NBC pissed me off with their atrocious Olympics coverage. ABC then decided to get on my bad side by making me miss Oscars.
I was almost expecting the looping “important message from Cablevision” that blamed all ills on ABC throughout the day on Sunday to be replaced by live Oscar feed just in time for the ceremony. That the feed was restored about an hour into the broadcast partially mitigated my displeasure with both ABC and Cablevision (which, I’ve no doubt, was shared by the 3 million Cablevision subscribers residing in WABC-7 broadcast area), but it still does not excuse either company. The Dolan family, cheapskates extraodinaire, seem to have positioned me and other subscribers as potential hostages in any dispute with content providers (which, judging by the fact that this is the second time this year that a popular channel was taken off the air, may become a regular happenstance). In this particular case, the little I understand about TV content economics does suggest that ABC is more at fault; I can’t imagine why a local affiliate in one specific region of the country, who produces very little of original content beyond local news broadcasts, would be suddenly worth 20% more than before, especially since it is, in effect, a free channel. (And I do know several friends who bought themselves digital antennas to ensure that they could watch Oscars even if the dispute was not resolved in time.)
The outcome will undoubtedly be higher rates for my cable subscription. The Dolans will quote-unquote apologize and blame it on the greedy networks, but that hardly makes me any happier.
As it were, we missed only the opening part of the ceremony, which might have been one of its more entertaining parts. We seemingly did not miss any of the actual awards, joining in when the Best Supporting Actor – which, I believe, is traditionally one of the very first categories to be awarded – was up.
There were surprisingly few entertaining bits in the rest of the broadcast. Only one production number, with brilliant street dancing to the nominated Best Original Scores. No live performances of the nominated Best Songs, which must be the newest trend. Several presenter routines were clever (Ben Stiller, or Diaz and Carell), while quite a few people looked uncomfortable and camera-shy. I liked the recently adopted practice of giving each of the Best Actor/Actress nominees a personal panegyric by a co-star; some of those salutations were quite charming. The Martin/Baldwin duo, conversely, was not at all funny and looked out of place – I can barely recall a joke of theirs that I laughed at (ok, the Paranormal Activity spoof wasn’t half bad); overall, IMHO, they were a huge downgrade from Hugh Jackman’s performance last year.
A number of acceptance speeches for “lesser” awards was quite rudely cut off, which may have helped to move things forward (nonetheless, the broadcast lasted a bit over 4 hours), but also probably contributed to there being very few good ones – I think Sandra Bullock’s was the only one that managed to be both funny and heart-felt without sounding arrogant or patronizing; I can only recall a couple of others (the French guy who won the Best Animated Short, the winner for the Best Score) who stayed away from the tired formula of “I couldn’t imagine this X years ago – Look at me now! – Thank you the managers and the agents and the members of the crew [and James Cameron the Visionary]”.
The Hurt Locker looks like a great movie that I definitely want to see, but its haul of Oscars and especially its Best Picture award look to me a bit of a stretch. Ever since Shakespeare in Love won over Saving Private Ryan in ’98, the Academy has been trying to over-compensate in favor of the socially- or politically-profound movies, and this must have been the case of the voters being biased towards a current-events, touches-the-nerve story over a fantastic allegory. Still, I felt that a ground-breaking movie a decade in the making, and one that so effortlessly became the most widely seen movie in the entire history, was slam-dunk deserving of the Best Picture Oscar. Makes it even more of an anomaly that The Return of the King cleaned up in ’03.
Also, the Best Picture award provided a single exception that I noticed this year to the trend of the same people winning all awards during the season. Jeff Bridges won a Golden Globe, a SAG Award and an Oscar for his role. Sandra Bullock did likewise. So did Christoph Waltz. So did Mo’Nique. I can’t imagine that their performances are such stand-outs compared to those of their fellow nominees that different voting bodies would each agree. Only when it came to the best movie, did the Academy of Motion Pictures vote differently from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Weird.
In any case, Oscars always rekindle my interest in watching movies. That, and the sight of gorgeous women in beautiful gowns – hey, I’m secure enough in my masculinity to admit that I enjoy that sight tremendously! – makes the Oscar night one of the most important TV nights in my viewing calendar. Good thing ABC and Cablevision came to their senses before it was too late.