Sam's Oscar Report

Sun, 22 Feb 2009 - Hollywood

I almost didn't do it this year.

So it's...



Sam Longoria here, your Oscar reporter.

I'm working extra hard these days, to keep an even keel.
Writing it all down, in my copious free time, he said ironically.
Look for my book, "My Year On Saturn," by Sam Longoria, later this year.

A decade ago, it was my "Longest Oscar Report Ever." My Dear Wife told me
then, I can't say anything in under 1000 words.  Let's see exactly how much
she's misjudged me.  Ready for that?  Me, too.

This isn't prediction.  Did predictions twice, 2007 and 2008.
In 2007, I predicted almost all the winners correctly.
Remarkably few reader responses, only two or three.  

In 2008, I worked harder at it.  My predictions were (predictably) much
less accurate.  Boy, did I hear about that.  Hundreds of readers.  Either
you predict correctly, and they don't care, or you're wrong and you get flack.

So today, nolo predicto.  Just my take - last night's winners.  I admit I don't
enjoy how preachy and shrill movies, and their makers and touts, have become.

Also, I don't really enjoy watching others' works, these days.
Just really want to see my own pictures - that's what I'm working at.
My outlook may improve.  I'll let you know.

BEST PICTURE: "Slumdog Millionaire"

"Scumbag Millionaire," er "Slamdance," I mean, "Sundance Millionaire..."
Sorry, I just wanted to hit those titles, before MAD Magazine does.

It's "Slumdog Millionaire," and it bagged Best Picture last night,
and seven other Oscars, for a total of eight.

Best Director, Danny Boyle, accepted the statue onstage,
with Dev Patel, Frieda Pinto and Madhur Mittal.
BEST EDITING, Chris Dickens
BEST SOUND MIXING, Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke, Resul Pookutty

I love the story - Mumbai orphan must justify knowing answers on a
game show, or go to jail.  It asks, how do we know what we know?
As a former "Jeopardy" contestant, I must admit, I don't know where
I got half the things I know.  If pressed to justify, I doubt I could.

Beautifully shot, beautifully everything, "Slumdog Millionaire" was on radar
since September at the Telluride Festival.  It's a good show, just unlikely
as Best Picture, at first.  It spread like topsy, until it was no surprise
at all when it won.  It's all I'd been hearing from my Academy friends.

The other serious Best Picture contender was Gus Van Sant's "Milk." I remember
Gus from Portland and Berkeley, he used to work with my friend Kelley Baker,
the "Angry Filmmaker." (TM)  Kelley, cool down.  Things are going good, man.

BEST ACTRESS, Kate Winslet, "The Reader"

Kate Winslet won for Best Actress in "The Reader," over Meryl Streep, who
was apparently punished for singing and dancing this year in "Mamma Mia."
Hollywood tolerates many things, just not ABBA.

Kate revealed she'd prepared her Oscar speech at the age of 8,
her Oscar prop then a shampoo bottle.  She has other speeches,
for bottles of hair conditioner, and other household items.

BEST ACTOR, Sean Penn, "Milk"

Sean Penn minced no words, speaking to his Academy voting base.
"You commie, homo-loving sons of guns!" exclaimed Mr. Penn, as he
accepted his award for his titular role in "Milk."  

Laugh while you can, Sean.  You just broke Mickey Rourke's heart,
after he brutally altered his face and body, to play the role of
his lifetime, in "The Wrestler."

And he's no wimpy Paparazzi, Sean.  He's been practicing.
If he comes looking for you, my money's on Mickey.

"The Dark Knight" won 2 Oscars.


Heath Ledger won, despite his otherwise-debilitating handicap of being dead.

Honestly, the death thing was such a clever ploy.  It worked well for him,
despite the obvious drawbacks.  I think he won  - literally - because he is dead.

I don't care for Heath's scenery-chewing in "The Dark Knight,"
and I hope it's the last we see of him for a while.

If Heath weren't dead, his performance would been laughed off the screen,
or at best won him "Best Over-Actor," or "Best Dead Over-Actor," or
(my suggestion) "Most Over-Dosed Over-Actor."

Proof?  Check out his competition.  
Robert Downey Jr., Michael Shannon,
Josh Brolin, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Those guys are not chopped liver.  Their performances were
excellent, layered and really well-crafted.  Just plain better.  
Were they great?  Yes.  They were just not dead.

The average person thinks crazy parts are hard to play.  Gosh, what a
hard part to play, another sick creep.  Maybe for the average person,
with a well-adjusted outlook, but playing a tormented soul isn't really
difficult, for a person with a tormented soul.  He's not acting.

A certain movie star, reknowned for crazy roles, lost my respect one afternoon,
as I watched him be a psychopath in real life.  Heath probably didn't stretch
much for his roles either, as he ended his own life, perhaps inadvertently,
rather early on.  That should be a clue.

If Heath were alive this year, I think Robert Downey Jr. would have 
beaten him.  Downey easily acts circles around Heath, who lately,
I must admit, just lies there.

I love Cuba Gooding Jr., but not his PC rant, against Robert Downey Jr.'s
"Tropic Thunder," in which Downey plays a white Australian actor, 
playing a black American action character.

Great makeup, great performance, but not PC enough for Cuba and his writers,
who dismissed it as "blackface."  Get over it Cuba and your writers,
it's called "Acting."

I share that opinion (and swiped that line) from the late, great
Chinese-American Actor Keye Luke, who insisted it was perfectly
fine for white Warner Oland to play Chinese Charlie Chan.

I agree with Mr. Luke, and why not?  This is movies, it's entertainment.
We can play characters, without actually being them.  It is not offensive for
someone to play something he's not.  Outrage over whether some other actor
"needs the work," (As Cuba asserted), is a made-up mental waste of time.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS, Penelope Cruz, "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"

Penelope Cruz got Best Supporting Actress, while weeping in English and Spanish,
demonstrating her versatility, and doubling her chances of another acting job.

Penelope was clearly grateful, both for the award,
and for not being dead like Heath Ledger.

The award's presenters were the previous five Oscar-winning Actresses:
Goldie Hawn, Angelica Huston, Eva Marie Saint, Tilda Swinton, and Whoopi Goldberg.

Penelope thanked her Director, Woody Allen, and her family, friends, and
The Industry.  She made a call for us all to save Art, presumably for later,
when it may be scarce.

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY, Dustin Lance Black, "Milk"

Another sermon here, from Dustin Lance Black, former Mormon, now gay,
screenwriter.  Another guy working out personal problems, in his art.
As are we all.


Yay!  Good for Ben Burtt's great little animated character,
and this great animated movie.  This award is well-deserved.

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE, "Departures," from Japan.

"Okuribito," or "Departures" is a story of a man taking on a job
with an explicit cultural taboo.  A cellist answers an ad, for one to
"help with departures."  He mistakenly thinks the job is with a
Travel Agency, but it is instead a mortuary.  His wife is dismayed
when she learns of the job, and leaves him.  We learn how he copes,
and what the job means, both personally and culturally.

I felt a pang, when the Director, Yojiro Takita, said "Thank you.
I am here because of films. This is a new departure for me.
And I will, we will, be back. I hope."

It's that "I hope" that got me.


Yay!  I love real documentaries, not junk propaganda from Michael Moore.
Pictures put together from huge amounts of footage, no predetermined viewpoint.
Objectivity determines the direction the movie takes in editing.  My favorites
are the Maysles Brothers and the Master, Fred Wiseman.

Refreshing to see James Marsh's docco of Philippe Petit, who walked a wire
between NYC's former World Trade Center towers in 1974.  Also refreshing to
see Petit's own "shortest Oscar speech," a one-word, "Yes."  Then he balanced
the Oscar on his chin, and made it bow to everyone.  Funny guy.  Go, Philippe!

"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" won 3 Oscars.
I enjoyed it very much, and think it deserved more, but other pictures
are busy trying to change society, so they win instead.  Easily predicted.

BEST ART DIRECTION,  Donald Graham Burt, Victor J. Zolfo
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS, Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton, Craig Barron
Very well-deserved.  Did you know the first 52 minutes of this film have
a Computer-Generated main character?  Of course you didn't - that's how
well they did it.  Just blew me away, when I saw the effects reel.
BEST MAKEUP, Greg Cannom


This award to one of the most influential filmmakers ever, a man
nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and inducted into the French
Legion of Honor.  Jerry has raised some two billion dollars since
1951, to help sick children.  

Some are astonished when I tell them Mr. Lewis's Movie Directing book is
the best I've read, but it is.  Or that he is an Ayn Rand fan, but he is.
Jerry's speech was humble and moving and profound.  Go Jerry!


Mr. Catmull has had a long and varied career in computers for animation.
From his work at the University of Utah and Rochester Institute of Technology,
to the Boeing company, to Lucasfilm and Pixar (he was Co-Founder) and Disney,
Mr. Catmull has received Oscars previously, in 1993, 1996, and 2001.

Now he joins the likes of Linnwood G. Dunn ASC, Don Iwerks, and Ray Harryhausen,
in receiving the Motion Picture Academy Gordon E. Sawyer Award, for motion picture
persons "whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry."

Most excellent.

Sundry awards:

BEST COSTUME DESIGN, "The Duchess," Michael O’Connor
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT, "Smile Pinki," Megan Mylan
BEST ANIMATED SHORT, "La Maison de Petits Cubes," Kunio Kato
BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT, "Spielzeugland" (Toyland), Jochen Alexander Freydan 

Thanks for reading.  We both have movies in common.
I hope you see some really good movies,
and that some of them are mine.

Best to you,

Sam Longoria

secret film school

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