Pauls Valley, OK, Pauls Valley Democrat

February 28, 2013

‘85th Academy Awards’ a winner before first envelope

Review of Oscars program

Ezra Mann
Pauls Valley Democrat — Without hesitation, I can say I have never really placed much excitement in watching any presentation of the Academy Awards.

Much of my feelings toward those who are chosen to vote in movies deserving Oscars has been levied with quite a bit of cynicism due to a system that more often than not bestows through a relic-laden criteria instead of truly honoring groundbreaking projects with substance. Now, I have enjoyed the occasional intro by previous hosts such as Steve Martin or Billy Crystal and found occasions where winners seemed well thought out, but for the most part found it just as prudent to ignore the three hour snooze fest, rarely watching more than a channel flick back and forth, and just look up the awards later.

However, for the first time since I openly admitted my addiction to film magic, I found a perfect storm of anticipation and enjoyment with what in many ways should set the standard for the future of broadcasts. It was without a doubt one of the most hilarious and amusingly clever deliveries by Seth MacFarlane, helped by a class of nominations that must have been one of the difficult to choose between and something I could not help but stay tuned to despite how late it was when it was over.

Despite all the low brow jokes and the zingers that could have been written during a third grader’s bathroom break, it gave me a reason to get hooked right away. The important thing is that it felt fresh, alive and not like something written to help put a retirement community to sleep.

While I was not able to watch each and every one of the nine movies chosen for the ultimate prize, out of the six I was able to catch in theaters, only “Zero Dark Thirty” seemed one I might have skipped over, if only because the supporting cast seemed disposable next to Jessica Chastain. In fact, she so well carried the flick, it kind of threw me for a loop when she lost to Jennifer Lawrence, since she was in a comedy (Silver Linings Playbook, which I have yet to see), a genre historically snubbed by the snobs.

It was basically a year where so many movies felt like instant winners and were hard to separate in rank as each month seemed to at least have one candidate. Yet, I tip my hat to “Argo,” which was just as worthy as my top two, “Les Miserables” and “Lincoln” and in a way perfect justice for Ben Affleck, who arguably was 2012’s best director.

I also will offer a salute to “Life of Pi” for best score, which was the only contender in my mind really was worthy of beating John Williams, who could record blowing his nose and turn it into instant musical genius. Even best director was not a slap in the face with it going to Ang Lee, though I was in many ways convinced Spielberg had brought forward some of the best material if his career.

Though it would have been nice to see best supporting actor go to Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens for the best burns in congress ever, it’s hard to argue against the chemistry Christoph Waltz brought to “Django Unchained” as Dr. King Schultz and it was only reinforced when the same film earned best writing original script.

Perhaps just as hard to choose from was the animated feature field, all of which I was able to see in one place or another. I actually had the winner, “Brave,” pegged as the weakest entry, with my favorites leaning toward “ParaNorman” or even “Wreck it Ralph,” but breaking Pixar’s pedigree seems to still be a challenge even as other studios catch up in every way.

The no brainers were of course Daniel Day-Lewis, who convinced me he was our former president and Anne Hathaway, who brought a whole new level to the character Fantine. “Skyfall” also made up some ground by earning best song and was complimented by an awesome delivery of Goldfinger live.

In the end, it’s a shame MacFarlane seems satisfied not hosting again, though I hope it changes things for the better in the long run. I like this making the whole effort an entertaining experience, heck maybe things will really get turned upside down before too much longer when the superheroes get some much deserved gold man honor.