The Academy Awards 2006

The 2006 Academy Awards will go down in history as ‘The George Clooney Oscars’. And that’s not just because George managed to have himself nominated for just about every award. This year Hollywood outdid itself in recognising movies with a social conscience – racism, intolerance, homosexuality, freedom of speech, terrorism, transexuality – the ‘Best Picture’ nominations might have been picked by liberal-minded George himself.

Of course, all this liberal thinking wasn’t going to make the night any more enjoyable. I was expecting a dull evening, but I wasn’t prepared for an evening quite so dull. The sombre atmosphere might have had something to do with host, Jon Stewart, whose low-key approach to presenting the event verged on the soporific. The little-known (at least in Australia) New York comic had the charisma of a cardboard cutout, and his deadpan mock-serious delivery simply meant that no one knew when they were supposed to laugh (which wouldn’t have been a problem if his comments had been funny).

There were the usual uneven attempts at comedy – a montage of clips from Western movies that reflected on the genre’s ‘contribution’ to queer cinema; a truly awful ‘skit’ on how not to give an Academy Award acceptance speech; and Ben Stiller’s (actually quite funny) ‘special effects’ demonstration.

The funniest things were (as usual) the unintentionally funny – a freakish Dolly Parton performance, Charlize Theron’s dress (the bow on her shoulder was enormous, almost a second head), John Travolta’s haircut (Friar Tuck-meets-Ed Straker), and Keanu Reeves (not only can he not act, he cannot even not act – if you know what I mean).

There was an overdose of montages (in fact, Jon Stewart’s funniest line was ‘next we have Oscar’s salute to montages’) – film noir, epics, biographical movies – as well as a self-congratulatory look at ‘movies that mattered’.

Academy Award musical moments are, by default, always exceedingly awful. This year’s efforts were no exception. Apart from the aforementioned bizarre Dolly episode, there was a dire song from the movie Crash featuring slow-motion zombies and a burning car wreck, and a hideous rap effort ominously called It’s Hard Out Here For A Pimp. (The Pimp song won, although, admittedly, it didn’t have much competition.)

And the good things about this year’s Awards?

It was nice to see Phil Hoffman get recognition for his work in Capote. He’s been a solid performer in ‘indie’ movies (Happiness, Boogie Nights, Magnolia) for over 10 years, and if he was ever going to win an Oscar this was his chance.

Well done also to Nick Park, Ang Lee, Dion Beebe, Robert Altmann, Larry McMurtry, and Mr Clooney (of course).

Uma had the best frock. Naomi had the best hair. And Dolly had the most frightening cleavage.

And, of course, the biggest upset of the night was Crash winning Best Picture over Brokeback Mountain. This movie has been languishing on dvd rental shelves for over six months. It received solid, but unexceptional reviews, and was almost entirely forgotten until a couple of weeks ago when Oscar buzz about the movie’s chances started filtering into the media.

So why didn’t Brokeback win? According to friends and family, there are plenty of people out there who refuse to see the movie. It’s just too challenging. (And, apparently, there is a certain type of male who thinks that they will be ‘converted’ to homosexuality simply just by watching the movie.)

Could members of the Academy have suffered a similar attack of homophobia at the last minute, and opted for the less threatening alternative?

Maybe Hollywood is just not as enlightened as it thinks it is!


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