TV Review - The 84th Academy Awards Vs. The 2012 Spirit Awards

Jean Dujardin wins for
Best Actor at 2012 Oscars
Going into this year's Oscars telecast, there were many comments made about how to improve the show or make it better. If you need reminding, here was my review of last year's Oscars.

It was announced in the wake of last year's bad Oscar program that we were going to get Eddie Murphy as the host and Brett Ratner as the producer. I was interested in seeing Murphy take the reins but I was a little curious-slash-anxious about Ratner. My worries were confirmed when Ratner was fired from the Oscars for making an anti-gay slur as well as other derogatory comments.

Being that he's friends with Ratner, Murphy jumped ship, dashing my hopes of seeing another black man host. Chris Rock hosted years ago. The Academy got Brian Grazer to produce and Billy Crystal to host, which makes his ninth time in that role.

With Crystal, you understand why he's done it so many times. He's a great Oscar host, clearly one of the best ever. He's hilarious, a great singer, light on his feet, witty and charming, totally erasing my bad memory of last year.

I was wondering if Crystal would make reference to the whole Ratner-Murphy dust up, but Crystal was classy as always and left others to bandy it. Ricky Gervais touched on it at last month's Golden Globe Awards, but Gervais dropped the ball. It was better handled on the Spirit Awards, which took place the night before the Oscars.

Now, if you don't know what the Spirit Awards are, the Spirit Awards are basically the Oscars for independent films, only the show isn't as classy. It's held inside a tent in a parking lot at Santa Monica, which isn't that far from Hollywood and Highland. The dress is California Casual and there are a lot of f-bombs that are dropped. It's broadcast on IFC, which is subscription cable, so it's okay.

Seth Rogen (Knocked Up and Pineapple Express) hosted the Spirit Awards. It was his first time hosting an awards show and it was painfully evident. Yet, he did have some good jokes. Here is the full video clip of his opening monologue. His one good joke in particular took aim at the whole Ratner vs. the Oscars situation.

Rogen said, "I honestly bet though that Brett Ratner really wishes that he was organizing the Grammys because they seem much more forgiving than the Oscars. You say a few hateful things, they won't let you within a 100 yards of the Oscars. You could literally beat the shit out of a nominee, and they ask you to perform twice at the Grammys." If you saw this year's Grammys and Chris Brown's performance, you get that joke.

There are a lot of small, unknown films that the Spirit Awards recognize that go unnoticed by the Academy, really good films like Pariah and Take Shelter, but in the past few years there have been some overlap. This year, it came in the form of The Artist, The Descendants, Beginners and A Separation.

All four of those small films won in the same categories in the Spirit Awards as at the Oscars. Christopher Plummer who at the age of 82 became the oldest actor to win an Oscar for his performance in Beginners thought the Spirit Awards were about booze and pretty much gave the same acceptance at both shows. Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash who won for writing The Descendants mixed it up little but pretty much said the same things at both showstoo.

At the Spirit Awards, Asghar Farhadi who won for A Separation as the Best International Film talked about the importance of having supportive distributors. Yet, at the Oscars, Farhadi went on a rave about the perception and disposition toward his country of Iran. It wasn't the first time an Oscar winner has used the stage to make political statements, but I thought it was funny that at the Spirit Awards, Farhadi had a translator but at the Oscars he spoke English.

Jean Dujardin won for Best Actor and Michel Hazanavicius won for Best Director at both shows. Dujardin wasn't at the Spirit Awards. He was flying back from France's C├ęsar Awards. Obviously, Dujardin couldn't make a speech thn, but on the red carpet, Ryan Seacrest asked him if he would be the first French man to win an acting Oscar, and he was. For that, Dujardin screamed, "I love your country."

His acceptance speech was cut off after thanking Douglas Fairbanks, the late actor with whom he drew the most comparisons. Dujardin got a bit overly excited. The show quickly turned to Pharrell Williams performing on the side, upper balcony with an Asian violinist and Oscar-winner A.R. Rahman (Slumdog Millionaire) singing. It was an awkward transition, which made me wonder if Dujardin didn't perhaps do something inappropriate.

They didn't do anything inappropriate, but the winners of Best Documentary Feature said something inappropriate, and they were subsequently bleeped. Regardless, Undefeated is a great documentary about the Manassas Tigers of  Memphis and the only sports film of the night to win anything. Moneyball was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but it didn't win a single one. At least, it wasn't overlooked like Tom McCarthy's Win Win.

And, at least, Moneyball wasn't alone. Steven Spielberg's War Horse was also up for six Oscars and won zero. It was probably the biggest loser of the night. Two hours before the show started, Crystal prophetically tweeted, "Opening number changed. War Horse broke his leg, had to put him down."

The big winner conversely would have to be Martin Scorsese's Hugo. It went into this night with the most nominations, 11 total. It left with the most trophies, 5 in masse. All of the awards were for technical achievements. It won for Cinematography, which was predicted by many but still a bit of a surprise.

The real upset by Hugo came with its win for Best Visual Effects. It beat Rise of the Planet of the Apes, which was the frontrunner. According to Yahoo! Movies, the Hugo win here was the first time a motion capture performance lost.

The Artist was the second, most-winning film with four Oscars, including Best Picture. The Iron Lady was the third, most-winning with two Oscars, including Meryl Streep who is the most-nominated actor with 17 nominations. This marks Streep's third Oscar acceptance. She won Best Supporting Actress for Kramer Vs. Kramer (1979) and Best Actress for Sophie's Choice (1982).

Woody Allen who is the most-nominated writer and third, most-nominated individual with 23 total nods won his fourth Oscar for Midnight in Paris. Like Terrence Malik, Allen didn't bother showing up to accept his award, clearly the least emotional. Yet, the most emotional was Octavia Spencer who won Best Supporting Actress for The Help. Spencer got the first standing ovation of the night. She was in tears and so was I.

The only other moment to do that was the beautiful In Memoriam segment, which featured the recently deceased Whitney Houston. Jazz singer and Grammy-winner  Esperanza Spalding sang Louis Armstrong's classic "What a Wonderful World." The tribute also included a mention of Steve Jobs, the late founder of Apple Computer.

This drew immediate criticism on Twitter, as one commenter pointed out that Andy Whitfield who died last year was not mentioned. That commenter complained that Jobs had nothing to do with movies and that he only invented the iPad. As WBOC Sports Director Scott Abraham tweeted though, "Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Cars, or even Ratatouille would never have happened if it wasn't for Jobs buying Pixar in 1986!"

In Memoriam was the saddest point, but three hours before the show began, I tweeted, "Memo to the academy - in memoriam - please include kodak - rest in peace Celluloid." It was in regard to the fact that the Oscars are held every year at the Kodak Theatre, except Kodak filed for bankruptcy just a couple weeks prior and had to take its name off the building. I was happy when one of Crystal's first jokes was "Welcome to Chapter 11 Theatre." He made a couple more barbs at Kodak throughout the evening.

Crystal had great one-lineers all night long. His introduction to Michael Douglas was, "He occupied Wall Street before it was cool." Even when in the one time he stumbled, Crystal handled it the show very well. His opening song was well done. His "what-they're-thinking" bit was solid. Maybe it was me, but the chemistry between the presenters even felt better, certainly better than the chemistry or lack thereof with James Franco and Anne Hathaway last year.

The best chemistry was between the cast of Bridesmaids who presented the short film awards. Somehow, they managed to turn it into some great penis jokes. Rogen had some great comedy about the male anatomy at the Spirit Awards too. It got me thinking. The Spirit Awards has a category called Best International Film. Three of the movies nominated in this category are movies where everyone speaks English, so apparently it's not so international a category. Two of the nominees were Shame and Melancholia. George Clooney made a great joke about Michael Fassbender's nudity in Shame, specifically how huge his penis was. Fassbender's full frontal nudity made a ton of headlines, but no one talked about Kirsten Dunst's full frontal nudity in Melancholia.

In Shame, Fassbender walks past the camera completely naked but it's only for a few seconds. In Melancholia, Dunst lies under the moonlight completely naked but it's longer. She lies there for a minute or more. Yet, no one talked about Dunst's private parts, only Fassbender's. So, to all the actresses who are nervous about taking it all off in a movie, all you have to do is be naked in a movie the same year that Michael Fassbender is naked in a movie and you will be totally eclipsed by his large wang.

My last comment about the Spirit Awards is that I really loved Michelle Williams' speech. She also had a more interesting outfit at the Spirit Awards than at the Oscars. Her speech was about how she wore her own outfits and how she felt like a misfit until the Spirit Awards welcomed her.

Finally, I'll say that last year, I was really hoping that Banksy would do something to crash the Oscars, but I'm glad that Sacha Baron Cohen actually pulled it off. Cohen who's known for his character of Borat caused a little chaos when he threw ash all over Ryan Seacrest and the red carpet. It really shattered the superficial red carpet glitz and was just hilarious. I loved it.

Four Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-PG.
Running Time: 3 hrs. and 5 mins.


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