Oscars: The Old Hollywood Triumphs

February 28, 2011

Many thoughts on last night’s Oscars. First, the positive (and there were many) and then the disappointing (way too many.)

It was so exciting to experience The Old Hollywood as film clips from past films, memorable movie scores, and Oscar ceremonies reminded us of how magical those times were, when story was king, men were elegant, women were graceful and classy (Melissa Leo, take note), and movies focused on our humanity, not our latest technology.

Seeing Kirk Douglas was one of the highlights of the night. Not only is Kirk Old Hollywood personified but he reminds us of how courageous and dignified we can be as human beings. So many people, let alone actors and those in the public eye, would consciously avoid the camera after the devastating stroke Kirk suffered, but there he was in all his glory, ad-libbing, having fun and lending his charm and brilliance to the night.

David Seidler’s acceptance speech for writing The King’s Speech was also a huge highlight. Here’s a man who stuttered terribly as a child whose hero was the actual King on whom the film is based. Wanting so much to write the story of the King’s heroic life, Seidler had the class and grace to actually send an inquiry to Queen Elizabeth asking if she would be amenable to him writing the script. When she asked him to demur until she was gone, he immediately agreed….and waited almost 25 years to realize his dream. That is Old Hollywood, and Old World, grace at its height and depth. His acceptance speech was infused with that warmth, talent, and humanity. And, of course, some very welcome gray hair.

I also thought that Natalie Portman’s classy acceptance speech was full of grace and dignity.

I was also thrilled to see The King’s Speech win Best Picture. After 5 straight years of dark films winning the top prize, it was so gratifying to see an Old Hollywood movie-movie be chosen as the film that represents the best of film making to the world. Three cheers for The King!

As to the show itself, what a disappointment.

The Academy’s attempt to be more “hip” (translation: let’s try to get the same young demographic that goes to the movies to watch the show) was ill-conceived and even more poorly executed. Last night’s show was another stark reminder of how myopically focused the New Hollywood is on audiences under 30.

James Franco and Anne Hathaway are incredibly talented and charming young actors. As hosts of the show, however, they seemed totally out of place and uncomfortable. At least Ms. Hathaway tried her very best and obviously put every ounce of energy she had into her role,  but Mr. Franco seemed utterly detached and  disinterested, didn’t he?

The reason that Bob Hope, Johnny Carson, and Billy Crystal are universally recognized as the best Oscar hosts ever is that they are/were stand-up comedians who know how to entertain an audience and most importantly make them laugh, even at themselves. For all the controversy he generated on The Golden Globes, I would also have vastly preferred seeing Ricky Gervais on that stage last night. All that was magnified when Crystal himself made an appearance to introduce a segment on Bob Hope. Watching the contrast between Crystal and  the night’s hosts made me feel great compassion for James and Anne. At that moment, I sent out a message on Twitter that said “Stay, Billy. Stay!”

And, of course, as always, the show was way too long. Here’s a suggestion: the presenters’ “ad-lib” speeches, which were particularly awful last night, should be eliminated entirely.They should just read the nominees and give out the Oscars. Just that would cut about 30 minutes from the show. We also don’t have to hear all the nominated songs in their entirety. And acceptance speeches could be cut in half. and I’m sure you have other ideas as well. Please share them!

For those of us, however, who are dedicated to bringing back The Old Hollywood, last night was a reminder of the kind of film making and audience focus that has gone missing in the New Hollywood and also a thrilling shot-across-the-bow for our mission. We will prevail!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian Mills February 28, 2011 at 10:39 am

I agree totally. I was frankly appalled that Melissa Leo disrespectfully swore in front of millions and lowered the tone of such a prestigious event. Great though her screen performance was in The Fighter my vote went to Amy Adams so that’s who I would have liked up there making that acceptance speech.
The Show was once again far too long and a lot of the tackiness of the Show could have been removed without damaging the Show one bit.
And comedians make the best hosts because they know how to entertain an audience and raise the energy and attention span.
Good Show, but room for improvements like aiming to bring the back the standards of the Old Oscar Shows.

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Stephen Simon February 28, 2011 at 11:26 am

Hi Brian….All the show was missing was Charlie Sheen , yes?
Natalie Portman’s class and grace was a great balance to Melissa Leo’s lack of the same…..All in all, I thought it was the most boring Oscar show since the David Letterman debacle…

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Brian Mills February 28, 2011 at 12:54 pm

I just hope that the producers of the Show don’t think Charlie Sheen as it would be EXIT FROM THE DRUGSTORE.
Maybe they should get Ricky Gervais as host…we shall see.
Agree totally re-Natalie the lady has class and loved her emotional speech.

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Stacey Stern February 28, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Hi Stephen! I agree with much of your Oscar night review. I too enjoyed the Old Hollywood highlights with Kirk Douglas, Bob Hope, and Billy Crystal. I am so looking forward to connecting you about Bringing Back the Old Hollywood tomorrow on The Stacey Stern Show ~ Enriching You at 12 Noon Pacific at http://www.voiceamericavariety.com. Cheers, Stacey

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