Once again we enjoyed being a part of Jim Ramsey’s annual Academy Awards potluck party. Jim hosts this every year, which I guess is why it’s called an annual affair.
Some years the competition for the Most Awards Guessed Right prize has gotten pretty heated. We used to argue vehemently over rules, such as whether you had to fill out your guess sheet before the show started, or whether you could make a last second decision just before the envelope was opened.
A few years, I recall, some people made their guesses ahead of time, while others were able to adjust their pre-show choice as it became evident that a landslide (you can’t say “tidal wave” now, can you?) of Academy support for a particular movie was happening. When I finally won fair and square and got to take home the annual prize, I vowed that I’d never return it. It still is hidden away when nobody will find it, not even our dog. (I’ll bring it out briefly for a photo, to prove my Academy Awards acumen).
Last night I won again. But with just eleven correct choices. That’s not very good. Once I adjust for my rationalizations, however, I do much better. Quite a few times I had my pen poised intuitively over the box of the eventual winner, then started to think too much.
“Let’s see, Makeup. Lemony Snickett’s characters looked pretty cool. I’ll go with that. Plus, the liberal Academy members would never give an Oscar to Passion of the Christ. No, wait. That’s what everybody thinks: the Academy is anti-Christian. The Academy voters won’t want people to think that they are anti-Christian, even if they are anti-Christian. So for Makeup they won’t vote the way they want to vote, but against the way people think they will vote, just to prove that they aren’t prejudiced against a Christian movie, even though they probably are.”
When Lemony Snickett won, I realized that the Blink decision-making style has a lot going for it. Go with your gut feeling.
On the whole, my gut feeling about the 2005 Academy Awards was: too predicable and scripted. The assessment by Randy of R Blog that the show was over-controlled is right on. When Sean Penn, Robin Williams, and Chris Rock combined can’t produce a truly outrageous moment, the leash is on too tight. I long for the good old Academy Awards days when a streaker could dash naked across the stage, Oscar winners used their time on stage to make blatantly political statements, and at least a few acceptance speeches were truly spontaneous.
In his opening monologue Chris Rock noted that at the Academy Awards actors don’t act, whereas at musical awards shows musicians make music. I think that’s what viewers want to see, Chris: actors not acting, but behaving like the regular people that they are. Hillary Swank seemed genuinely natural, but most of the other big names acted like they were acting. Even Jamie Foxx struck me as having been well prepared for his supposedly off the cuff remarks. I liked how he spoke about his grandmother, but I had the feeling that he was working off a mental script: “Start with the usual thank you’s; end with the emotional material.”
Over all the years I’ve watched the show, I greatly admire the few Oscar winners who seemed to get out of their seats, walk up onto the stage, and speak from the heart in that immediate I’ve-just-won moment. The same goes for the hosts. The inspired unscripted remarks and jokes are much more memorable than the carefully planned aspects of the Academy Awards. This year there wasn’t much in the “inspired unscripted” category.
Laurel and I enjoyed the Bush-bashing parts of Chris Rock’s monologue. He also had some other nice lines, which can be read here. However, I have to agree with a USA Today writer that much of Rock’s material didn’t seem appropriate for the setting, and that the overall format of the Academy Awards sucked. The opening tribute to the movies was way too serious, and Rock’s interviews with black moviegoers was way too glib. And whatever happened to the entertaining skits and dance numbers? Even the performances of the best song nominees have turned pretty bland.
Watching to see what beautiful actress wears what sort of gown is always one of the best parts of the Academy Awards. Thankfully, the post-9/11 conservative dress style that was evident in 2002 has faded away. Whoever was sitting in Sidney Lumet’s box, she of the bounteous breasts and low-cut bodice, got some admiring comments from we Academy Award party attendees last night. Lumet has several daughters, one of whom is a retired actress who has appeared in some of his films. We figured she must be a daughter rather than his wife, but in Hollywood you can’t be sure.
Salma Hayek also was a joy, as always, to gaze upon. Can’t argue with Chris Rock when he said, "You won't be able to take your eyes off these next four presenters - Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek." By the way, I apologize to Salma for spelling her name “Selma” in a 2003 Academy Awards post that has been getting some attention from Google searchers looking for “Selma Hayek Academy Awards.” (I note that “Selma Hayek” reaps 489,000 Google results and “Salma Hayek” 649,000, so obviously I’m not alone in confusing the spelling.)