Oscars Recap: One Flew Over the Oscars Nest

ImageOnce upon a time, I was an Oscars junkie. I loved everything about the evening: the red carpet build up, the opening monologue, the early acting awards, the major technical awards, the best picture nominee clip packages, the musical numbers, the forced pairings, the uneven feel to the entire proceedings. As a movie nerd, the Oscars were my holy grail, because it allowed me to measure my tastes and judgment against the Hollywood elite. More often than not, I found we had different sensibilities, but on those occasions when Oscar and I agreed, I felt like one of the in-crowd, affirmed for my aesthetic perspicacity.

Over the years, Oscar and I have grown apart. Part of it is life situation: being a parent, there aren’t that many nights when you have the energy to trot out to the local multiplex and catch a flick. And even when those nights do come around, finances are an issue. When it costs $25 just to get in, the number of trips to the cinema drops dramatically.

But the real reason I quit going to the movies is because they kind of pushed me to the side.

I’ll be honest, I’m not a huge fan of cussing and nudity in movies. Even more recently, graphic violence has also turned me off. Even watching the clip package for Django Unchained on last night’s Oscars left me feeling queasy. Maybe it’s my old age. Maybe it’s things like Newtown. Maybe it’s just the fact that I see enough blood and guts in my news feed every day. I don’t know. And while I know that not all movies are slammed full of cussing and nudity and exploding body parts, I know that some of the ones feted as the best of the best last night had plenty of one or the other.

I didn’t see Silver Linings Playbook because multiple friends said that the F-bomb was prevalent. I didn’t see Django because of the violence (and, let’s face it, Tarantinian dialogue is often fraught with choice words). Same with Zero Dark Thirty (even though I enjoyed Bigelow’s Hurt Locker). I didn’t get around to Lincoln because…well, I never got around to it. Life of Pi seemed like a great rental (no offense to Ang Lee and his golden statue). I wanted to see Argo, but got warned off because of language. Les Miserables was a non-starter for me (I don’t really like movie musicals, no matter how awesome it is to see someone as all-around talented as Hugh Jackman). And honestly, no one I knew had even seen Beasts of the Southern Wild or Amour.

I don’t mind the occasional coarse word or two; I get that PG language isn’t always used in real life. And lest you think this is one of those “bash Hollywood as being out of touch with the mainstream of America”, I’ll tell you that I hear and see those words quite prevalently in the everyday language of our younger generation. So it’s not like I’m a prude when it comes to the reality of American speech.

I’m the same way with violence (less so on nudity). I get it as an artistic choice. And I don’t think we need to scrub movies of anything that might be offensive (otherwise, we’d miss out on some fantastic and thought-provoking work).

What I’m saying is that my life and my values make the Oscars an also-ran. What once would have been appointment TV is now a cultural temperature reading at best and an intellectual curiosity at worst. Even if Morgan Freeman hosted, I’d probably only watch it in pieces, flipping back and forth for the big awards. Last night merely confirmed that fact for me.

I’ll be blunt and say I found Seth MacFarlane tedious at best. EW.com’s Owen Gleiberman has a better assessment of his hosting gig (and overall telecast) than I could ever produce, and his note about the broadcast vacillating between snark and sincerity is spot on. I guess for me, the snark took center stage, and for the first time I found it not only unfunny but unpalatable as well.

It would be hypocritical of me to take people to task for their snarky comments when I spent the majority of my time live-tweeting my own attempts at humor and sarcasm during the telecast. I have no problem with sarcasm as a whole; I understand that in our day and age it’s the stock and trade of our popular culture, and some people carry it to the edges. It’s one thing when you’re using snark to push the boundaries of our corporate fuddy-duddiness as a way of encouraging us to relax and laugh more. It’s another thing when you use it as a blade to slice people out of genuine dislike. Last night, I felt like MacFarlane was slinging his blade very wide.

But hey, that’s the point of this post: what someone thought would make for a good Oscars telecast was outside my comfort zone, which just proves that both the Academy and I have changed. We’re no longer simpatico.

And that’s cool. I saw several people bashing on Twitter last night, and while I can agree with the perspective that might have driven some of the tweets, I can’t agree with the tweets themselves. It does no good to lambaste Hollywood with the same snark it lambastes others. Everyone loses.

My three favorite moments were the last three awards: Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence – Silver Linings Playbook), Best Actor (Daniel Day-Lewis – Lincoln) and Best Picture (Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Grant Heslov – Argo). Each of the winners showed a humanity that was touching; whether it was Lawrence’s unfortunate trip up the stairs, Day-Lewis’ uncharacteristic humor, or Affleck’s barely contained joy, each moment reminded you of what the movies have always represented: the chance to flesh out dreams.

That’s what I miss from the overall Oscars ceremony: the human reminder that dreams can come true, on film and on that awards stage.

Maybe that’s the beginning point of my disconnect with Hollywood: I miss the humanity.

 

55 thoughts on “Oscars Recap: One Flew Over the Oscars Nest

  1. It’s really inevitable to get to where you are as we spend time with God. It’s something so hard to teach especially when we are young but the Holy Spirit will make us feel uncomfortable when we are around things that offend him. I wrote about this a while back particularly because of the zombie craze going on and because it’s seen as a Christian allegory. I was just like you especially in the area of occult/fantasy/magic movies. I too love movies and awards season. According to what I’ve read I’m only going to watch Lincoln and Beasts of the Southern Wild. I’m not sure about Life Of Pi and Les Miserables. But everything else will make me feel uncomfortable too.

  2. It’s funny that you mentioned the excessive swearing, violence and nudity in the nominated movies. I was thinking about that the other day when watching Silver Linings Playbook. We were trying to figure out the best movie to watch at a family function (b/c pre-teens were around) and Silver Linings seemed the best choice among the competition. But when watching it and hearing all the swear words, I felt visibly comfortable b/c I don’t like swearing (nor do I swear) and there were younger people in the room. Ironically, except for my parents, none of the other adults in the room seemed phase by the swearing. Apparently the movie was just depicting “real life”… But I don’t buy that logic anymore.It seems like a justification to me. Like you, I can tolerate 1 or 2 swear words in a movie, but a whole slew of them is a turn-off! Maybe if more people spoke up, Hollywood might get the hint! Congrats on getting FP! :)

    • Thanks. I think people do need to let the industry know what’s acceptable to them and what’s not, and not necessarily by waging war in the press. I think being choosy with our pocketbooks works best (see the recent run of Marvel Studios pictures for proof of that). Thanks for reading, and for the comment! Good to know I’m not the only one out there. :)

  3. I agree and disagree with the swearing. Well places words can add dramatic emphasis to a statement or exclamation… but the excess of swearing indicates a lack of vocabulary and imagination to me. On the other hand I LOVE to cuss, behavioral neuroscience claims that a release of endorphins which can relieve pain and improve mood. I cuss like a sailor, to which people remark, “That’s not very lady like!”

    As for Mr. MacFarlane, what did everyone expect? For anyone who has watched “Family Guy” (don’t know how to italicize on comments yet) you know that he loves the shock and awe of inappropriate jokes, mostly at other’s expense. Although, I found the “We’ve Seen Your Boobs” song to be horrible and hilarious. The song is funny because it’s true.

    I have always found it odd that Hollywood actresses are applauded for bearing it all to a worldwide audience and engaging in a well produced sex scene, yet porn stars are vilified.

    • Dani – I agree with your thoughts on the merits of well-chosen words. The right word at the right time can convey worlds. As I said, when the words are well-chosen and well-placed, I’ve no issue with their usage; but when, as you said, the swearing is merely covering up a lack of imagination or talent, I lose interest.

      I’m reminded of a scene from a truly horrible movie (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) when Sean Connery’s character, Alex Quartermane, comments on Tom Sawyer’s (Shane Black) shooting. Quartermane says, in effect, that tossing more bullets at a target isn’t really shooting; shooting is placing one bullet into the exact right spot at the exact right time. That’s how cussing in movies should be viewed, in my opinion.

      As for MacFarlane, you’re right – everyone should’ve seen his crudities coming. I think what most people didn’t expect was that he’d be as un-funny as he was. I think if more of his jokes had landed, the crudeness of his humor would’ve been overlooked. Again, though – just my opinion.

  4. I can relate with not wanting to spend the money to see movies in the theaters. It is just too expensive, and I don’t care enough to take that much risk on a movie I may or may not like (I’d rather wait to read the reviews). I’d rather watch a movie on my own couch with my husband, go on Vudu, rent a movie for $2.99, and eat microwaveable popcorn that only costs a couple of bucks a box!

    • You just described the philosophy that my wife and I have adopted: wait, read, rent, enjoy. It’s worked very well for us; sounds like it works for you too!

  5. There is swearing and violence and sex to add richness to a plot line, and then there are gratuitous uses of it. Increasingly, the gratuitous usage of these items simply undermines their effectiveness at having any relevance to the movie itself (I think the Hurt Locker was a good example of where violence is inherently necessary to telling the story properly). I am not inherently averse to any of them in a movie in and of themself, in fact I am quite tolerant as to the amount I can watch/listen to and still find a movie enjoyable. The Oscars I have not even watched the past couple years because of too few moments like the Best Picture win for Argo by Ben Affleck. Perhaps with the easy availability of cinema in so many different forms now, the magic of going to the movies has been undermined? Hopefully it won’t disappear. ~ Kat

    • Kat – agreed on all points. And I’m with you: Ben Affleck’s sheer joy over winning the Oscar was one of the best parts of the broadcast. Thanks for the comment!

  6. I enjoyed MacFarlane hosting this year on the Oscars. He actually shot the show’s ratings up for the first time in many years. There’s nothing wrong with irreverence, especially with the Hollywood elite as your audience.
    Is the Oscars ceremony supposed to include reminders that dreams can come true? It’s entertainment. Just stories.
    Well written, you’ve expressed your confusion well. Think of people watching & as a sport. You don’t have to be a cusser or a nudist to enjoy a movie about someone else’s reality. Good luck!

  7. While the films earning nominations probably deserve them, I also find myself turned off by extreme violence and language. This visceral-ness may evoke emotion and tell an important, interesting story, but it pulls me out of the movie. Good stories have and can be told without ‘pushing’ these boundaries.
    As for the night itself, the producers of the Oscars seemed to forget they were celebrating movies, and that movies can be fun. Even ignoring the crassness factor, McFarlan’s whole night felt forced. It’s bad when the opening monologue has a joke including “Tina and Amy should host. They should host everything.” It’s only funny because it’s true. Who wouldn’t want Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to do the obligatory musical number as a gangsta rap song?

    • Unfortunately, Mrs. Fey recently announced that she wouldn’t even consider hosting the Oscars. Her reason: it would take too much time, “Especially for, like, a woman — the amount of months that would be spent trying on dresses alone … no way.”

      I really hope she reconsiders. Because that would be awesome.

  8. I completely agree with your article. I enjoy crude humor sometimes but there is a fine line between being funny and being a savage. I think that Americans have been so desensitized by TV that they don’t understand what is appropriate anymore. The Oscars were one of the classiest events of the year but they are becoming more and more like the MTV Movie Awards. I don’t know if it is to appeal to a younger demographic or times have changed. I hope that it was just a poor choice of a host and not the program itself.

    Nicely written article.

    -Daisy

    http://www.discoveringwithdaisy.wordpress.com

    • Thank you, Daisy. I think, in an effort to keep up with younger sensibilities, the Oscars have kind of lost their elegance. You can keep things classy and edgy without having to be crass. (See Martin, Steve.)

  9. I know this isn’t the point of the post – but I would recommend Silver Linings Playbook – so glad Jennifer Lawrence got an award after she looked quite disappointed at the BAFTAs, must be rubbish being that close and not winning!

    • I’ll probably get around to seeing SLP, just because of Jennifer Lawrence. I’m with you; it was awesome to see her win the award for Best Actress. She’ll be twice as much fun now when she’s doing publicity. :)

  10. I agree on the the last three…. They put their true heart into the moment. It felt very real. ps If you get a moment, I recently wrote a pretend acceptance speech just for fun discussing just that. :)

  11. I completely respect your thoughts on the movies that were nominated and your opinion about the Oscars and McFarlane, we’re all different and entitled to have our own opinions and that’s one of the things that makes life wonderful in my opinion.
    I have to say I have never ever found the Oscars to have any kind of positive energy or humanity. I certainly never got the feel that dreams could come true from it.
    I’ve always perceived them as phony and pretentious where all the “reverence” and “respect” they had for each other was really just bad acting at best, it was very clear to me how everything was just an act. That’s one of the reasons I actually liked this ceremony, they dropped the façade and we could finally see some real humanity, not a romanticised version of humanity but the real deal with flaws. It may be ugly for some, but I think it’s the very first time it’s real.

    • I can see where you’re coming from. If you’re gonna do away with the pretense (or, at least, if your presenters are) then just ditch the ham-fisted two person presentations and cull the banter. You can just let the drama of the awards speak for itself.

      I don’t see how that could be any worse.

  12. I am amazed and appreciative of your post at the same time. It has reaffirmed the belief in me of being a citizen of the general global village. This time Oscars somehow did not excite me as much, though I was excited to see the Chicago cast on stage and loved to see Salma Hayek. But this new wave of cinema (or Realistic Cinema, so to say), is spreading across the global scene and here in India as well, the critically acclaimed movies are the ones that are very rustic, full of sexual violence, swear words & glorifying all this.
    But I also would want to mention that I liked Argo, purely because while watching it I knew at the back of my mind that its a real story and in my mind I kept applauding the real life hero (Tony Mendez)

    • The comments have definitely swayed me on seeing some of the Best Picture nominees (or the actual winner, in the case of Argo). It’s funny that you mention the turn in Indian cinema, because I just can’t make the juxtaposition of Bollywood and hyper-realism. I guess that betrays my own ignorance and racism, I suppose, but whenever I think of Indian films, I think of predominately happy and hopeful themes.

  13. If the other movies put you off, then I heartily recommend you see “Beasts of The Southern Wild”.. An Indie film with no cussing, violence, nudity but a glorious message of hope, survival, community and life.
    Congrats on the FP ;-)

    • I will definitely see it. Like I said in an earlier reply, the recommendations are giving me pause to rethink seeing some of the nominated films.

      And thanks for the congrats – this is my second time be FP’d, and it’s always crazy cool. :)

  14. “I’ll be blunt and say I found Seth MacFarlane tedious at best.”

    Blunt? The very soul of charity and kindness, rather! My family makes something of an event out of the program each year, popcorn and all that, so I can say that I’m definitely not alone in having spent every moment of him on screen in a state somewhere between repelled and seethingly irate.

    Here’s an idea– get someone with inherent classiness to host. It may be no more human (Cary Grant and David Niven spring to mind, more avatars of a diety of some sort than people), but at least one could enjoy the experience. To your list at the end, I’d add Adele’s honest bit of gobsmacked as the sort of thing that we turn on the show for.

    • I love your comment. I don’t run into many people here in Atlanta that can appreciate the word “gobsmacked” – though I didn’t see Adele’s reaction to her award. I did however, give a great cheer when I learned she’d won it: “Skyfall” is now soundly my favorite Bond theme.

      As for bringing class back to the presenter’s role, I would support that. I’m just not sure if we have any stars of that kind nowadays; we may have some blue collar gentlemen, but I can’t think of a major star that just has that innate sense of cool chivalry the way some of the legends did.

      But I’d be open to suggestions!

  15. I am with you…Oscar night has been my superbowl Sunday for years. More and more, I don’t know the movies but that is ok – I still love the red carpet. Sadly, the coverage on that front has fallen too! Now they only focus on the biggest stars…so many others go by without comment. The next morning is almost better…the talk shows seem to cover more fashion! Sadly, missed the opening monologue due to a family dinner (gasp, I know, what were they thinking??!!). More I read, more I realize, I missed so little! Thanks for the added confirmation. Guess it is the evolution of Oscar!

    • You could certainly turn the Oscars into an interesting study on the change within the American cultural experience. That might be a heck of a PhD study for some sociologist one day…

  16. How seriously were the Oscars to be taken anyways? It’s almost as if we know who is going to win each category before they begin thanks to previous award shows. I actually watch the Oscars as you describe above; flipping back and forth, watching bits and pieces. I enjoy twitter to enhance TV events like The Oscars with on the spot satire, non scripted commentary, and instant laughs.

    http://thingsthatamusemen.wordpress.com/

    • I have found that Twitter exponentially increases my enjoyment of things like the Oscars, Super Bowl, Presidential speeches, etc. It is as you say: hysterical. Plus, I like adding to the noise. :)

  17. I’m sure someone’s already said this, but It’s worth saying again: argo and silver linings playbook are fabulous movies, even with swearing. They are certainly not kid friendly films, but you would be doing yourself a disservice in not seeing them if you enjoy movies.

    And I too find Seth MacFarlane tiring.

    Congrats on the freshly pressed!

  18. For the past several years I have very much enjoyed the Oscars. This year I was completely bored and unimpressed.
    I will say that its pretty hard to really enjoy the Oscars without having seen many of the films. Life of Pi is such an incredibly story of faith, not to mention Lincoln – such conviction, and important history – that, Christian or not, you are missing out. There is something to be said for honesty, especially in the way mental illness is portrayed in Silver Linings Playbook, for example. I doubt swearing was used gratuitously; reality is ugly in some cases.
    Seeing certain movies, putting up with language or nudity — these are all matters of personal choice. But spending some time “in the world” without being of it serves a purpose.

    • I don’t mind things when they serve the story, and based on what a lot of the commenters have said, the movies up for best picture this year haven’t been as egregious in their abuses as I believed. I’ll definitely consider Life of Pi whenever it hits Blu-Ray – thanks for recommending it, and for challenging me to be more than just a critic of culture. I appreciate the accountability.

    • It’s officially on my list. I’ve had quite a few folks talking me into seeing the Best Picture nominees – or at least Argo, SLP, Lincoln, and Beasts of the Southern Wild. Thanks for adding your voice!

  19. My favorite lines are your last two: “That’s what I miss from the overall Oscars ceremony: the human reminder that dreams can come true, on film and on that awards stage. Maybe that’s the beginning point of my disconnect with Hollywood: I miss the humanity.” I couldn’t agree more with the first part. However, I’d say the main reason I love the Oscars is that it shows that dreams do come true, but I don’t think that’s gone away so much.

    I can’t claim to agree with your distaste for violence, swear words, or nudity. In fact, I find it hard to enjoy a movie without these elements some times. I like grit. But I can see where you base some of your arguments and I’m thankful for your sharing.

  20. Love this! Love your writing style, and I agree with almost everything you said… especially “That’s what I miss from the overall Oscars ceremony: the human reminder that dreams can come true, on film and on that awards stage.” Me too =). Congrats on being FP!!

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