Monday, February 23, 2009

The Oscar's Review 2009

I haven’t done an Oscar Review in the past because I frankly didn’t care much for watching the Oscars AKA as the Academy Awards over the last few years. I would tune in of course, but I just wasn’t that interested. This year, Slumdog Millionaire gave me a movie to root for and Hugh Jackman gave me a host to want to watch so, I tuned in with intent and thought I would jot down my thoughts this year.

First, I have made it clear, I love the movies, and I have since a small child. I also love finding spiritual components to think about when watching the movies. It isn’t really that different than Jesus telling stories in the Bible known as parables. In fact, the Bible states about Jesus, “He never taught them anything without first telling them stories.” Movies today are the most popular form of story telling, and just like Jesus, if we look, we can find spiritual truths in those stories we see portrayed on the big screen. Seeing those movies is something I do quite a bit of, to watch the program known around the world as the award show honoring those stories is a celebration extraordinaire.

This year I was actually pleased with the production that was a throw back to the “Golden Age of Cinema” which featured song and dance and then some. The show started off in a terrific way with actor Hugh Jackman.

Jackman is likely the surprise for many who watched the show. He did a wonderful job and it didn’t take long for him to get off on the right foot as he did a terrific montage tribute in song and dance. Jackman may have been one of the three huge winners of the night. He was entertaining, fun to watch, full of wit, and moments of humor and intriguing commentary appropriate for the format he was in. Jackman has this likeable personality, but seeing his ability to perform in the opening segment as well as his duet and tribute with Beyonce was impressive to say the least. We saw a reminder of the “Golden Age” that was well fitting, and entertaining from a popular actor that many of us didn’t realize had the ability to pull it off.

Another winner at the Oscars was the movie Slumdog Millionaire. The winner of 8 awards from 9 different categories, (It had 2 songs in the best song category.) The winners of multiple awards including Best Director, and Best Picture this thriving, emotional movie leaves the viewer with hope, and the underdog story from the slums continues to overcome. To think this movie was almost released directly to DVD because of its inability to find funding to end up garnishing the accolades it has is amazing. In a world where multitudes of people are losing hope, we can watch a movie like this and find hope because the movie has as a main point of its theme, hope.

One of my favorite moments in the Oscar’s this year was the acceptance speech from A.R. Rahman for one of his two awards for Score and Song for Slumdog Millionaire. His acceptance speech was short in length, but deep in meaning. He simply said: “My whole life I’ve had the option of hate or love, I chose love and here I am now.” What a reminder of the importance of love, a sweet comment with a reminder to all of us that there are rewards for letting love drive our actions and lives.

Other moments that moved me and had me personally enjoying the awards this year were varied. The simplicity of the awards were pretty good and enjoyable this year, more so than in recent past years. One of the features used by the Academy was to use past presenters to announce each of the nominees. They had short speeches and would add personal moments to the nominees mention. It was a pleasure to see the emotion in the eyes of not only the presenters but those receiving the nomination. While these are actors and actresses, we forget they are real people with real emotions. To see this has always been one of the pleasing moments of this and virtually every other Oscar program.

I was also pleased to see the Jerry Lewis tribute this year. Mr. Lewis has done a lot of quality work to help “Jerry’s Kids” over the years. This award shows that many of the great stars do give back to their communities and bless in some ways those who have blessed them with a good living. Lewis looked much better than he has in the past and to see the expressions between his wife and daughter was touching. While his speech was short, he made a point to recognize his kids in his speech. He was also kind in his comments to his fans and the members of the Academy.

There were also funny moments at the Oscars, although not as many as in some past shows but the impression of Jaquim Phoenix by Ben Stiller via reminding us of the recent David Letterman appearance was spot on and really funny. What was even funnier was the crowds and audience response. There were literally tears coming from the eyes of many of the Hollywood crowd and stars.

With all of the good moments, I have to make mention for at least me, some of the disappointing moments of the awards.

While some may not think the award deserving the Supporting Actor award for the late Heath Ledger was to me very deserving. It may have been the one single award most people were looking forward to. The acceptance of the award by the family of Heath Ledger was somewhat of a let down. I mean no disrespect, but for some reason I expected more.

I was also disappointed in the presentation by Bill Maher. His comments against religion during the documentary awards announcements were in my opinion, disrespectful. He was one of the few who used the platform to push his agenda. I have a love hate respect for Maher, and he lost more respect from me. Of course, I don’t think he cares what I think. I think the comment regarding choosing to love or hate by Rahman of Slumdog Millionaire is something Maher could learn from.

There was another moment where politics worked its way into the presentation that was with the award for Best Actor given to Sean Penn. Penn love him or hate him, has been outspoken about his political views for some time. I am not as offended at that as many may be because at least Penn chooses to act on his convictions rather than just talk about them but I have to admit, I wasn’t pulling for this former Ridgemont High student. I was pulling for Mickey Rourke who really was the comeback kid this year. So my disappointment here wasn’t so much against Penn’s political commentary, as it was I wanted Rourke to win the award.

The biggest disappointment of the Awards may have gone unnoticed by some, but it had me in my recliner, yelling at the producers and directors of the television program. One of my favorite moments of each Oscar presentation is the tribute paid to those who have died during the previous year. This year, I thought the formula, the camera angels, was not only disrespectful to those who had died, but disrespectful to the viewer. I have a large screen television, but the cut backs, the angles prevented us from seeing many of the individuals who had died. I had seen enough of the staging during the performance; I didn’t really care to see more of it during this segment while seeing a small screen on my screen paying supposed tribute to these great Hollywood elite. I would hope, in the future, when showing the tribute segment, let us see a front on view of those who have passed on, just show the full screen to us the viewers at home. I would like to see honor given those individuals and an awareness of their work presented in a way that those who may not have known them, can at least read and see their names to maybe encourage some of them to go out and check the work these individuals had given to us in the past.

I must also make mention of my happiest moment during the Oscar presentation, that is the announcement of Slumdog Millionaire as the best picture of the year. I simply loved this movie and hope the award inspires others to see it. For many, it is likely to enforce the view I have, that movies can inspire hope. Slumdog Millionaire may very well be the movie that inspires people to not give up in this time of discomfort for many on our planet.

There was another big winner this year. While the critics can find reason to be critical, I believe most who watched the Oscars enjoyed the show, it is therefore, the viewer who also won. In a time when we worry about jobs, the economy, war and much more, it is important to find moments of escapism. Sometimes that escapism can inspire us, move us, touch us, and help us know more about God, through story. Whether the commentary of one critical of religion, one who comments on the concepts of love and its power over hate, or a sincere aspect of speaking out for another, whether we appreciate it or not, movies can touch us, and the Oscars this year reminded us of how powerfully they can touch us.

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