Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Oscars Show

This is my column today at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.

Let’s take a break today from politics and the usual social issues and talk about what was the biggest event last Monday—the Oscars.

The big stories at this year’s Oscars were that Martin Scorsese finally won as Best Director for “The Departed” and Al Gore made a political comeback via Hollywood.

I am not sure if many Filipinos still watch the annual Academy Awards. But if advertising load is any indicator, it seems it is still one of RPN-9’s biggest moneymakers (I guess second only to the annual Miss Universe pageant, which has always been an exclusive franchise of the station). Since watching the live telecast at 9 in the morning was out of the question for work drones like me, I got to watch the primetime telecast of the Oscars last Monday. It still was overloaded with advertisements although the people at my house said the advertising load was already much lighter compared to the morning telecast. What can we do, as the running joke says, RPN-9 must be forgiven for overloading specials like the Oscars with commercials since it is probably the only time they get some share of the ratings.

While watching the show, I couldn’t help asking why our local movie industry can’t put up shows similar to the Academy Awards. Not that I go out of my way to watch the telecast of our local awards. First, there are just too many of them. The Famas, Star Awards, Empress Awards, Luna Awards, Urian Awards, and the Metro Manila Filmfest are the established ones, but practically every other university and cause-oriented group give out their own awards, too. It is another illustration of our inability as a people to manage differences. As in politics, whenever showbiz people disagree or get disenchanted with each other, they don’t work out their problems, they just go ahead and put up their own award-giving organization.

Second, it is extreme torture to watch our local awards shows. I often get to catch these shows because I have this habit of staying up late on weekends and these shows usually drag on until early morning when there is nothing else to watch on local TV.

Anyway. Let’s go back to the Oscars. I really have to hand it to the people who are part of the American film industry— they sure love what they do and they go out of their way to show it. If there is anything that is so remarkable about the Oscars, it is the fact that every single year, the respect and affection that people have for their industry and for each other is so palpable you can almost touch it.

What is so admirable is the way Hollywood people behave in such a professional way—everyone from the presenters, to the nominees and winners, even the audience. They stick to the rules, they put on their best manners, they listen attentively to the speeches of the winners, they laugh at the jokes and try not to put up a bored expression on their faces. Let’s not even attempt to compare the behaviors of our local industry people during similar occasions.

I am so happy that Martin Scorsese finally won as Best Director. He had been nominated five times in the past. I have been a Scorsese fan since I watched “Taxi Driver” back in high school. There are movies and songs and all right—moments —that will always stand out in one’s memories because they represent an important part of one’s growing-up process.

“Taxi Driver” was the film that made me a movie fan. It’s a film that is unflinchingly honest in its depiction of helplessness, isolation, corruption, obsession, etc. In short, it’s a really disturbing film, one that makes you sit up and smell the decay. I think it was the very first movie that made me appreciate films as art. I remember sitting through the end credits of that film in that dark cinema in Tacloban City shaking my head and wondering if I simply imagined the whole thing or if others saw what I just did.

I think the best Scorsese film is “Good Fellas,” although “Gangs of New York,” “Raging Bull,” and “The Last Temptation of Christ” are also testaments to the man’s genius. Scorsese’s films are intense, edgy and tend to focus on individual scenes rather than on the “total picture.” But that is exactly what I like about this guy—he puts personal expression before commercial considerations.

I was also thrilled that they gave musical genius Ennio Morricone an honorary Oscar. Whew. Believe it or not, this guy who composed that glorious score for “The Mission” (if I remember correctly, that movie was dedicated to Ninoy Aquino and a premiere was actually held at the Philippine International Convention Center in the eighties) had not won an Oscar yet although he had been nominated five times. If he were a Filipino, he would have said a mouthful already, probably organizing a boycott of all award-giving bodies. About time Morricone was honored.

An interesting sidebar was that Morricone delivered his acceptance speech in Italian and Clint Eastwood (who presented the award and bungled the introduction) tried to translate for the audience. I read somewhere that the translation was hardly accurate, but then again, it’s not every day that you get to see Clint Eastwood as an interpreter, so I guess no one’s complaining.

Helen Mirren (“The Queen”) won as Best Actress as expected. Forest Whitaker’s (“The Last King of Scotland”) victory as Best Actor was also expected. So the top acting plums this year went to actors portraying heads of state. The Best Picture award went to “The Departed.” In the Oscars, the most-anticipated award is for Best Picture—it is given last. This is logical because the whole essence of the awards is to celebrate films. In our country, the most-awaited and the last award to be given is that for Best Actress. Go figure.

The person who stole the show was Al Gore—yes, the former vice president who actually won the US presidential elections but lost the recount. Gore won an Oscar for his documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” and allowed himself to be used as comic relief by pretending to re-launch his presidential campaign at the Oscars.

Earlier in this column, I wondered why we couldn’t mount awards shows that come close to the way the Oscars is presented. We are not lacking in talent or creativity, that’s for sure, so why?
Our local awards shows continue to stick to the same format: Production numbers that feature dancers who do the same leg and head-throwing routines, singers who either sing out of tune or lip-sync their numbers, a pack of celebrities who think reading cue cards and regurgitating words someone else wrote already qualify them as hosts, and of course, a parade of celebrities who simply dress to be noticed.

On the other hand, the Oscars always come up with something novel and exciting—this year they had a sound choir which was a group of performers doing live sound effects to film clips, dancers behind a screen who formed their bodies into shapes associated with the nominated films, and of course, Ellen DeGeneres who was funny and came across as more genial as host of the show.

5 comments:

Reel Fanatic said...

I too was thrilled that Scorsese FINALLY won for best director, and that The Departed won Best Picture ... It may not be Scorsese's best movie, but it was definitely the most entertaining of the final five, so I was glad it prevailed

Jego said...

I didnt see the Oscars, but I saw the SAG awards, and what I noticed was the Brits (Jeremy Irons, Helen Mirren, Hugh Laurie), when they win, give real speeches. Interesting, sometimes even inspiring, speeches. Not a litany of "Id-like-to-thank's".

Morgan Freeman once parodied that when he accepted an award and said "I'd like to thank everyone I have ever met in my entire life." Or something like that.

Bong C. Austero said...

Reel fanatic,
Agree! The Departed is not Scorsese's best work, and it is sad because I think they finally made him win because of all those previous movies that deserved to win.

bong

Bong C. Austero said...

Jego,
Yup, they do try to sound profound and coherent even if most of them end up thanking everyone else just the same. Locally, our showbiz people start by thanking god, then everyone else including their hairdressers and stylists. haha.

bong

XETRA DAX said...

Cheers to Scorsese! He should have won with GoodFellas. For me, this award is long overdue. He deserves it.