Saturday, March 2, 2013


Another year has come to pass and another Academy Awards ceremony has called it a ‘wrap!’ Having its worldwide broadcast on Sunday February 24th, 2013, the telecast presented the best in film: from Art Direction and Set Design to Actors and Films alike. So, after the glitter has faded and the gowns have been sent to the dry cleaners… what were we left with and what will be the memories that will stay in our thoughts for weeks, months or even years to come?

My blog topic will be recapturing the possible highs (and lows) of what was and has been the 85th Annual Academy Awards!

Presented from the newly- christened Dolby Theatre, (formally the Kodak Theatre, just steps away from the Chinese Theater in Hollywood, CA) the show’s host was first- timer Seth McFarlane. The evening's youthful presenter was able to nab a 19% increase in viewers from last year’s telecast and was considered the most watched ceremony since the 76th Annual Academy Awards in 2004, with 42.40 million viewers.

THE HOST: Creator of the hit television series “Family Guy” and the writer and director of TED, Seth McFarlane created a riff of lovers and haters as this year’s host and the duties performed. The show’s producers actually took a huge gamble with McFarlane, who is infamous for unapologetic, truthful and vulgar humor, yet proved to be a breath of fresh air, to this critic’s opinion. He’s more than a triple threat…he is young and good looking, charming and crude at the same time, witty, a singer and dancer…God, I hate him! Is there nothing this talented twit cannot do? Nonetheless, he held the show together and presented a sense of liveliness viewers hasn’t seen since the glory years of Billy Crystal, Johnny Carson or Bob Hope.

McFarlane looks at the video image of Captain Kirk!
Taking a page from his signature sense of humor, McFarlane had help from some of Hollywood’s best to pull off some incredible humorous moments! He coaxed William Shatner to return to the Enterprise’s Captain’s chair to play James T. Kirk who visits McFarlane via video screen to inform the host of the catastrophic reviews that would await him the following morning based off of his own tasteless humor… including a proposed opening musical number entitled "We Saw Your Boobs" dedicated to “boobs” seen in cinema over the years and the actresses who have bared them! McFarlane also involved Best Actress nominated Sally Field in his own “Flying Nun” fetish- like skit and talking her into an evening of booze and sex…including a nice lip- locked smooch to seal the deal! Amongst other skits and jabs, actor Mark Wahlberg was reunited with his childhood buddy Ted in presenting the Awards for Best Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. Ted kept coaching Wahlberg along to play Jewish so that he could stay in good with Hollywood’s elite... and stay employed!

The DOLBY THEATRE in Hollywood, CA
THE TELECAST: The Dolby Theatre is a spectacle all its own, the interiors looks like they may have had a face-lift from its previous Kodak owners, showing off some very lavish décor. The theatre was literally built with the intensions of becoming the permanent home for future Academy Award presentations, so it definitely knows how to show off great stage space and design. Production of this year’s telecast presented a very refine and classic film look…using everything from state- of - the- art screens to vintage movie cameras and film reels to dress backdrops.

Dancing! (l) TATUM and (r) THERON
This year’s theme was all about movie musicals and there were plenty of numbers throughout the broadcast! Beginning with the lampoonish “We Saw Your Boobs” musical number, as crude as the homage was intended to be, it was presented with a certain through-back flare that reminded me of something along the lines of the “Inquisition” number from Mel Brooks’ HISTORY OF THE WORLD PART I! Things, thank God, got classier from that moment on… highlighting the wonderfully graceful dance number that included surprising performances from the coupling of Channing Tatum and Charlize Theron. She in a stunning white gown and he in the classic black and white tux with spats, the number was a mere reminder of the Golden Era when Fred Astaire danced with Ginger Rogers! Actors Joseph Gordon- Levitt and Daniel Radcliffe joined host McFarlane in a “Rat Pack”- type song and soft- shoe number that probably surprised many viewers but added “singing” to the extensive list of talents portrayed by McFarlane. You wanna talk about music and musicals? Here are some of the highlights in regards!

(l) Gordon- Levitt (c) McFarlane (r) Ratcliffe
MUSICAL HIGHLIGHTS:  We can go classic and talk about the wonderfully choreographed number danced by Mr. Tatum and Ms. Theron to “The Way You Looked Tonight” or the “High Hopes” sing- along with Mr. Gordon- Levitt, Mr. Radcliffe and Mr. McFarlane…but that would just the very tip of the extraordinary iceberg that would come cascading down the slopes!

As previously mentioned on a blog topic here on CINEMA: JER’S POINT, this is the year of Bond celebrating its glorious 50 years of excitement! The Academy took serious note and put together a wonderful montage of classic clips highlighting memorable moments and the themes that have become a staple in Pop Culture as well. Notably, who can deny the sultry sounds of Dame Shirley Bassey’s popular theme to GOLDFINGER? The elegance of the 76 year old singer appearing on stage at the tale end of the homage only clued any fan that Ms. Bassey was about to treat everyone to a very ‘live’ rendition of the hit tune! Not missing a beat and still capable of sending chills with every jazzy note and ending on an extended high note only proves that great singer never disappear! Bravo, indeed!

Moving from a more classical to contemporary view, a trilogy of tributes was bestowed to three modern classics. First off, the lovely and very sexy Catherine Zeta- Jones rose from below the stage on top of a piano surrounded by jazz dancers to perform the hit song “All That Jazz” from the Academy Award winning film CHICAGO… razzamatazz and oh so taboo, Zeta- Jones was smoldering and just as sensual as she appeared in the film ten years ago! Up next, Academy Award winning Supporting Actress Jennifer Hudson performs the show- stopping “And I’m Telling You Now” from her film debut, DREAMGIRLS… every note found a chill to be caused with her powerhouse rendition! 


And finally… the ‘dream’ cast from LES MISERABLES: Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, Eddie Redmayne, Samantha Barks, Aaron Tveit, Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter all take to the stage in a medley of songs from the film. Beginning with Jackman’s appearance, the medley began with the Oscar nominated song “Suddenly”, Hathaway then comes in with “I Dream A Dream” with other members coming in to reunite with “One More Day” coming to a climatic finale.

Finally, Grammy Award winner Adele takes to the stage to perform the opening number from the James Bond hit SKYFALL. Her classic features and smoky voice brought a feel for one of those European Jazz clubs that Bond could walk into and order a Martini from. Sky- blue crystal beads draped as a backdrop along with looming darkness mixed with rich colors to create the setting with great visuals. Shortly thereafter the performance, we would learn that it would win Best Original Song! Congratulations! 

“In Memoriam” tributes are always difficult to see and deal with. It’s never easy to see images of talented individuals that have brought so much to our worlds through entertainment and being reminded of our own morality when we pay tribute to those dearly departed. This year presented a very special tribute as in the ending of the montage; we are reminded of the passing of American composer and conductor Marvin Hamlisch (June 2, 1944- August 6, 2012) as the music from one of his beloved compositions, “Memories”, is played at a low orchestrated presentation. The screen lifts and we are greeted by the silhouette of Barbra Streisand who pays a verbal tribute to the composer who wrote many hits for her and others over the years before singing out the song to a darkened close.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE AWARD WINNERS: A rarity as uncommon as an original screenplay these days is having a tie announced anytime throughout the ceremony… and it was! Presented by Mark Wahlberg for Best Sound Editing, the ‘winners’ were Per Halberg and Karen Baker Landers for SKYFALL and Paul NJ Ottosson for ZERO DARK THIRTY! This is only the sixth time it has occurred in Oscar history.

This can only be a sign of many other surprises that that dabbled the night through… this is a list of the more prolific accounts of the evening:

Widely touted but not necessarily a Best Picture favorite, it would seem as if the French- language drama AMOUR found a home on the Best Foreign Film category instead. The story of two retired music teachers in heir eighties find their lives turned upside down when Anne (Best Actress nominee Emmanuelle Riva) suffers a stroke one day and the testament of their love is put to the test with every trying moment of dealing with the issues in hand and the sudden visitation of their daughter and her views of what should happen to her mother.

The magic dream machine that is Pixar strikes Gold again this year with BRAVE solidifying another victorious win for the extended creative world of Disney. BRAVE becomes so many things: a feast of spectacles for the eyes, a rousing Celtic churn of melodies and sutle female swooners gave way to the ears and a well- balanced presentation of touching drama mixed in with over- the- top humor. BRAVE speaks of taking chances and loving the ones who care for us along the way.

I don’t believe that was any real surprise here with writer Chris Terrio’s win in this category. ARGO is a great film…period and behind every great film is a great story line with great dialog to help in the telling. The screenplay found many opportunities to heighten very dramatic, pivotal moments and still be able to laugh at itself when it came down to the operative of making a fake movie as a means to free Americans on the wrong side of the Iranian border. Intense. Humorous. Bold.

There is a lot to be said about the characterizations that have been brought to life from the twisted mind of Quentin Tarantino! Along with these memorable embodiments, has also come an explosion of new catch- phrases that have been a part of modern pop culture for more than twenty years now. DJANGO UNCHAINED has quickly found itself in the arms of Americana cinema for the upright boldness of making a film with a black slave as the hero! Dialog so derogatory and controversial, that only Tarantino is found laughing and pulling his pants down at the face of censorship and high- brow goodie- goodies! He is cool and ethnic, in his own world of where he comes from and his grindhouse- like upbringing!

Waltz’ stand- out performance as the German bounty hunter Dr. King Shultz was nothing less than an absolute treat to watch and a gift to contemporary cinematic characterization. Dating back a mere four years when his Nazi- infused portrayal of Col. Hans Landa in INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS (also directed by Quentin Tarantino) it was evident that Waltz was a force to be reckoned with. The ability to some how masterfully articulate a certain kind of sarcastic twist mixed in with the foreign accent is looked upon with child-like delight at the marvel of he performance enhanced by the colorful dialog provided by Tarantino’s script.

Anyone who was surprised by this win needs to check themselves at the theater lobby! From the moment that we were reeled into the early previews of LES MISERABLES almost a year ago, one defining moment was made clear and that was the sobbing and choking rendition of “I Dream A Dream” sung by Hathaway with an acapella- sense before crescendoing into an orchestrated fusion of sorrow and chills! The film’s performance only proved to be the deal- sealer to allow Hathaway her first Academy Award!

A surprise in my book, but not to many who have been singing the praises of this extraordinary fantasy adventure intended to be enjoyed and watched in a panoramic 3D theater! A possible “shoe-in” (at least in this critic’s opinion) was Steven Spielberg for LINCOLN, which was one of the evening’s surprise upsets. There is no doubt that one thing sticks out clearly of Lee’s directing and that is that he is willing to take risks and does not fall under any specific genre or category when it comes to his roster. CROUCHING TIGER HIDDEN DRAGON, THE HULK and BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN are but a brief glimpse of rich history surrounding this very innovating and contemporary director.

Many believed that this category was locked- in for Jessica Chastain for her performance in ZERO DARK THIRTY, the slight upset finally went to Ms Lawrence who has proven to be an Oscar winner since her stand- out performance in WINTER’S BONE, which garnered her Best Supporting Actress nomination back in 2010. If Hollywood plays its cards right, we will see a very talented actress continue to build her repertoire over the next few years and go grow into a world of one of Hollywood’s most respected and hard- working actresses. Continued success!

Here is an actor who has followed along with the recipe for success that I just mapped out for Ms Lawrence… a man who had immediately began to build an impressive list of early appearances in films like GANDHI, 1984’s THE BOUNY and A ROOM WITH A VIEW, before finally stepping out of the shadows with the impressive portrayal of Christy Brown in his first Academy Award winning role in 1989’s MY LEFT FOOT. It would less than ten years later in which Day- Lewis would win his second Oscar in 2008’s THERE WILL BE BLOOD, which now brings us four years later to his third win for LINCOLN. A man of few words, it would seem as if the words that are worth saying are expressed throughout the fine acting that one has come to expect.

I had the opportunity to see ARGO twice, once before my blog topic discussing my choices for Oscar and once more after my topic had been posted. I felt that I may have placed all my chips on the wrong number when I elected LES MISERABLES as my pick for Best Picture and the Academy took my winnings! Granted, I may have lost that bet, but there was no loss aimed at a well- constructed film that is ARGO by any means. I believe that director Ben Affleck was literally robbed of a nomination (and a win) and I feel that justice was served that fateful Sunday evening as he stood along side his fellow producers: Grant Heslov (who has acted in films like TRUE LIES, CONGO and GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK) and George Clooney (OCEAN’S 11, THE IDES OF MARCH) to receive their appointed Oscars for ARGO! The film spoke of an era and a time almost forgotten; it should educate a generation that our government is not all about greed and corruption. As long as the public is aware of agents willing to stick their necks out for the safety of our country and people, then we will continue to sing the praises that rightfully need to be heard.

A political thriller winning BEST PICTURE could only fittingly be announced by First Lady Michelle Obama. Receiving the envelope at The White House, Mrs. Obama read off the winner live! 

This year’s presentation of the Academy Awards saw a spike from previous ceremonies for quite some time. That can’t be bad for business, right? Host Seth McFarlane might very well have been what the doctor had ordered…even though a small audience was not willing to take the medication as prescribed! Will we see the likes of Mr. McFarlane returning back for future ceremonies? If not, can we keep Tina Fey’s and Amy Poehler’s cell numbers on speed dial? Only time will prevail the fate of hosts to come and the audiences it will attract. For now, this show has been laid to rest and a new year will bring a crop of new hopefuls for February 2014!

To you, the reader: what were your thoughts on this year’s telecast? Was it a disgrace or was it the best you have seen in years? What were the highlights or downfalls of the ceremony? I continually welcome all of your thoughts and comments and will post all replies within a short period of time! I look forward to your views!

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for my next posted scheduled for FRIDAY MARCH 22nd! Until then, support Independent Filmmakers and Great Cinema!

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