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About What I Expected

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About What I Expected

The Oscar telecast was generally well paced and well judged. Jon Stewart is the best Oscar host since Johnny Carson, and shares Carson’s ability to play to the cameras while sensing the temperature of the room and making necessary adjustments. The only really embarassing moment, besides Stewart making fun of Best Song Oscar winners Three 6 Mafia for being boisterous, was that Crash musical number that looked like Night Of the Living Dead: The Musical. But an Oscar telecast would not be an Oscar telecast without an embarassing musical number, and this one was the silliest since Rob Lowe sang “Proud Mary” with Snow White.

I do know that the selection of Crash as best picture—plus other irritations, such as the near-total shutout of The New World, the saccharine elevator music that played under acceptance speeches and the telecast’s bored contempt for foreign film (read more about it here)—confirms that in Hollywood, the word “artist” no longer means “a stubborn or pretentious person,” but has instead evolved to mean “a person who sends out prosocial, preferably liberal messages.” As both a liberal and a critic, that worries me because it means liberalism really is in hopeless disarray, and that people at the highest level of the film industry have lost even a cursory interest in aesthetics and are interested only in getting rich and publicly reassuring themselves that they’re still good people.

If you want to talk about the Oscars generally, leave a comment below. If you want to commiserate over Crash, or tell me I’m a pretentious racist for not liking it, visit the comments section of the Crash thread.

UPDATE: At Fanzine.com, Benjamin Strong writes about Robert Altman’s Oscar acceptance speech: “Last night at the 78th Academy Awards ceremony the Establishment fed a lion and he didn’t bite. Robert Altman graciously accepted his Honorary Oscar, the award slated for aged filmmakers whose industry colleagues have never otherwise recognized their work.” And Kevin Killian writes about the Oscar Nosedive.

UPDATE: Edward Copeland on Film’s Oscar postmortem is droll and meticulous, as only Copeland can be. He was actually copy-editing the onscreen graphics as the show unfolded (the title of Altman’s Short Cuts was condensed into one word) and his take on the musical numbers is a keeper: “I was worried that there would be no god-awful production number until they came through with the bizarre number accompanying the nominated song from Crash. The staging of ’It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp’ was almost as strange, especially the prominent white dancer who appeared to be there for no good reason. I guess we should be grateful they let Dolly Parton sing alone instead of having her backed up by an interpretive dance of someone surgically transforming their penis into a vagina.”

UPDATE: Writing for the LA Times’ Oscar blog “The Envelope,” critic Kenneth Turan says Brokeback was at least partly a victim of secret blue state homophobia, and its snub suggests that it is not as safe and square as its hipper-than-thou foes claimed. “I don’t care how much trouble Crash had getting financing or getting people on board, the reality of this film, the reason it won the best picture Oscar, is that it is, at its core, a standard Hollywood movie, as manipulative and unrealistic as the day is long. And something more. [The film’s] biggest asset is its ability to give people a carload of those standard Hollywood satisfactions but make them think they are seeing something groundbreaking and daring. It is, in some ways, a feel-good film about racism, a film you could see and feel like a better person, a film that could make you believe that you had done your moral duty and examined your soul when in fact you were just getting your buttons pushed and your preconceptions reconfirmed.”

Matt Zoller Seitz is the founder of The House Next Door.