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Oscar Podcast 2012
I made a return to the Lasertime podcast this week, this time to talk about Oscars and movies and my many, many grudges thus related.
If I tried to exhaust my feelings on the topic, it’d be Part 1 in a series of 11,892 of four-hour podcasts – more if I let other people speak – and I can imagine myself going hoarse and desperate and being buried under a mountain of telegrams begging me to stop like I’m Mr. Smith gone to Washington, but NO! I must tell the world that “Cavalcade” shouldn’t have won Best Picture 1932 because Frank Lloyd’s direction is inferior to Mervyn LeRoy’s.
Enjoy a wander through much more recent movies with: Oscar Grouchy!
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Oscars 1992 – Singin’ and Dancin’
I started looking at 20-year old Oscar shows in 2009, because the 1989 show marked the lowest moment in the show’s history – the Snow White number. Poking around the internet showed only brief references to it, and none about the Stars of Tomorrow number mid-show that is arguably worse. So I thought I’d carry on this tradition, even though the numbers in 1992 were below average, not horrible. Let’s take a look!
“Beauty and the Beast” had three of its songs nominated. First up, “Belle,” sung by the original voice actors (which is nice) on a set made of giant books, like they’re the Borrowers or something. My favorite moment: When Gaston throws a kid out of his way so he can preen and prance some more.
This is immediately followed by “Be Our Guest,” again sung by the original voice actor (Jerry Orbach) and done with the can-can dancers and kick-line it was meant to have. With his years and years on “Law & Order,” it’s easy to forget he was a song and dance man going way back. This number is the most purely entertaining, and it’s nice to see the song go this big instead of being whispered in the background of Disney Cruise commercials.
I didn’t even bother uploading the next performance, which is Bryan Adams singing “Everything I Do (I Do It For You)” from “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.” I remember betting this one would win, because a) it was played constantly that year and b) it’s cheesy. Up until very, very recently, the cheesiest, gooiest song would win.
It wasn’t worth grabbing the video because it’s just him and a band playing the song completely straight, sounding exactly like it does on every easy FM station every two hours. There are, like, vector triangles on the set to dress it up a little, but it’s not a production number.
The fourth nominee is “When You’re Alone” from “Hook.” Yeah, I didn’t remember it either. It’s a lullaby-ish song, sung by the child actor who sang it in the movie all wide-eyed and over-enunciating (and lip syncing). Amber Scott has literally done nothing else, unless you count aggressively Photoshopping her own photo on IMDB.In keeping with the Peter Pan thing, the dancing is mostly kids flying around and being whimsical. In other words, it’s pretty stupid. I remember a lot of weird stuff in the Peter Pan stories, but am I forgetting the giant purple butterfly people who wave back and forth a bunch, or is that an…original…..addition?
But at least it’s introduced by John Candy, and we miss John Candy.
Finally, we have the eventual winner, the title song from “Beauty and the Beast.” It’s sung by Angela Lansbury, who sang it in the movie, along with Peebo Bryson and Celine Dion, who sang it as a single. It’s a little weird to see Celine with dark curly hair with a tiny bit of meat on her, since not long afterward she went to that straight and light and slightly sunken cheeked look she’s had ever since.
Of course, we couldn’t just have these talented people sing a lovely song, so we have an “interpretation” ballet going on behind them. Is there anywhere else besides awards shows that bother with this nonsense? It’s not like the dancing they did to this song in the movie was classy or anything, without all the frou-frou.
Then it gets worse. Much worse. Here’s the show’s low-point, and the epitome of awards show nonsense. Because apparently there wasn’t enough dancing and/or spectacle during the show, or maybe just to wake people up after the sound awards, they also have a dance number during a medley of the original score nominees. These random “wake the audience up” numbers are funny in how tenuous the link is between what they’re doing and who’s doing it. If I keep doing these articles, in a few years I’ll reach the salute to film editing starring the cast of Stomp.
Here we have goofy modern dancing thanks to Debbie Allen. I guess it’s a good thing they’re not literally dancing the plot or themes of the movies, because how exactly do you dance “JFK”? (Says my husband: “You dance back and to the left.”)
As fun as it’d be for them to mime shooting each other with tommy guns for “Bugsy,” “Prince of Tides” could get pretty rapey. Although there are plenty of drag queens who can do a fierce Streisand.
But at least it’s introduced by Patrick Swayze, and we miss Patrick Swayze.
Oscars 1992 – The Winners
If there’s one image people know from the Oscars in 1992, it’s this one:Jack Palance doing one-arm push-ups right after winning Best Supporting Actor. It was the first award of the night, and immediately became the perfect gag for Billy Crystal to run with. Jack Palance had a weird career – great start, OK foreign stuff, terrible cheapo foreign crap, a lucky break – and he seriously did not care about what people thought. That made it awesome. Yesterday, we covered the monologue and the weird combinations of presenters. Today, it’s the rest of the show. Let’s take a look back 20 years and talk about the more interesting parts of the show.
Mercedes Ruehl won Best Supporting Actress for “The Fisher King,” but the much, much bigger story in this category is nominee Juliette Lewis‘ hair. Everybody made fun of that shit. Sadly, I couldn’t get a good screenshot of her with her then boyfriend, Brad Pitt, who broke out that year in “Thelma and Louise,” but he was sporting a straggly beard on his first trip to the big show. Maybe they were still filming “Kalifornia”? This was HER breakout role, and instead of looking like the next big thing, she looks like Betty Boop just back from Cabo.
Irving G. Thalberg award: George Lucas
I’m going to skip saying anything about George Lucas and the evil he was planning to talk about Steven Spielberg’s introduction. First, his hair is magnificent. Check out that volumizing mousse action. Second, and I can’t believe this happened, in his voiceover for the film segment, he calls Indiana Jones an adventurous anthropologist. I shit you not – anthropologist. He is SO lucky the internet wasn’t big yet, because it. would. have. exploded.
At the end of Lucas’ speech, he gets a special live greeting from Space Shuttle Atlantis. Of note on-board are the mission’s commander, Charles F. Bolden, who became the head of NASA in 2009; Kathryn Sullivan, the first American woman to walk in space; Michael Foale (far right), who, thanks to his later time on Mir, has spent over a year in outer space; and Dirk Frimout (second from right), who was a massive hit in his home country as the first Belgian in space. Also, he’s a viscount.
The next special award was a lifetime achievement Oscar to Satyajit Ray, director of the Apu Trilogy. You can keep your Quikimart jokes to yourself, because they’re amazing movies and you should rent them, you uncultured heathen. Ray was literally on his deathbed, so he spoke via satellite from the hospital, rambling about how he wrote a fan letter to Deanna Durbin as a kid. It’s kind of cute, but it doesn’t really tell you anything about him as a filmmaker. He actually still sounds pissed at the stars that didn’t write him back.
The lady presenting him the award? Oh, nobody. Just Audrey Hepburn. Looking fabulous at 62, few, including her, would have guessed how close she was to the end. Six months later, she suffered abdominal pain during one of her many UNICEF trips to Africa, which turned out to be a rare abdominal cancer. She passed away January 1993.
In other depressing news, a big deal was made at the Oscars about these new-fangled ribbons everyone was wearing. Billy Crystal even had to explain it – the red ribbons were for AIDS awareness. Since then, every cause has had to fight every other cause over who gets what ribbon, with purple representing everything from animal abuse to hidradenitis suppurativa, a skin disease marked by non-contagious chronic abscesses.
The red ribbons tied in with another Oscar first. When “Beauty and the Beast,” from the movie of the same name, won Best Song, Alan Menken was joined onstage by the boyfriend of his cowriter, Howard Ashman. Ashman had died of AIDS the year before, and his boyfriend accepting his award was a first.
Now, to lighten the mood, I should probably mention the ads. This is a three and a half hour show, but there are fewer ads each break than I was expecting. Few were that funny or interesting, but it is an interesting little window into the time.
First up, AT&T. They ran several ads touting their flexible plans for small businesses. Remember, this is pre-internet, and long-distance carriers were in a massive war much the way cell-phone providers are now. AT&T wanted to show businesses they can get a company all the phone lines it wants so it can do business – even in foreign countries! Incredible! If you make a lot of calls to just a few area codes, they can make that area code at a special rate, and even help if you have more than one location. Amazing!
Literally half of the ads contained this lady right here: Cindy Crawford. The then-Mrs. Richard Gere appeared in an ad EVERY commercial break for Revlon or Pepsi or whatever. She was unavoidable in 1992. Not that anyone was complaining – I’d take a statuesque chemical engineering major over a bored-looking starvation victim any day.
There were a few car ads – Chevy and Ford mostly showed off their trucks, which, to be honest, don’t look much different that a mid-size truck today. Toyota, however, showed off their models and they are true early ’90s – boxy and boring. Not much to differentiate the outside of their models except their size. It was not a good time for design – the late ’80s and early ’90s are sort of their own decade when it comes to ugliness.
For instance, the girl in the middle is wearing bike shorts under high-waisted denim shorts with folded edges. For the time, that was a conservative fashion statement.
Would it surprise you to learn this girl is doing the Roger Rabbit? Because it shouldn’t.
Patterns and colors like this made us blind, which meant we wore bad patterns and colors. It was a vicious cycle.
Finally we have this ad. This Gap ad ran for goddamn years, and it was stupid. Maybe it wasn’t even years, but it ran so often I still remembered every line 20 years later. Click on Mr. Tuxedo here for a beat-ish poem about Gap jeans, intercut with that one chick from Twin Peaks’ butt and a motorcycle.
I have an irrational hatred for this ad. In case you didn’t notice. This one and a Nissan ad that had a lady shout-singing intercut with a car going fast on a dry lake bed played over and over and over when I was up late watching Mystery Science Theater. Also, Zima.
Let’s go back to the awards show and end on a happy note. After over two-and-a-half hours of no one mentioning it and it not being nominated for anything, we get to the end of the show and “Silence of the Lambs” sweeps. It wins screenplay, actor, actress, director, and picture – something only done twice before and has never been done since. A horror film, released in February of that year, manages to crush Oscar bait like “Bugsy” and “The Prince of Tides,” sentimental fare “Beauty and the Beast,” and brilliant-but-controversial “JFK.” Completely insane.
Oh, and check out the Best Picture presenters.
That’s right, lower life forms, it’s Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor, looking as regal as shit.
This is the sort of glamor we don’t have that much any more.Here and there, I guess, but seeing as there are whole publications dedicated to showing celebrities doing normal, mundane, and embarrassing things….I don’t know. Maybe it was the studio system and their training. But these two, besides being great actors, were interesting people and great humanitarians. And looked fucking gorgeous while giving an award to the guys who made the movie where a psycho is making a human suit out of fat chicks.
Up Next: Pointless Production Numbers!
Twenty Years Later – Oscars 1992
A president running for re-election in the midst of a recession. Billy Crystal. Some things don’t change much, I guess.
The Academy Awards are such a big deal every year, but the show themselves disappear from memory. The academy doesn’t release the shows on video or DVD, they don’t repeat on TV, and they patrol YouTube like you wouldn’t believe. Let’s take a look back 20 years ago and see what’s happened to the participants…and make fun of the production numbers.
Billy Crystal – For his third year hosting the Oscars, Crystal announced there wouldn’t be a dumb opening production number, garnering an embarrassing amount of applause. But really, it was just a lead-in for his parody of the bad opening numbers, singing songs about the Best Picture nominees.
The monologue covered the big stories of the Oscars and some politics, since it was an election year. Some of the things he talked about include:
Warren Beatty had a great year. His film “Bugsy” had the most nominations (10) and was the likely best picture winner. His penis’ reign of terror over Hollywood had just been thwarted by Annette Benning, and they got married and had a kid.
Now: Has only made three movies since then. One (“Bullworth”) is excellent, two (“Love Affair” and “Town and Country”) are not.
Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas had bowed out of the race two weeks earlier, and won six states overall. Eventual nominee Bill Clinton and (then former) California governor Jerry Brown fought for another two weeks until the New York primary, where Brown’s considering Jesse Jackson for VP cost him Jewish voters. (Jackson has had a problem with anti-semitic remarks.)
Now: Tsongas died from lymphoma in 1997, and Jerry Brown is governor of California again.
Despite having a strong record with Oscar, including having the night’s eventual best picture winner, Orion Pictures was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. Despite big hits like “Dances With Wolves,” it had too many other expensive flops, like “The First Power” and “Cadillac Man.”
Now: Bankrupt that year. It was pretty much liquidated, with MGM now owning a lot of its catalog.
There were two mini-scandals coming out of the nominations that year. Whether Anthony Hopkins was really more of a supporting role in “The Silence of the Lambs,” and that Barbra Streisand was shut out of the best director category for “The Prince of Tides.” There was talk she wouldn’t show up, but in the end, she did, with crimped hair for some reason.
Now: Has only directed one movie since, “The Mirror Has Two Faces,” and has only acted in that and (sigh) “Meet the Fockers” and its sequel.
Who grabbed that spot away from Babs? John Singleton was the first minority best director nominee, as well as the youngest ever, for “Boyz n the Hood.” He was only 24! But while presenting the documentary awards, he and Spike Lee just would not stop slouching. Stand up straight, youngster!
Now: Makes well-made but slight actiony fare. His “Shaft” remake is surprisingly good, while “Abduction,” with Taylor Lautner, really, really isn’t.
Besides the dated jokes, watching old Oscar telecasts is fun for the odd combinations of presenters (see above – Spike Lee and John Singleton together is pretty damn cool, slouching or not). Some of them are, frankly, strange and random pairings. For instance:
Christopher Lloyd and Rebecca De Mornay presenting Best Makeup. Seriously – I don’t know where they came up with this.
In 1992: she had been in “Backdraft” and “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle.” Around this time, she dated Leonard Cohen – bet you didn’t know that. Lloyd had just done “Addams Family” (in fact, a remote controlled Thing brings them the envelope.)
Now: She popped up in “Wedding Crashers,” but is basically not acting anymore. Lloyd has been doing two things – charming guest spots on shows like “Fringe” and “Chuck,” and terrible things that are beneath him, like “Santa Buddies” and “Knights of Bloodsteel.” And some voiceover work.
Antonio Banderas and Sharon Stone presenting Best Sound Effects. Stone’s big break, “Basic Instinct” had opened the week before, so she was obviously quite the center of attention. He is introduced as “The Mambo Kings’ Antonio Banderas,” because no one knew who he was outside of Almodovar fans and Spanish people (which are usually the same thing). It was another three years before he got a lead role in an American movie.
Now: He’s goddamn “Puss in Boots”. She’s done nothing of note except some “Law and Order: SVU” since 2006, when she made the god-awful “Basic Instinct 2.”
Nicole Kidman. I don’t really have a joke, I just miss Nicole Kidman’s old face.
Edward James Olmos and Daryl Hannah presenting Best Sound. I think they just put names in a hat, because these two really, really, REALLY have nothing to do with each other (note: OK, they’re both in “Blade Runner,” but not together.) In fact, it’s kind of mean, because she just makes him look shorter and lumpier. I actually wonder if she was a replacement for somebody, because she hadn’t done anything of note since “Steel Magnolias” two years earlier. But she looked good. He was promoting his film directorial debut, “American Me.”
Now: Daryl’s been doing character-actor stuff here and there, plus “Kill Bill” back in 2006. Olmos moved back to TV with “Battlestar Galactica” and “Dexter.”
Mike Meyers and Dana Carvey presenting Best Live Action Short Subject. Really Academy? Really? They were backstage with Audrey Hepburn and Liz Taylor?
Up Next: The Winners! The Dumb Dance Numbers!