The 83rd Academy Awards: My Oscar Picks

25 02 2011

It’s Oscar time once again. I have previously written about the importance of awards shows in the production of celebrity image. In a contemporary celebrity culture that emphasizes the private-self of the star over their public performances, awards shows serve to remind us that talent is (supposed to be) the ultimate definition of a star, but also shows audiences that there is a real person (a glamorous and special real person) behind that talent. The Oscars ceremony is the pinnacle of all awards shows and a key place where the actor/actress really becomes a star. Stars glamorously parade down the red carpet in their finery and pat each other on the back for being so amazing, both of which remind audiences that stars are special and extraordinary…not like you and me. It’s over-the-top and definitely pretentious, but that’s why I love it. It’s a glimpse of controlled stardom we don’t see too much these days.

Anyway, since I’m attending an Oscar party and will not be live blogging the event (the internet weeps, I’m sure), I thought I’d give my picks for the major awards. I’ve seen nearly all the nominated best picture films (except 127 Hours, which I don’t think I can stomach despite my Franco-love and The Fighter because, well, meh) and my picks are based partly on my own reactions and partly on (some nearly inescapable) industry buzz. Here we go!

Despite the fact that I’m pretty sure that the stodgy oldsters of the Academy will go with the furs-and-pearls period costume drama of The King’s Speech, I have to go with The Social Network here. You go into both of these films knowing the story and, really, the ending. But SN kept me rivited and engaged the entire time anyway. Who knew typing could be so exciting! I really enjoyed several of the other nominees (particularly True Grit, Black Swan and Winter’s Bone) but I think SN captures an important moment of shift in our culture. It’s not perfect, but it’s my pick.

Colin Firth deserves this not only for his strong performance in The King’s Speech, but really as a body of work Oscar. He is consistently good and has been overlooked for too long. He is the definitive Mr. Darcy, which makes me love him so much that I’ll even overlook his presence in the treacly mess Love Actually (oh yeah, I said it!). Hard to pick a runner up, as it is so far and away Firth’s category this year, but I loved Jesse Eisenberg’s performance as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Yes, you can have my Oscar vote!

I haven’t seen Rabbit Hole, so Kidman is out. Michelle Williams and Jennifer Lawrence (I hope we see more of her) were both excellent in their roles, but this one is really comes down to Annette Bening and Natalie Portman. I’ve heard some say that Bening should win because she’s been overlooked for so long and, as an “older” woman in Hollywood, doesn’t have that many chances left. I really enjoyed her tightly-wound performance as Nic in The Kids Are Alright. But my strong visceral reaction to Black Swan was all about Natalie Portman’s balls out (that’s right) turn as a crazy (or is she?) ballerina. I also think Swan doesn’t have much chance in its other categories, so this is where voters will honor it.

I get it. Christian Bale is an intense Method actor who completely changes himself for every role. I’m sure he’s great, but, as I said, I haven’t seen The Fighter. So I’m not buying the hype. I have to say I’m thrilled that John Hawkes was nominated for Winter’s Bone because I loved his character’s meanness and that steely glint in his eye. Mark Ruffalo is super sexy in Kids, but not really Oscar-worthy to me. Jeremy Renner was my favorite part of The Town, but he’ll never win. As good as Colin Firth was in TKS, he couldn’t have done it without the strong supporting turn from Geoffrey Rush. The scene in Westminster Abby where Rush’s Lionel Logue sits in the throne and goes toe-to-toe with the angry King George is fantastic. He should win.

True Grit simply would not have worked if the actress playing Mattie Ross had not been amazing. Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld gave a strong performance in what really is a central, not supporting, role. True, I’ve only seen two of the five films nominated here, but I’m sticking with the ingenue anyway.

Obviously this is where Toy Story 3 will get its due.

I think Aaron Sorkin has a lock on this one. Especially if my previous prediction about Best Picture comes true. Of all the nominations for The Social Network, I would be most surprised if it doesn’t win in this category.

I’ll go with The Kids Are Alright here. Partly because I think it was well written, but also because Lisa Cholodenko (who co-wrote with Stuart Blumberg) is the only woman nominated in this category.

Toss up for me between Black Swan and The Social Network. Editing was crucial to how both films told their stories. But seamless shifts in point of view that propelled The Social Network’s narrative makes me pick its editors, Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter, as the winners.

I’ll go with the sparse yet beautiful Western landscapes of True Grit. Roger Deakins’ work, especially with the Coen Bros, is always fantastic. He’s never won an Oscar either! I think it’s time.

Part of me wants to give it to Darren Aronofsky. Black Swan is really a love-it-or-hate-it kind of movie, and, as a fan of Aronfsky’s, I really loved it. The ridiculous, in-your-face use of the handheld camera, the way your eyes played tricks on you as you watched it…I loved all of it. I just don’t think it will get this award though. Tom Hooper was fine, but such a boring choice, really. Too soon for a Coen Bros repeat. David Fincher really handled the complexities of The Social Network well and never let it be just a Sorkin script-driven film. He’s my pick.

The other more technical awards are usually a crap-shoot for me, so I’ll leave those to my Oscar party ballot. I will say, though, that I am so in love with Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’ original score for The Social Network. It really made the film and I still listen to it constantly. As much as I want it to win— and provide me with a weird moment of cognitive dissonance when Nine Inch Nails frontman Reznor is on the Oscars stage in a tux—it will probably go to something more traditional, like The King’s Speech. My runner-up would be Hans Zimmer’s work on Inception. If only Daft Punk had been nominated for the Tron: Legacy soundtrack because they would have shown up in spacesuits and made my night. Anyway, I’m sticking with Reznor and Ross as my pick.

I also think that Inception will definitely take the Visual Effects honors, and probably also Art Direction. The fact that Nolan and the effects team used actual rotating sets instead of CGI for that awesome hotel hallway fight makes that film my pick.

Enjoy the show!


The 62nd Annual Emmy Awards: Show Time!

29 08 2010

New post for the show itself!

8:03 I’m loving the star power in the opening. And the Springsteen!

8:11 Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy…my toughest category to pick! Oh, and Eric Stonestreet wins! He’s my favorite on that show, but I didn’t see this coming.

8:13 Love that John Hodgman is doing the intros again!

8:14 The acceptance speech, in general, is interesting because it does reveal the other forces behind the star as playing a role in creating the star. Thanking writers, producers, other creative professionals or even the star’s publicity team is a quick glimpse behind the controlled facade that says stars are natural phenomena. But that hardly ever gets play from the media after the speech. It’s just who won.

8:25 As if anyone but Jane Lynch could wind this one!

8:26 Thanks Jane Lynch. Now I see that actors and academics have a lot in common…we do this because we have no other marketable skills. 😉

8:28 Oh man…the last season of Oprah is upon us. This ad is already getting me choked up with its emotional manipulation. This farewell season will be bonkers.

8:38 Rewarding a new face! Nice. Haven’t really seen this show, but Jim Parsons’ clip earlier made me laugh.

8:40 I think the acceptance speech plays an important role in the emphasis on the private celeb in the moment of rewarding their public performances. Seeing a genuinely flustered actor/actress win is pretty endearing.

8:45 I haven’t seen Nurse Jackie at all. Worth watching? But I do love Edie Falco…reward for successful cross over from drama to comedy?

8:47 I’ve only gotten one category right so far (Jane Lynch)! And I didn’t do any reality picks!

8:49 Promo moment! Will Arnet and Keri Russell are in a new show on Fox this fall. But since this in on NBC, they didn’t mention that in the intro. I’m sure we’ll hear when new NBC stars are on!

8:52 Damn it Oprah! You are killing me. How much did they spend to get these spots on? It doesn’t even run on NBC (at least my Oprah doesn’t, its CBS).

8:57 Drama! Okay, time to redeem myself and get some picks right this time!

9:02 Mad Men wins writing…but I’m sticking with Lost for best series even though I personally enjoy MM more.

9:04 I’m wrong again! But happy to be wrong to see more awards for Breaking Bad. Congrats to Aaron Paul who plays Jesse on BB.

9:11 I am wrong again…but An Admirer’s dreams of a hotness qualification for an Emmy comes true! Archie Punjabi wins for The Good Wife

9:13 My head was right, Bryan Cranston wins for Outstanding Actor for playing Walter White Breaking Bad. Love him, love the show, but would not have kicked a John Hamm acceptance speech out of bed.

9:18 I’ve only gotten 2 picks out of 6 correct so far. Not a good record!

9:19 Another promo moment…Undercovers ad followed immediately by the (unknown) stars presenting an award.

9:32 Outstanding Actress in a Drama. Kyra Sedgwick with the upset. I don’t watch The Closer either.

9:53 Thought it would be Conan’s big moment. The Daily Show has been pretty hilarious lately, especially the Glenn Beck stuff.

10:04 George Clooney, the biggest star in the room, just made the distinction between star vs. celebrity. Should have used him as a source in my dissertation.

10:26 Maura Tierney looks great with the pixie haircut. Glad she is well and coming back to TV. Note that the NBC shows got mentioned in their intro. Industry promotional moment.

10:31 Definitely hitting the wall and ready for the big awards of the night, comedy and drama series. I’m also amused by the irony that I am not watching the new episode of Mad Men in order to see if Mad Men wins outstanding drama series.

10:51 Finally! Outstanding Drama Series!

10:51 Yay for Mad Men even though it means another category I lose! Last season was really spectacular.

10:54 With one award to go, will this telecast actually end on time? Miracles are possible!

10:56 Outstanding Comedy….my chance to get 3 out of 10 for my picks! C’mon Modern Family

10:57 Woo! I get 3 out of 10! My reward is I get to go to bed!

11:00 Thanks for reading along with my live blog experiment! Good night!

The 62nd Emmy Awards: Red Carpet Live Blog

29 08 2010

Welcome to my experiment in live blogging! I’m gonna start with some red carpet coverage to kind of get the feel of the live blog before the main event. NBC’s red carpet starts at 7pm, so I’ll be watching E! until then. Show starts at 8pm EST.

By way of context, I’ll just say that the red carpet is a major moment for the construction of the celebrity image. Given the context of the event (which I discussed here), the emphasis is on the extraordinary and glamorous side of stardom. As much as contemporary audiences love seeing stars stripped down and caught off-guard in paparazzi shots, the awards show is where we want to see them LOOK like stars. The fact that celebrity media devotes so much attention to the fashion/glamor of the awards shows demonstrates, I think, the importance of the extraordinary star endures in contemporary celebrity culture.

The celebrity media obviously have a big stake in this, as best/worst dressed issues are generally big sellers. It’s also a big deal for the stars (and their cultural producers). Ending up on a best dressed list is a big plus for (especially female) stars because it gets them positive press coverage…even in the tabloids! That said, even ending up on the worst dressed list still gets you some coverage, so it can be a momentary image buster, but at least still gets name out there. I think some folks deliberately go crazy just for that sort of thing.

Either way, it’s a really important space for celebs to get their names/faces out there. Which also makes it a space that kind of gets away from the talent focus of the event (we’ll save that for the actual awards show). This also allows the industry to sneak in new faces (like Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who will star in the new NBC show from J.J. Abrams Undercovers premiering this fall. She’s there as a presenter, but it’s obviously a move by NBC to promote the show since she’s an unknown) and people whose talent is not their claim to fame or, really, the reason they are at the show (I’m looking at you, Kim Kardashian). So the overall event is not all talent-based fame, but it still holds on to the stars-as-extraordinary focus no matter who is on the carpet.

I’m turning on E! now, so let’s get this red carpet live blog started!

6:02pm Love that Ryan is keeping up the facade that this is a totally uncontrolled and unscripted glimpse of the stars. “You never know what will happen!” Also, Jane Lynch looks amazing in that plum dress.

6:14 I’m renaming the Glam Cam 360 to Scary Cam 360. This is almost as weird as the reporter hologram from the presidential election coverage.

6:17 Ty Burrell, my pick for outstanding comedy actor, wins points for not going for standard black tuxedo.

6:32 I love Kathy Griffin at these events because the celebrities are afraid of her.

6:35 Kim Kardashian may be on television, but, let’s face it, she’s there because she’s gorgeous and makes good red carpet fodder. Sort of a celebrity seat filler…can be in pictures and help the celeb media sell some magazines.

6:43 Except for that moment of awkwardness when Ryan asked Mark Salling about the rumor that his Glee castmate and rumored girlfriend, Naya Rivera, keyed his car, Ryan is keeping all the chatter at the level of star-as-worker (talking about show) or positive personal info (like the fascinating insight into the home life of Eva Longria Parker and Tony Parker). Keep the drama out of it, Ryan, this is the Emmys! Industry gossip only!

6:47 Sofia Vegaras is just crazy gorgeous. I love her!

6:48 John Hamm! Swoon! Love his gf, Jennifer Westfeldt, but also love to pretend that he sits at home pining away for me.

6:53 Kate Gosslin! No! That’s just wrong.

7:00 January Jones is wise to go very modern with her red carpet looks since she does the vintage in her character. Way to separate your “self” from your character!

7:02 Christina Hendricks. Like the purple color. Do not like the feathers or the sleeves. But she’s sure working the girls.

7:05 Switched to NBC just in time for Betty White! But now a repeat of Claire Danes. But I think I’ll stick here for Nate Berkus’ handsome scruff.

7:09 Now Nate Berkus is ruining the illusion by talking about the supportive undergarments that go into making these dresses possible.

7:38 Matthew Morrison has the innate inner talent necessary for fame! Thanks, mentor guy.

7:42 One benefit for changing to NBC…get to see John Hamm again.

7:57 I’m gonna start a new post for the show itself, so I’m calling this red carpet finished. Big winners: ladies: Lea Michele, Sofia Vegara men: Ty Burell and (duh) John Hamm.

Celebrity Culture and the Awards Show

27 08 2010

Awards shows play an unusual role in celebrity culture. On one hand, they (allegedly) reward the famous for their talent—for actually doing something to deserve our adulation and, in turn, their fame. We are asked, if only momentarily, to put aside any extratextual details of the star’s life and focus only on her performances. The awards show privileges the extraordinariness of stars…these are exceptional individuals who do exceptional things, wear amazing and glamorous gowns and tuxedos, and generally are gorgeous and fabulous at all times.

But, as is always the case with stardom, the private or “real” person never goes away. Thus, the awards show is also a key, albeit tightly controlled, moment for the audience to see the “real” and private person appear in public as her extraordinary self. We logically know we are looking at Katherine Heigl as she accepts her award, not at her Grey’s Anatomy character. But we are always brought back to her talent in portraying that character as the key to her image (despite any extratextual reports we may have read about her). We are also asked to equate the “real” Katherine Heigl with the fabulous extraordinary person we see on stage, without bothering to think about all the effort that went into producing the self we see on stage (hair, makeup, dress fittings, endless campaigning for the award etc). In other words, her private “real” self is the effortlessly extraordinary vessel of glamor and talent!

Aren't I Fabulous? Now give me an award!

Thank You! I REALLY mean it!

Contemporary awards shows are a throwback to the glamor and control of the Golden Age of Hollywood, when stars were created to support the interests of the studio and then tightly policed by the studio to uphold that image. Make no mistake, the awards show is work for the star, and they know how to put on the proper kind of private self in this public moment. A successful appearance at an awards show (whether nominated or not, and whether or not the star actually takes home a trophy) is key to continued work in the industry and audience devotion. Even if they end up on the worst dressed list, their still wearing designer dresses and hanging out with other celebs and you aren’t.

On the hallowed ground of the awards show, the stars are nothing but special. Even Joan Rivers saved her snarking for the next day. Awards shows are full of ridiculous, self-aggrandizing, and ass-kissing behavior, so obviously they are perfect vehicles for celebrity culture! Where else do you get a bunch of beautiful people congratulating each other for being so beautiful and fabulous? I kid, celebrities, I kid. I do (much to my partner’s chagrin) love the major award shows precisely because of the stylized glitz and glamor that, I think, perfectly encapsulates stardom.

Which, of course, means I am quite excited about this weekend’s Emmy Awards. At the request of frequent (dare I say favorite?) commenter, An Admirer, I’ll be live blogging the event on Sunday. I’ll probably start with some pre-show red carpet ridiculousness on E! around 6pm EST, but will definitely be on board for the entire awards show proper.

I’ll even venture some picks for the major categories, based mostly on my personal preference over what industry buzz I might have read. I’m gonna stick to just the acting categories (and “big” award of best comedy and best drama series), since that’s most relevant to my focus on stardom here. Though I will say Lost’s final episode is probably the one to beat in the Drama Writing category. I invite you to share your own picks or tell me why mine are wrong in the comments section. You can find a full list of nominees here

Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series
I’m gonna go with Alec Baldwin for his continued excellence on 30 Rock. Though the fact that Steve Carell is leaving The Office after this season may make him a dark horse. Sorry Mr. Shue.

Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series
Tina Fey’s my favorite here, but I think Julia Louis-Dreyfuss has a shot since her show, The New Adventures of Old Christine, was canceled and there’s nothing like sticking it to the man by rewarding a show that did not make it (see: Arrested Development)

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Will the Modern Family men cancel each other out? Will NPH finally get his due? How much do I love Chris Kofler as Kurt on Glee? I don’t know, so let’s say Ty Burrell as doofus Dad Phil Dunfey on Modern Family. One part of me loves to see so many gay characters (and actors) nominated, but sort of sad (though not entirely surprised) that it is in the supporting category.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Jane Lynch as Sue Sylvester on Glee. The end.

Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series
My heart says John Hamm, but my head says Bryan Cranston. Who completely deserves another win for his portrayal of Walter White on Breaking Bad. Dark horse is Matthew Fox from Lost. He did a great job this season, and the voters love to reward a show in its final season.

Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series
This is a tough one for me, because I only watch one of the nominated actress’s shows. Which probably makes me a bad feminist spectator, what with the strong characters and actresses nominated here. So I’ll say Julianna Margulies for The Good Wife because I know some other people like her. 😉 And because as much as I enjoy January Jones’ portrayal of ice queen Betty Draper, I somehow think her performance is related more to the luck of finding the perfect role for her than her acting chops. Though no one furrows her brow quite like Jones.

Outstanding Supporting Actor Drama Series
Gah, this one is so hard! I really want John Slattery to win for Mad Men’s Roger Sterling, who always gets the best lines. But I think it will be either Terry O’Quinn or Michael Emerson for Lost, both of whom were fantastic in the final season. Edge to O’Quinn for so convincingly turning Locke into FLocke.

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
I am still a bit miffed that Anna Gunn was not nominated for her tense and nuanced performance as Skylar White Breaking Bad. She really was outstanding this past season. Nevertheless, Christina Hendrick’s Joan on Mad Men keeps getting more complex and fascinating. Her scenes with her no-good husband last season were brilliantly subtle. Go Joan!

And the really big ones:

Outstanding Comedy Series
Though 30 Rock continues to be one of my favorite shows ever, I think they’ve probably won it enough times. Torn between Glee and Modern Family, I’m gonna go with Modern Family because the sneaky punchlines and deadpan delivery make me laugh out loud and rewind my DVR to see it again.

Outstanding Drama Series
As much as I love Mad Men, no other show makes me say “holy crap!” more consistently than Breaking Bad, which just keeps getting better. That said, Lost is totally winning this category.

See you back here on Sunday night!