It’s been a full day since the little gold statuettes were handed out and I’m growing more bored of the 76th Annual Academy Awards by the minute. In what was probably the most predictable Oscar ceremony in history, everybody got what was coming to them whether they deserved it or not. Category favourite after category favourite walked away with a win, to the slight dismay of Vegas bookies who were offering as much as 1.2 to 1 odds for high rollers who dared put money on the dodgiest toss-ups. Yes, that Sean Penn/Bill Murray split vote was the stuff of… Oh screw it, everyone saw that one coming, too. Even Billy Crystal had his, “Aw Bill, we all love you” comment waiting in the wings. For industry outsiders, that translates as, “Sorry, Bill, but I had to vote for Penn because I couldn’t bear the thought of an SNL alumni who wasn’t me winning an Oscar. I feel sort of guilty about it. Really. Don’t hate me. Let’s do lunch. I’ll buy.”
Everyone managed to be deathly dull, without a single hint of petty nastiness throughout. The political rhetoric was token at best, and even the look of dismayed contempt on Oprah’s face when Renée Zellweger won was washed away by the look of artificial graciousness at the post-Oscar party when she gave Renée a hug and plenty of insincere congratulations for her daring white-face performance in Cold Mountain. I bet even the SWAT team snipers outside the theatre were wearing big phony smiles for the cameras that were never trained on them.
But I was touched, really I was, when Sofia Coppola acknowledged the years of experience, wisdom and nepotism her father had given her, and thanked her whole family for encouraging her to continue when she was stuck on page twelve of the Lost in Translation screenplay. Continue she did, all the way to page fifteen and Oscar glory. There was a lump in my throat when she listed off the great directors who had had an influence on her work, bravely limiting her picks to the most pretentious choices imaginable with the deftness of a first-year film-studies student. Ah, Sofia, your permanent sneer lit up the entire room that night.
The big news for Canada was Denys Arcand’s long-awaited foreign language win for The Barbarian Invasions. It was heart warming to see that after three nominations in the same category over the course of seventeen years, the Oscar folks still couldn’t train their cameras on the right person when his name was finally read. Arcand may be a proud Quebecer, but he also proved himself to be a true Canadian by managing to be polite, modest and invisible all at once. It may have been his award, but that never stopped him from letting someone else be shown marching to the podium, and some other person giving the acceptance speech. I thought it might come to blows when one of his producers tried to get him to say something, anything, before they were played off the stage. In the end, she managed to tackle Denys and stick the microphone in his face long enough for him to lie about being out of time. Way to go, Denys, you spotlight hog!
Far be it from me to offer even more insipid Oscar coverage, though. We’ll be hearing about who-wore-who from all the major networks for weeks to come, or at least until we’ve forgotten who’s losing which war on what abstract concept. Now that it’s all over and I’m suddenly barred from using my Canadian Academy card to see any movies more interesting than the latest local yokel releases, I can relax for a bit. A very short bit. Then it’s back to work to fulfill my latest contractual obligations to Fries With That? which, I’m told, will finally premiere on YTV a month from now. Watch this space for times and air dates when we get closer to the big event.
Okay, I’m not sure where this rumor got started, but I’ve read Cold Mountain and I’m afraid Renée Zellweger’s character was not black. There is at least one character whose race was changed for the movie, though. In the book, the young girl that the preacher had knocked up was white, not black.
was the book better than the movie?
Well… yes, although I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed the movie a lot more if I hadn’t read the book. Many of the changes I agreed with, or were necessary for the translation to film; other changes seemed arbitrary, as though Minghella was just pissing to mark his territory. Many of my favorite scenes were rushed through or not there at all; some scenes that were retained no longer made sense because their context had been cut. Minghella has always played fast and loose with adaptations. This one is more faithful to the source than The English Patient or The Talented Mr. Ripley, but it missed the mark for me.
And here I was thinking that Shane’s “unconvincing black woman” comment was simply his extra twist of the knife on criticizing her over-acting. No, she wasn’t black, she was simply uneducated Appalachian as played by a Texan. As for “Cold Mountain”, the film, I thought it was alright in a “take the wife to the flicks” kind of way. The Jude and Nicole characters were too perfect to believe, but the epic love story set during the Civil War was a pleasant throwback to older films, like The English Patient was. My main problem was that it suffered in comparison to “O Brother Where Art Thou?” as both are a version of “Ulysses” set in the American south. I kept wishing George Clooney would jump out and pummel Jude Law for having stolen his pomade.