Idol Chatter

Idol Chatter

Nine Big Moments–and the Missing One

posted by doug howe

As the cameras intrude further and further upon what used to be private Oscars night moments, we the audience get to witness fewer and fewer (truly) authentic moments. It’s an increasingly scripted evening, which is why some of my favorite moments of the evening were the unrehearsed ones, including:

• Hillary Swank jogging in her gown to catch Philip Seymour Hoffman for a hug and congratulations before the official line of interviews;

• George Clooney going backwards to hug fellow nominee William Hurt before going forward to the stage;

• Felicity Huffman with tears (and make-up) running at the surprise video greetings she got from “Desperate Housewives” gal pals during pre-show;

• Host Jon Stewart telling the group Three 6 Mafia, who won Best Song that “that’s how” to really accept an Oscar;

• Jennifer Garner’s slip ‘n slide, follwed by her great ad lib, “I do my own stunts;”

• Robert Altman’s “I’m not done”;

• The sheer celebration by everyone having anything to do with “Crash,” from all corners of the room.

Of course, there was one big moment we didn’t get to see. Just once, I’d love to see one of the nominees for a big award look really ticked, pissed, mad, sad, ripped off, angry, or disgusted when someone else’s name is announced. Now that would be an authentic moment.

Jon Stewart: ‘What next for the Jews, Steven?’

posted by donna freitas

Though I enjoy watching the Oscars every year, this time the event became more of an opportunity to watch Jon Stewart than to view an awards show. In fact, at one point yesterday I even asked a friend, “When does Jon Stewart come on tonight?” And though Stewart was not at his “Daily Show” best in this unfamiliar setting, here are some favorite Jon Stewart moments from last night’s show:

The first was his mention of Steven Spielberg’s Oscar nomination as Best Director for “Munich.” Considering that and Spielberg’s 1994 win for “Schindler’s List,” Stewart said, “I think I speak for all Jews when I say: I can’t wait to see what happens to us next. Trilogy?”

The second highlight was Stewart’s mention of that religious group Hollywood seems to love, and the rest of us are just baffled by. Upon coming back from a commercial break, Stewart pretended he was addressing the audience about Scientology, commenting as if in mid-speech: “And that is why I think Scientology is right, not just for this city, but for the country.” Considering the plethora of celeb Scientologists it could be considered a low blow. But I thought it was hilarious.

And finally, in a nod to all the right-wingers who love moralize about Hollywood’s lack of family values, Jon Stewart had this to say: “I’m from New York, and I’ve been here a week and a half. A lot of people say this town is too liberal. Out of touch with mainstream America. A modern day beachfront Sodom and Gomorrah. A black hole where innocence is obliterated. An endless orgy of sexual gratification and greed…. I don’t really have a joke here… and I just thought you should know a lot of people are saying that.”

Aside from these funny moments, though, I look forward to the return of the real Jon Stewart, host of “The Daily Show.”

Dolly Parton: Traveling Through Transamerica

posted by

If most of you are anything like my roommates and me, you were too busy staring at Dolly Parton’s crazy outfit and impossible breast-to-waist ratio to pay attention to what she was singing at the Oscars last night. But Dolly was there to perform “Travelin’ Thru,” her song from the “Transamerica” soundtrack, which was nominated for Best Original Song. (She already won once in this category, with the theme song from her movie “Nine to Five”).

In “Transamerica,” Desperate Housewife Felicity Huffman plays Bree, a male-to-female transsexual on a cross-country road trip with the son she never knew she had. And a lot of people think Dolly Parton looks like a drag queen, so it’s a perfect fit, right? Once I stopped gawking at Dolly’s platform shoes, I started listening to the words of her song. In a Dolly Parton song, it’s not at all unusual to hear rhymes about Jesus. But invoking Jesus in a song about a transsexual? Now, that’s news.

“Travelin’ Thru” was written specifically for the movie. The lyrics (“I’m just a weary pilgrim trying to find my own way home / Oh, sweet Jesus, if you’re out there, keep me ever close to you”) and could be about any traveler on any path. But knowing the plot of the film makes the lyrics come into focus. The song is about a person who wants to find acceptance after having gender-reassignment surgery. When Dolly sings “we’ve all been crucified, and they nailed Jesus to the tree,” she’s letting Bree’s voice speak through her. Despite facing humiliation and scorn, Bree always trusts that she has made the right decision.

The lines “God made me for a reason, and nothing is in vain / redemption comes in many shapes and many kinds of pain” echo loudly. Bree is defiant against the detractors who tell her that she is a freak who can never be accepted by God and society. In fact, Dolly seems to be making the argument that if God can make men and women in His own image, God can make transgendered people, too. The “keep me ever close to you” refrain is a reminder that Jesus loves all his children, even the outcasts. Calling Bree a “pilgrim” applies a classic American symbol to someone who is blazing a new trail in America. The 17th-century pilgrims wanted religious freedom, and 21st-century Bree wants her own freedom.

Although Huffman received an acting nomination for “Transamerica,” the film isn’t anywhere close to being as iconic or controversial as “Brokeback Mountain.” Host Jon Stewart and Oscar winners like George Clooney and Ang Lee got attention for making political comments last night. But Dolly got her point across in a subtler way. Her song was further proof that not every political statement needs to be made with a sledgehammer. This argument for diversity and religious acceptance for sexual minorities may have missed my ears the first time around, but the song will keep going long after the image of Dolly’s teased hair escapes my memory.

Different Thumbs for Clooney, Altman

posted by doug howe

I usually like what fellow blogger Kris Rasmussen has to say, but had to disagree with her praise of Robert Altman and pan of George Clooney when it came to Oscar speeches. She called Clooney’s “the worst, most self-aggrandizing speech of the evening” and gave props to Altman for “utter(ing) some of the most eloquent words I have ever heard spoken at the Oscars.”

Beauty’s obviously in the eye of the beholder because I scored them completely in the reverse. I thought Altman bordered on arrogance in bragging that he’d opened a show the night before in London and then shamelessly promoting his current film, which opens this summer. The fact that he wasn’t as obnoxious as usual didn’t make his speech redeeming. As for the comment about his heart surgery 10 years ago, it was touching but also a shameless announcement to potential investors that he’s present in the marketplace and desiring to make more movies.

I found Clooney’s speech among the most gentle, self-deprecating, humorous, and humble speeches in Oscar history. Absent was the controversy of Jane Fonda, sour cloud of Vanessa Redgrave, nervous pall of Sacheen Littlefeather (for Marlon Brando), or fumbled racial comments of Eddie Murphy. And there were no references to politicians or parties “red” or “blue.”

Instead, Clooney was funny (“so I’m not winning Director”), self-deprecating (twice mentioning his “Batman” turn, which almost killed the franchise), and modest (his last big win was a magazine award in ’97) while humbly praising the “stellar” performances of William Hurt, Matt Dillon, Paul Giamatti, and Jake Gyllenhaal.

Regarding his politics, he mentioned Hollywood’s efforts regarding AIDS, civil rights, and racism, which are every spiritual person’s concerns and should be apolitical in nature. “I’m proud to be a part of this Academy, this community,” he said to a rising chorus of applause, ending with a gentle smile that contributed a nice start to a night of politically charged movies. That achievement, as social and political statements go, made him a winner in my book.

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