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!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Blackwolf @ the Oscars 2010: The Complete Chronicle, Episode One

Well, kids, the 82nd Annual Academy Awards is in the history books --- and, as much as I dislike having to utter the words, your Dragonmaster is not happy. There was much that disappointed yours truly about the show; and in these remarks I shall attempt to share with you my observations of what observations of what transpired.

Be aware, as you read this, that these comments began as notations taken during the telecast itself, at the unusual bar-and-grill facility Southern Hospitality Barbecue, located on Second Avenue between 76th and 77th Streets. The place is precise, and caters to a clientele of Manhattan-based rednecks, i.e., those who dare to dream of the wild, wild west but otherwise can't make it out there. But I digress.

Presumably, the television observations began with the live feed from ABC7 Los Angeles (that would be KABC-TV/HD, in case the technology escapes you); but, as in prior years, the program, prepared specifically for the ABC Owned Television Stations, can never hope to immerse you in the full tornado of Oscar madness within its puny 30-minute limit. The evening also saw the last pre-Oscar Barbara Walters special. Miss Walters has pulled the plug on these very special hours of television for the simple reason that she no longer finds them to be fun. When you're an icon of television and you yourself don't find your own specials to be fun anymore, then clearly something's wrong. Happily, Miss Walters has said that she will continue to co-host and executive produce The View; indeed, one of her View colleagues, Sherri Shepherd, anchored the Academy-sanctioned half-hour countdown. Miss Shepherd's accomplices here were supermodel icon Kathy Ireland and Entertainment Weekly managing editor Jess Cagle.

The countdown show also saw the return of two longtime friends of Oscar --- producer Jeff Margolis, who has long directed his share of Oscar shows (he would not do so here; for, as previously mentioned, behind the scenes, the show was a virtual first-timer's workshop, led by producers Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman, and telecast director Hamish Hamilton, who'd just come to the Oscars after directing the Super Bowl XLIV Halftime Show, Starring the Who); and announcer Les Marshak, who did not stay for the show, leaving control of the booth to the lovely Gina Tuttle (and come out of your shells, Gina Tuttle fans, for your Dragonmaster knows you're out there!).

Gina began the show by introducing all 10 nominees in the lead acting categories, before turning things over to Neil Patrick Harris, who headlined an unusual number called "No One Wants to Do It Alone" --- and this was followed by the grand entrance of our two hosts, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. Their opening monologue was a Wimbledon of comedy, involving some of the most exciting bits Bruce Vilanch has ever co-written. From greeting some of the nominees to exchanging really weird remarks to even taking on visual gags inspired by the night's big loser (drat!), Avatar, Steve and Alec said things you wouldn't dare put on, say, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour!

But, as you might suspect, it was all about the awards, my dears, and the first presenter out of the gate was Penelope Cruz, who wielded the envelope for Best Supporting Actor. As everyone had predicted, it would be Christoph Waltz who would take the award for his role in Inglourious Basterds. Here's what Christoph said upon taking the podium: "Oscar and Penelope --- that's an uber-bingo. I've always wanted to discover some new continent, and I'd always thought I'd have to go this way, but then I got introduced to Quentin Tarantino who was putting together an expedition that had been equipped by Harvey Weinstein, Lawrence Bender and David Linde, and then Quentin put this script in front of me and said, 'This is where we're going, but we're gonna go the other way.' "

After that, Ryan Reynolds took the stage to give his thesis on The Blind Side, the first of ten such commentaries interspersed throughout the telecast. Following commercial, Gina dearest instructed the viewers to welcome Cameron Diaz and Steve Carell, who introduced a silly segment featuring some of the stars of the five films nominated for Best Animated Feature, as they discussed (or did not discuss) what it was like to be nominated. As expected, the reigning 900-ton gorilla in this category --- that, I believe, would be Pixar --- dominated, as the haunting Up, only the second-ever Disney animated feature, after Beauty and the Beast, to be nominated for Best Picture, was given the animated feature one. The film's director/co-writer, Pete Docter, who'd had no idea that merely flipping a flip book made from a 3rd-grade math book would take him here, found his presence there incredible (Uh oh! I shouldn't have said that.) "Please picture this whole stage full of the most amazing cast and crew you've ever experienced: Jonas Rivera, my producer; my co-director, Bob Petersen. You guys should all be up here with me. Thanks so much to Disney and to Pixar Animation Studios for believing in this oddball film."

Miley Cyrus and Amanda Seyfried appeared next, saying that this year marked the 75th Anniversary of the Best Original Song Category --- ironic to say the least, especially since it had been decreed that there would be no live full performances of each nominated song! Nonetheless, the honor went to "The Weary Kind" from Crazy Heart, which I think is another movie song no one will remember. Anyway, Ryan's rather fast remarks: He thanked his wife Anna, whom he loved more than rainbows; his band, the Crazy Heart cast, and his songwriting partner, T-Bone Burnett. After that, Chris Pine presented the second thesis of the evening, spotlighting District 9.

Robert Downey, Jr. and Tina Fey then presented Best Original Screenplay. Mark Boam nabbed that one, the first of six, for the night's eventual champion, The Hurt Locker. "You honor and humble me with this more than you know," said the writer, a one-time reporter just returned from Iraq with the concept for a story about men on the frontline of an unpopular war. Mark dedicated his award to "the 115,000 who are still in Iraq, the 120,000 still in Afghanistan, and the over 30,000 wounded and over 4000 who have not made it home --- and to my father who didn't live to see this, but inspired me and got me up here."

The first of the evening's extended segments, hosted by Matthew Broderick and Molly Ringwald, was a tribute to their one-time mentor, the late John Hughes. Highlights of Hughes' many achievements were interspersed with live tributes from Judd Nelson, Ally Sheedy, Anthony Michael Hall, Jon Cryer and Macaulay Culkin. This led to the third dissertation of the telecast, as Samuel L. Jackson talked up Up, as it were.

Gina: "The 82nd Annual Academy Awards will continue in a moment here on ABC!"

Carey Mulligan and Zoe Saldana next hit the Kodak Theatre stage, their assignment being to share their thoughts on short films. In this segment, Documentary Short, Live-Action Short and Animated Short were all given pride of place. They began with Documentary Short. When Roger Ross Williams and Elinor Burkett were named to take to the podium, a controversy arose, the details of which are recounted elsewhere. "Two years ago, when I got on an airplane and went to Zimbabwe," said Williams, "I'd never imagined in my wildest dreams that I'd end up here." "In a world in which most of us are told and tell ourselves that we can't," countered Ms. Burkett, "Liyana, the band behind this film, teaches us that we're wrong. Against all odds, they did, so we can."

Then, Joachim Black, director of the short The New Tenants, wondered whether he should dance or whatever. His comments, unfortunately, weren't truly interesting enough --- for me. Finally, producer Nicolas Schmerkin took to the stage to accept the Animated Short Oscar for the weird and unusual Logorama!: "I'm the producer of the film, so I have to thank the 3000 non-official sponsors that appear in the film; and I must also assure them that no logos were harmed in the making of this project." Oooooooo-kay!

Ben Stiller appeared next, in a rather truncated version of the segment he was supposed to have done with Sacha Baron Cohen. Larry Daley still rules, Ben my lad, but you'll never make a great Na'vi! The Oscar for Best Makeup, as presented to Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow, gives the Star Trek franchise something very rare to say the least: PRESTIGE! Jeff Bridges then appeared to sell us concerning A Serious Man.

Here, then, my children, endeth Part the First. In our next episode: Screenplay Adaptation, the Governors' Award Ball, Supporting Actress, Art Direction, Costume Design and a salute to horror movies! Be here!