Kirk Douglas and other fond Oscar memories

There was even a red carpet at last night’s Oscar Night America, the second year in a row that the Paramount and Virginia Film Festival invited locals to don their finest duds to celebrate the year’s best talkies in HD, as if the Paramount were the Kodak Theater. Sitting in the theater, plate of local food and wine in hand, was reason enough to watch from start to finish. (Also, waiting for the hosts to draw my raffle ticket.)

Here’s what happened, bad stuff first:

It’s still for old people. Anyone who would like to defend James Franco’s performance, please do so at your own risk in the comments below. All of the Academy’s attempts to court a younger audience—except for an awesome Auto-Tune The Oscars segment (see it below)—fell similarly flat. YouTube and cell phones exist, we get it.

It was a whitewash. In the weeks leading up, A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis of the New York Times put some interesting perspective on this year’s ceremony, noting that the nominees for Best Picture are more racially homogenous than those from 1940. (That’s when Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win, took home a trophy for her portrayal of Mammy in Gone with the Wind.) The evening’s ivory palette was hard to ignore as the night went on—so much so that Halle Berry’s tribute to Lena Horn, who paved a path to legitimacy for actresses of color, took on the air of tokenism. Who knows if Spike Lee even bothered to show. 

No good awards for music. The performances for Best Original Song looked like a high school talent show. The pretty girl sang an insipid song about love (Gwyneth, natch), the eccentric girl tried a little too hard (Florence Welch—don’t get it), an duet made everyone uncomfortable (Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi), and the award went to the seasoned vet: Randy Newman. Why does music always sound so bad on TV?

But there was plenty good, too:

The King’s Speech.

The film’s writer David Seidler suffered from a stutter as a child, but gave a moving speech himself when accepting the award for Best Original Screenplay. Speech—which was pretty good, even if it wasn’t historically accurate—was the night’s big winner.

Christian Bale’s beard. What a maniac.

Coen Brothers denied. True Grit was nominated for 10 Oscars and took home none, the worst Oscar performance since Gangs of New York went zero-for-10 in 2003. The Coen Brothers are great, but that movie was only O.K. This ought to light a fire under their rears.

Kirk Douglas. It was tough to get a handle on why Douglas was there in the first place, but aren’t you glad he was? The Academy spent so much time trying to appeal to young folks, and—would you figure?—this 94-year-old earlobey dinosaur stole the show. Look out, Betty White.

The Oscars, autotuned.

What did you think of this year’s Oscars?

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