What were they Thinking?

Two thoughts on the Academy Awards show Sunday night. It’s wonderful to see “The King’s Speech” honored, and Colin Firth was a “shoo-in” for Best Actor. But when you’re looking back on any actors entire body of work, it’s always nice to find some of the ones that got away.

Some films are simply not distributed or didn’t make it big as box office hits, but are worthy of attention if you enjoy movies. For Colin Firth, he will always be associated with “Pride and Prejudice” as THE Definitive Mr. Darcy.

However, he has been in some other note-worthy films. “Valmont” was an early film, and he also appeared in “The English Patient”. His comic style and timing was exceptionally displayed in both “Bridget Jones” films with Renee Zellwegger. And, of course, he hammed it up with Meryl Streep and others in “Mamma Mia” last year.

But one of the memorable performances was his portrayal of a Father who was an inventor in the coming of age movie, “My Life So Far.” These roles can really showcase the nuances, subtlety and range that an actor like Firth projects.

Some other note-worthy performances that are often missed are Russell Crowe’s early film, ‘The Sum of Us”. Based on a stage play, Crowe portrays a gay man but it’s his relationship with his father, with whom he lives, and the interaction between the two men that makes this film special.

Another great British actor, Clive Owen, is in a seldom seen movie adaptation of the play, “Bent”. He gives an extraordinary performance as a gay man in a German Concentration Camp during WW II. The range and nuance that is seen in Owen’s performance is something that he isn’t always allowed to display when he plays a tough guy role.

The under-appreciated films that these actors have starred in prior to their big break out roles can sometimes give you a better idea of why they have been nominated and are considered some of the best actors working in film today.

The second thought is on the Awards show itself. Why in the world did they hire Anne Hathaway and James Franco to host? They were in way over their heads, it was obvious from the start, and it turned out badly. But this is just one in a long line of disastrous hosting gigs that Oscar has presented in recent years.

David Letterman comes to mind, and there was the year that Snow White and Rob Lowe went into the audience to sing to Tom Hanks and Paul Newman. Jon Stewart did not fare well, and several comics bombed badly (Richard Pryor played a frozen, nervous man that didn’t translate well).

For a town that prides itself on “creativity and innovation”, sadly, the true corporate nature of the movie industry rears its ugly head when all is said and done. They want a winner, someone who can host like Bob Hope or Billy Crystal, and these types of entertainers don’t grow on trees. There are a select few who can do it year after year and it’s always hard to keep the material fresh. Stand up comedy should be followed by short routines and usually there are other comics and popular entertainers inserted in the mix.

But this year, it’s almost like all thoughts of entertainment were banned from the broadcast. Where was Ben Stiller or Jim Carrey? Or Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber? Where was Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt? Or George Clooney & Julia Roberts?

Older famous pairings like Robert De Niro with (almost anybody) would have been nice. Warren Beatty was sitting in the audience just applauding! He could have been on stage with Jack Nicholson. Elizabeth Taylor is gravely ill, therefore they could have recognized her body of work as a past recipient. But no, this would have been way too much for the lame milquetoast production that was just downright boring.

Sometimes it’s better to take chances and to fail then to just be so bland and boring that no one really cares what happens. That is the case here. They need some creative minds to “re-think” the Oscar broadcast.

Originally at the Oscars they sat at tables and had a dinner show. They should seriously think about having food served like a CineBistro. It might be more interesting to watch celebrities eating. Or turn it into a reality show with introspectives and montages, mixed with celebrities and comics who know how to entertain a room while the camera is rolling-LIVE! I would suggest almost anything would top the stale, dull, by rote type of pabulum that seems to flow from the spicket each year at Academy Awards time.

This is not brain surgery but it does require common sense. That is something that has been in short supply in so many of our major industries lately. The corporate mentality strikes again!

Published by

MLJ

Author of "6 Degrees of Film: The Future of Film in the Global Village", Ms. Johnson continues to blog on film and publishes a newsletter plus the Flipboard magazine 6 Degrees of Film @ the Movies. Her book is currently available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Degrees-Film-Future-Global-Village/

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