If one wanted to dwell on the negative, there was plenty on Sunday night’s Oscar show to be put one off one’s Cheetos. We could start with the ghastly Neil Patrick Harris production number. The guy is talented and fleet of foot, no doubt, but there’s just no way to put across those cringe-worthy “funny” lyrics about the year’s movies—I much preferred Harris getting all Mengele on the giant bugs in Starship Troopers, a far less grisly display than the one that opened up the show at the Kodak on Sunday. The Redheaded Kanye Moment, when an estranged co-producer of the Best Documentary Short winner Music by Prudence hijacked the director’s speech, was just bizarre—of all the times when cutting the mike and playing someone off would have been appreciated, this one went unexploited.
Yet no one in the Oscar control booth was bothered by cutting quickly away from Ric O’Barry’s sign, which he held up during his moment of glory after The Cove, which exposes the secret abuse and murder of dolphins in a Japanese fishing community, won for Best Documentary. O’Barry’s sign, which displayed a number to be texted in support of continuing to fight against the kind of ghastly policies depicted in the film, was in perfect accord with the sentiments of the award-winning movie. Yet because of an apparent policy to cut off anyone who displays any kind of signage or other overtly political message, the director, without consideration of whether the sign was appropriate for the moment, went to music and the winners were herded off mid-speech. (David Edelstein kindly filled in the gap by posting the entirety of the message on O’Barry’s sign here.) And I swear to God, I never thought I’d think back fondly on the Debbie Allen era of Oscar choreography, but this mindless modern dance interpretation of the nominated movies MUST STOP AT ALL COSTS!
For one who campaigned with such class, Mo’Nique came off more than a little self-aggrandizing when accepting her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. (She seemed far too greedy to claim the legacy of Hattie McDaniel all to herself.). And I couldn’t have been the only one who would have sworn it was actually The Dude up there accepting a Best Actor award, and not for Crazy Heart but for that old John Belushi-SNL bit The Thing That Wouldn’t Leave. Let’s hustle off the little guys that nobody cares about so Jeff Bridges can be assured his chance to ramble on and on and on… It’s your big moment, ma-a-an, and you know, like, that it's coming; how about be a little bit, you know, prepared, at least, even if you’re not into the whole… brevity thing? And though she did seem a little ho-hum at first (“I’ve got two more of these at home”), it was nice to hear Sandy Powell, winner for Best Costume Design articulate that though the winner in this category almost inevitably comes from a period epic (as did hers for The Young Victoria), the virtues and hard work and dedicated research it takes to create costumes for a film set in the modern world, which mightn’t so readily draw attention to its costumes, requires an equal amount of care and consideration as to how the clothes reflect and comment upon the character as well as whatever setting in which the film happens to take place.
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And though I thrilled to the wins, and the speeches, of Christoph Waltz and Kathryn Bigelow and especially Sandra Bullock, my favorite moment of the night, both for the win and his brief, simple and eloquent speech, came courtesy of film composer Michael Giacchino, who finally won an Oscar Sunday night after having written at least three other Oscar-worthy scores (for The Incredibles, Speed Racer and Star Trek). Giacchino’s speech, in which he explicitly thanked no one but exuded sincere gratitude for all the people in his life who never discouraged him from his creative impulses and never once suggested he was wasting his time, really resonated with me, and I’m sure with millions of others, people who grew up with 8mm and Super-8 cameras making movies just like Giacchino did, some who were lucky (like I was) to get support from family and friends, and some who might not have been so lucky. The composer’s thoughts made beautiful sense to me too as a parent of a child who is having trouble keeping up in a standards-obsessed educational system that values test scores and rote memorization over real learning and the pursuit of educational avenues in music and drama, avenues that I took for granted when I was in school. This man deserves the Oscar he won for Up and the many more he will likely collect over the span of the illustrious career we’re going to be privileged to see unfold. I just hope that, as his music inspires young people to their own creative musical adventures, they continue to be surrounded by the people who will nurture that creativity and institutions that value learning beyond the proper bubbling-in of answers on standards exams.