I’ll admit it: I’m a sucker for the Oscars. I love the sappy speeches and the mediocre monologues. I love the dresses and seeing who arrived with whom. I love taking bets on who will get more screen time: Jack Nicholson or Johnny Depp. For the record, it was Jack.
I love that it is one big Hollywood wank fest. There is nothing quite like seeing people who get paid way too much to be awarded by other people who get way too much, with another little gold statue to put in their Malibu house. It is pure decadence and escapism.
This year, it felt different. The quirkiness, independence and simplicity got their moments, as well as the dramatic, high budget and excessive. Juno, the film advertised as the ‘break out hit of the year’ was fully recognized, giving Diablo Cody the award for best original screenplay. Sure, some of the dialogue annoyed the heck out of me, but it was an enjoyable film that wound up being successful.
My big focus this year was the original song category. Generally I don’t care for that category. Ever since Titanic swept and we were drowned in that gawdawful Celine Dion tune, I really haven’t put much stock into it.
However, the nomination of “Falling Slowly” from Once changed my mind. It gave me something to really root for. Once was truly this year’s “little movie that could”, and my personal favorite film of 2007 (I’m Not There was a very close second.) I watched the performances of every single song. There were three songs from a single Disney movie, Enchanted. It was exhausting and irritating, needless to say. I liked the music from August Rush and it was a blast seeing 11 year old Jamia Simone Nash sing her heart out with a full gospel choir, but it also felt very showy.
So when Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova hit the stage, they felt out of place. Their performance was genuine. It was that of musicians, not actors, who truly understood their song. Glen’s beautiful, beat up acoustic guitar completed the scene. When Glen and Marketa picked up their Oscars and stood on that same stage as George Clooney and Cameron Diaz, something changed. Who would have thought that the frontman of the Frames would be winning an Academy Award?
The Oscar producers, in their infinite wisdom, had the nerve to bring up the music as soon as Glen was done speaking. No sooner had Marketa opened her mouth, but they were ushered off the stage. It pained me to think that she wasn’t allowed her moment in the spotlight. When they came back from the commercial break, Jon Stewart won a new respect from me. The fact that he made the effort to bring her back so she could say what she needed to was touching, and I will admit that I got tears in my eyes.
Often Oscar speeches are so heavy on the schmaltz that it’s hard to believe some of the winners are actually decent actors. Her words were pure and true. Seeing her up there, so poised and collected, it was hard to believe she’s just turning 20 this week.
My one big disappointment in the evening was the fact that Cate Blanchett didn’t get best supporting actress for I’m Not There. I really wish that film had gotten some recognition because it truly was the most unique piece of art to hit the screens, recently, and I thought the editing and the art direction were awesome.
There is something inspiring and reaffirming about knowing that a small film can still have a big impact. It assures all of us would be filmmakers out here that we’ve still got a shot to make our mark on the world, even if we never get into the Hollywood system. So I’m just going to keep practicing that acceptance speech I’ve been working on since I was 5 years old.