I’m going to limit myself to a couple of incidental observations, or I’d be writing for the next 24 hours. (And I should say that – as his been the case for a number of years – I haven’t seen much. Most of the winners seemed plausible to me, based on what I’ve seen or read.)
But I have strong opinions about:
OSCAR FASHION. I love beautiful clothes worn by beautiful people. But this obsession with gowns, jewels, shoes, hair and makeup has overtaken the Oscars. Nominees are, presumably, being celebrated for their talent. And many of the nominated actresses make the good point, in interviews and acceptance speeches, that they are still undervalued in Hollywood.
So how is it that the same women allow themselves to be co-opted into a situation where they’re essentially mannequins? What you hear in pre-Oscar runway chat isn’t, “Here comes Cate Blanchett” – it’s “Look, here’s Cate Blanchett in Armani Privé.” It’s not, “Thank you for saying great things about my performance – it was an extraordinarily challenging role.” – It’s “Thank you – my earrings are Bulgari, my dress is L’Wren Scott.”
Ever since I can remember, the “who are you wearing?” question has been part of the red carpet ritual, but it’s out of control. And it doesn’t help that everybody now understands the gowns and jewels aren’t actually bought – they’re loans or gifts, a kind of product placement. A hundred years ago, actors were thought of as not much better than common prostitutes – but at least they bought their own clothes.
ACCEPTANCE SPEECHES. For years, I’ve wondered why award show producers are so freaked out about long speeches – what else do we watch these shows for? Isn’t it better to have long speeches and eliminate tedious comic bits and musical numbers?
Last night’s Oscars – where award recipients were allowed to prattle on at their leisure – answered my question. It turns out it is a bad idea to have long speeches – or at least, it was with this group.
All four of the actors went on too long, and while at times they approached eloquence, they also made cringe-worthy gaffes. Worst by far was Matthew McConaughey, who gave a Tom Cruise-worthy verbal melt-down involving God, himself as a young man, several incomprehensible jokes, etc. I feared for his mental health.
In comparison, Cate Blanchett was a model of restraint, but it wasn’t a great speech either – her intention to compliment each of the other nominees fell apart midway, and Blanchett, too, seemed to be unable to focus.
Things went better for supporting winners Jared Leto and Lupita Nyong’o, but still not perfect – in both cases, speeches that would have been excellent if half the length went on to turn gauche.
I’m sure this is an incredibly exciting, nerve-wracking moment. All the more reason to prepare in advance, and consider carefully how you structure your response. Make it short and gracious. There’s a built-in weirdness about the Academy Awards that you can’t solve with a simplistic nod toward good social values. It’s an impossible juxtaposition to say you stand with oppressed people everywhere, and then thank Harvey Weinstein. Don’t mention slavery and the Yale Drama School in the same speech. Above all, don’t try too hard to sound smart – if you don’t know what “exacerbate” means, choose another word.