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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Good The Bad & The Ugly

Midnight Eastern.  This was a very good Oscar telecast.  Not perfect.  Curtain over screen doesn't want to open, the Heath Ledger and Memoriam things.  But awfully danged good.  3:30 from beginning to the end of the credit roll, which is not bad at all for an Oscar telecast.  They did it tight while recognizing that the telecast isn't long and boring because of the acceptance speeches which the producers have no control over and which thus must be kept to 30 seconds max but rather because of the things they do have control over.  So Jerry Lewis didn't have the longest Hersholt presentation, perhaps sometimes they've actually gone on too long.  The acting awards were presented in a new and different way that lasted no much longer than if they had given that same time to the usual 30 second film clip, but this seemed much nicer and more affecting, in part because actors many of them don't lack for ego and this allowed them all to have it indulged for a few seconds.  Which made them happier.  Which made the show more interesting.  One production number did not work, but one worked very well.  They played to Hugh Jackman's strengths, but didn't give him much to do.  Maybe that's a good thing.  When you've got so much star power do you need to have a host appearing every so often to do a little host stuff just for the sake of having a host?  It doesn't hurt that you'll know from reading the pre-show and seeing the winners that I was by and large happy with them.  This makes the evening more pleasant for me than when some movie I hate is rolling up the statuettes.  Though a good telecast like this would certainly make even that evening a more enjoyable one.  So a good evening.  Jai Ho!  Jai Ho!  Jai Ho!  The Brillig Blogger, signing off.  WIll watch some of the press room and party happenings on E, try and finish my Washington Post, and the work day is just ten short hours away.

11:55.  It Is Written.  Slumdog Millionaire.  Color me happy.

11:50.  I love the way they're doing the Best Picture montage.  As you know from my film reviews a good movie makes you reflect on other good movies.  I think of other special experiences in that theatre, that actor, even that score as the lush one for Defiance reminds me of The Village.  They're getting that across in this montage, and it's wonderful.

11:43.  If memory serves Sean Penn and Robert De Niro were in We're No Angels.  A worthy win in a category with some rich competition.  Penn's performance is I think better than the film itself.  Gus Van Sant previously helped Matt Damon and Ben Affleck to an Oscar for best screenplay in Good Will Hunting, so this is the 2nd time he's done the trick for one of his screenwriters.  Which is not too shabby.  They're cutting less to Van Sant than to the screenwriter Dustin Lance Black who seems really moved to be watching this take place.  Other audience note, the pleasure Dev Patel seems to be taking in simply being in the crowd for this evening.  He's only 18, and here he is in the front rows of the Oscars watching life's rich pageant march by in front of him.  I'm glad he's enjoying it.  These moments are very very special.

11:32.  And I am so very glad to have Kate Winslet winning for The Reader.  It's a very good performance full of ambiguity, and it's nice to see the film winning a statue, which may help keep people seeing it for many years to come on 30 days of Oscar on TMC.  

11:31.  Nicole Kidman is looking a little too white; the dress blends into her skin.  She and Mickey Rourke should go out afterward.

11:23.  There's a very nice J. C. Penney in Queens Center mall, one of the biggest in the country.  I like Penneys because they have sections with shirts, and sections with pants, so if you want to buy a pair of pants you can go to the pants section.  At Macy's they have the this-designer boutique and the that-designer boutique and the other-designer boutique, and you have to go wandering all over from boutique to boutique to find a pair of pants.  I don't like that idea very much.  Could you imagine if your supermarket had the Kraft aisle and the Nestle aisle and the Procter & Gamble aisle and you had to wander all of them and remember which food conglomerate made that brand of shampoo or mustard that you really liked?

11:22.  Danny Boyle forgot to include the name of the person who choreographed the dance in the credits?  None of us are perfect, but talk about oversights.  Anna Paquin may not have mentioned Charlaine Harris in accepting her Golden Globe.  People make omissions.

11:15.  I don't mind having a person sing during the In Memorium section.  I do mind having the memorials floating hither and yon and back and forth on the screen so that some of the images and names are shrunken onto a fraction of the screen and you feel as if you need to walk up two inches from the screen and press your eyes against the glass to read the name.  If Khan could see how hard it was to see Ricardo Montalban during the montage, he would certainly exhibit some Wrath.  

11:07.  Departures?  Did that play in New York City?  At least it wasn't The Class.  Though for the record my eldest brother who is a media specialist in a Ct. public school liked The Class very much and disagreed most strenuously with my review of it, posted on blog yesterday.  

11:03.  If I'd known how many nice Coke commercials there were going to be, maybe I would've had a caffeine free diet instead of the Whole Foods Root Beer.  Too late, though.  Before I saw Taken last night, there was a wonderful Coke commercial in the theatre that updates the Mean Joe Green giving the kid the jersey ad in a most pleasant and delightful way.  

11:01.  Jai Ho!  Jai Ho!  Jai Ho!  It was a nice production #, and another nice win.  Did I tell you how I think the end dance in Slumdog Millionaire is perhaps the best dance number to end a movie in over twenty years, since I saw Dirty Dancing?  Oh, I did.  Just seven minutes ago?  You're sure?  Oh, well, some things bear repeating.  

10:54.  A. R. Rahman wins for Slumdog.  No problems here.  I love the dance # at the end of the movie.  It's the best way to exit a theatre since Baby was taken out of her corner by Johnny Castle at the end of Dirty Dancing.  (Of course, in both cases one should actually not exit until after staying for the end credits, so maybe these endings are the best way to prepare for watching the end credits.)

10:44 & the one movie I know him from I don't think they even showed in the surprisingly short montage.  In years past it seems to me the winner of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award has benefited from a much longer and lavish and more clip-filled introduction than this.

10:41.  Eddie Murphy.  Good choice to present this award.  Will anyone under 20 recognize him when he isn't wearing his fat suit from Norbit or hiding behind Donkey?  I'm neutral on the subject of Jerry Lewis, because I've just not seen very many of his movies.  The only one I could point to offhand that I know I've seen is Scorcese's The King of Comedy.

10:37.  I'd seen this Tide Total Care commercial for the first time a few nights ago, maybe while I was watching Friday Night Lights.  It's a very very good commercial.  I still have a large portion of a very big Costco-size Tide to work my way thru, however, so I won't be buying another detergent, Total Care of Wheaties Care or any other care, any time soon.

10:35.  Slumdog wins for editing.  Not a tough category.  Slumdog is a heckuva good piece of filmmaking, and the editing is a huge part of that.  Watching a 2nd time and focusing more on the cutting of the chase sequence from the airport, you appreciate just how good the cutting on this movie is.  

10:31.  Slumdog Millionaire wins for Sound Mixing.  Watching the clips I realize how tough a category this is.  Wall-E has its merits, Wanted, Dark Knight.  Now thinking cynically, if you cut to Josh Brolin and Robert Downey Jr. looking sadly contemplative as Heath Ledger's family speaks, is it on behalf of Heath Ledger, or on behalf of having to run against him this year?  On behalf of Heath, I'm sure.  But this decision not to try and find people who'd actually worked with him is still nagging at me. 

10:27.  Benjamin Button wins for Visual Effects.  This, art direction, makeup.  Such great art in the service of such mediocrity.  Salieri salutes you.

10:22. Great commercial for Jimmy Kimmel Live.  Five stars.  Also five stars for this sentence from a Washington Post article on texting:  "There is a cost when people multitask -- "a kind of a mental brownout," said Meyer, the professor at the University of Michigan. If a teenager is reading Shakespeare when a text message interrupts, "Hamlet's going to fade in and out in a ghostly fog."  Go Blue!

10:15.  Man on Wire wins for Best Documentary.  Sadly, to me a better concept than it was a picture.  Though since it's the only one of the films I've seen I guess I can't complain.  And the acceptance speech with magic and balancing acts is much better than the movie.  If you want to see a good documentary, add My Architect to your Netflix queue.

10:11.  So even though Heath Ledger was widely considered a shoo-in, his family is as far back on nominee Siberia as the winner for animated short...  It's touching to see the expressions on people's faces during the acceptance speech, but to me also something missing because they're largely showing all of the celebrities they've been showing.  Were there any people in the auditorium who might have worked with Heath Ledger for whom the moment might have meant something even more than it meant to Robert Downey Jr. and Josh Brolin?  This is a miscue to me.

9:59.  Ryan Reynolds, Sandra Bullock, The Proposal.  June 12.  Looks good.  The Maytag Repairman was once played by Gordon Jump, who played Chief of Police Tinkler in Soap, which is one of my favorite TV shows of all time.  30 years ago he was in WKRP.

9:57.  The musical WAS back.  Until this production #.  If only they'd added a 4th couple, and had Rob Lowe and Cinderella singing next to Zac and Vanessa from HSM.

9:53.  Actually I went to the frig to start in on one of my special Oscar treats, a can of 365 Brand Root Beer from Whole Foods, which is very good and deserves the high ranking it got in a NY Times root beer review article last year.  & now do I watch this production #, or read more Washington Post.  I guess I'll watch the production # so I know why all the jaws will be dropped in the morning.

9:47.  Even with the thrust stage, the winner for Live Action Short still has to get to the stage from nominee seating Siberia.  If only one of them could sing and dance, could have filled in for Anne Hathaway in the opening.... Hmmmmmm....  And yet another commercial break.  A lot of those recently.  Back to the Washington Post on my Kindle.

9:35.  Nice Coke commercial, glad to have a Cinematography win for Slumdog.

9:17.  No surprise, really, for Benjamin Button to win for Art Direction. But I'd rather it hadn't.  During the commercial break I started reading what looks like a really good article in the Washington Post about the path of a Guantanamo detainee from prison to suicide bomber in Iraq.  You may need to register to read, but feel free to click here.

9:01.  And no complaints on Slumdog Millionaire.  Modest preference here for me for The Reader, but Slumdog is a very good movie.  A very good movie.  

8:54  Maybe I'd have seen Happy go Lucky if I'd known it had a shout-out to Roger Penrose, another client of my UK agent John Richard Parker at the Zeno Agency.  Is John watching at 2AM Greenwich time to know that Roger Penrose has just gotten a shout-out on the Oscar telecast?  This was a tough category for me without a real favorite, so I may as well be glad that Milk has won an Oscar.  In Bruges wasn't likely to win, Joshua.  Really, honest.  So let's be very glad for Dustin Lance Black.

8:52.  30 years ago would anyone have known what "blinking cursor on a blank screen" meant, and yet the actual sketch is being done with something that sounds a lot mre like a typewriter...

8:47.  I'm happy with the win for Penelope Cruz.  I can't believe I'm typing this, but as I posted earlier in the day it's a nice recognition for Woody Allen's best film in years for a role that was revelatory to me.  I'm liking the first 20 minutes.

8:43.  Eva Marie Saint was a clue in today's NY Times crossword puzzle.  Did they know?

8:23  while they interview Richard Jenkins, I wonder if the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in the entryway to the theater is open, and if there are candy apples for all who successfully complete the red carpet circuit.  I mean, if I could get free popcorn and soda from HBO at the True Blood premiere, can't an Oscar attendee get a candy apple?

8:20 PM EST.  A nice accounting montage to greet the men with the winning envelopes.  Meryl  and Penelope look pretty swell.

8:15 PM.  Egads.  Mickey Rourke's outfit is one of the most gadawful ugliest things ever known to mankind.  A segue from the charming tableaux of the entire Slumdog Millionaire cast walking down the carpet with director Danny Boyle, the young actors looking very snazzy in tuxes (but isn't making kids so young get jazzed up in tuxes the worst kind of abuse Hollywood can afflict), to Mickey Rourke looking like somebody who's just emerged from a time capsule in which he was watching John Travolta in Urban Cowboy for 23 years straight is a segue so awful it can only be called a Segway or a segueway or most accurately an abomination.  I hope has a spare outfit waiting inside the Kodak Theatre.


brycemoore said...

I enjoyed your commentary. The "Musical is Back" tribute was one of the dumbest Oscar numbers I can remember--especially when I couldn't help wondering when the musical had left, exactly. Didn't Chicago clean up a few years ago? I would have thought a musical number then would have been more appropriate. At times, this award show felt like it was trying really hard to be the Tonys . . .

Still, all in all I enjoyed it, and I thought Jackman did a much better job than I thought he would. I also liked that the awards got spread around at least a bit more than they have in recent years. Shows that end up raking in 11 or 12 statues end up being anticlimactic and boring for me. In any case--thanks for posting!

The Brillig Blogger said...

AO Scott of the New York Times enjoyed that musical medley every bit as much as I and Bryce's Ramblings!

Anonymous said...

Good Lord.

Do you realize you essentially just Liveblogged the Oscars?

Hip, my friend. Very hip. You're ready for a Twitter account.

The Brillig Blogger said...

I DID live blog the Oscars. You don't think I know when I'm live Blogging the Oscars. Jeez! Which I played in Scrabble tonight for a lot of points. Jeez!!

I even live-blogged the Oscars two years ago before I had a blog. You can enjoy that in one of the more forlorn pages on my website at
so have at it.

Anonymous said...

That was fun to read. I kind of liked the musical number, but I was wondering about the "is back" stuff, too. HAIRSPRAY? Even more recent than CHICAGO...

And I personally like the animated picture award. As the mother of two, it's often the only category in which I've seen a quorum.

Now to check and see where SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE is playing--any dance ending that rivals DIRTY DANCY is my kind of movie!