One of the earliest glimmers-of-an-idea for what became Confabulations sparked after last year’s Oscars, when I had a few/many things I wanted to say about that boobs number. I didn’t want to compose yet another think-piece. I just wanted to bounce some ideas off someone, in a semi-public forum. But there was no Confabulations series, and I had no idea where to do that. So, this year, I thought I’d be proactive and reach out to a fellow Oscarphile and see if they might want to watch this year’s telecast with an eye to monitoring it for worthy topics for a morning-after-conversation. I was thus delighted when Aaron C. Thomas of Tea to Pour (and late of Sarcasm with a Light Cream Sauce) signed on for the task. A rising theater scholar, dramaturg and all-round bon vivant, Aaron is someone I first came to know as a smackdowner in the old StinkyLulu days. In short, the perfect co-confabulator with whom to discuss any and all shocking, appalling and fascinating irruptions at this year’s Oscars. Thus, as this year’s show began, I texted Aaron in anticipation of the evening’s excitement.
BRIAN HERRERA: How’s the Oscar hangover?
AARON C. THOMAS: I was a little sick this morning. Perhaps it’s Jared Leto’s fault.
The more I’ve been thinking about last night’s awards, the more boring they’ve gotten in my memory. This show was just so supremely conservative. The only entertainment was a performance of the 75-year old “Over the Rainbow”, and even that was sorely lacking in backup interpretive dance. Where was the “show”?
I kept looking for it.
One of the folks at my party offered that the awards show was sort of classless and I immediately disagreed. This was a very classy awards show, in the sense that everyone was nice to one another. No one took digs at any of the performers. The whole thing was very respectful, and the show managed to get through without hurting anyone’s feelings.
Except maybe Liza’s.
But I’m intrigued by your “classy” assessment. This year’s ceremony was just so so so genteel. Sort of like a really nice, really expensive, really long wedding. I oohed at a few lovely moments, winced at many awkward ones. But mostly I was bored, and found myself distracting myself by reflecting on this ceremony as it compared to those in my memory (or others in my imagination). Pretty much what I always do at weddings. Which reminded me that Oscars are indeed a ceremony, a rite, a ritual… For better and worse.
By classless, I think my friend meant that there weren’t enough old-school Oscar honorees. There was Kim Novak and Judy’s kids and Sidney Poitier, but no big sweeping memorial of, say, 1939 as a whole (which might have been really cool) or of other elderly movie stars.
Along those lines, perhaps, I will say that the one moment I found most moving was watching Angeline Jolie and Sidney Poitier work together on stage to announce Best Director.
Jolie was so attentive to Poitier’s comfort and his ease, and she seemed intent upon doing everything she could to make sure that Poitier came off well. (In retrospect, I realized that’s what they were trying to have happen with McConaughey and Novak, but Kim and Matthew are both bit kookachoo, so I’m not sure that bit would have ever been anything but just weird.)
I think Kim Novak’s presence was one of the most interesting things that happened last night. The year The Artist won, Novak took out a full page ad in Variety featuring the text “I want to report a rape. I feel as if my body – or, at least my body of work – has been violated by the movie, The Artist.” Novak was taking issue with the composer Ludovic Bource, whose score for The Artist quotes from Bernard Hermann’s score for 1958’s Vertigo. This was a really odd public thing to do, and it was intended, apparently, to convince voters not to vote for Bource’s score (which incidentally won). So her appearance seemed like an odd way for the Academy to apologize? Or acknowledge her contribution to film history? Crazy.
Watching, I felt like Kim Novak was one of those aunties at the wedding, one of the ones you have to explain to newcomers. “Oh, honey, that’s just Tia Kim. A real looker in her day. Everybody thinks she’s tough, but life’s really put her through the wringer. She doesn’t always get invited to these things and when she does — well, there are stories. It’s always nice to see her, though”
My philosophy on the Oscars is simply to go with it. They are what they are: a big ol’ mess, misguided, with taste that differs widely from my own. But it is rather like having a friend whose taste differs from mine. I am happy when we agree, but don’t care that much if we don’t.
Your friendship metaphor is spot on. The Oscars are indeed like a friend I adore, but don’t always get along with. And this year, I found myself getting really co-dependent with my pal Oscar around whether or not Lupita would win. Not because I know Lupita. (I mean, I do know her cousin, which just feels like such a weird middle-school thing to even say — but, yeah, I KNOW HER COUSIN!!!) But as each minute ticked by (Oscar did take his sweet time getting to Supporting Actress this year) I could feel my anxiety mounting. I was truly concerned that some of my friends might just go over the edge were Lupita not to win. So I was just so so so relieved when her name was read. Which is just weird. Why does the Oscar stir my co-dependence so?
You are right about caring a lot about who wins. Sometimes it just takes over. This year’s Oscars was all about Lupita’s win and I was really really happy she won. But, Brian, I jumped up and down when Her won screenplay.
I hear you. There was something thrillingly, transcendently personal for me watching Lupita’s star being born this year. At every turn of that Hollywood screw — all those red carpets, all that chatshow inanity, all that comes in being tagged “it girl” — Lupita not only defied but far exceeded expectations. And as if to cap it all (with a tiara, natch), she gives an instantly legendary speech? Thereby securing her presence on Oscar clip reels probably forever? ‘Twas indeed a wonder to watch. And I felt like hers was a triumph I shared in somehow.
This is totally just like rooting for a football team. One is powerless to help one’s favorites. One sits on the sofa and watches and hopes. And then, all of a sudden, one’s favorite is winning. It’s a great feeling… sort of as though I actually had something to do with it. I like thinking of it as an awards “season” too. I call it “movie season”.
That makes total sense to me. And might explain why have such weirdly tribal family-reunion feelings about the Oscars.
The Oscars are a kind of top-ten list — really just a snapshot of any given year – recording the interests of Hollywood at the moment.
This isn’t about us, the movie-going public. It’s about the temperature of Hollywood. This is why people talk about it being someone’s “time” to win. This is what I like about it, though. It is a window into how the people over there in la-la land are thinking. What the buzz is. What they’re talking about. Who is hip. And who we’re going to see in movies for the next couple of years. But what we’re really saying when we get mad about this sort of thing is that we want to see the things we liked get honored for the things we liked about them.
I’m always perplexed by those who “hate watch” the Oscars. But this year I was startled to realize I sorta like to “hate-read” more than my fair share of those “Worst Oscars EVER” posts/rants/think-pieces that have become de riguer in the social-media era. I’m morbidly fascinated by how so many of the the post-show Oscar-hate pieces read like MadLibs. “The [name of host] was so not funny. Insulting [name of legendary/old/wobbly Oscar winner] like that?” “Oh, yeah, and all those stupid actors should learn how to read from a teleprompter, but winners shouldn’t read from notes, and giving a too-obviously memorized acceptance is tacky, but really shouldn’t you have prepared something?”
Most of the Oscar-hating comments boil down to: “does anyone still think this is important?” Or “How could anyone care about something so trivial?” This kind of criticism is silly. I don’t see why “football season” or “baseball season” is any less silly than “movie season” or (for that matter) “primary season.” And the host always gets it. I always loved Whoopi as the host. I want her to host every year.
Maybe she’ll draw the short straw again next year.
I’ll definitely be watching next year. But not just the Oscars. Or Oscar season. The stars are the movies themselves. To my mind, a good movie is its own reward. My favorite films this year were The Great Beauty, Blue Is the Warmest Color, Gravity, Her, and Museum Hours. Does it really matter if the Academy agrees with me?
I guess we’ll just have to ask Adele Dazeem…
In the Confabulations series, I instigate a virtual “public conversation” about a “live event” that some interesting person and I both happened to experience. To inspire a Confabulation, a “live event” might be a telecast, a livestreamed webcast, or one of those “live in HD” things at your local cineplex. Or it might be an actual “live” festival, concert, stageshow or somesuch. As a general rule, though, my confab partner and I will not have been in the same spot (day/time/place/row/etc) at the time of the “live event” and thus our ostensibly shared experience of the event will always be at some remove. Also, given my tastes, I suspect that very few Confabulation-worthy events will be what you might call “highbrow. And if you have a suggestion for a future Confabulation (or would like to participate as a co-confabulator), just contact me.