Edelstein: Breaking News! District 9 Wins Best Picture!
Duh, not really. That headline is more outlandish than anything in the movie, because the Oscars went down just like they were supposed to. I could have outlined my final thoughts yesterday and dropped in two or three details (the lone surprise: a screenplay award for Precious instead of to the slick young Reitman) and been in bed by now. With all this pre-Oscar commentary, they’re going to have to think up more surprises to shake off the sense of déjà vu.
So I won’t take up much of your time except to say it was surprisingly satisfying to see Sandra Bullock collect an Oscar because of how in the moment she was, like a little girl brimming with joy—which is how she always is onscreen, however lame her material. (I even loved her in The Mailbox, or whatever that soppy time-travel movie with Keanu Reeves was called.) It’s obvious she won over Streep because Streep’s performance was comic and the Oscars rarely go to comic performances. (Witness Jeff “Thanks for bringin’ those wonderful musicians to the party, man” Bridges taking home an award for the hackneyed Crazy Heart instead of for his sublime and evidently autobiographical the Dude.) It’s also because her role in The Blind Side spoke to two semi-contradictory impulses in Academy voters: (a) guilt over being filthy rich and white; and (b) a hunger to channel your altruism in ways that enable you to crush other people on the playing field.
Anyway, Sandra was lovely, whereas Kathryn Bigelow, bless her, has given so many thank-you speeches this year that she seemed a tad dried out. As delighted as I was to see Bigelow become the first woman to win
(or be nominated for)* a Best Director Oscar, it is surely no accident that she won for making the most manly war film of all time — a celebration of machismo that I don’t think even John Ford could have gotten away with.
It was good that there were two hosts. When David Letterman bombed (he wasn’t that bad apart from one joke that still resounds in the nightmares of comedians), there was no one for him to call the next day and say, “Man, they hated us.” Steve and Alec will at least be able to give each other solace. I wonder: Why team up an immaculately coiffed control freak with a spark of madness and a slobby blowhard with a big runaway mouth and give them such mild, campy banter that they’re almost interchangeable? Robin Williams’s breezy allusion to the “many balls being held all over Hollywood tonight” had an elegance lacking in Martin and Baldwin’s “clothes-whores” joke.
As someone whose life wasn’t changed by the films of John Hughes (except that I suddenly had to listen to a lot more shitty rock songs in movies), I was struck by the emotional intensity that came through even in those brief snippets of his work. It made me understand on some level I didn’t how his heart could have exploded before he’d turned sixty Even the bad sight of Judd Nelson’s nostrils after two decades couldn’t dissipate the air of melancholy. The tribute was more moving than the normally surefire "In Memoriam" segment, in which Demi Moore’s actressy choking-up had a distancing effect. She’d done the grieving for us.
*Yikes! Thanks to the readers who pinted out that Lina Wertmuller, Jane Campion, and Sofia Coppola were nominated in this category. I meant no sexism...