Kevin Trumps Billy
I have an admission to make that, for any film reviewer, must qualify as shameful: I missed Billy Crystal's opening monologue for the Oscar broadcast last Sunday.
And, by definition, I also missed the parade of stars across the red carpet. (I am truly sorry to have missed Sacha Baron Cohen dumping ashes on Ryan Seacrest. I also--BLASPHEMY!--missed the parade of million-dollar fashions, though "Entertainment Weekly" helped me catch up on the haute couture. I agree with EW--Jessica Chastain was the fashion plate of the night, with Gwyneth Paltrow, Michelle Williams and Natalie Portman not far behind.)
My reason for missing the Academy Awards' true raison d'etre is probably inexcusable, although it involved an actor who is no stranger to Oscar. A friend and I had Sunday matinee tickets to see Kevin Spacey as Richard III at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and we didn't get back from the three-and-a-half-hour production to her home in New Jersey until ten minutes to nine. Granted, Spacey gave a performance that was worth missing quite a few things to see: an old-fashioned bravura performance, both vocally sonorous and physically daring, the sort that Olivier and Burton gave back in the day. IU realize it's unforgivable ever to miss Billy Crystal in blackface, but I hope Melpomene will prevail over Thalia to grant me mercy in this instance.
What else to say? Crystal was mildly amusing, not as funny as in previous years but a vast improvement over the puerile dithering of James Franco and Anne Hathaway last year. Of course there were a few awkward moments--what would Oscar be without them? The pre-presentation badinage between Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow was obviously scripted, but Paltrow's genuine annoyance with Downey was not. Ditto for the distaste Ben Stiller showed at sharing the stage with Emma Stone, during an equally flatulent scripted exchange.
And the awards themselves? All four of the acting winners, Christopher Plummer especially, gave wonderful acceptance speeches. I was happy to see the major awards for "The Artist," the screenplay award for "Midnight in Paris," and the raft of techncial awards for "Hugo," a movie I'll have more to say about later. But I was sorry to see no nominations whatever for the best film of 2011, Jeff Nichols' "Take Shelter." At least "Take Shelter" wasn't ignored by the Independent Spirit Awards, the results of which I have not yet heard.
And now on to the next movie year...