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Ricky Gervais: Golden Balls

Thank God for Ricky Gervais, even if Ricky is an athiest.

Gervais, as he did last year, relentlessly skewered any pretense of dignity that some think the event has. Although it has been elevated to major award status, the fact remains that it’s just one more opportunity for Hollywood to pat itself on the back and ensure global domination of its main export, the American film. So widespread is its reputation for bribery, favoritism and hero-worship that even Robert DeNiro took several shots at the HFPA when receiving its highest honor.

I had to laugh when reading reports this morning chastising Gervais for being irreverent and mean-spirited, and I was astounded to see that some didn’t even find him funny. Are you kidding me? Aside from a couple of good podium moments (David Fincher, Jane Lynch) and two good introductory bits (Robert Downey Jr. and the always-gold Tina Fey/Alec Baldwin combination) the show was an insufferable snore-fest. When he was off-screen for close to an hour, the show dragged. There were no huge upsets in the film categories (Paul Giamatti and Melissa Leo being the closest thing to surprises) and as usual the attendees were more interested in socializing between announcements than paying attention to the proceedings. If they’re not focused, why should I be?

Ah, but when Gervais was at the podium, they had to focus, because he’s fearless; you never know what he’s going to say and when. Are people really upset that he inferred that Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen and Robert Downey Jr. have had personal issues? Was poking fun at some of the turkeys in a film resume really that insulting to a famous actor? And the joke about the omission of Jim Carrey’s performance in I Love You Philip Morris was brilliant; a one-two punch that savaged the voting board for its inconsistent temerity regarding homosexuality and launched a dig at pushy Scientology salesmen Tom Cruise and John Travolta

Also not nominated: I Love You, Philip Morris. Jim Carrey and Ewan McGregor. Two heterosexual actors pretending to be gay. Sort of the complete opposite of some famous Scientologists then…My lawyers helped me with the wording of that joke.”

Most of the celebrities seemed to get it; Downey countered with a great quote (“Aside from the fact that it’s been hugely mean-spirited, with mildly sinister undertones, I’d say the vibe of the show is pretty good so far, wouldn’t you?“) and even long-suffering Office doppelgänger Steve Carell dutifully played the fall guy for what must be the hundredth time. Only the HFPA President seemed truly miffed – or maybe his comic delivery just sucks – but I think he has bigger problems than a temporary insult most people will forget faster than they forgot his name. Perhaps those who didn’t laugh prove the old adage that “the truth hurts“, because the Sex In The City actresses are long in the tooth, Cher is not a hot commodity in 2011, and Tim Allen, nice guy that he is, doesn’t have a resume like that of Tom Hanks.

But there were some painful moments, too. I love Robert DeNiro, and few actors have had the kind of career he has assembled (even discounting most of the past decade). But anyone who has seen him on Saturday Night Live knows that he is abysmal when reading cue cards, especially when it is comic lines obviously written by someone else. It started awkwardly enough, dove into some racist territory and ended with a fairly creepy reference to Megan Fox. Within the speech there were some pretty great barbs deflating the HFPA, but it was as painful to watch as…well…Little Fockers, for one.

The biggest surprises of the evening were on the TV side of the fence; 30 Rock going home empty-handed, Modern Family losing to Glee (when their sophomore seasons have been such polar opposites, quality wise) and the lovely but absent Laura Linney grabbing the honor for The Big C. I was thrilled that Chris Colfer won for Glee; they handed him the ball this year and he really ran with it. Ditto Katey Sagal – not only finally getting noticed for her amazing work on Sons of Anarchy, but getting to take home the award.

The Observer from Fringe alongside Edgar Winter

So how did I do? Seven out of ten, but missing on three biggies. I guess the best movie can’t direct itself, but I think Nolan’s film was a superior effort. Loved seeing humble Colin Firth win, although if he stuttered during his speech that would have been much funnier. And I’m thankful that Natalie Portman won but was surprised by Paul Giamatti’s win, although he’s always good for a great speech, even when they censor the first ten seconds of it. The censors were uneven with their cut-offs and their music cues, but what the hell, I’ll be back next year to watch.

If the HFPA has even one-tenth the balls that Gervais does, so will Ricky.

The list of nominees and winners is here.

Here’s a link to a great page that lists the major category winners for the Critic Associations and provides a schedule for (and links to) all of the award ceremonies. Next up are the BAFTA nominations on Tuesday, with the Academy Award nominations the week after.

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Things I Learned From Award Shows, Part Two

More snarky observations from the weekend, as the Hollywood Elite shook the Santa Monica sand out of their shoes (well, those with any Indie cred, anyway!) and headed to Red Carpet Land for the Big Show…

The 81st Annual Academy Awards

I'd like to fawn a friend...

I'd like to fawn a friend...

  • Sorry, Eric Roberts. For one night, at least, Hugh Jackman Is The Man.
  • Nice to have five former Oscar winners help present each acting award. But was that an introduction or a coronation? Did it really take fifteen minutes to fawn over Best Supporting Actress nominees? It looked like they were inducting a new member into The Skull And Bones Society.
  • Millions of dollars to reconfigure the theatre, douse it in brilliant lights and wire it to the heavens with cameras, screens and special effects. And the first time they try to use it, some stagehand forgets to open the curtain. (It’s a union job, smart money says he was probably in an oil drum in the Pacific by midnight)
  • Why did people think that Hugh Jackman – a singing, dancing Broadway veteran – couldn’t sing and dance? Great ten cent sets for the Best Picture tributes, but none funnier than the tribute to The Reader.
  • Anne Hathaway Is The Man.
  • Ben Stiller was only the second best faux Joaquin of the weekend, but still funny.
  • More actor fawning from prior Oscar winners. It’s a good thing that after the huge salary, the legions of fans, the constant media attention and the stroll down the Red Carpet through a crowd of sycophants, these poor people were able to get great seats and have their egos stroked by having lavish compliments spread over them with a trowel.
  • Is there a stupider question in the universe than “Who are you wearing?”
  • Judd Apatow Is The Man. (Or maybe Seth Rogen? No, no…James Franco!)
  • Having the two-time Oscar winning cinematographer tell his collegue to “suck it”.
  • Christopher Walken disappointingly did not do his Christopher Walken impression.
  • No Jack Nicholson. What, was there a Laker game?
  • Queen Latifah has a great voice, and “I’ll Be Seeing You” is a classic song. But when paying tribute to deceased Academy members, silence is golden.
  • Slumdog Avalanche.
  • Robert DeNiro on Penn: “How did Sean Penn get all those jobs playing straight guys” and he “gently reasons with the paparazzi”. Funnier than most of Bob’s last dozen comedies.
  • Good night for Oscar Dads. Heath Ledger’s father gave a heartfelt and passionate speech, and Kate Winslet’s Dad’s whistle was the highlight of her speech.
  • Has Jerry Lewis ever been that humble? Or succinct?
  • Speaking of Kate, I do admire her always solid work, but if I don’t see her at a podium again for a while that will be just fine. (At least she toned down the breathless “I am so shocked” routine). I suppose I have to blame Ricky Gervais for this. Will she be “playing a mental” next time out?
  • I am Woool-verrrr-iiiiiiine!”
  • Tina Fey and Steve Martin: Master class on comic timing.
  • Philip Petit. I bet that humility and a cool magic trick will be remembered more fondly than leaping over the backs of chairs.
  • Bill Maher (following an emotional moment in the show): “Great. Everyone’s crying and now I have to go on!”
  • Sean Penn’s speech.
  • A. R. Rahman running offstage after each win, much to the surprise of the presenters and usherette.
  • In a world where we have so many movie trailers, how did the tribute omit Don LaFontaine?
  • The Jimmy Kimmel promo was brilliant. It’s possible to like Tom Cruise when he’s not being Scientologish.
  • Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto

Full list of winners here.

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