Let the Winners Speak!


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New York film critic David Edelstein and Hollywood producer Lynda Obst have been discussing the Oscar race since the nominations were announced. Today, their final thoughts.

From: Lynda Obst

Sent: Monday, February 26, 2007 11:43 AM

To: David Edelstein

Subject: The Aftermath

Dear David,

So it was the Departed mini-sweep we suspected it might be, all centered on the inevitable crowning of Marty as Best Director. From Editing on, it became a drumbeat, didn't it? But before that, the most interesting trend that I hadn't expected at all was the love showered on Pan's Labyrinth — for a minute, I thought I was watching the Independent Spirit Awards. Art Direction, Makeup, Cinematography! Why not Director? All these choices determine the look of the movie, all are made by the director, all complete his vision. There were many tough choices this year, with this movie coming out late in the voting season, but it is curious in retrospect that Del Toro himself was not nominated by the director's branch of the Academy.

My happiest moment, of course, was Alan Arkin winning. Yeah! Also, George Miller for Happy Feet and Forest for Idi. You could really get a sense of these guys before the totalitarian piano gang hooked them off stage. (The gang had the good sense to let Forest finish. They've seen what happens when that gentle soul gets angry.) The orchestra ruined one of my other favorite moments, too — Bill Monahan's speech. I loved when he said that Valium worked, because I might have said it, and it was real, as was everything he was trying to say, and well written, too; but then came the boot, and I got angry. Who actually thought fifteen more seconds of animated human forms, or clips that have nothing to do with one another, are more interesting than living breathing humans trying to connect, teetering at the precipice of ecstasy and embarrassment?

And did you have any idea whatsoever was going on in the Editing montage? I was utterly mystified by it — possibly because I'd just gotten a refill of tequila — and got into a debate with my guests. No, I said, it was impossible that (a) Michael Mann had cut it and (b) that it was about editing. I was overruled on both counts. So why all the flags and the shots of Cary Grant? Was I drunk, or was Michael Mann?

Every year we are burdened by this excess of lengthy montages and production numbers. The producer only has control over the hours and minutes of scripted time, and — with nothing else to do in the months leading up to the big night — there is an urge to fill all those moments down to the last detail, to make a mark with choices of presenter and tone and look, until the very nominees who are supposedly getting honored are left no time to bask in their own greatest glory. This Oscar presentation was all about control — even the jokes were about getting the show in on time. I say, your problem. Not our problem. We are here to hear something human, and all of that, except Forest, was drowned out by the dread piano.

In general, fun moments were few and far between. I was excited by all the lesbian suits — so many choices! Maybe Harvey Weinstein's girlfriend ought to consider a new side line in tuxedoes with encrusted jewels. This is clearly a growing market. I liked the costume display — but I would. I liked the waving of Mexican flags. More of this! So like a soccer match, tacky and fun. I found it riveting that, in all her interviews this week, Helen Mirren literally morphed into Elizabeth ll. No flack on the royal payroll can be worth what this film has done to regild the Crown. And did you notice that three African-Americans were nominated in the acting categories, and two won? Only four years ago, when Halle and Denzel won, it was a milestone that harkened back to Sidney Poitier; now it's business as usual. So in the end, there is something to be thankful for.

Till next year, off to the trenches,