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Obst on Oscar Night’s Pleasant Surprises

Photo: Getty Images


To: David Edelstein

Sent: Monday, February 25, 2008 3:11 PM

From: Lynda Obst

Subject: RE: No Country for Good Cheer

Dear David,

There was some love and some surprises that kept the night from becoming an utter snooze-fest, with way too many clips threatening to become one long clip of Cary Grant morphing into Cuba Gooding Jr. There was no real evidence that the writers were back: Aside from Jon Stewart’s lines and Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen’s hilarious turn as Oscar perennials Halle Berry and Dame Judy Dench (next year Hillary Swank and Helen Mirren), the content was more spliced-together than it was written. At one point, the producer/chef/host of my party cried out, “These are the worst Oscars since I was born!”

But I love being wrong as much as I love being right (except where Roger Deakin’s cinematography is concerned). The actress awards were the big shockers. As for your theory about Julie Christie perhaps having suffered for her cocktail-party attitude: It’s fascinating and may be right, but there were very few parties on the Academy circuit this year, and most were for Marion Cotillard or No Country. This morning our very provincial newspaper seemed shocked that so many “foreigners” had won. What are they talking about? Between the Australians, the Brits, and last year’s Mexicans, the Academy is merely a microcosm of the industry, and the world. We receive the lion’s share of our profits from the international market; why not acknowledge that? And as for casting, that has represented various nationalities for years.

Tilda Swinton is the coolest, isn’t she? She was genuinely stunned, along with the crowd who shouldn’t have been stunned because they voted for her. Tough women in a man’s world are the hardest type to infuse with humanity (right, Howard Wolfson?) and are usually played as a cliché. Swinton, though, cannot play a cliché. She re-invents.

At our party we also groaned in agony when the young girl from "Falling Slowly" was hooked, and cheered when she resumed with her lovely speech. Do we think it was Jon Stewart who lobbied for her return?

One noteworthy thing was how many awards The Bourne Identity won. You couldn’t miss it at our party, where an old Oscar was pumped overhead by its exec producer, Pat Crowley, every time it beat No Country (in Editing, Sound editing, and Sound Mixing, for those of you who didn’t have those awards specially underscored). I remember wanting to vote for it as one of my five best pictures it was so damn good, but on an indie year like this one, that was one prize it would not take. There wasn’t enough of a theme, and even with great director elevating it to a sort of crackerjack perfection, it was still too potboiler. It was, in its own way, a contender.

But snooze-fest or not, I found a lot to celebrate in this damaged, much maligned industry’s victories last night. Let’s hear it for a night where a great producer won for a change — Scott Rudin, who uses his considerable power to protect the Coen brothers’ “little corner of the sandbox”; where the reclusive and iridescent Tilda Swinton, cast in a director’s debut and supported by a major studio (WB), upsets the Oscar race and thanks her agent above all others; where Marion Cotillard walks off the stage on the arm of Forest Whitaker; where Daniel Day-Lewis actually attends the awards and enjoys himself; where the movie everyone wanted to win, wins, and it isn’t a blockbuster. What’s there to be grumpy about? The grosses?

Here’s to the sandbox of life.

Love as always,
Lynda

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