Thursday, March 3, 2016

Oscar Telecast Retrospective Part 2: Mad Max's Golden Hour

With Rock laying waste to the elephant in the room through that biting monologue, it was time to get on with the show...
The Huntsman sisters, beautiful bad-asses Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron, flirt with writers everywhere while introducing Best Original Screenplay, which went to Spotlight's Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer (not “John”, Charlize!).

The victory was not only richly deserved, but also immediately exposed the Thank-You Ticker for the disastrous experiment that it was, as Singer began his speech by repeating “We've gotta thank...” four times over with numerous names in between.

Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe gamely introduced Best Adapted Screenplay, elevating some pretty stupidly conceived banter with surprising nimble comic chemistry. Crowe makes a good straight man.

Rock returned to introduce the night's most successful side sketch, a reel of movie parodies with black actors replacing key roles, including Leslie Jones as Judy the bear and Tracey Morgan as Lili “these danishes is good, guuurl” Elbe.
If we must have filler material, movie parodies are seldom a bad idea. Know your target audience, Academy. More of this, please.

And less of this. Rock's immediate follow-up to those droll spoofs with this bizarre Stacey Dash cameo immediately became the consensus pick for the most baffling, unfunny joke of the ceremony. It sounded like literally only two people in the crowd knew who she was, why her appearance was “supposed” to be funny, and requited by actually laughing. For the other 99% of us, it was the first huge miss in a night full of comedy hits and misses.

Sarah Silverman's overlong intro to “Writing's on the Wall” was just as painful, and with a musical performance to match. Even fans of the droning Bond ballad (um, how many are there outside of the Academy?) would have to concede that Sam Smith did not do well by it; Way off-pitch and pivoting back and forth like a nervous metronome. Eesh.

J.K. presented Best Supporting Actress to Alicia Vikander, whose litany of thank-yous eventually earned her the impatient orchestra's wrath.

Cate Blanchett took the floor, along with lots of lovely stage dressing (not that she needed it), to present Costume Design. This was the first of Mad Max's dominant 6-Oscar haul, though we didn't know it yet, so it was quite a thrill to see rock star Jenny Beaven – donning the evening's most bad-ass red carpet outfit – go up to claim the prize! Some aisle spectators were criticized on Twitter for staring in dumbfoundment, but I think it's clear they were simply blown away by her sick Fury Road sequined jacket.
And the good times just kept on rolling for George Miller's bonkers action opus, snagging Production Design and Makeup trophies next. My God, the strings section must have been exhausted playing that mile-a-minute theme music, and they had three more Mad Max awards to go! Colin Gibson's speech was simple, utter perfection.

Benicio del Toro (shoulda-been nominee for Sicario) introduced The Revenant's clip, much to the delight of Judy. Whoever signed on off on this gag should be dumped in the Albertan backcountry and mauled by a 440 lb. mama grizzly.

Rock's ensuing sight gag about the real Suge Knight being in attendance was funnier, though less accessible to those who hadn't seen Straight Outta Compton (and we can assume that's most of the Academy, given its single nomination). Also, bless Rock for introducing Michael B. Jordan as a “shoulda-been nominee”. Word.

Jordan was on hand with Rachel McAdams to bestow Lubezki's recording setting third consecutive Oscar. I'm still no fan of the thank-you ticker, but I do find it interesting that Chivo chose to thank The Beatles!
Chivo thanks Mexico, the ASC, John, Paul, George and Ringo.

The interruption in Mad Max's winning streak was short lived, as it proceeded to take Editing. George Miller may not have taken home the gold he deserved, but it's only fitting that he be the most thanked person of the evening, and look how happy he is!

The Black History Month Minute was amusing as far as groaners go, but hardly worth the minute it took to set up.

Onto the Sound categories, and I gotta say, that sound editing package was both instructive and awesome. This is exactly the sort of thing that was missing during the Zadan/Meron years (their title cards were pretty and all, but did nothing to highlight the achievements they were supposed to be honouring). This was easily the coolest thing the producers threw together for this show.

But not cooler than seeing Mark A. Mingini win an Oscar. Personal connection: Aladdin was my first theatrical viewing experience, and when I began looking back at Oscar history as a youth it always bummed me out that this talented sound guy never got recognized again after three quick nominations in the early 90s. Until now, of course. He was clearly thrilled, and gave a beautiful speech, to boot. Great little moment.
"For thousands of years we've been telling stories
in the dark around a flickering light..."

Sound Mixing followed suit in Mad Max's favour. Even for those who were optimistic about the film's chances would have to be pleasantly surprised at just how well it did.

But the evening's true surprise was just around the corner...

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