Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh
chris_walsh

Tonight the part of I Me Mine will be played by Mike Russell

Duty called, and prevented Dawn's friend and good film observer Mike Russell from attending Dawn's Oscar party -- just as sleep calls me and prevents me from doing a write-up yet -- but the fruits of his labor were a live web log of the Oscars last night.

I want to be able to look at them again, and while they're currently available on this page of "Mad About Movies," I want to save a copy before it all disappears into the archived ether, so here are Mike Russell's words on the subject behind the cut:


LiveBlogging Oscar: The Adventure Begins

Movie beat second-stringer (and "Culture Pulp" proprietor) Mike Russell here. Shawn Levy's given me the keys to Mad About Movies for the evening -- I'll be doing this "liveblogging" thing that all the kids are talking about as I cover the 2006 Oscars on a newsroom floor full of The Oregonian's culture editors and reporters.

Feel free to send along your (family-friendly) snark to O@news.oregonian.com. We'll throw up our favorite reader observations in this space.

Oh, and if you want to check out some other Oscar liveblogs -- you know, in addition to ours, ahem -- here's a partial list of the sites I'm watching: [followed by a list of links I've no time to recreate]

5 p.m.: It begins! The Opening Monologue

Opening credits. We zip through a sort of pop-up computer-generated landscape, incorporating important characters from the history of film (well, important charcters and Forrest Gump), that resembles nothing so much a Vegas Hollywood-themed casino full of animatronic wax corpses.

This naked self-regarding schmaltz is almost immediately redeemed by the cameos by all the previous hosts (which includes, yes, the evening's first "Brokeback" tent joke).

Shawn Levy, sitting behind me: "Keira Knightly's sitting right next to Jack Nicholson. THAT's not advisable."

Jon Stewart, to my mind, seems to be mildly killing so far. Whenever an "edgy," self-referential comic based out of New York hosts the Oscars, it strikes me that it's at direct odds with the show's inherent self-congratulation – like Lenny Bruce hosting an Elks Lodge meeting. But Stewart's finding the balance between mockery and flattery – while working in gentle ribs on The Slump, the inherent grimness of this year's nominees, the Gomorrah-like rep of Hollywood insiders.

"You're voting for winners for a change." "Bjork couldn't be here. She was trying on her dress, and Dick Cheney shot her." "Raise your hand if you were not in crash." "It's why we go to the movies – to escape." "It's 'Ray' with white people." "That guy looks like he's been lifting 20 Commandments."

Egad. With this clip job of gay subtext in American Westerns, Stewart's brought
years of film-school theses to the mainstream. (Really. Do an Internet search on "gay subtext" and "Red River" sometime.)

************************************************

5:18 p.m.: Best Supporting Actor

Best Supporting Actor: It's Fat Clooney! (Shawn Levy, for those keeping track at home, is 1 for 1.) "Okay, so I won't be winning Best Director." He's kicking things off with a gracious speech with just enough self-congratulatory political heft to matter. Shawn Levy: "Anyone who tells you they don't want to be George Clooney is full of it."

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5:22 p.m.

Tom Hanks -- his "Da Vinci Code" hair making him look like nothing so much as a sleazy fortysomething art teacher trying to hang desperately onto his youth for a few more dates with undergrads -- teaches us how to give an acceptance speech. He outed his teacher on live TV when he won for "Philadelphia." He has much to teach.

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5:24 p.m.; Best Visual Effects

For the record, I would love to see Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson tag-team the hosting job sometime.

"King Kong" wins. I get this: Kong as a character looked amazing. However, too many backgrounds were so rushed -- owing to Jackson's urge to cram everything into his magnum opus at the last minute -- that some scenes
looked like shiny, fake, hyper-detailed "Land of the Lost" rear-projections.

****************************************

5:30: Best Animated Feature

Plasticine beats back the pixel, momentarily: It's "Wallace and Gromit and the Curse of the Were-Rabbit."

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5:33 p.m.: Dolly Parton sings.

Shawn Levy: "Everyone's doing their first bathroom rush.... Oh! Dolly ran out of breath there at the end!" (Please, Shawn. The woman's 90 years old.)

Also, an actual exchange from the office a few desks away where they're working on the fashion report:

"She looks like cotton candy."

"She's an American icon."

*************************************

Our first reader comment!

Dan Alrick, Salem: I look forward to the montage pieces by Chuck Workman during the Oscars like someone who watches the Superbowl just for the ads.

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5:39 p.m.: Thank you, Jon Stewart...

... for inadvertently revealing the Scientology conspiracy.

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5:41: Best Live-Action Short and Best Animated Short

Live-action: It's "Six Shooter." Then Chicken Little and pal present "Best Animated Short," and reveal in two painful gags about duck pants precisely why "Chicken Little" received no Oscar nomination.

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5:48 The Most Costumes Award.

Best Costume Design: "Memoirs of a Geisha," undoubtedly receiving its only Oscar of the evening barring John Williams' stacking the score noms.

Shawn Levy: "That's the award that isn't given to the best, but to the most. The MOST costumes."

********************************

5:51

I was wondering how long until Hollywood would roll out its Handsome Movies That Are Good for You Cavalcade: A montage of historical figures in film.

Shawn Levy: "'Ghandi' won because he's exactly what everyone in Hollywood wants to be: tan, thin, and moral."

*********************************

KILL THE ORCHESTRA! More reader comments, mostly unedited:

Anonymous: What's with the music playing during the acceptance remarks...theyre not even waiting for the 30 seconds....playing right from the start. they trying to tell them all to wrap it up???

Anonymous: Does anyone else agree that the orchestra playing DURING the acceptance speeches is both irritating and disrespectful?!! This is fast turning into one of the biggest stinkers in years. Peeeeeyyyeewww!

D. Alrick, Salem: Another comment: Playing music during the acceptance speeches, presumably to urge the speaker to the finish, is a bad and distracting idea. It gives the strange impression that you're watching a teaser for a speech instead of the
actual speech.

**************************************

6 p.m.: Best Supporting Actress

Hey! It's Morgan Freeman, looking like he just walzed in off an eco-friendly yacht!

Fun fact: Amy Adams used to work at Hooters!

The winner: Rachel Weisz. (Shawn Levy: "How could she not win? She's British, gorgeous and pregnant!")

I'm happy for Weisz, but I have to say: I am actually glad that "The Constant Gardener" (i.e., "The Thriller Without Thrills") wasn't nominated for much else. In the long run, I'm afraid, "Gardener's" major contribution to film is going to be that future cliche shot I'm already sick of seeing in every movie set in Africa: the POV shot from the car where a bunch of young villager children in brightly colored clothes run alongside, yelling for no reason.

************************************

6:09 p.m.

Why, it's Lauren Bacall! I was just watching her wiggle at the end of "To Have and Have Not" a couple of nights ago; her shaky demeanor here is quite a reality check. (Shawn: "And yet she's STILL a better speaker than our president!") She's introducing a film-noir montage that exists for no other reason, near as I can tell, than that film-noir trailers are really fun to mash together. Is there some DVD collection coming out of which I'm unaware?

****************************************

6:14: Best Documentary Short

The Swift Boat-esque political commercials goofing on the Best Actress nominees are the first true "Daily Show" intrusions of the evening. I was honestly hoping for more of these by now.

And now Terrence Howard, whose bling-flower makes him looking like he's ready for a very hip prom night, introduces the Best Doc Short. Will my long-standing theory that the film with a colon in its title always wins this category hold strong?

The winner? "A Note of Triumph: The Golden Age of Norman Corwin." Whew.

*****************************************

6:19 p.m.: Charlize and her Shoulder Bow

"What is truth? What is fiction? What is memoir?" Living Editrix Christine Hunt, one desk away: "What is that on your shoulder?"

It's "March of the Penguins." For those keeping track at home, Shawn's 4 for 4 on his predictions.

*****************************************

Just throwing this out for discussion's sake:

During this incredibly dull song/set bonfire (reader feedback: "We didn't realize 'Shawn of the Dead' was up for best song! What were they thinking?"), let's throw out some "Crash" haterade!

[More links]

******************************************

6:30 p.m.: The long-awaited "Speed" reunion. Somewhere, Jason Patric weeps.

I know this is a pretty geeked-out reference, but Sandra Bullock looks like she has Boba Fett's helmet visor for a bodice.

Shawn is again correct: "Geisha" wins for Most Art Direction.

******************************************

6:34 p.m.

Samuel L. Jackson introduces yet another self-congratulatory montage of Very Important Movies. I would just like to point out that Mr. Jackson has just given a Sydney Poitier-caliber introduction to a montage that includes "9 to 5" and "The Day After Tomorrow."

John Stewart: "And none of those issues were ever a problem again."

******************************************

6:38 p.m.

Sid Ganis, Academy Prez and stout little down-with-the-kids shaggy school principal, rubs it in: "The Day After Tomorrow" is apparently part of "a profound collection of movies."

(Shawn rants: "Beware whenever anyone in Hollywood talks about storytelling. They're reaching for your wallet. This is the producer of 'Big Daddy'! Mickey Rooney looks like a thumb that's been soaking in hot cocoa for hours! he looks like a peach pit!")/

*****************************************

6:47 p.m.: The music locks it up?

Shawn Levy comments on "Brokeback"'s Best Score win: "It's over. When a movie wins something it shouldn't, it's a sign. 'Crash' won't win."

BTW, for what very little it's worth, as a film-score collector I have to say that the wrong John Williams scores got nominated this year. His Very Important Scores to Very Important Movies (e.g. "Memoirs of a Geisha") never endure like his popcorn scores ("Star Wars," "Raiders").

******************************************

6:54 p.m.: The Spielberg-y Montage

Jake Gyllenhaal introduces a montage of epics. (The grim mid-Slump bleating that We Are Very Very Important seems to be this year's unofficial theme, not "A Return to Glamour.") Shawn offers Jake trivia: "His godmother is Jamie Lee Curtis. He got his first driving lesson from Paul Newman."

Stewart: "I can't wait until we see 'Oscar's Salute to Montages.'"

******************************************

6:58 p.m.

When, precisely, did Jessica Alba turn into a cream-colored praying mantis?

******************************************

6:59 p.m.

Shawn Levy on "Memoirs" as a Sound Mixing nominee: "No film where you can't understand a word the actresses say can win this."

BTW, if the orchestra plays during the speeches, how do they get people off the stage?

******************************************

7:02 p.m.: Honorary Oscar, Robert Altman

Aha – Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep are doing a long meta-riff on Robert Altman's overlapping sound design. (Shawn: "That was a classic example of the imitative fallacy done right.") I love this, but I also write without a trace of condescension: I suspect a large chunk of not-as-Altman-savvy Americans now think these two women were very, very drunk, no matter how loud the in-crowd applauds.

Altman, who spent some of his time in a wheelchair on the set of his latest, "A Prairie Home Companion," walks onstage. At 81 and a decade after a full heart transplant, he looks like Colonel Sanders as a linebacker. "To me, I've just made one, long film," he says during his wise and gracious and only slightly rambling speech. (I felt that way about mid-way through "Dr. T and the Women.")

******************************************

7:14 p.m.

Interesting. M. Night Shyamalan's funky American Express commercial contained the footage people had been saying was leaked from "Lady in the Water."

******************************************

7:16 p.m.: Stewart: "I think it just got easier for a pimp."

Chris "Lucacris" Bridges does a smashing job disarming the lyrical content of "It's Hard Out There for a Pimp" before the phrase defiantly shows up in giant back-lit letters. What a final note by Shuge!

Editor Michael Rollins: "Dolly Parton should have sung this."

Queen Latifah walks onstage. Shawn's not a fan: "It's like America suddenly collectively decided not to hurt someone's feelings!"

"Pimp" wins! This is, actually, a pretty incredible coup for a great song in a greater movie. "'Crash' is finished," opines Shawn.

*****************************************

Reader comment....

From Jon Maddin: "The stage set looks like Stanley Kubrick's version of a New York subway station."

****************************************

7:24 p.m.

Shawn: "Two and a half hours in, and we still have nine awards to give out."

The Swift Boat award-lobbying ads are the best thing tonight.

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7:28 p.m.: It's Hard Out Here for a Dead Guy

Post-Fat Clooney introduces the Montage of the Dead. This sequence is always more than a little unnerving, for the simple reason that there's invariably an applause-meter popularity contest going on for the recently deceased. I always feel for the families watching at home during this.

We are, of course charting it in the office.

Pat Morita has the lead all the way up through - my Lord! He beats Robert Wise! AND Richard Pryor!

*****************************************

7:35 p.m.: Foreign Language Film and Best Editing.

Will Smith: officially tired!

"Tsotsi" keeps turning up on the top-10 lists of people I respect. Consider yourself lucky if you caught it at PIFF.

Stewart: "Martin Scorcese: Zero Oscars. Three-Six Mafia: One."

"Crash" wins Best Editing. Shawn Levy: "If 'Brokeback Mountain' wins Best Picture, it will be the first film since 'Ordinary People' to win Best Picture without being nominated for Best Editing."

*****************************************

7:42 p.m.: Best Actor

Incredible Best Actor field this year. Three performances (Hoffman, Ledger, Howard) may be legendary.

But the big question is: Will Hoffman bark like a dog, per his long-standing bet with his pals, as he told "60 Minutes"?

[waits]

Coward!

******************************************

7:52 p.m.: John Travolta's toupe makes him look like a well-fed G.I. Joe doll

"Memoirs of a Geisha" wins the Most Cinematography Oscar.

Shawn: "Now we're in an interesting area.... If 'Brokeback' wins Best Picture, it will win with only four Oscars -- if it wins with Director and Adapted Screenplay."

*****************************************

7:56: Best Actress

Reese Witherspoon, who somehow made that June Carter haircut sexy, wins the gold. Total Southern belle onstage. She'll probably produce and star in a Supergirl movie next year for her cred-flush.

She and Hoffman were so gracious. Hollywood's embracing a Nervous Dignity theme this year.

******************************************

8:05 p.m. Screenplays

It's "Brokeback" for Best Adapted Screenplay.

I was kind of hoping Dan Futterman would win for "Capote," just because if he'd won after freely admitting to both his lack of story sense and his wife's editing input, it would have either led to (a) thousands of wannabes flooding Hollywood, or (b) thousands of established hacks sticking their heads in ovens.

"Crash" wins Best Screenplay; Levy's batting 100 percent with two awards to go. And if I may re-link to haterade, perhaps this gives writers another sort of hope.

Shawn: "'Crash' breaks Levy's Law, which is this: If you shoot a child at close range with a gun, that child has to die, because if not that means you're pulling the audience through the most extreme form of trauma and then saying 'Gotcha'!"

******************************************

8:17 p.m.: Best Director

Me: "Ang Lee. It's a lock."

Shawn: "No. 'Shakespeare in Love' won the year Spielberg took director for 'Saving Private Ryan.'"

******************************************

8:19 p.m. Jack: "The best mow-chin picture of the year...."

"Crash"? "Crash?!"

******************************************

Reader feedback while I recover

Soma Honkanen on Ang Lee's "I wish I could quit you"
reference: "Omigod! He did not! He did not!"

From S.W.C.: So the two gay movies and the two political movies split the vote. And the film that nobody will remember in ten years walks away with the Best Picture award.

******************************************

8:24 p.m. Crashing

Shawn Levy: "This movie only won three Oscars tonight. It's a complete miscarriage of justice."

"Crash" will be making its way to a courtroom for other reasons, at least.

So what have we learned tonight?

That the Academy's taste closely resembles that of the Razzies and the Stinkers?

That Hollywood loves to assuage its own guilty conscience?

Okay, seriously, though: It's a strange Oscar ceremony that manages to be both dull and odd. The evening's major theme seemed to be one of desperate, sweaty back-slapping in a time when the tech-savvy moviegoer is thinking about turning its back on cinema as we know it. The ostensible theme was "Glamour." The actual theme was, "We Still Matter!" This was Oscars for Squares: a monochromatic, grange-hall clip show with neutered comics (Jon Stewart, who really only killed in a few smart remarks on easy targets, like Scientology), harmless speeches, endless tribute montages that were near-lunatic in their specifics ("The Day After Tomorrow"?!), and wishy-washy choices for winners that rewarded the gaudily epic ("Geisha") and the obviously didactic ("Crash").

There were maybe four interesting exceptions.

1. Ludacris disarmed, and the Three 6 Mafia re-armed just as quickly. It was a masterful bait-and-switch, the way they relaxed the audience just before blasting the word "PIMP" to American televisions in big bright letters. Try as they might, Academy fogies didn't turn Three 6 into the new Kenny Loggins soundtrack kings.

2. Clooney, relaxed and refusing to apologize for being a progressive, even if the rest of the Academy was. He was an old-school lefty in the Rick Blaine mold tonight.

3. Tomlin and Streep genially confusing every non-Altman fan in America.

4. And, like it or not, "Crash" outraging bloggers worldwide. Don't believe me?

Defamer: "WORST. OSCARS. EVER."

Finke, going cranky: "Hollywood showed tonight it isn't the liberal bastion it once was. That's pitiful if you're a progressive, and pleasing if you're a conservative."

It's quiet on the Web now. Everyone's busy getting all smoochy at the parties right now. These are the first wave-crashes. Mark my words.

(Copyright, trademark, quote-anonymously-upon-threat-of-flensing rights to all of the above ramblings by Mike "M.E." Russell! I'm not pretending to be the guy! He's a much better writer than I am!)
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