinky! Gil must've been thinking: get those guys off, Louis, and get Travolta in here, quick! So Louis got Travolta in there, and had the former disco king introduce Best Original Score, giving that Oscar to Jan A.P. Kazmarek for his less than thrilling suite from Finding Neverland. Jan's remarks were so mundane, unfortunately, that I don't know if I can quote them hither.

Anyway, it looks like I'm gonna hafta put a fifth episode of me observations hither. A Dragonmaster's work is never done, say I!

Blackwolf @ the Oscars, Part Three

Continuing hither in my Diary of Magecraft, we resume herewith this epic chronicle of your humble Dragonmaster's observations of the 77th Annual Academy Awards!

The festivities continued with a salute to Johnny Carson's years as host of the show, with observations by Whoopi Goldberg; following this, Leonardo DiCaprio took to the Kodak Theatre stage to intro the Best Documentary Feature segment, ultimately presenting the award to the team of Zana Briski and Ross Kaufman, for their haunting chronicle of harsh street life in the Subcontinent, Born into Brothels: Calcutta's Red Light Kids. "Little, gold men," quipped Zana --- "just what we always wanted. We thank you so much. We thank the kids, they're watching in Calcutta, we love you very much....." Ross, meanwhile, thanked HBO --- "the best place on the Planet for documentaries!" Indeed! Come on, goodlies, ye knows the theme song: HBO, you know I want you.........

Next up were Kiersten Dunst and Orlando Bloom (aye, the world's favorite elf, Will Ferrell notwithstanding). They did Film Editing, presenting the award to Scorsese's editng wench, Thelma Schoonmaker. Her remarks: "This is really as much yours as it is mine, Marty, not only because you helped me edit the film, but because you think like an editor when you shoot; and you gave us an equally dazzling ride on this film ...... There's so many people to thank --- the mixers, the visual effect people, particularly my assistants, Scott Brock, Tom Foligno and Erin Crackel. They really got it all up there on the screen ---- but it's really you, Marty."

Oh? Well, riddle me this, dear Thelma: if it really IS Marty, why, I ask ye, is he consistently Oscar Night's biggest loser? Ah, but I digress. And onward we go.

Hey, Shrek's back! The voice of America's favorite ogre (who, by the way, singlehandedly killed traditionally hand-drawn, two-dimensional animation) --- that would be Mike Myers --- arrived on stage to introduce the band Counting Crows, who would perform the next Original Song nominee, Accidentally in Love, from Shrek 2. Unfortunately, the performance --- at least, for my tastes, anyway! --- resembled too much of an episode of the much lamented Don Kirschner's Rock Concert. Louis J. Horvitz, you're a wonderful director, but I don't think you have a good eye for directing rock music TV shows!

The next segment, that of Screenplay Adaptation, was supposed to have been intro'd by Adam Sandler (he who of old asked your Dragonmaster for his autograph!) and Catherine Zeta-Jones. When it became apparent that Mrs. Douglas was a no-show, Chris Rock decided to step in and sort of save the day, joining Adam in a rather bizarre reading, straight from the teleprompter. One of those really weird moments that only a live TV show can bring you. Anyway, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor were given the darn thing for having scribbled Sideways. "We've been lucky enough to have been writing partners for 15 years," said Jim. Alex wrapped it up with: "We love Fox Searchlight for letting us make a film with complete creative freedom... [so] I wanna share my side of this award with the cast and crew of the film, because we had a lotta fun. See ya later."

Charged with the task of hosting the Visual Effects segment were Jake Gylenhaal and Ziyi Zhang, who very shortly summoned to the mic the quartet of John Dykstra, Scott Stokdyk, John Frazier and Tony LaMolinara, who dared us to fall into the web of Spider-Man 2. "Boy, am I glad there wasn't a fourth episode of Lord of the Rings!" laughed Dysktra. (Note to self: STAR WARS EPISODE IV BE DAMNED --- GET JOHN DYKSTRA!)

The late Jerry Goldsmith's Fanfare for Oscar then kicked in, meaning that the President of the Academy, director Frank Pierson, was about to talk next (either boring others or interesting some). Still, Pierson was there to bring on Al Pacino, who in his turn, presented a special Oscar for distinguished career achievement to one of our best living directors, Sidney Lumet. I loved his acknowledgement to the movies. "I know that sounds general," he explained, "but it's very real to me. I got the best job in the best profession in the world; so I just wanna thank all of it ---and, of course, those who've paid more dues than I have. See you later."

You're welcome, dear Sidney. (By the way, all is forgiven as far as The Wiz is concerned.) Centerpiece of the next set of spots was Scorsese's Love Letter to a City, presented by American Express. Yeah, just the ticket: NYC according to DeNiro. When you speak of the great DeNiro, respect is essential. Besides, your Dragonmaster --- and for that matter, the Dark Chambers website overall --- might one day be involved in DeNiro's now-legendary Tribeca Film Festival!