Sonic Cinema

Sounds, Visions and Insights by Brian Skutle

Snooch to the Nooch!

As usual, there’s not much of a lead-in here. Just read below to see my thoughts on last night’s Oscars. Hope you enjoy!

Viva La Resistance!

Brian Skutle

What Was Good:
1. The shame of an Oscar-less Marty is over. When I heard on Friday that Francis Ford Copolla, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg were presenting the Best Director Oscar, it was impossible not to think the Academy was hoping Scorsese- who stands with those three as an icon of their generation of filmmakers- would indeed get his first Oscar for his fresh and wickedly funny crime thriller. (Not that it matters, but what if he’d lost again?) And Marty seemed genuinely grateful to be up there, even though his speech at the Globes was much more engaging and felt more like him (though don’t get me wrong, his speech last night was good). As for whose shame was ended, it’s obvious to geeks that Oscar- not Scorsese (who cemented his status as a legend years ago)- would have more to live down if Marty had joined the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, Orson Welles, Robert Altman and so many others as non-winners of the Best Director Oscar (it’s funny how all of those guys were honored otherwise- Hitch and Altman with Honorary Oscars, Welles for Best Screenplay, and Kubrick for Best Visual Effects). Better late than never, I guess, and Oscar made amends fully by honoring the film as the best of 2006, which- you know- it really kind of is.

2. Maestro Ennio Morricone’s Honorary Oscar. A composer on over 400 films, Morricone would be a living legend even without an Oscar, with scores for films as diverse as “The Mission,” “The Good, the Bad & the Ugly,” “Lolita” (1997), “In the Line of Fire,” “The Battle of Algiers,” “Ripley’s Game,” “Once Upon a Time in the West,” “The Untouchables,” and “Bulworth.” But on a night where Hollywood seemed determined to make up for past sins, the five-time nominee- who, like Scorsese, had previously gone Oscar-less- was rewarded for his tremendous body of work with a much-deserved Honorary Oscar by “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” star Clint Eastwood, who translated Morricone’s Italian-spoken speech. As a fan of the composer’s work, a fan of film music in general, and a composer who has found much influence from Morricone in recent years, it’s impossible to question the choice.

3. “An Inconvenient Truth’s” pair of Oscars. Unfortunately, I have yet to see three of the other nominees in Best Documentary Feature, but as anyone who’s see Al Gore’s fascinating and frightening global warming doc will tell you, it really was the best of the bunch in a year where the medium went to even higher levels of relevance (I saw at least four that would’ve deserved the Golden Boy in 2006). And then to see Melissa Etheridge win Best Original Song for her end credits song “I Need to Wake Up” over three nominees for “Dreamgirls”- which I love, but none of the best songs from were original to the movie- was another feather in Oscar’s cap tonight, ’cause it was the best of the bunch. This year had some moments that just felt right; these were two of them.

4. Diversity Over Domination. The past few years since “Return of the King’s” clean sweep has seen Oscar move away from the total domination of one film over honoring many different- and many different types of- films. This year, the most honored film was Best Picture winner “The Departed” with four wins (of five nominations), though early Guillermo Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth” looked like a strong possibility to go home big with three wins in the technical department. All five Best Picture nominees won Oscars (and the fact that none of them emerged as a true front-runner speaks well of the field this year), with three more- “Pan’s,” “Truth,” and most-nominated “Dreamgirls”- with two or more. Well played, Oscar.

What Was Not-So-Good:
1. Ellen DeGeneres. I really like Ellen- she’s always been a funny comediane, and when given a role (“EdTV,” “Finding Nemo”), a really good actress. But though we missed a lot of her opening monologue, she didn’t really impress as host. She wasn’t bad, and some of the bits (handing a script to Marty, getting a pic with Clint) were kind of amusing, but she just doesn’t really have the type of personality that translates well with Oscar. And the show got longer again- tipping the four hour mark after last year’s brisk showmanship by Jon Stewart. Good try, though, Ellen- you did fair slightly better than Chris Rock, at least.

2. “Happy Feet” over “Cars.” Mind you, I’m like the only one of my friends who really loved John Lassetter’s latest effort for CG-animation powerhouse Pixar, and having seen all three Best Animated Feature nominees, I can tell you all three knocked your eyes out of your sockets visually, but “Cars” was the only one that seemed about something more than thrills and easy smirks (not a word Haynes…). The penguins just didn’t cut it for me- I liked it (the story’s kind of engaging), but gotta say, just didn’t really do anything for me emotionally. “Cars” did. In their tidbits about the winners as they walk up, the announcers quoted Scorsese, who’s said that “Departed” was the first film he’s made with a plot. I was kind of saddened to have to clarify that to my friends/fellow filmmakers (see Cinema Nouveau Productions on MySpace above) by saying that while “Departed” had a plot, he meant that his other films were about telling stories. There is a difference, folks; it’s a fine line, sometimes, but there is a line. “Happy Feet” had a plot; “Cars” told a story. For my money, it told the best one this year in that category.

3. That I didn’t see everything I could. It’s been an off year for me moviegoing already, with a lot of catching up from early on (I missed three nominees at least- “Venus,” “Half Nelson,” and Best Costume Design winner “Marie Antoinette”). There are many reasons (some good, some bad, some very ugly), most gratifying of which for me was the fact that I’ve been working on my own music and films, and it’s inspired me as an artist. While I’ve enjoyed writing about other people’s films and film music over the years (and I wish I had gotten to all the nominees/winners), my real passion is to create my own works for people to write about. Will I be on the Oscar stage anytime soon? Probably not, but I’m anxious to get to the point where that’s a possibility. It’s where my heart really lies. If my movie reviews get fewer over the years and my music and film production gets greater, I hope that you’ll stick with me for the transition; my passion isn’t going away- it’s just evolving into something, hopefully, more interesting for everyone involved.

4. The air of self-congratulation. Yeah, it’s always there at the Academy Awards, but it seemed to stink just a little stronger this year from the self-centered Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Gotta hand it to Oscar- it’s a very self-confident little bugger. To paraphrase one of the great movie lines of all-time, “I’ll have what it’s having.”

What Was Surprising:
1. Not much really. While I wouldn’t have gone with Alan Arkin for Best Supporting Actor (over Eddie Murphy for “Dreamgirls,” much less Mark Wahlberg for “Departed”), his win wasn’t that big of a surprise to long-time watchers, nor was it all that disagreeable- Arkin always brings his A-game to any movie he’s in (see “Wait Until Dark,” “Grosse Pointe Blank,” or Soderbergh’s segment of last year’s “Eros”), and “Little Miss Sunshine” is no different. That said, there weren’t a whole lot of real shocks to the system last night, though I would have liked to see “Children of Men” win Cinematography over “Pan’s Labyrinth,” “United 93” win Editing over “Departed,” and “The Good German” win Original Score over “Babel.” There were enough surprises to keep things kind of interesting, but in the end, it ended as it began- as one of the more obvious Oscar ceremonies in recent memory. Hope you enjoyed!

Oscar 2006 Final Winners List
Best Picture: “The Departed”
Best Director: Martin Scorsese, “The Departed”
Best Actor: Forest Whitaker, “The Last King of Scotland”
Best Actress: Helen Mirren, “The Queen”
Best Supporting Actor: Alan Arkin, “Little Miss Sunshine”
Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Hudson, “Dreamgirls”
Best Original Screenplay: Michael Arndt, “Little Miss Sunshine”
Best Adapted Screenplay: William Monahan, “The Departed”
Best Original Score: Gustavo Santaolalla, “Babel”
Best Original Song: “I Need to Wake Up” from “An Inconvenient Truth” (Melissa Etheridge)
Best Animated Feature: “Happy Feet”
Best Foreign Language Film: “The Lives of Others” (Germany)
Best Documentary Feature: “An Inconvenient Truth”
Best Visual Effects: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”
Best Sound Mixing: “Dreamgirls”
Best Sound Editing: “Letters From Iwo Jima”
Best Cinematography: “Pan’s Labyrinth”
Best Film Editing: “The Departed”
Best Art Direction: “Pan’s Labyrinth”
Best Makeup: “Pan’s Labyrinth”
Best Costume Design: “Marie Antoinette”
Best Short Film- Live Action: “West Bank Story”
Best Short Film- Animated: “The Danish Poet”
Best Documentary Short Subject: “The Blood of the Yingzhou District”
Honorary Oscar: Ennio Morricone (composer, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” “The Mission”)

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