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Edelstein Reacts to the Oscars

Photo: Getty Images


To: Lynda Obst

Sent: Monday, February 25, 2008 9:08 AM

From: David Edelstein

Subject: RE: No Country for Good Cheer

Hi Lynda,

Was that especially uneventful, Lynda, or will all Oscar ceremonies henceforth play as if they’d already happened once before in a galaxy far, far away? Not at all the Mardi Gras blowout I’d hoped for. Even Diablo Cody was simple, modest — everything her screenplay wasn’t. Is it that YouTube has made even exhibitionists more self-conscious in the knowledge that their gaffes will be replayed millions of times? I’m really reaching to say something of sociological interest … Maybe we should just blame producer Gil Cates, who makes the trains run on time at the expense of all spontaneity. It’s why I gave up on Saturday Night Live, the least “live” show imaginable, insofar as anyone who dares to depart from the script gets exiled to Siberia …

New York magazine had a lively party at the Spotted Pig and it was really hard to concentrate on the screen(s). For awhile, Eddie Izzard was shushing people — he said he came to watch the Oscars, of all the silly things — but most of the other media celebs were drinking There Will Be Bloody Marys (wish I’d thought of that) and posing for one another’s picture-phones. Probably the most animated discussion came early on in regards to Jennifer Hudson’s twin inflatable life rafts (a “uniboob,” according to former Gawker enchantress Emily Gould), which made many of us avert our eyes in sadness. Who let that happen? (I’m told the metallic bolero was the brainstorm of Andre Leon Talley.)

Jon Stewart had brilliant lines: the Vanity Fair writers’ joke, the bit about there being a black or female president whenever an asteroid is about to hit, “thank God for teen pregnancy” — keepers. Watching Lawrence of Arabia on an iPod — the future, indeed. There was something uptight about him, though. Maybe it was the baleful influence of the man whose name starts with “G” and rhymes with “pill.” One of the three best moments of the evening was when he escorted that nice Czech Once girl back out to give her thank-you speech. It was like the kids standing on their desks at the end of Dead Poets Society. (When she was cut off, the third floor of the Spotted Pig let out a collective wail.)

Some notes: Elizabethan movies always win Oscars for costumes … I am not looking forward to Get Smart … Brad Bird telling a story about a teacher undermining his dream of making movies and thereby affirming the message of his work: the struggle of the Ayn Randian genius whom society will do everything to muzzle … Amy Adams’s cute demure little head dip when she was exiting after her (simple, lovely) performance.

You see Javier Bardem and you know why he is so beloved. Even with those black eyes and hair and that deep, oily voice, there’s a sprightliness about him. After he thanked his mother so beautifully in Spanish, he half-danced off the stage a few inches off the ground.

I had to remind myself when Tilda Swinton’s name was called that hers was my favorite of the nominated performances in that category … Some women I know were upset by the role, though (or at least the role after Swinton was cast): the powerful woman who needs to harden herself (and order a hit) so as not to appear weak in the eyes of her (male) bosses. As a powerful woman working for other powerful women, Lynda, you might have some insight here … not that you’d ever order a hit … I don’t think … In any case, Swinton overacted throughout Michael Clayton but less than any of the other nominees. And her speech, oh my! She was so surprised when she won — and then she went up there and babbled about the Oscar’s butt and told Tony Gilroy he rocks and all I could think was that only someone brought up rich could have been so gracious and so above it all.

Phony-baloney line of the night: “Some people ask me, why do we give out Oscars?” Uh, who asks you that? That’s like a kid at the Passover table spontaneously coming out with one of the four questions. I don’t usually recline, dip once, or question the existence of the Oscars.

Second best moment of the night: Cate Blanchett overacting like mad in a clip from the bombastic Elizabeth: The Golden Age — and then watching in the audience and grimacing in horror. Perhaps the most authentic note she has hit in years.

So: Marion Cotillard? Why? I wondered if it had something to do with Julie Christie’s rather high-strung, not-so-insouciant demeanor on the Hollywood cocktail circuit … That and the incredibly smart move of sending Cotillard out there and keeping her there so that everyone could see that she’s a young, beautiful woman who transformed herself completely. That and perhaps the fact that it’s a great performance — albeit in a mess of a movie.

When I’m 98, may I be seen in public with two gorgeous Amazons supporting me, and may I die sandwiched between their bodies. And if I have to speak, may I keep it short enough that people watching don’t fear I’m going to expire before their eyes.

My man Alex Gibney won. I say “my man” because I interviewed him over on the Bloggingheads site for about 45 minutes the other day (the chat is still up) and now feel proprietary. Even so, Taxi to the Dark Side is the best of the docs — a scathing yet devastatingly lucid exploration of how we have become what we once feared. Anyone who hasn’t seen this movie must now, and that includes you, Barack.

Helen Mirren (maybe the most stunning presenter — take that, Jessica Alba) fluffed a very bad joke in a very bad intro but then ushered in the best moment of the night: Daniel Day-Lewis accepting his Oscar by kneeling before her. Yes, she’d played The Queen, but the gesture went deeper than that: It was the sincere tribute of one brave acting soul to another — and it had a nice symmetry, since at the New York Film Critics Circle dinner, Day-Lewis presented an award to Javier Bardem, who got down on his knees and genuflected. If that doesn’t make your heart leap … Then Day-Lewis said the script “sprang like a golden sapling out of the mad, beautiful head of Paul Thomas Anderson” — and this time it was the sincere tribute of one beautiful madman to another.

No surprises after that, but I liked Joel Coen thanking the Academy for “letting us continue to play in our corner of the sandbox” because that’s what he and his kid brother really seem to do … fully absorbed but able to crack each other up. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad evening, even if Julian Schnabel and P.T. Anderson and Tamara Jenkins went home empty-handed.

Did you feel the love, Lynda?

Love,
David

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