The Oscars for 2010

oscarAdd James Franco and Anne Hathaway to the names of failed Oscar hosts, practically everyone since comedian Billy Crystal, who paid tribute to an outstanding Oscar host, comedian Bob Hope. Bob Hope, frequent host Johnny Carson, and Billy Crystal were the best masters of ceremonies for the same reason Sunday night’s pair was awful: they had respect for ability, genuine skill in performing on stage, and an intelligent, cheerful sense of humor.

What Hollywood gave us the other night was more of the same sneering, accompanied by an almost snoring sensibility, that dominates the culture, from droning deadbeat Jon Stewart, who leads the charge toward nihilism, to MTV’s soon-to-be-resurrected Beavis and Butthead. Oscar 2010, dropping the F bomb and flipping off the world on behalf of an industry that delivers such sniveling pap as Pulp Fiction, The Departed, and No Country for Old Men, was a bust. Don’t blame it all on James Franco (127 Hours, Milk), who is studying at Yale University, looking tired, and who seemed under-rehearsed, uninterested and vaguely contemptuous of the need to show up. He represents the worst of all youthful stereotypes; that they are utterly bored with existence and simply wish to text, play videogames, and blank out, which he did.

But there was also Anne Hathaway (Alice in Wonderland), who was like an audio file that keeps playing and you can’t turn off. She reminds me of every theater major and showy actress rolled into one, hogging the moment, trying too hard, and sucking the air out of the entire amphitheater. Insulting Hugh Jackman, for real or for fake, high-fiving choir children after a rendition of “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz in an odd attempt at a 1939 theme, and changing outfits, Hathaway just came off as vain and obnoxious, exacerbating Franco’s deficiencies.

The show was an atrocity, from insinuating lesbianism in Toy Story 3 to some vulgar woman’s use of profanity when she won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. The songs were abbreviated, with poor Alan Menken’s “I See the Light” from Tangled being beautifully rendered and horribly cut off, and chaotic clips, pacing and jokes. Add the pompous President Obama, who is incapable of expressing a personal preference without lecturing the nation like a doddering old man, the pretentious Oprah, doing an impression of British-accented Madonna in the biggest false eyelashes this side of Tammy Faye Bakker, and, with the passing of legendary motion picture artists such as Patricia Neal, among others with more stature, only Lena Horne, hardly a great movie actress, received singular recognition among those we lost in 2010. As for glamor, the ladies looked lovely and the gents were generally in fine form, too, though the smug, generic suits from the smug, generic The Social Network and Cate Blanchett (Robin Hood), looking like some sort of alien queen or Lady Gaga wannabe, matched the mood of the evening.

Leave it to the Academy voters to restore a golden touch to Oscar, choosing the year’s best movie, The King’s Speech, as Best Picture over a crowd of also-rans. Director Tom Hooper, actor Colin Firth, and writer David Seidler were nearly as magnanimous and magnificent as the Weinstein Company’s movie, elevating a disgraceful affair into at least a partial recognition of ability, humor, and strength. Much like the characters in the movie they made, a picture which earned its reputation as a finely drawn study of friendship and inspiration, these gentlemen showed how to summon one’s best during difficult circumstances in the worst of times.

Movie Review: Burlesque

mv5bmtc4mzeyodi0ml5bml5banbnxkftztcwnjiyndq4mw_v1_sx214_cr00214314_Like this week’s other major Thanksgiving release, Disney’s mangled Tangled, the neatly marketed Burlesque has a better half and is far from flawless. But it beats getting molested by the government and it offers a decent dose of escapism in a world turning upside down. Written and directed for Sony’s Screen Gems by actor and former live burlesque show writer Steven Antin, who also writes song lyrics here, this low-impact star vehicle for Cher and Christina Aguilera should be consumed with low expectations.

Broadly about a couple of brassy dames who don’t fit in, and at its best when the two share the spotlight, Aguilera and Cher play a trailer park escapee and a salty club maven respectively. They tussle at first in this nightclub that could never actually exist on today’s Sunset Boulevard, but, like everything else in Burlesque, you sort of go with the 1940s-era plot which, in turns, is corny, bawdy, and 100 percent enjoyable. Cher plays Cher, basically, and one becomes aware of her long absence from the screen and her cosmetic work, which is impossible not to notice. But she delivers in this exaggerated show business story, which combines the style of Chicago and Cabaret with the pluckiness of Flashdance. Aguilera can act, it turns out, when she isn’t buried beneath too much makeup as Cher is buried beneath too much surgery. I don’t say that to be mean; these two are best when left largely alone and unadorned. They appear in the movie’s best non-musical scene with Cher teaching the showgirl how to accentuate her best features.

The tunes are fine, with everything from Kander and Ebb to Etta James (“Tough Lover” rocks the house) with a soundtrack that includes songs by Boston, Madonna, Elmer Bernstein, Wynton Marsalis, and Marilyn Manson. There’s plenty of skin showing during the half-naked dance routines and there’s too much that’s ridiculous to mention (a club that’s too small, a pink-tinged Cyndi Lauper meet Rocky Horror nurse bit, and a whole lot of hoochie) but, when you break Burlesque down, it’s about the fact that “it’s fun being a girl,” as Cher’s gay sidekick (Stanley Tucci) puts it. Both these flimsy characters want to work hard doing what they love and, if you can see past the bad love story, catty chorus girls, and abundant cliches, amid some serious eye candy, babydoll wedding dress, and Art Deco backgrounds, you will probably forget the family drama, if not the fascist TSA, and have one heck of a good time.