In which Lindsay and James talk Oscars and end with an earnest plea: “Let’s never speak of this night again.”
James: Lindsay! Wake up! The Oscars are over! I think you dozed off sometime after the third Melissa Leo “fuck” joke!
Lindsay: ACK, sorry James, I’m just now rousing myself from a daze induced by this year’s painfully dull telecast. Or by those brownies that James Franco dropped off at my house before the show. Either way! Well, I hardly have to ask, but how are you feeling about the show now that we’ve had a full day to reflect?
James: I feel a feeling that I haven’t felt since the anxiety nightmares I suffered during my middle school production of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, except if my sweet and shy friend who didn’t even make the chorus was Gwenyth Paltrow, and everything gay was edited out.
It’s also similar because of all the agonizing over getting young people to come out and appreciate the performance when really we should have just focused on getting our moms to enjoy it.
Lindsay: Apt. Which I think speaks to what I saw as the night’s main theme: the harder the Oscars tried to cater to any “niche”-demographic-that’s-not-really-a-niche-demographic (young people! or women! or, to quote Anne Hathaway, “LESBIANSSSSS”!) the more they ended up looking painfully out of touch with said demographic. We can parse all of this from a feminist perspective in a moment, but first: did you also find yourself wishing midway through the show that Anne Hathaway and James Franco would magically morph into Sandra Bullock and Robert Downey Jr.? Could one of those Inception effects specialists have pulled off that kind of wizardry? Or perhaps Charlie Sheen? I hear he’s a warlock!
James: Do you have a subscription to MY MIND!?
All I was thinking while Sandy did her little Actor in a Leading Role banter was, “This would be the perfect opportunity for her to redeem herself for winning an Oscar she didn’t deserve for playing a condescending comparatively uncomplicated overprivileged white woman.” And RDJ2 with the navy suit and white on white tie/shirt combo, I was into it.
Lindsay: In a Better World, as they say.
James: I will say this of the hosting though, I fear more about the generalizations that will now be surmised about our generation from the hosts’ performances than I fear for the effect on the hosts’ careers themselves, you follow me?
Lindsay: I do. As if the Kirk Douglas set needed more fodder for their assumptions about Facebook turning our brains into oatmeal, I’m afraid that we young folk will be answering for Hathaway and Franco’s universally acknowledged faceplant for some time to come. Which leads me to bring up — as there’s no avoiding it – Franco. Is it just me, or do you find nothing at all challenging or subversive about his “performance art,” if we must call it that? And do you think the fallout from this show (and his bizarrely benign crossdressing moment) is going to finally make people stop trying to talk about him on such a conceptual level?
James: The thing is I don’t know that people really do talk about him on such a conceptual level, however, he’s more associated with that conceptual level. I mean, I was a very big fan, but recently, and I won’t pretend Sunday didn’t have a large part to do with it, I’ve become a bit tired of his high-brow attention-whore antics. Journalists like to draw attention to how, “He does it all!” But the bottom line is he does it all with a resounding mediocrity at best. He’s just hot and good at branding himself as playfully intellectual without having to do anything of substance to back up the laurels he rests on. (Though let it be known that he is really fucking hot.)
Lindsay: No one’s denying. But the reason I brought up the whole Boy Who Cried Performance Art thing is that I can imagine James Franco taking out a couple of Glamour Shots-esque “Consider” ads in Variety and everyone seeing it as some brilliant commentary on modern celebrity. But then Melissa Leo does these (admittedly totally, gloriously wacky) ads and the world is thrown for a loop. Am I wrong to smell a little gender bias here?
James: It could be that, though I’m not sure as to how much of the hoopla surrounding those ads was actually from the Academy’s reaction and how much was the media creating that reaction to heighten drama and build a narrative in a year where all of the major categories were so anticlimactic. This year, in particular, I’ve felt like I’d like the Oscars so much more if I didn’t read anything about them before. And that may seem obvious, but this illusion of a horse race driven by the media is exhausting and cheapening of the whole process.
But what I will say is between her fur-clad “Consider” ads and her Maleficent costume sprayed in gold paint and covered in doilies, Melissa Leo is America’s newest fashion it-girl!
Lindsay: Or its greatest performance artist. Melissa Leo is Banksy?
James: That would be something!
Lindsay: Well, before further grievances, let’s count the night’s small blessings. For only the third time in history, Best Foreign Language Film went to a female-directed movie: Susanne Bier’s In a Better World. (Though: in due recognition of literally the one and only subversive Oscar nomination this year, Team Dogtooth!) Also one of the producers of Inside Job was a woman. And Lora Hirschberg won for Sound Mixing, an historically male-dominated category. And, um. A woman who won an Oscar for playing a transperson shared the stage with a woman who won an Oscar for directing last year. The Oscars are really progressive, yeah?
James: Progressively irritating. It felt so clear that Hilary Swank’s grandiose introduction of Kathryn Bigelow was an extension of the pat-on-the-back the Academy is giving itself for honoring a woman with the Best Director Oscar, an extension of that unwarranted self-satisfaction and a distraction from their return to the status quo. Which, I feel it appropriate to say, is also what they were doing in having Halle Berry do the extension of the In Memoriam to Lena Horne, congratulate themselves by honoring a woman of color in film while distracting us from pointing out they honored ZERO PEOPLE OF COLOR THIS YEAR.
But, as you said, small blessings. Though it was truly devastating to watch the mesmerizing Annette Bening lose for a fourth time, I am very hopeful for the good things Portman’s new focus on production will bring to women. Between her speech at the Spirit Awards Saturday night and what she’s said in recent media profiles, I’m excited for what opportunities she will bring as a highly respected and intelligent woman in show business aware of the industry’s sexist infrastructure and interested in and proactive about working through that.
Lindsay: And I was pleased to see the Times remind us of the oft-forgotten fact that Natalie Portman can not only blind us with Rodarte, but also with SCIENCE. And I agree with you and Melissa Silverstein in noting that these overt acknowledgements of both Horne-by-way-of-Berry and Bigelow came off, in typical Oscar fashion, as weirdly self-congratulatory and only heightened the absence of black people and women in the winner’s circle. The Bigelow moment was particularly ironic, coming as it did right before the acknowledgement of this year’s five (white, male) Best Director nominees, and winner Tom Hooper’s acknowledgement of the “triangle of manlove” shared between him, Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. But at least when Hooper thanked Helena Bonham Carter for staying out of the way of said triangle, she gave us fodder for the best gif of the night.
James: May God save that Queen! I think what The King’s Speech and the overall feel of the show taught us was that maybe the Oscars were a great year for lesbians, but they’re almost always better for kings.
Before we wrap up, we have yet to discuss the musical theatre major Adderall-head who fluttered about wearing a lot of expensive gowns. And no, I don’t mean Christian Bale.
Lindsay: Oh, Anne. While admit that I don’t understand why Hathaway seemed to be channeling Tracy Flick from Election and that at times she was downright painful to watch up there, the male/female pairing and the contrast of the hosts’ rather traditionally gendered personas make the critiques of their respective failings potentially really sexist. Already Franco’s just the brunt of a bunch of played out stoner jokes, but Hathaway’s “irritating” or “obnoxious.” Or, worse: the Times said Hathaway emphasized “the frequent industry argument that she lacks chemistry with her male co-stars.” Ouch. I’m not exactly out to defend her hosting chops, but I’d like to see a level playing field in the critique of what I thought was an equally bad job by both.
James: Well said, Lindsay. I think that overall the Academy should have learned that if you take something that is essentially old and stuffy, it’s best to just let it be that way. Trying to make yourself seem “hip and edgy,” by having younger hosts and repeating the words, “hip and edgy” will just make your viewership bored and uncomfortable, especially if you’re doing it while simultaneously awarding something like The King’s Speech, which is the furthest from edgy of all the nominees. Don’t futilely strive to look younger Oscars, Billy Crystal’s suspiciously lineless face has got that schtick covered.
Lindsay: But as a closing thought, I’ll say that given the pretty tepid crop of nominees this year, I was pleased with The King’s Speech‘s victories (though, as I’ve stated before, its problematic representation of women actually didn’t keep me from loving The Social Network too). While it was all too easy to view The King’s Speech as the preferred film of the stodgy old establishment, I found both Colin Firth’s performance and David Seidler’s script to contain some of the most quietly complex statements about masculinity in any film I saw this year. Firth’s “lefthanded/righthanded” speech can easily be read to have a subtext speaking about the dangers of perceiving identity – and gender — as a collection of binaries. And as much as I hated the phrase, I still preferred that triangle of manlove over any other bromance I saw in a theater this year.
James: Indeed. Now I can’t wait to look forward to weekend trips to the movies where I’ll watch Nic Cage kick ass in Drive Angry and then wind down by sneaking into Rango.
Lindsay: Yes, James as always it’s been a pleasure talking Oscars with you, but especially after this anticlimactic year I’m relieved to see the season come to a close. For the next couple of months at least, I think it’s time for us to make like Jean-Luc Godard and not give a shit about the Oscars at all.