Tag Archives: Freaks And Geeks

Oscar? My, A Wiener!

When the best line of the night is delivered by a hologram, that’s not a good sign…

Old Hollywood crossed swords with New Hollywood last night, and it’s quite possible that they both took two steps backwards. Despite a blatant attempt to drag itself into the 21st century through young hosts and a plethora of social media references, most reports on the Oscar telecast agree that it was a major fail. Ironically, the two best presences on stage were Billy Crystal and Bob Hope – the former nailing two great jokes in a row before paying tribute to the legacy of the latter. And yes, the line of the night came from a hologram.

To paraphrase Neil Young, the show “started out real slow and then fizzled out altogether“. The opening montage placed co-hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco in an amusing maze of Best Picture references; digitally inserted into scenes so they could interact with the stars, and surprising us with cameos from Alec Baldwin and Morgan Freeman.

But from that point forward, it went down like a lawn dart.

Ratings were off ten percent as viewers started to bail during the telecast, knowing they could get updates without siting through some of the most painful banter ever written for a major awards show. Maybe they should have taken Ricky Gervais up on his offer to script a few jokes. Sure he’d offend a few people, but at least they’d be awake.

I like James Franco. But the dude seemed to disappear for large stretches of time, and judging by his performance I suspect they were for (wink wink) smoke breaks. Either that or he decided to channel his Freaks And Geeks stoner character because he realized that the “guy in a dress” thing had short shelf life.

I like Anne Hathaway. I think she’s talented and fearless and funny, and she’s as good of a singer as she is an actress. But she was a disaster as a host. Fawning over presenters like a tipsy schoolgirl at an adult party, she showed neither respect nor a sense of belonging. If people had concerns that a relative newcomer is not who people feel comfortable with to steer them through the night, she made their case.

I like Kirk Douglas. I’ve been a fan all my life and several of his films are on my all time list of greats, and I’m thrilled that he has battled through a debilitating stroke at an advanced age and continues to be involved in the industry. But what first started out as uncomfortable soon nose-dived into painful, whether he was milking the joke or truly addled. Watching him twist five nominees in the wind was as sad as watching Dick Clark trying to keep up with the New Year’s Eve countdown, and both were in front of a global audience. I know some thought that was the highlight of the show, but haters gotta hate.

Two presenters who tried hard

I like Randy Newman. And hey, no complaints. He was actually funny, and self-deprecating, and irreverent and grateful. Truly an oasis in last night’s desert. I think he has a future in the business.

I like Melissa Leo. I’ve been a fan of hers since Homicide, and I’ve been thrilled to watch her finally get recognition in recent years for strong roles in independent films. But as much as I love the F-bomb, it’s her OMG! persona that is starting to wear thin. Not quite Sally Field territory, but after accepting a slew of nominations for Frozen River and now The Fighter, I think the “pinch me” days are behind her. Still, kudos to a great actress.

I like short witty speeches. If you were still awake when Tom Hooper and Colin Firth accepted their awards, both were great examples of  how to leverage the opportunity with wit and humility. Firth put it best, saying “I have a feeling my career just peaked“. Aaron Sorkin also nailed his speech – wordy but fluid, naturally – with the right balance of deference and pride plus the bonus point for a closing personal remark that makes people like me remember to compliment him.

I like Lena Horne. But why did I get the feeling that singling her out was pandering to the race card issue rather than a genuine bow to her greatness? Yes, she was a trailblazer, and yes, it is Black History Month, but the fact that we still have Black History Month and still have to have actors like Halle Berry acknowledge that a trail was blazed for them shows just how far we are from being a society that has put prejudice in its rear view mirror.

As for the awards themselves, I was stunned that Tom Hooper won Best Director. It was reminiscent of Putney Swope, where voters didn’t want to tip the scales to a serious candidate so they cast a vote for someone they were sure wouldn’t win…and of course, he did. Hooper did a fine job, of course, but the exclusion of Christopher Nolan was just that much more obvious. I thought The King’s Speech was a fine film; I enjoyed it very much. But it was a character study, a play transported to screen, that was dwarfed by at least half its competitors.

At the risk of sounding like Old Hollywood, maybe I just miss times like these instead of an era when Chicago is the best we can do. And no, I’m not bitter just because I got my clock cleaned on my ballot after an early run of success. I missed on a few key gambles but hey – I beat the people in Mom’s basement.

And of course the In Memorium list missed some names…as always. Why is this so difficult every year? Who does this? They can’t keep track of famous dead people when there are gambling sites devoted to tracking that very list of names? (Attention witless Keepers of the Oscar Obituaries: Jane Russell is now on board for your next montage.)

But I’ll be back next year. Hope they hire a comic who can work the room.

Even if he’s dead.

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T.G.I.F. – Ten Upcoming Comedy Releases

We’re in the midst of another stand-up comedy renaissance, although you’d never know it by the recent Grammy nominations. But as one who eagerly anticipates every comedy album release, I was thrilled with 2010’s bounty and 2011 is shaping up to be even better with first releases from great new comics as well as the return of a couple of old favorites.

Looks like television has raised the bar for 2011 – IFC has picked up Mr. Show, The Ben Stiller Show and The Onion News to add to an already great lineup that includes Arrested Development, Undeclared and Freaks And Geeks. The new Comedy Central Presents series launches in mid-January and John Oliver’s Stand Up returns in March. Might have to get another DVR!

So here are Ten Upcoming Comedy Releases to get excited about. And keep your eyes peeled at Stand Up! Records, Comedy Central, Uproar Entertainment, Rooftop Comedy , AST and other fine labels committed to bringing great comedy to your front door…

01) Patrice O’Neal Elephant In The Room…comedy special taped in November and will be available in January. One of the funniest guys on the planet and a very overdue release!

02) Nick Griffin Bring Out The Monkey…thrilled that he cut a second album after all this time; he nails the angst of frustrated desperation as well as anyone ever has.

03) Daniel Tosh Happy Thoughts…I don’t follow Tosh 2.0 but both of his prior releases were hilarious. Great presentation and sarcasm; I can’t wait!

04) Kurt Metzger – (Title TBD)…I’ve been pimping this guy to anyone who will listen; anyone who saw Last Comic Standing knows he got screwed over. Maybe the album on this list I’m most excited about.

05) Paul F. TompkinsYou Should Have Told Me…his first DVD and sure to be an undoubtedly surreal experience. I’m still laughing at Freak Wharf, let alone his amazing guest stint on Community last week.

06) Natasha Leggero – (Title TBD)…I gave her a rough ride when covering Last Comic Standing but ate my words when she got a chance to do standup on the last episode. Check out the second Tonight Show clip on her website; the album will surely be a killer.

07) Louis CKHilarious…how prolific is this guy? Louie got picked up for another season and might have been the best show of 2010; Hilarous is coming out in January and he’s already touring with a new show, Word.

08) Whitney Cummings Money Shot…loved her first album, one of the best comedy releases of 2009. She’s fearless and raw, and this new show is funny as hell.

09) Nick Kroll Thank You Very Cool…scene stealing Kroll will no doubt have some blisteringly inappropriate stand-up plus feature some of his bizarre characters.

10) Norm MacDonald Norm MacDonald Stand-Up Special…March 2011, proving once and for all that there is a God.

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