Columnists » Kilian Melloy

Blogging the Oscars - 2013 Edition

by Kilian Melloy
Sunday Feb 24, 2013

Seth MacFarlane's first joke of the night? "The quest to make Tommy Lee Jones begins now." Jones did laugh at the wisecrack, but was it out of embarrassment for being the butt of such a lame gag?

Aw, but let's give the guy a break. He's handsome; he's youthful; he's got a broadcast-friendly voice that's light years from Peter Griffith or evil maniac infant Stewie. He can even sing... more or less. He just needs better material than what he has to work with here. Where were the puerile laugh lines that have made "Family Guy" such a hit?

William Shatner is getting bigger and more genuine laughs with his absurd cameo as Captain Kirk, phoning in from three centuries hence to warn MacFarlane that he's on the verge of blowing it with stuff like a musical number called "We Saw Your Boobs." Which, to be honest, is better than anything else so far -- especially when the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles appear as backup.

"Trust me," Kirk zings MacFarlane. "In 2015, you join the chorus."

With Daniel Radcliff and Joseph Gordon-Leavitt joining him for some "soft shoe" set to "High Hopes," that prognostication seems not so very far-fetched. (We can dream, can't we?) For the moment, though, MacFarlane goes home in one skit with Sally Field. Sally Field?!?

MacFarlane is a huge trekkie, by the way. Hence Shatner dropping in on the proceedings. I have to say, it's livened things up quite a lot...

And with that, we warp into the meat of the matter and start handing out statuettes!

Best Supporting Actor
The nominees: Alan Arkin, Robert DeNiro, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tommy Lee Jones, and Christoph Waltz. And the Oscar goes to Christoph Waltz for "Django Unchained"! He won it for his portrayal as a Nazi in "Inglorious Basterds," too. Tarantino is the best thing that ever happened to him. Certainly better than his role in "The Green Hornet."

Why does the orchestra keep playing a bit from the score to "E.T. The Extraterrestrial"? I know MacFarlane is kind of strange but still.

Paul Rudd and some woman now here to offer some incomprehensible shtick evidently poking fun at voiceover performances for animated features. Lots of dead air. Lots of dying on the air. Rudd has the sense to cut it short with a snap.

Animation Awards
Something called "Paperman." What, we're actually gonna see this anywhere? Who knows, maybe as a special feature on some Pixar Blu-ray release.

"Brave" takes it -- HAHAHA! "Brave" was my choice, and my Boston Online Film Critics Association colleagues chose "Paranorman." Who's laughing now?

Reese Witherspoon glides out to deliver anodyne and pre-packaged comments about some of the nominees for Best Picture. Yeah, yeah. At least the extended clips of "Les Miserables," "Life of Pi" and "Beasts of the Southern Wild" work as samples of the movies; each clip captures the tone and spirit of the films from which they're derived.

Insult to injury follows when MacFarlane makes an off-color joke about George Clooney and then tosses him a nip -- "Here, you can be the only guy in here who's not buzzed."

Technical Awards, Costume Makeup
That serves as the lead-up to an appearance by nearly half a dozen of the actors from "The Avengers," which MacFarlane notes was "the most popular movie of 2012, which is why it was only nominated once." Out file Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Samuel L. Jackson, and Jeremy Renner.

Why are these costumed heroes here, albeit not in costume? To tell us that Claudio Miranda has won for Best Cinematography for "Life of Pi." Totally deserved: "Life of Pi" is a heavenly dream of a good-looking movie. "This movie was quite a beast to make," Miranda declares. Nice one, dude.

The "Avengers" guys hang around for Best Visual Effects. Nominees: "The Hobbit," "Life of Pi," "The Avengers," "Prometheus," and "Snow White and the Huntsman" are all up. The prize goes home with the team who created the effects for "Life of Pi." We better hope these "Avengers" guys take their loss in stride like true heroes.

Two wins in quick succession is nice, but I want "Life of Pi" to win some of the big, sexy, glamorous awards, even though I know that it should not win for Best Picture. That should be "Zero Dark Thirty," though that film's chances may have gotten scuttled by the politics into which it waded, what with waterboarding and all.

Nor should Ang Lee win for Best Director; actually, Spielberg ought to take it for "Lincoln." Had Kathryn Bigelow won a spot on the ballot for "Zero Dark Thirty," she's the one who really deserves the nod, but she didn't, so you go with what you get. Knowing this doesn't make a difference; I still want Lee and "Life of Pi" to win big. Ah, at least the movie took a couple of prizes.

The guy accepting the statuette talks too long. Will the Avengers assemble? Nope... the orchestra simply swaps the saccharine of "E.T." for the menace of the "Jaws" score and plays them off.

Anna Karenina wins Best Costume. I'm glad to see it. The movie was a dreadful misfire in so many ways, but it did look gorgeous.

The way they made up Anthony Hopkins for "Hitchcock" beats all that latex for a dozen dwarves in "The Hobbit," but evidently the deliberately ugly hairstyles in "Les Miserables" impressed the voting membership even more. It wins Best Makeup and Hairstyles.

Former Bond Girl Halle Berry gives us a tour of James Bond's 50 years of cinema history, set to the throbbing guitar score that has served as the Bond signature for 22 movies and still sounds swaggery and stylish, if a little dated. Make that retro. Bond will never be "dated."

Dame Shirley Bassey appears, stuffed into a gold lamee gown to deliver a rendition of "Goldfinger." There's MacFarlane again, giving props to a trio of people who, he claims, have made this year's awards "great." Well, let's call it better than average.

Short Film, Documentary Awards
Something called "Curfew" wins short film. Again, just where would we ever see any of the short subjects celebrated here? YouTube, I look to you. Meantime, the guy's list of people he wants to thank grows longer than his movie. Well, it's his moment to shine, let him take it.

Something called "Inocente" wins documentary short. The filmmakers evidently were nominated before, for a film called "War Dance."

Now can we talk about Best Actor? Best Actress? Best Supporting Actor and Actress? Director? Score? Original and Adapted Screenplays? The stuff we'll be talking about for next few days?

God in Heaven, Liam Neeson tells us the premise of "Argo." He none too successfully tries to tie this into "Lincoln" and then woodenly segues into comments about "Zero Dark Thirty." The clips speak so much more eloquently about the nominees for Best Picture, as do their scores, played over the clips.

Holy shit, MacFarlane shocks the audience with a crass joke about John Wilkes Booth being the actor "who really got into Lincoln's head." He shies not before the disapproving groan that greets him. "Really? A hundred and fifty years and it's still too soon?" Grudgingly, I have to say, that was smooth, almost a recovery.

Ben Affleck introduces the nominees for Best Documentary Feature, which include "How to Survive A Plague," "The Gatekeepers," "Searching for Sugarman," "5 Broken Cameras," and "The Invisible War." Naturally, I am rooting for "How to Survive a Plague." What wins? "Searching for Sugarman." Dare I say it? On a night characterized by MacFarlane's brand of tastelessness, it's not even going to matter.

After the commercial break, MacFarlane makes a real joke when he observes that, "It's Sunday; everyone's dressed up. It's like church, only more people are praying."

Best Foreign Language Film
Oh, we know "Amour" is gonna take it. "Kon Tiki?" "A Royal Affair?" "War Witch?" "No?" No. Not a chance, though Mads Mikkelson should have been a contender for Best Actor.

"Amour" wins it. Okay, with that suspense over and done with... a real surprise! John Travolta strides out, clad all in black, to talk about movie musicals. (Oh! John! No, really?) Clips of "Chicago" usher in a musical number, "All That Jazz," delivered by Catherine Zeta-Jones. It's lavish, slick, and steamy. It's definitely better than the "interpretive dance" thing of a few years ago.

Clips of "Dreamgirls" preface the next number, a scorcher belted out by Jennifer Hudson. It all feels like a prelude to the cast of "Les Miserables" fetching up for a medley that more or less recaps all the fllm's story lines. Too bad the film couldn't have been so economical.

More Star Trek actors -- Chris Pine and Zoe Saldana -- introducing the yearly recap of the much less glamorous technical awards, which have already taken place. The orchestra plays the Jerry Goldsmith fanfare from the original Trek films, rather than the Michael Giacchino score from the 2009 reboot. Some things, I guess, are just classic and remain that way.

Mark Wahlberg and Ted the CGI teddy bear present for the next award...

"Argo" "Les Miserables," "Life of Pi," "Lincoln," and "Skyfall" are all up. "Les Miserables" snags the award for sound mixing. Poor "Skyfall." First Roger Deakins loses for cinematography, then this.

Now the CGI teddy bear and his sidekick go on to announce Best Sound Editing. "Argo." "Django Unchained." "Life of Pi." "Skyfall." "Zero Dark Thirty." We're gonna be hearing these same names all night long! In this case, the recurring titles result in -- gasp! -- a tie, with "Zero Dark Thirty" taking the award, then "Skyfall" taking the award, also.

Christopher Plummer emerges after a middling joke riffing on "The Sound of Music." I sense a trend continuing: Plummer starred as a Klingon baddie in "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country."

Best Supporting Actress
Amy Adams ("The Master"), Sally Field ("Lincoln"), Anne Hathaway ("Les Miz"), Helen Hunt ("The Sessions"), and Jackie Weaver ("Silver Linings Playbook") are all up. Who wins? Plummer tells us: "And the Oscar goes to... Miss Anne Hathaway!"

Not bad given that she has a total of about six scenes in that long movie. Me, I would have preferred to have seen Helen Hunt take it: She was amazing in "The Sessions." But at the end of a lengthy list of names, Hathaway thanks her husband in a very sweet way that not even the heartless, "Jaws" theme playing orchestra dares interrupt.

There's a plug for tourism to the Academy Museum, then a PSA-like introduction of a clutch of young people who have won some sort of -- Contest? Lottery? -- to help hand out Oscars. It's 10:30 and I start fantasizing that the young 'uns will spring into a flurry, parceling out the statuettes helter-skelter and finishing it all up by 11.

Best Editing
More of the same titles we've been hearing all evening. "Argo" takes it. Here's an idea: Why not just box up all the nominees, sell them on Amazon, let people watch them at home, and include an embossed card listing which films took which honors? It would take less time and be more fun.

Oh, but then we wouldn't have Adele singing her Bond theme song to an increasingly tired and crabby audience. Wait a minute: Did her lips just not quite synch up to the song? Or am I just seeing things? Hmmm.

Nicole Kidman greets us after the commercial break with another set of tinned remarks about the Best Picture nominees... "Silver Linings Playbook" is, evidently, an "instant classic." I'm so busy parsing this that I miss what she has to say about "Django Unchained" and "Amour." That's okay; the clips once more do a splendid job.

Best Production Design
The ceremonies resume as Daniel Radcliff and Kristen Stewart take the mike to tell us who the nominees are: "The Hobbit," "Anna Karenina," "Les Miserables," "Life of Pi," and "Lincoln" are all up. I vote for "Lincoln." So, as it happens, did the Academy.

Salma Hayek tells us who won this year's "Governors Awards," a.k.a. Honorary Oscars. They get statuettes, too, but they don't look as shiny. Are they silver? Bronze? Titanium?

As the show carries on, commercials become more frequent. What are you gonna do? They have been working the hook in all night with the clips of the Best Picture Nominees. We gotta know. They have us and they know it.

Of course, I could just DVR this and finish it later. But then my live blog would be even less live. I know, I know: This won't go up until Monday, but the least I can do is write the text in real time.

Well, that's a pisser: The commercials went on so long that when we rejoin the show it's already in progress once again, with George Clooney introducing the montage that recalls those actors and others who have died since the last awards: Celeste Holmes; producer and Beastie Boy Adam Yauch; Ernest Borgnine; Jack Klugman; Nora Ephron; cinematographer Bruce Surtees; producer Richard D. Zanuck; composer Marvin Hamlisch.

Babs herself appears to talk about Hamlisch and sing "Memories." Classy stuff from Streisand, who herself celebrates 50 years in showbiz.

The cast of "Chicago" reunite on stage because... well, it as 10 years ago that movie took top honors. The cast are also here to clue us in as to who has won the next category.

"Ana Karenina," "Argo," "Life of Pi," "Skyfall," "Lincoln" up for Original Score. Shall we mix it up and choose, say, something not-"Argo" and not-"Lincoln?" Yes! "Life of Pi" takes the gold.

For Best Song: "Skyfall," from... well, you know. "Suddenly," from "Les Miz." "Before My Time," form ":Chasing Ice." I missed that movie, but assumed it as a caper involving stolen jewels. Looks like I was wring; it seems to be an eco-doc in the "Koyaanisqatsi" / "Baraka" / "Atlantis" mode. "Pi's Lullabye" from "Life of Pi." and "Everybody Needs A Best Friend" from "Ted." Such a classy song; such a juvenile movie.

And the winner is... " Well, hello, "Skyfall."

Am I alone in thinking that the show's set this year looks like a riff off of the set designs for "Hugo?" A movie that seemed to be nominated for just about everything last year?

Are we set to gain some traction for the really interesting categories? Dustin Hoffman and Charlize Theron stroll forth. Gosh, she towers over him.

Screenplay Awards
Adapted Screenplay: "Argo." "Beasts of the Southern Wild." "Life of Pi." "Lincoln." "Silver Linings Playbook." Oscar likes "Argo" once again. Writer Chris Terrio is a good looking guy, and he seems utterly out of breath with excitement. Well, it's like a novelist friend like to assure me: "The writer is the Bitch of the Universe." Not tonight... bitch! Tonight the writer gets his due.

But I still gotta say it: Kushner got rooked.

Original Screenplay: "Amour." "Django." "Flight." "Moonrise Kingdom." "Zero Dark Thirty." And Tarantino takes it?! Um, WTF???

??? Hold on, just a sec... ??? And once more -- !?!

Okay, there we go.

"This will be the writer's year, man!" Tarantino looks like hell, sloppy and disheveled. Is he, too, blogging all this? Whatever. Good for him for that shout out.

Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas stroll through a forest of plastic candles to the strains of "Nobody Does It Better." What is it, Bond Theme Night?

Best Director
Come on, Ang Lee!!!

"Amour..." "Beasts of the Southern Wild..." "Life of Pi..." "Lincoln..." "Silver Linings..."

ANG LEE!! Yes, yes, omigod, I think I am about to make a speech myself! He won for "Brokeback," and now he's won for a sublime movie about the mysteries of faith. Let the Xtian 'phobes chew on that for a while.

What are waiting on now? Best Actor. Best Actress. And, of course, Best Picture.

And let's commence with the Home Stretch...

Best Actress
Jessica Chastain, "Zero Dark Thirty." Jennifer Lawrence, "Silver Linings Playbook." Emmanuelle Riva, "Amour." Quvenzhané Wallis, "Beasts of the Southern Wild." Naomi Watts, "The Impossible."

Jennifer Lawrence wins. Aw, jeez. Chastain was my pick. But let's just move on.

Meryl Streep "needs no introduction." Good, because she didn't get one. She announces the next category.

Best Actor
Bradley Cooper, "Silver Linings." Daniel Day-Lewis, "Lincoln." Hugh Jackman, "Les Miserables." Joaquin Phoenix, "The Master." Denzel Washington, "Flight." Hard, hard choice, but Daniel Day-Lewis should take it.

Wow, man, wow, he does! He's the first to win three Oscars for Best Actor. Three's no doubt about it -- he deserves it. He's a brilliant actor, absolutely brilliant. His acceptance speech is clever and funny, and how can he hold it together enough to make it?

They trot our Jack Nicholson for "the big one." And Michelle Obama joins him via video link. Okay, that's interesting. Of course she has to make a big speech, which seems a little odd, but then again her husband is renowned for his brilliant speeches. Then again, Barack usually isn't trying to claim that Hollywood singlehandedly makes it possible for children to dream...


Best Picture
"Amour." "Argo." "Beasts." "Django." "Les Miz." "Life of Pi." "Lincoln." "Silver Linings." "Zero Dark Thirty."

Michelle makes the announcement: "Argo!"

The genuinely deserving film is at the other end of the alphabet, but we didn't actually expect it to win, now, did we? At least it's not the complete travesty of 2006, when "Brokeback" lost to... it still makes me laugh with rue... "Crash."

Affleck is exuberant and bubbling over. That's nice; I'm truly glad for him. "Argo" deserves it. They all... well, mostly... deserved it. We've all got our faves.

Speaking of which, I'm not so sure MacFarlane was my fave Oscars host, but all in all he wasn't so bad. Especially when he and Kristin Chenoweth did their final number, a duet called "Here's to the Losers." What a card.

And that's a wrap.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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