March 1, 2011
For political progressives, there were a few excellent moments during the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday night. One was Charles Ferguson’s acceptance speech for Inside Job. Mr. Ferguson, director of the documentary about 2008’s financial meltdown, pointed out that not one banker whose illegal activities caused economic disaster has gone to jail. He was eloquent, and the producers and directors of the broadcast let him speak his mind to an approving crowd without interruption or incident.
Equally rousing were shoutouts to union crews by Inception’s cinematographer, Wally Pfister, and its sound mixer Gary Rizzo (speaking for himself and fellow mixers Lora Kirschberg and Ed Novick). Both reminded viewers that movies we love are made by union workers. Their remarks, I believe, showed support for Wisconson’s public sector employees and for organized labor in general.
Another high point for me, as a film editor, was Christian Bale’s acceptance speech for the Best Supporting Actor trophy. Immediately after acknowledging The Fighter’s director, David O. Russell, Mr. Bale thanked the movie’s cutter, Pamela Martin. This brilliant actor, whose portrayal of addict and boxer Dickie Ecklund is in a class by itself, knows that performances are constructed in post production from raw material elicited and delivered during production. And he comes by this knowledge through genuine committment to filmmaking. Check Mr. Bale’s resume on IMDB; he worked as an assistant editor on Terminator Salvation! For real!!
One more sweet moment for filmmakers was Steven Spielberg’s insightful and compassionate introduction of the Best Picture nominees. Mr. Spielberg reminded his audience that those who didn’t win that category’s Oscar would be in great company. Among past nominated films that failed to earn the gold statuette were Raging Bull, Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Philadelphia Inquirer critic and Flickgrrl blogger Carrie Ricky mentioned most of the above as highlights of the 83d annual Academy Awards in her February 28 post. (How do you solve a problem like the Oscars? | Philly | 02/28/2011 www.philly.com) She also identified a basic problem for those behind Oscar broadcasts: “to produce a three-hour awards pageant that engages the short attention spans of the twitterati while still entertaining people who actually like variety shows.””
Of course, reconciling the needs of two such disparate groups may prove impossible. Most of the twitterati (I love that word!) have never seen a variety show such as Live From the Hollywood Palace or Ed Sullivan. And those who, like me, enjoyed watching plate-spinners, ventriloquists, impressionists, stand-up comics and the Beatles, all on one stage in a single tv program, don’t tweet much.