February 23, 2009 1:12 PM
Mike Pearson on the Academy Awards
Mark_Wolf How would you rate Hugh Jackman's performance as host? I thought the opening montage started a little shaky but was made sublime by Anne Hathaway as Nixon.
Mike_Pearson I'd give Hugh Jackman a B+. Not as big on humor as some past hosts (Billy Crystal, Whoopi Goldberg), but certaintly dapper in the manner of, say, Johnny Carson. Plus he can actually sing and dance.
Mark_Wolf I thought Frost/Nixon was the best-acted movie of the year, but that Slumdog Millionaire was the most engrossing. Why'd you favor The Curious Case of Benjamin Button for Best Picture?
Mike_Pearson I thought its epic scope was a strong point. Plus, no movie largely done in a foreign language (Hindi in the case of Slumdog) had ever won. Frost/Nixon was, in my opinion, too narrow in its appeal to have a big Oscar impact. I was right.
Mark_Wolf Mickey Rourke managed to steal the sentimental underdog status from Richard Jenkins' note-perfect performance in the little seen "The Visitor." How surprised were you that Rourke didn't get the Oscar?
Mike_Pearson I was pretty surprised. Hollywood likes a comeback story, and Rourke would qualify. He won the Golden Globe and Saturday's Independent Spirit Award. That said, Sean Penn has gone from being a Hollywood bad boy to a golden boy. Plus, he really did shine in Milk.
Mark_Wolf Hard to begrudge Kate Winslet's win for The Reader but I was pulling for Anne Hathaway's career-changer in Rachel Getting Married. Seen it?
Mike_Pearson I haven't seen Rachel Getting married. I'm told it's great. I think Winslett got one of those "career" Oscars after five also-rans. Plus, voters just didn't want to give Streep another award, especially for playing a character who was such a %%%%%.
Mark_Wolf Not that Winslet's character was very loveable either.
Mike_Pearson Point taken. Nor, for that matter, was Penelope Cruz's character in Vicky Cristina Barcelona a charmer.
Mark_Wolf Speaking of Best Actress nominations, Melissa Leo is the only one who still shows up fairly regularly on episodic TV. She'll snag a Law & Order or some other procedural about once a year. Of course that might change with her nomination. Checked on IMDB and she has SEVEN movies coming out this year.
Mike_Pearson I haven't seen Frozen River, but it's in video stores now. It would have been a hoot had she won, but I'm not sure that many voters actually saw her performance. Plus, this days a lot of established actress (Holly Hunter, Glen Close et. al.) are finding a second life on TV.
Mark_Wolf Surprised that Penelope Cruz won for Best Supporting Actress in a great field? Do you think Viola Davis was hurt by only being in one scene - albeit a great scene - in Doubt?
Mark_Wolf Welcome ekklesia. What did you think of the Oscars winners and losers?
Mike_Pearson I was really pulling Viola or Taraji Henson. I was indeed surprised by Penelope's win. My buddy Michael Chartier is a big fan of hers, and as recently as Saturday night he kept insisting that Penelope would win. I'll say this for best supporting actress: Every one of those nominees was good enough to win, including Amy Adams in Doubt. I was kind of hoping for a five-way tie.
Mark_Wolf You made the right pick for best animated feature (Wall-E), even though you liked Kung Fu Panda better?
Mike_Pearson I still think Panda should have won, but Pixar (Wall-E) has more political clout. Plus, Wall-E appealed to more adulyt demographic. I guarantee if kids were voting for the awards, Kung Fu Panda woud've won. I was at a friend's birthday party a few weeks ago and there were a half dozen kids under the age of six glued to the TV watching Panda. It was like they were on crack.
Mark_Wolf We have a disagreement. I thought the format of having previous acting winners present the awards in their categories was a graceful touch. The nominees were moved, some to the edge of tears. You thought it was a waste of time?
Mike_Pearson I did, but I've gotten several e-mails this morning from readers telling me what an idiot I am. To be honest, I thought it worked well the first time. By thje fourth time I was over it. Plus, Sophia Loren looked like they'd wheeled her out of an exhibit at Madam Tussaud's.
Mark_Wolf One more disagreement. I thought Sophia Loren looked fabulous.
Mike_Pearson She did look fabulous. Pity she had trouble with the teleprompter.
Mark_Wolf Agree with you about the montage preceding the Best Picture nominations. Guess they were going for a cinema-is-timeless motif but it didn't make a lot of sense.
Mike_Pearson No, it didn't. It was a case of the producers trying to be too creative for their own good. What did you think of the periodic look backs at the year, like Animation 2008 and Romance 2008?
Mark_Wolf I liked having Queen Latifah sing I'll Be Seeing You over the montage of those who died last year but I thought the direction of the sequence made it hard to see many of the honorees, who were presented in small areas of the screen.
Mike_Pearson I agree. You had to strain to read the name of some of the dead if you didn't recognize their picture.
Mike_Pearson What did you think of Ben Stiller?
Mark_Wolf Thought he came close to stealing the show with his "homage" to Joaquin Phoenix.
Mike_Pearson Indeed. Audience reaction was mixed. I thought it took a lot of nerve for Stiller to do that skit, and he pulled it off.
Mark_Wolf Why do you think Bruce Springsteen's song for The Wrestler didn't even get a nomination after winning the Golden Globe?
Mike_Pearson Probably a case of Springsteen overload. Plus, in my humble opinion, it's not a great song. Nor, for that matter, was Peter Gabriel's Down to Earth and it did get nominated.
Mark_Wolf Related note: With only three nominated songs, why not present them in their entirety instead of a montage?
Mike_Pearson Probably because past experience has shown that best song performances can bring the show to a screetching halt. I'd have been habby just seeing an expanded Bollywood production of the Slumdog songs. Loved all those Taiko drummers.
Mark_Wolf I thought tightrope walker Philippe Petit wasn't going to be allowed onstage if Man on a Wire won. Thank heavens he was. Where else are you going to see a magic trick and a man balancing the Oscar on his chin?
Mike_Pearson I'm glad Man on Wire won. Now the French have something to sustain them for another year.
Mike_Pearson Sean Penn's win mildly restores my faith in the academy after the debacle with Brokeback Mountain two years ago.
Mark_Wolf Agreed. And my nomination for best line of the night was Robert DeNiro on Sean Penn: How, for so many years, did Sean Penn get all those jobs playing straight men?
Mike_Pearson Who knew DeNiro could be son funny?
Mark_Wolf Just checked out Mickey Rourke's next role: The Informers described as a multi-strand narrative set in 1980s Hollywood. The cast: Billy Bob Thornton, Kim Basinger, Rourke and Winona Ryder.
Mike_Pearson Nothing says box office magic like Winona Ryder.
Mark_Wolf Was this the first time ever that the orchestra didn't begin to play when a speech went into overtime?
Mike_Pearson I think so, but I thought I heard the orchestra interupt at least one acceptance speech. Maybe it was a car horn from the parking lot.
Mark_Wolf Jerry Lewis gave a moving, dignified speech after winning the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. Think some Oscar folks were nervous when he approached the podium?
Mike_Pearson Yes. They probably expected him to pull out a prop gun. Actually, I've never seen Lewis that restrained.
Mike_Pearson Another surprise of the night: I thought Waltz With Bashir would win the documentary short award. Instead, it went to Japan.
Mark_Wolf For the record, Lewis should've won an Oscar for his performance in The Nutty Professor back in 1964.
Mike_Pearson If you say so. I was a mere toddler back in '64.
Mike_Pearson What did you think of Will Smith, the most bankable star in Hollywood these days, giving our four technical awards?
Tom Good post-Oscar morning.
Mark_Wolf Sometimes it's your year, sometimes now. Best spin is that the technical folks deserved a big star to present their awards.
Mark_Wolf Good morning Tom. What'd you think of the Oscars?
Mike_Pearson Good morning.
Tom Not too many surprises. The surprises that did happen made me happy.
Mike_Pearson Like what, Tom?
Tom Penelope Cruz in VCB. Yay! And Sean Penn. YAY!
Mike_Pearson I kind of wish Gus Van Sant had won for Milk.
Tom When SM took Cinematography, I knew the evening would belong to them.
Tom Me, too, on Gus.
Mark_Wolf In retrospect, Penn shouldn't have been that much of a surprise. His performance was universally praised when Milk opened. Think the only thing that brought his victory into question was when Mickey Rourke broke through.
Tom Right. But I sensed Rourke would win.
Mike_Pearson Slumdog won 8 of the 10 awards i was nominated for. Quite an impressive feat. The Oscars should add another $50 million to its box-office take.
Tom I loved Dustin Lance Black's speech upon his screenplay win as well.
Mike_Pearson They say it's an honor just to be nominated. Think Mikey fee;s that way today?
Mark_Wolf Very moving. And Penn's "commie-loving" line brought the house down.
Mike_Pearson Ditto on Dustin Lance Black. He made his point about gay rights without being strident.
Tom I hope so. I haven't seen The Wrestler yet but you have to do more than make a personal comeback to win an Oscar, or at least that's the way it should be.
Mike_Pearson Lets hope Mickey's loss doesn't send him into a tailspin of booze and drugs. Then again, if he stages another comeback in 2019, maybe he'll win an Oscar.
Mark_Wolf Rourke might have pulled it off if The Wrestler had been better than a B- movie.
Tom That's what I heard.
Tom I'll see it for sure, but I just wasn't motivated to go to the theater.
Mark_Wolf Weren't we all hoping for a split-screen shot of Brangelina while Jennifer Aniston was presenting?
Tom LOL. Would have made a good YouTube clip.
Tom I'm not a big Ben Stiller fan, but I loved his Joaquin Phoenix take.
Mike_Pearson I was just hoping for a shot of Angela Lansbury. Shows you where my head is at.
Mark_Wolf Stiller was brilliant, and ultimately restrained enough and didn't go over the top. I'm guessing David Letterman was doubled over with laughter.
Tom I hope so. He's one of the few late night hosts who can deal with wigged-out guests so well.
Mark_Wolf Mike, seeing as you're known as Mr. Fashion Statement here in the newsroom, whose couture impressed you on the Red Carpet?
Mike_Pearson The Red Carpe is my time for pre-Oscar binge drinking, so I only caught some of the fashions. I liked Viola Davis' golde dress, Beyonce's mermaid gown and Kate Winslet. I was a bit distressed by Queen Latifah's outfit. She looked like a big, blue refrigerator box.
Mark_Wolf I've seen tires on NASCAR vehicles that weren't as full as Lisa Rinna's lips.
Mark_Wolf Maybe it's my age but when I was Beyonce's mermaid gown I couldn't stop thinking "Bette Midler."
Tom LOL. Me, too!
Tom Mermaids in wheelchairs!
Mike_Pearson It's definitely your age. Pity Bette wasn't there as a presenter. She would've added a dash of spice.
Mark_Wolf If I was giving a Red Carpet best-of-show I'd vote for Viola Davis's gown, the perfect blend of style and sexy.
Mike_Pearson One of the editors told me this morning (re: fashion): I miss the days of Cher. Indeed. You never knew if she was going to show up half naked or half baked.
Tom I loved Queen Latifah's rendition of "I'll Be Seeing You". Really nice accompaniment to the annual "In Memoriam".
Mark_Wolf One last Bette Midler reference: I saw her in concern at Red Rocks back in the early 1970s. She burped and blamed "having a Big Mac at altitude." Opening act was some kid named Barry Manilow.
Mike_Pearson Yes, Tom, but the camera couldn't decide if it was going to focus on Queen or on the deceased.
Tom ...who originally opened for her at the Continental BAths in NYC.
Mark_Wolf Tom, Mike and I talked about the Queen Latifah song. Both liked it but thought the production obscured some of the honorees.
Tom True, Mike. I just liked her rendition instead of the canned soapy music they use most years.
Mark_Wolf Did think the Slumdog winner jumping up like Tigger was a disconcerting moment.
Mike_Pearson Maybe next year they can do a song-and-dance tribute to the dead.
Tom And, at the risk of raining on the Slumdog parade, I thought the film was overrated for Best Picture.
Mark_Wolf Almost felt sorry for Bill Maher having to follow the Ledger family's touching acceptance of Heath's Oscar.
Mike_Pearson It didn't keep Maher from shilling Religilous, did it?
Tom Of course not. Coming to DVD soon!
Mark_Wolf Tom, I'm going to stand up for Slumdog. I thought it was by far the most original and engrossing movie of the year.
Mark_Wolf The movie freak in my family said he didn't remember blinking all the way through it.
Mark_Wolf jWelcome snowdog071. What did you think of the Oscars?
Mike_Pearson Sounds like some kind of genetic defect, Mark.
snowdog071 I saw bits and pieces of it.
Tom *Sigh* I just don't think it was a "great" a film as either Benjamin Button or Milk.
snowdog071 I liked the tribute to jerry lewis
Tom Made me sad; I'm a Lewis fan from WAY back and he seemed more feeble than I've ever seen him.
Mark_Wolf Agreed. Should've won a regular Oscar in 1964 for The Nutty Professor.
snowdog071 lol without him there would be no Jim Carrey
Tom A mixed blessing.
snowdog071 has anyone here seen the wrestler?
Mark_Wolf There was some pre-Oscar talk that Lewis didn't deserve the award because of some anti-gay slurs he'd dropped in the recent past.
Tom I just caught Jim Carrey in an old Dirty Harry movie...unknown and gets offed in the first scene.
snowdog071 oh yeah, when he was doing his axl rose bit
Tom As a gay film fan (and Lewis fan), I chalk it up to a generational thing.
Mike_Pearson They gave Lewis the award because they're afraid he'll die soon and they didn't want to have to make it posthumous. My guess is they'll never let him set foot int he Koday Theatre again after Sunday.
Mark_Wolf That was The Dead Pool. Carrey also played a Jerry Lewis impersonator on the sadly overlooked NBC series Buffalo Bill back in 1984.
Tom Well, peace be with him. Yes, The Dead Pool...that's it.
Mark_Wolf Agree with Tom about Lewis' slurs. He's from that generation that still thinks gay jokes are a hoot.
Mark_Wolf And wasn't DeNiro's line about Penn "getting all those roles playing straight men" the line of the night?
Tom We can forgive the clueless. I don't think it's maliciously intended.
Tom Yes, DeNiro's line was great. You could see Penn really enjoyed it as well.
Tom I loved the device of having past acting winners pay tribute to current nominees before announcing the winner. It seemed really heartfelt and "real".
Mark_Wolf Thanks for that note Tom. Mike and I disagree. I loved it, he didn't.
Mike_Pearson I wasn't too keen on that, Tom, especially by the fourth time.
Mark_Wolf I thought Anne Hathaway was going to dissolve in a pool of tears.
Tom It engendered a sense of "community" and their remarks were obviously appreciated by the nominees. I love real emotion like that.
Mark_Wolf By the way, if you haven't seen Rachel's Getting Married, catch it in re-release on on DVD. Maybe the most overlooked film of the year.
Mike_Pearson Speaking of tears, there weren't as many was I expected during the acceptance speeches.
Tom No Halle Berry moments.
Mike_Pearson Maybe global warming has dried them all up.
Mark_Wolf Think the Ledger family supplied most of the tears for the night.
Tom Kate Winslet came close.
Mark_Wolf Is she the next Meryl Streep in terms of being a perpetual nominee?
Mike_Pearson I'm not sure she has the same range as Meryl. I could be wrong,
Mark_Wolf That's true. She's about a dozen accents behind.
Tom And I'll step up to defend Meryl. She is too often pegged as an "accent" actress. She's much better than that and, in my opinion, has deserved every nomination she's received.
Mark_Wolf In terms of followups, I'm always curious to see if actors such as Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson get big career bumps from their nominations.
Tom I loved Winslet in The Reader, but I would have been perfectly happy if Streep had (finally) won a 3rd Oscar for Doubt.
Mike_Pearson I think they'll do well. I'll be majorly disappointed if they show up in something like Snow Dogs 4
Mark_Wolf Streep's like the No. 3 hitter in a baseball lineup. Hits for power, hits for average, always delivers in the clutch.
Tom I really think posterity will judge her the greatest film actress of all time (probably right behind K. Hepburn).
Mark_Wolf Mentioned earlier that Melissa Leo seems to have no trouble finding work. She has SEVEN movies coming out in 2009.
Tom If she can deliver SO well in "Mamma Mia" AND "Doubt" in the same year, I kinda rest my case.
Mark_Wolf She began as a musical theater student in college. There's a real rarity out there of her as Alice in a musical version of Alice in Wonderland that aired on NBC back in the 1980s. If memory serves it was the lowest-rated prime time show of the season - but she was terrific.
Tom I first saw her in The Deer Hunter and was wowed back in 78.
Mark_Wolf Last thoughts? We're at the hour. Thanks to Mike Pearson and the excellent input from our participants. And go see Rachel's Getting Married!
Mike_Pearson Thanks guys. It's been fun. Long live Meryl Streep!