Blackwolf @ the Oscars 2009: Episode One
As per usual, the viewers at home never have the chance to bond with anchor George Pennachio and his cronies Randolph Duke, Michelle Tuzee, Marc Brown, Robb Hays, Lisa Hernandez and John Hartung (the latter two of whom were this year responsible for the foolishness over at ontheredcarpet.com). When you only have 30 minutes to interview the arrivals, there is no way you're going to have the time to hang about! Bah humbug as usual, ABC7 Los Angeles! Same expletive deleted time next year, eh what?
The half-hour Academy-sanctioned arrivals Prologue, with Tim Gunn, GMA's Robin Roberts and Jess Cagle as hosts, smelled a bit overly pre-taped to me; indeed, I sensed that about 98% of the interviews were in fact taped microseconds in advance. Some of the things that eventually got lost in the eventual three-hour-30-minute shuffle was the fact that veteran designer Valentino was marking his 30th year as one of Oscar's top designers and suppliers of exclusive jewelry. Huzzah! unto ye, dearest Valentino! The show's opening title sequence saw us ascending the mighty Kodak Theatre staircase, whilst guiding us through the evening the way a true maiden should was the lovely Gina Tottle. She does make a glorious announcer; I only wish that, like Randy Thomas before her, she had her own website. (C'mon, Mortals --- thou knowst whom ye are --- somewhere in ye Aether, there be those who, a la Jim Cummings of yore, hath the hots for Milady Gina. Thou knowst, too, that ye don't go about fooling a fooler!)
Anywho, producers Laurence Mark and Bill Condon --- the team who brought you Dreamgirls, The Movie --- had a fantastic concept: to tell the story of the process of filmmaking and bring it to life on screen. First, though, you needed a host to set us along our journey. And, surprise of surprises, Hugh Jackman's opening piece got things off to quite a big fast start! By Merlin's beard, this guy was the sort of fresh air Oscar needed all along! (Even if, in the end, nothing could stop the force that, quite simply, WAS the evening's big winner, Slumdog Millionaire.)
Larry and Bill's concept began in earnest with the presentation of 5 previous winners in the Best Supporting Actress category, each of whom, from their spots on
stage, spoke directly to each of this year's nominees in this same category. A daring experiment, say I, and one from whence, I hope, wise old Gilbert Cates should take a cue, should he return as producer next year. Anyway, know you what Penelope Cruz had to say:
"This is not gonna be 45 seconds, I can say that right now. Has anybody fainted here, because I might be the first one! I cannot talk about great female characters without thanking my friend Pedro Almodovar for having made me paret of so many of his adventures. Thank you, too, Bigas Luna and Fernando Trueba, for giving me my first movies .... I grew up in a place called Alcobendas, where this was not a very realistic dream. And I, always on Oscar Night, stayed up to watch the show, and I always felt that this ceremony was a moment of unity for the world --- because art, no matter what form it takes, must always be our universal language; and that we must do all in our power to defend its survival. Todos los que desde Espana ahora esten compartiendo este momento conmigo y sientan que esto tambien es de ellos, se los dedico. Y a todos los actores de mi pais. Muchisimas gracias."
Afterwards, we got some laughs out of the Screenplay awards, compliments of Steve Martin and Tina Fey. The two even described their entry on stage as they walked out; leading into live readings of excerpts from all the nominated Screenplays in both Original Screenplay and Screenplay Adaptation categories. An interesting premise, I thought as I observed; it made me wonder whether or not this new way of bringing Oscar closer to the home viewer had a future. Dustin Lance Black, on his win:
"When I was 13 years old, my parents moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas to California, where I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And that story gave me the hope I needed to live my life --- and that one day, I could live that life openly as who I am, and then maybe, even I could fall in love and one day get married. If Harvey had not been taken from us 30 years ago, I think he'd want me to say to all of the gay and lesbian kids out there tonight, who have been told that they are less than by either their churches, their government or by their families, that you are beautiful, wonderful creatures of value --- and that no matter what anyone else tells you, God does love you, and that very soon, I promise you, you will have equal rights federally...."
And Slumdog screenwriter Simon Beaufoy: "Hi, gang! There are certain places in the Universe you never imagine yourself standing in. For me, it's the moon, the South Pole, the Miss World stage, and here. It's a tremendous honor, so thank you to the Academy. I certainly wouldn't be standing here tonight without Vikas Swarup, who wrote the book, without which none of Slumdog would have happened. So, thank you, Vikas."
Next to get their salutes were the representatives of glorious Toontown. This year, Best Animated Feature and Best Animated Short Subject were paired together, the better to give Jack Black and Jennifer Anniston something to comment on. Not surprisingly, the damn droid won Animated Feature. Next: WALL*E Parades at the Magic Kingdom. Andrew Stanton's thoughts: "I'd be remiss if I did not thank my high school drama teacher, Mr. Phil Perry, for, 28 years ago, casting me as Barnaby in Hello, Dolly! Creative seeds are sown in the oddest of places; so, uh, thank you so much to the Academy for this."
Then we heard from Kunio Kato, director of La Maison en Petits Cubes: "So heavy. Thank you very much, my supporters, all my staff, my producer, my production company, Robot. Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto." Methinks a look at Kunio's story is in proper order, as we barely got to know the man: He wanted to be a veterinarian, as he was quite fond of animals; alas, young Kunio had to give that up, owing to his apparent allergicness to cats. (Now that's odd!) Petits Cubes has been, to date, this guy's biggest break; one can only hope that he gets more of them!
Next, very sexy Sarah Jessica Parker and 007 himself, Daniel Craig presented three awards back-to-back: Art Direction, Costume Design and Makeup. Art Direction was first. Donald Graham Burt on his work on Benjamin Button:
"We first and foremost wanna thank our crews that we had in our Art Departments, and those crews were in New Orleans, Montreal, St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and here in Los Angeles. We wanna thank our producers, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall; and my dear friend of many yeasrs, Cean Chaffin. And I said at another awards ceremony that our producers were great because they did what every other producer should ever do, and that is leave us alone."
Michael O'Connor on The Duchess: "I'd like to thank the cast, because, y'know, working with such a great cast, everyone was with me ..... Keira Knightley, you are one classy lady."
Celebrating his ninth Oscar nomination, and second overall win (that would be three if you're counting that 2004 Technical Achievement Award he got with pal Wes Wofford for that silicone material thing they brewed up), Greg Cannom also talks about his days with Team Button. Ah, who in Merlin's name am I kiddin'? Cannom just did some bloomin' name-dropping. As if!
Next on Blackwolf @ the Oscars 2009: the award Robert Pattinson and Amanda Seyreid presented --- I can't recall which one; plus Natalie Portman, a bearded Ben Stiller, and Jessica Biel with the Scientific and Technical Awards. Be here!