Despite what Matthew McConaughey may think heroes are not self-important visions of the future and should not be relegated to cheese-ball montages. The Academy’s salute to “heroes” had me at “wax on wax off” and the crane kick, but I slammed the door at Jayden Smith. Which dumb fuck edited this montage? The complexity of Superman in a Hero’s montage is more mind-numbing than its half dead presenters attempt at language. Cinema has far greater heroes than the ones Sally Field introduced.
Prior to 2008 Honorary Oscars have been given to honorees at the ceremony. Men and women whose careers have spanned entire lifetimes—the stuff of montage gold! Michael Kidd’s actors dancing in unison in Seven Brides and Seven Brothers, Lumets yelling Pacino in the humid New York air, Poitier’s “they call me Mr. Tibbs”—chills. The inspiring speeches of pure raw talent tug at our heartstrings, not the ramblings of actors who are simply having a moment (although Cuba Gooding JR did show up in a Pepsi commercial during the ceremony).
A claim was made that the telecast did not have enough time for the tributes, although the tidbit about the new film museum being built in Hollywood was fascinating. If ya had enough time for EVERY best song nominee to sing their ENTIRE song onstage, let Lauren Bacall, Roger Corman, Jean-Luc Godard, Eli Wallach, Francis Ford Coppola, James Earl Jones, D.A. Pennebaker, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Angela Lansbury, and yes even Steve Martin (whose achievements have been shut out of the live telecast) have an opportunity to speak. Leave the half-assed musical talent for the Grammy’s. Idina Menzel I am sure you are super talented but you owe your appearance on The Tonight Show to John Travolta for slicing your name into tiny little pieces.
The Honorary Oscars have now been relegated to the Governors Ball, which takes place in November. Typically a beautiful Hollywood actress (this year it was Angelina Jolie who received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award) comes out during the Oscar telecast and synopsizes the technical and honorary awards. Last Sunday we heard one line from Steve Martin, Angela Landsberry and Piero Tosi. I get it you don’t have time for all three, but give the eighty eight year-old Ms. Landsberry her kudos! Let the kids know she did a lot more than Murder She Wrote.
Saul Zaentz, who died in January after a long battle with Alzheimer’s, ran the biggest Jazz label in the world, a label which produced Credence Clear Water Revival. After viewing a stage production of One Flew Over the Cuckoos NestZaentz produced the film version, later forming The Saul Zaentz Film Center in Berkeley, California.
I still remember his “cup is full” speech after receiving the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award in 1997 during the telecast. Unless there was a commercial everyone teenager at my Oscar party that night was told not to speak. The next day I watched the montage dedicated to Zaentz’s work over five times which featured the films he produced: One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Amadeus, The Mosquito Coast, At Play in the Fields of the Lord and The English Patient. I had never seen so much achievement mingled together in a twenty year period. The award was appropriately presented the same year his film, The English Patient won best picture, giving Zantz his third best picture award.
As Al Pacino pronounce his name as Z-A-N-E-T (you had one fucking job!) while presenting Best Picture, in a succinct, graceful fashion Zaentz declared, “my cup runeth over.” In that moment the world seemed a bit less limiting. If Zaentz’s honorary speech had not aired that night during the main ceremony his impact on the film industry and on future filmmakers would not have been felt as deeply. In all honesty I would not even know his name, but I do and I did because for one fleeting moment pop culture chose to celebrate a man for his talent.
In a sentimentality runeth over Academy Awards last Sunday it seems ridiculous not to recognize those who contributed the most. Once the McConaissance has ended and Narcissus drowns in the backwaters of Louisiana, the hope is that substance will float above it.
All things considered last Sunday’s show was one of the more entertaining fetes in years. Ellen in all her edgeless glory has the right temperament for the show—good for Mom, Dad and Grandma too. We get it the show is long. You figured out the Debbi Allen dance numbers were as essential as Kim Novak’s appearance, but please know the Achievement Awards are an essential ingredient to the flowering of Hollywood dreams. Drop the singing, besides Bette of course. Let people clap for dead people! It’s fun! And let Seymour Hoffman and Gandolfini get the most applause!
Once network television dissolves into the abyss of mediocrity, the audience will have more control over what they watch and we want our real heroes back!