Sunday, February 24, 2008
Strong work honored at the Oscars, but where was all the excitement?
As had been widely predicted, "No Country For Old Men" won the Oscar for best picture, but a couple of surprises brought some much-needed life to tonight's generally lackluster Oscar show, notably Tilda Swinton's upset win in the best-supporting-actress category and Marion Cotillard's triumph as best actress.
Cotillard's victory over favorite Julie Christie ("Away From Her") came as a bit of shock, although it probably shouldn't have. Cotillard's portrayal of Edith Piaf in "La Vie en Rose" was a bravura piece of work that actors -- who make up a majority of the voters -- clearly could appreciate. I didn't expect Cotillard to win, but only because I wasn't sure that the picture had had enough exposure.
Despite such surprises and a genuinely sweet moment in which Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova took home the Oscar for the best song -- "Falling Slowly" from "Once" -- the evening seemed to suffer from a decided lack of electricity, so much so that it made me wonder whether Oscar isn't beginning to lose most of its luster.
Many observers seem to feel that it's not a healthy sign that the movies nominated for best picture -- with the exception of "Juno" -- haven't been widely seen; it also has been noted that none of this year's acting awards went to American-born performers. And if one were of cynical bent, it would be easy to employ Norma Desmond's line from "Sunset Boulevard;" the pictures sometimes do seem to be getting smaller.
But for me, it's not the nominated movies that cause irritation, but the show. I have no arguments with any of this year's choices, and I admired all but one of the best-picture nominees. (I wasn't a particular fan of "Atonement.") Yet, I watched the Oscars without the usual sense of excitement. It wasn't that the show left me wanting more, but that it made me feel as if I were seeing some pallid, alternate universe version of the Academy Awards. The festivities -- hosted with only moderate success by Jon Stewart -- even ended early, as if for once, the industry had run out of ways to congratulate itself.