The day after Oscar, indieWIRE's Eric Kohn and Peter Knegt chatted via instant messenger for some quick reflection about what just went down...
Eric Kohn: I hate to say it after so many months of reflection and analysis, but last night was pretty much an afterthought. As expected, the casting of James Franco and Anne Hathaway as co-hosts was a feeble bid by the Academy to pull in younger viewers, much like the MTV Movies-inspired opener. And the word "upset" barely applies to any single category. Even Steven Spielberg couldn't fake enthusiasm when he announced the final triumph of the night for "The King's Speech," which actually only won a handful of awards -- but it landed everywhere we expected it would. I enjoyed some of the more eccentric moments -- Melissa Leo's off-kilter, stream-of-consciousness, unapologetically vulgar acceptance speech; the technical triumphs of "Inception," which deserved at least that much recognition; and Trent Reznor getting his moment in the spotlight. On the whole, the Oscars were stuck on autopilot, and they could've used a better pilot. From Billy Crystal's brief appearance to the hilarious pairing of Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law, we were constantly reminded of this fact.
Peter Knegt: It was definitely anti-climactic. I mean, for someone who spends a good half of his year focused on all this, it's pretty depressing. I was really hoping James and Anne would bring something unique, fresh or whatever to the show... But instead they were downright boring. Franco in particular felt like he was phoning it in, and neither of them had inventive writing to back them up. Sure, the night had some moments care of some other folks. Law & Downey were great, as was Crystal. And I thought Sandra Bullock and Jeff Bridges gave affecting, classy intros to the lead acting nominees, which also resulted in the night's best two speeches in Firth and Portman -- even if we saw their wins coming from a mile away. But overall, it was a big "meh." Mostly predictable winners (though the artistic and tech categories saw some surprises). And even though it was one of the shortest ceremonies I can remember, it dragged on and on -- largely due to our hosts not seeming up to the task.
EK: Which raises the question of what this ceremony exists to do. Honor the talent or simply parade it in front of the camera? The ceremony fell short of both aims. I was more interested in Franco's behind-the-scenes photos available through his Twitter stream than anything he did onstage. And if the best thing about the awards is the amount of exposure they can bring to stars on the rise, well, those stars didn't really get their moments to shine. What happened to "Winter's Bone," "Dogtooth" and Banksy?
PK: As much as love for "Bone" or "Dogtooth" would of been nice, I had no expectation. For Banksy, however, I had fingers crossed. I worried the Academy might not be up for recognizing something so unconventional, which turned out to be the case. But what drama it could have caused to see what Banksy had up his sleeve had he won?
EK: Having witnessed "Exit" subject Thierry Guetta's rambling acceptance speech at the Spirits on Saturday, I imagine it would have been one of the more amusing moments of the evening, if not the most dramatic. This ceremony actively avoided drama, both in its presentation style and in the speeches delivered by its winners. If anything, the only outcome of the ceremony that sort of took me by surprise was the Oscar for the goofy hipster comedy "God of Love." And I loved the animated short film winner "The Lost Thing," a sort of abstract "Toy Story 3." Those folks have serious potential to go off and do great things with bigger resources. Maybe James Franco will work with them. He probably already has.
PK: And watching the shorts winners on stage was probably one of the most enjoyable moments, because the winners were so genuinely moved by the honor (whereas most of the winners probably had a good idea they'd be there... even if Melissa Leo was incapable of composing herself despite odds being in her favor). And I loved both "God of Love" and "The Lost Thing." They thoroughly deserved those honors. As for Franco, maybe this is a warning to him that there IS such a thing as spreading yourself too thin.
EK: I wrote just before the weekend that the Oscars are an American pastime almost as much as anything else, baseball included. If you'll allow for the flimsy metaphor, maybe this is the way the country sees itself right now: Cheery, superficial, driven by routine and utterly predictable. A few subversives lurk just beneath the surface. It's the 1950s all over again!
PK: I hope not. I'm counting on this just being an off year, and a year from now us talking about how the Oscars blew our minds.
EK: Well, maybe next year will jump a decade and bring us into 1960s countercultural mayhem. I'd rather watch an Oscar show that bucks the system rather than one that plays right into its agenda, as this one did.
PK: And it seems you're not alone. Big ratings drop, countless groans from the blogosphere... It wasn't a good year for Oscar. But I for one, am excited to spend six months NOT talking about it anymore.