Hand to God, I was not going to write about the Oscars. I freely admit I enjoy watching them and predicting them and gossiping about them and complaining about them. But I think we afford a little too much cultural currency to an 85-year-old PR/marketing campaign launched by Hollywood in the late 1920s to reassure America how great movies (primarily American movies) always have been. In terms of lasting artistic significance, the Oscar is a lukewarm measuring stick at best. Then Michelle Obama showed up.
I imagine there are people in red states (and I hope someone will explain to me how the Republican Party came to be associated with the color we previously reserved for Communists) who were not impressed by the first lady. I come from a blue state (and I hope someone will to me how the Democratic Party became associated with the color of the blood of aristocrats), and consequently was delighted. At the very least, it once and for all confirmed my long-held suspicion that Hollywood and Washington were somehow separated at birth.
Think about it. Two one-industry towns. You can't grab a burger without hearing about Johnny Depp's new masseuse in LA, or about Joe Biden's new hair stylist in D.C. Being at the top of the pyramid in either town qualifies you as one of the most powerful people in the world. And I am firmly convinced that no one impresses a Hollywood mogul more than a U.S. Congressman, just like no one impresses a president more than George Clooney. In the year of Argo, Lincoln, and Zero Dark Thirty, the connection between LA and D.C. seems stronger than ever.
So here's one brief comment about Argo. If you want to get your rotten tomatoes ready to throw, I am giving advance warning that I am about to say something mildly critical about it. I do not think it was the best movie of the year. I do not think that Ben Affleck was somehow denied his birthright by not being nominated for Best Director, (though, given the adoration Argo has received from virtually all quarters, I remain surprised that he wasn't nominated.) I think the movie falls in love a bit too much with the Hollywood section (arguably the most entertaining part of the story) at the expense of the six characters stuck in the house, so that by the third act, I care only about the mission, and not about the people. For me, that hurt the movie. Didn't ruin it. Didn't make it bad. But did disqualify it from my "best" list.
So what we have is a movie constructed to prove that when D.C. and LA team up, there's no problem that cannot be solved. The fact that the problem we overcame emanated from the Middle East, where a violent mob intent of harming Americans still may or may not exist, makes it all the more reassuring. I was entertained and I felt proud. What Tony Mendez and those Americans did was genuinely heroic. And the first lady was there to confirm it all. Problem is, I can think of five 2012 movies rather quickly that have stayed with me longer, and have had a more lasting impact on me. But when LA and D.C. team up and do it well, they can be pretty hard to resist.
While I have you, just a few other thoughts on the show itself:
I guess there are people who care about the red carpet. I just haven't met any of them. I like looking at beautiful women in expensive gowns. But the interviews are truly awful. So, no more red carpet interviews, unless they are conducted by Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog.
Broadway puts on live musical numbers. Hollywood makes movies. Please stick to that during the Oscars.
When did the orchestra get relegated to the kids' table? I know most musicians are pretty motley, but can't they at least be in the building?
Marvin Hamlisch is my boy, but why does he get Babs singing him a song? Don't the rest of the in memoriams feel slighted?
Loved the Jaws theme. I mean, really loved it. Best Oscar innovation in many years.
I remember when the Hersholt and the Lifetime Achievements got live tributes and made acceptance speeches. They were generally boring, but a bit more dignified than pointing at four guys in a box and saying "Them guys, they was important.
No opinion about MacFarlane. Hard job. Perfectly average. But I'll throw down with anyone dissing William Shatner. He was awesome. In fact, if there are any producers reading this, or anyone with a lot of ready cash, I have an idea for a remake of Bonnie and Clyde starring Capt. Kirk and Betty White. In a Bunuelian touch, the sex scenes would use two different actors as stand-ins. I'm thinking Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried, but I'm flexible. We might be able to get Bill Clinton for a cameo. Let's talk.