Monday, March 08, 2010

Sister Direct


The Cholmondeley Ladies by Pants

International Women's Day. Today I'm setting aside as a 'me' day. Oh, hang on, I do that every day. It is the singular joy of living alone. I liberated myself ages ago when it became clear it wasn't going to happen through any political process. I've moved on from the conversation that never resolves. I don't even like shopping so there's no conflict to reconcile. In fact there are no gender issues at Seat of Pants at all. I'm just glad I don't have to shave - anything.

So, it's on to the Oscars. I won't call it a guilty pleasure as there simply isn't enough pleasure in it to feel guilty about. Neil Patrick Harris (who he?) sings an intriguingly awful song surrounded by Fantail dancers. Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin descend in a sort of gilded cage thingy. Metaphor? Probably. Alec Baldwin looks uncannily like his Team America puppet, only much fatter. Steve Martin seems happy to be restored to his self-defined rightful place after last year's Hugh Jackman aberration. There are three people now doing the job as badly as Jackman. Am I supposed to think this is an improvement?

Barney has just told me that Neil Patrick Harris was Doogie Howser and is soon to be seen in a new Smurfs movie. High credentials indeed. Following the gilded cage exit, Baldy Martin unleashes fifteen minutes of terrible jokes, even by Oscars standards. Could the writers please go back on strike?

Frequent cutaways to George Clooney reveal some versatile scowling which looks suspiciously scripted. Then it's straight into the men's second banana contest. I hardly know where I am. Neither it seems does Christoph Waltz, Best Supporting Actor. He must have picked up the wrong set of flash cards or perhaps his head has moved on to his next 'project'. He thinks he is on some kind of maritime exploration with a mad, navigationally challenged sea captain called Tarantino rather than in a large hall with lots of people wearing party clothes and giving each other statuettes.

A cringey cartoon sequence introduces the best animated feature nominations. The question 'why?' takes up residence on the sofa and stays for the whole three hours. Up wins. Good. I agree, although I haven't seen any of the others. I simply can't find fault with a cartoon character modelled on Spencer Tracy.

Mylie Cyrus and some other young thing arrive draped in matching toilet roll tidies to introduce Best Song. Little'n'Large tag-team Ryan Bingham and T-Bone Burnett adopt diametrically opposite acceptance tactics. Burnett, in dark glasses plays the Empire State Building to Bingham's King Kong, whose meandering tangential meditation puts one in mind of a Beckett monologue.

The Hurt Locker wins the first of its six awards, for best original screenplay. Tina Fey and Robert Downey Jnr are categorically unfunny during their introduction, despite brilliant timing on both their parts. I begin to wonder if it's all somehow deliberate, this determined duet with witlessness.

There's a long, rambling tribute to John Hughes. Leaving aside the obvious joys of reacquainting oneself with Molly Ringwald and Emilio Estevez and Ally Sheedy and Judd Nelson, the question 'why?' and I speculate on how it has been possible for Matthew Broderick to still have a career in movies since his basic expression is unchanged since War Games. John Lasseter reveals that, 'tools never make great films'. I hope he's still got a few male friends left after that howler.

I realise it's incredibly hard to feign nonchalance over a vanity you think is actually more important than ending child poverty, curing cancer and baking perfect scones combined, but surely someone can come up with a way of being 'panned to' that doesn't betray the worst kind of haemorrhoid face. There must be a more comprehensive menu of expressions than a) a self-conscious 'don't look at me' titter, or b) turning away and pretending to whisper something erudite to the person in the next seat. Charlize Theron has designs on swiping something out of the handbag of the woman sitting in front of her but I don't think she is aware she is on camera. It is at least a refreshingly different Oscar visage.

Ben Stiller comes out to present the Oscar for best makeup as a Na'vi. It isn't vaguely funny but at least it isn't creepy like last year's bearded Joaquin weird-out. And then, a miracle, something funny happens. Although unintentional, I'll take a laugh at any price. Geoffrey Fletcher does a Gwenyth after getting the nod for his adapted screenplay for Precious. He's in hyperdrive. No metaphor is too ambitious. His mother is the angel of the world. War is over - peace given chance - official. Morgan Freeman tries to telepath a 'get a grip, man' stare. If anyone can do it, Morgan can. He's wearing his Nelson Mandela face. Finally the agony ends and Fletcher is carried off weeping after falling into an ecstatic trance. Steve Martin says, 'I wrote that speech for him.' The question 'why?' and I exchange something very near a chuckle.

I want Mo'Nique to win Best Supporting Actress for no other reason than she doesn't shave her legs. I haven't seen Precious. She does win, hurrah! She strides purposefully onto the stage. She thanks the academy for demonstrating that, 'it can be about the performance and not the politics', and then goes on to show that acceptance speeches can be about the politics and not just saying 'thank you'.

Sigourney Weaver hoves into view in a toga made out of a blood-soaked parachute to present the award for Best Art Direction to an uncountable team from Avatar. It is that kind of movie. The speechmaker thinks he's being honoured by The Guinness Book of Records or maybe Mythbusters. 'Thirteen years ago,' he begins, 'doctors told me I wasn't going to survive...' So you see, with a balanced diet and the right mental attitude, you too could win an Oscar.

Just when you think you're having to work far too hard to derive amusement from all this, in strolls Sarah Jessica Parker. SJP is so synonymous with frock fright, you're probably already laughing. Let me say, that even by SJP standards, this is loathsome. She is wearing a shower curtain, complete with rail and shower rose. Fittingly, she and fabric cutter turned final cutter Tom Ford are presenting the best costume award. Three-time winner Sandy Powell gives a suitably smug speech dressed in what appears to be a gown fashioned from a collection of pot holders, with a pot-scourer beret.

J-Lo motors in wearing a special wedding edition organdie Harley Davidson, complete with sidecar. I hope she didn't have too much difficulty parking. Demi Moore presents the obits accompanied by a very bald James Taylor singing The Beatles' In My Life, bringing new meaning to the word moribund. Michael Giacchino wanders off-programme accepting his award for best musical score for Up. He apparently thinks he is giving a pep talk to his old primary school, advising everyone to waste as much time as possible. Hey, no argument from me, Mikey.

And then it all goes supersize weird in a way only Hollywood can dream up. An acrobatic representation of the nominated films lasts almost as long as the films themselves. Of course there is some pleasure to be gained from the awareness that all those pompous, overpaid showbizzies have to endure it at close range. In fact the more pompous and overpaid, the closer the range.

After two-and-a-half stultifying hours, the question 'why?' and I exchange knowing glances. We are finally at the business end. But there are still a few emotional thumbscrew moments ahead. The instinct for self-preservation had obliterated the memory of last year's Oscars and the then new feature of getting someone, usually a co-star, to testimonialise for several excruciating minutes on the qualities of the nominated best in show actors and actresses. You have to wonder about the purpose of all this. Isn't it a bit late for lobbying at this stage?

Jeff Bridges agrees with every sycophantic syllable of Michelle Pfeiffer's megagush. George Clooney clearly likes being called 'dreamy'. Colin Firth has the good taste to cover his smirk with his hand. Morgan Freeman's Nelson Mandela face can withstand any amount of saccharine. I'm not all that interested in the male winner although Jeff Bridges is good value as a crownee. Another one who's picked up the wrong set of flash cards; he thinks he's won a Country Music Award. He's a-hollerin' and a-whoopin' like he's a-channelling ole George Jones hisself. I now feel I have enough information to write his biography.

My pick for Best Actress was always Sandra Bullock. She wears a nice dress with no unnecessary architectural embellishments. The testimonials for the women are far more subdued. The question 'why?' and I exchanged bemused nods. Bullock wins, giving her a unique set of bookends as she'd won a Razzie for Worst Actress the night before. Hollywood is the place where L-O-V-E and H-A-T-E are just finger-tattoo words for matching hands.

There can't be a decent, forthright fairplayer anywhere in the free world who isn't rooting for Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director. She wins, hurrah! Barbra Streisand dressed in trouser suit announces it. They exit, arm-in-arm, to the strains of Helen Reddy's I Am Woman, on International Women's Day. Is the heart full of cockles? Are they warm? And haven't we come a long way baby?

I've no sooner commenced to boogaloo around the lounge, Campari and soda aloft, Virginia Slim alight in sisterly celebration, than the magisterial presence of Tom Hanks appears onstage to announce the Best Picture winner. No ritual reading out of nominations - I suppose those acrobatic realisations were fairly comprehensive - just the name. The Hurt Locker. Yay! Kathryn Bigelow again. And she is wearing a sane dress that looks like she might even be able to sit down in it. I am woman, hear me roar...