I used to really enjoy the Oscars. The first show I remember well is the one from 1993, the year of Schindler’s List, The Piano, Philadelphia, Six Degrees of Separation, In the Name of the Father (god, what a year!). I was 12 and had managed to sneak into or sneak out of the video store most of the nominated films (I will never understand why my parents sent me to a shrink for strange, unchildlike, unsocial behavior…). For many years I’d make a point of seeing all the major films, and a big deal of the awards show, sternly shushing my friends who couldn’t sit still or really care less about the “most important” awards show of the year. And then I learned about Cannes, and Sundance, and the Independent Spirit Awards. “Important” is subjective, of course. And true, a Spirit Award probably won’t get you financing on your next film the way an Oscar will, but the awards show sure looks like a whole lot more fun.
Was it just that I’d seen the Spirit Awards that morning or were the Oscars especially stiff and stale this year? There went the same mermaid-shaped, sleeveless, ’40’s inspired dresses, the same sappy montages, some seriously cringe-worthy song-and-dance numbers (the Once kids excepted—I adore them), the same 18-carat Harry Winston conflict diamonds and sideswept chignons. There were a few highlights: Helen Mirren, looking stunning in a red silk dress, saying “cojones” with perfect pronunciation, a handful of moving acceptance speeches largely by non-Americans… umm, yeah, that’s all I got. The show so lacked major upsets, excitement and fashion risks it has left my memory already. Tilda Swinton stirred things up a bit going androgynous and makeup-free instead of Old Hollywood Glamour – the only acceptable Oscar look — and Colin Farrell provided a nice moment of cheap entertainment, running on stage to push his hair out of his eyes like some blue-blooded Princeton lacrosse player (is that where he’s been hiding this whole time?). Add to all that a totally unironic use of “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion and you’ve got yourself one very flat, ho-hum evening. Even Jon Stewart looked bored.
Meanwhile over at the Independent Spirit Awards, everyone’s drunk and getting drunker. Julian Schnabel’s wearing purple pajamas (and delivering an uncharacteristically humble Best Director acceptance speech), presenters and winners often take the podium in jeans, swearing is rampant, and host Rainn Wilson is hilarious and out of control and – dare I say – sexy? Angelina’s debuting her new baby bump to the indie world beside Father of the Year Brad Pitt who’s rocking a poofy, blond, borderline Flock of Seagulls hairdo. I guess when you have 8,000 children you don’t have time to get a proper haircut, even if you’re Brad f’ing Pitt. But it works in this context because he looks like he’s genuinely having fun and the Spirit folks don’t care about petty things like good hair and bad hair. I like their style.