Nikki Finke and numerous others are bashing the Oscar telecast last night. With good reason: it was awful. Gimmicky, enervated, entirely too long and too strange. Between the sound effects choir, the shadow puppet troupe, the endless irrelevant montages (excepting the yearly tribute to actors and industry pros who died in the previous year), poor editing, idiotic line readings from the 10 best screenplay (original and adapted) nominees, and the rushed ending that squeezed the four biggest awards into the last 20+ minutes of the show, this was a disaster of a telecast.
After Billy Crystal drew raves for bringing in the telecast under 3.5 hours in his last hosting turn, Ellen DeGeneres had an awful lineup to work with because the endless montages and weak features stretched the telecast to nearly 3.5 hours before the Big Four awards were announced: Actress, Actor, Director and Picture.
The two best moments were Seinfeld's intro of the documentary award and Scorsese's win. Scorsese's been vicimized by timing in the past, thus explaining his losses for directing GoodFellas and Raging Bull (although the latter is a bit of a travesty) to Dances With Wolves and Ordinary People. Other times he's directed well, but the pictures simply were not great Best Picture contenders (Last Temptation of Christ, Gangs of New York, although the latter had weak competition). So he's not been shafted like Peter Jackson (A Beautiful Mind over Fellowship of the Ring was an insult) or Cate Blanchett (losing for her tremendous performance in Elizabeth to Gwyneth Paltrow's turn in Shakespeare in Love was a joke) or even Steven Spielberg (the Academy's snub of even a nomination for directing The Color Purple ranks as one of the great injustices in Oscar history and led directly to it awarding him the Irving Thallberg [Lifetime Achievement] Award the next year as a bit of a make-good). Sometimes history proves the Academy's foolishness -- after all, Blanchett is (with Kidman) the best actress working today and, like DiCaprio and Winslet (who always does the proverbial meaty role), a threat to earn an Oscar nomination every time she appears in a movie. Paltrow's career decisions are worse than the names she's picked for her kids.
Not to forget (like I did when I initially posted this), but both Monkette and I were very pleased when Forest Whitaker, Helen Mirren and Jennifer Hudson won their little gold men. We actually saw each Oscar winning performance in the acting categories and I'm pleased that there were no upsets or idiocies. Hudson dominated Dreamgirls, Mirren was a classic and Whitaker commanded every scene in which he appeared in Last King of Scotland -- he portrayed manic depressive megalomania perfectly. On a different note, The Monk wonders if the release of low-brow comedy Norbit lost Eddie Murphy a statuette. After all, he won a bunch of prizes before the nominations were announced; the studio released Norbit to critical derision shortly after the Oscar voting started and after Murphy had won a Golden Globe.
Finally, as an American of Italian descent, The Monk especially appreciates Scorsese's win. Scorsese is a genius at finding excellent young Italian actors and working closely with them to develop projects. He did it with DeNiro (and to a lesser degree, Pesci) and has now done so with DiCaprio (who simply has to be destined for Oscar glory -- just watch him). Indeed, folks of The Monk's heritage (Jewish, Italian) have dominated Hollywood for decades.