(Indie)fense of the Oscars

OscarI’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.

Video: Oscar Performance – “Falling Slowly”

MP3: The Frames – “Falling Slowly” from The Cost. More.

8 thoughts on “(Indie)fense of the Oscars”

  1. My favorite Elliott Smith at the Oscars story is how nice Celine Dion was to him backstage (it was the year she won for Titanic):

    “She was really sweet, which has made it impossible for me to dislike Celine Dion anymore. Even though I can’t stand the music that she makes — with all due respect I don’t like it much at all — but she herself was very, very nice. She asked me if I was nervous and I said, ‘Yeah.’ And she was like, ‘That’s good because you get your adrenaline going, and it’ll make your song better. It’s a beautiful song.’ Then she gave me a big hug. It was too much. It was too human to be dismissed simply because I find her music trite.”

    Video: Oscar Performance – “Miss Misery”

  2. Some random Oscar thoughts:

    – The Spanish portion of Javier Bardem’s acceptance speech was quite hearfelt and possibly the highlight of the show.

    – Host Jon Stewart’s subtle bit about the ridiculousness of watching Lawrence of Arabia on an iPod/iPhone was on the mark. Pretty cool. Meanwhile, the Dame Judy Densch/Halle Berry joke by Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill was quite unfunny and went on too long. A double whammy, indeed.

    – Amy Adams is adorable.

    – Denzel Washington looked like he had something better to do. Or maybe he was upset that Ms. Ruby Dee didn’t win Best Supporting Actress for American Gangster. Can’t say we blame him. Especially since it was Tilda Swinton (really?) who won.

    – We called it: No Country for Old Men. Too bad we didn’t bet. (And aren’t Joel and Ethan Coen among the most awkward dudes you’ve ever seen? Tommy Lee Jones tried to congratulate them and they just…didn’t…know…what…to..do…)

    – It must be surreal for a first time screenwriter to to win an Oscar. So, Ms. Cody congratulations on winning for Juno. Oh, and please, don’t pull a Hilary Swank and get rid of your long-standing hubby now that you’ve captured Hollywood’s coveted golden statuette. What’s that? Too late? Anyway…

    – That song from Once is a cutesy bit of chick-flick pap. Sorry…

  3. Kind of off-topic as far as Oscars go, but I had an observation about “Juno” that I’d like to bounce off y’all.

    Basically it’s this: are we supposed to be impressed by Juno’s musical tastes in her conversations with Mark, or are they supposed to make her seem immature and inexperienced? In talking to him, she’s apparently all about the Stooges and even plays Mott the Hoople’s “All the Young Dudes” for him off a mixtape she made, while disparaging Sonic Youth as just being a bunch of noise. Now, did she really believe that a 40 year old guy has *never* heard “All the Young Dudes” before and that she was showing him something totally new? Other than what’s on the movie soundtrack, aren’t all her favorite bands, like, 30 years old at a minimum? (Kind of related: if Mark’s such a big SY fan, couldn’t he have at least made her a mixtape that included their cover of “I Wanna be Your Dog”?) I think my interpretation of the thing leans toward it showing Juno’s immaturity, since it kind of goes with her characterization in the story, but I don’t know if that’s what Diablo Cody intended or not. Regardless, I think the whole thing proves to me that I’m too much of a music geek for my own good if things like that are jacking with my suspense of disbelief.

  4. LionIndex: The last thing you said is right. It was just supposed to be cute without being too insulting to anyone’s intelligence and throw in fun references for older folks.

    Kiko: The last thing you said is right (except maybe tying it to the distaff gender). I think that director might have a good movie in the future when he learns to hone a style – that one was all over the place. And whiny singers give me a headache (the only part that irked me about “Into the Wild”).

  5. I think impressed. “Superstar” surely wouldn’t have been my first choice, particularly after getting some clues about the Stooges/Mott reference; I would have gone with “Teenage Riot” or “Death Valley 69” right out of the gate.

    The one thing that I kept thinking after watching Juno was, when did people start thinking of 1992 as one of those major years in rock music? I feel old.

  6. Hate to break it to you worp, but ’91/’92 has been pretty huge as a musical history moment in my mind for quite a long time–I’m actually kind of surprised that you don’t feel the same way. I was in high school then, and that time period is probably roughly equivalent to the punk outbreak in ’77. Up until then, radio and MTV were pretty much dominated by hair bands and the New Kids and other bubblegum stuff. Then the whole Seattle thing happened, and NIN’s first album came out. After that, all the other shit got wiped off the planet like someone erasing a blackboard, and all of a sudden there were competing “alternative” radio stations in one market where you were lucky to have a college radio station before. I think the difference was really only in the more commercial segment of the industry, so maybe you wouldn’t notice it so much if you were already into the indie/punk scene up to your ears. But that time period is when I really woke up and started looking outside the mainstream for music.

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