Oscars: I’m thrilled, I’m proud, I’m honored, I’m tedious

Check out the gushy, uninteresting statements issued today by the nominees (posted elsewhere on this site) and your eyes will soon glaze over. A mere couple of examples:
“I am so thrilled to be nominated for something I loved working on every single day. I’m in such good company.” – Judi Dench, best actress contender for “Mrs. Henderson Presents.”
“Being nominated for an Oscar – and in such sterling company – is an honor, and I’m so proud to have been a part of Ang Lee’s ‘Brokeback Mountain’ team.” – Rodrigo Prieto, nominated for best cinematography for “Brokeback Mountain.”
And so on.
These are creative people — can’t they say something vaguely creative?
Props to Terrence Howard for breaking out of the rut. Nominated for Best Actor for “Hustle & Flow,” which also received a Best Song nomination for a number he absolutely nailed in the movie, he joked, “I wonder if that means I have to get up there and sing ‘It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp’?”
Access the quotes, only if you’ve had sufficient caffeine:

Nominee effluvium

Oscars: Too lazy to listen

Herewith, the Academy Award nominees for Original Song: “In the Deep” from “Crash;” “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp” from “Hustle & Flow;” “Travelin’ Thru” from “Transamerica.”
That’s it? In a category that traditionally hosts five nominees, members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (simply calling it the Academy makes it sound like we’re on more familiar terms, which we’re not) could only find three songs they liked? Out of hundreds of movies?
Well, that’s just lazy. I’m not going to list any songs I think should’ve been nominated (though really — nothing from “Corpse Bride” or “Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic?”) — I’m going to ask you to do it for me. What songs do you think should’ve filled out those final two spots in the Best Song category?
(I must confess, though, I’m mightily looking forward to the performance of “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp” at the ceremony; I think it deserves to win — it really lifted that movie in an infectious manner. Plus I like the idea of a song praising a pimp receiving such a revered award.)

Oscars: Spielberg’s Rope-a-Dope?

In the Rumble in the Jungle in Zaire, Muhammad Ali withstood round after round of Joe Frazier’s punches, leaning against the ropes, until Frazier was exhausted and Ali was still fairly fresh (if a bit sore) and Ali pummeled Frazier to the mat. The strategy was thereafter deemed the rope-a-dope.
Could Steven Spielberg have been doing the same thing in marketing “Munich?” He was extraordinarily quiet when the film came out, giving just enough interviews so that people would be somewhat aware that the movie was out.
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There was no response to the sundry political sniping at the film.
Now, “Munich” wheezes across the Oscar nominee line. And Spielberg’s fresh; now he can talk about this movie, which seems more relevant with every passing day. On the other hand, everyone’s heard as much will-”Brokeback Mountain”-be-accepted? as they can stand. Can “Munich,” by dint of being the biggest Best Film nominee with an outside chance of winning that people have likely heard the least about, finish with a flourish and snatch the Oscar from Ennis and Jack?

Wendy Wasserstein, 1950-2006

Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Wendy Wasserstein died today in New York after a long illness. She was 55. Best known for wry comedies such as “The Heidi Chronicles,” her plays often concerned women who, as contemporary and fiercely independent as they may have been, still found themselves defined in old-fashioned ways by society. But she wasn’t a polemicist: “I want my plays to be open and interesting to as many people as possible,” she wrote in 1995. “I wouldn’t want an audience of only upper-class Jewish women to come to The Sisters Rosensweig. I wouldn’t want an audience of only feminists for The Heidi Chronicles. I wouldn’t want an audience of all Wendy Wassersteins for any of my plays. That would be terrible!”
Off topic a bit, but worth noting.

(off topic, but exponentially more important): Bob Woodruff

Bob Woodruff, who assumed the co-anchor duties of ABCs World News Tonight? earlier this month (with Elizabeth Vargas), was seriously injured Sunday in Iraq while following a unit of the Iraqi army expected to replace American forces at some point in the war in Iraq. A mere eight days earlier, Woodruff was in Pasadena, talking up ABC News new approach to newsgathering and its two-anchor strategy. He was both witty and wise; herewith, some of his thoughts on TV news circa 2006:

On his new role as co-anchor/reporter: Peter (Jennings) said to me when he was alive, You know, this is a difficult job because Im not able to get out and report the stories in the field the way that I love to do them and be careful for what you wish for, to some degree, because it may not be able to happen. Now, not only because of technology but because of having another anchor that can be back in New York at the seat at the time, I think youre going tot see a lot more of this, and I think youre going to see probably more people following suit. I think the viewers demand it in many ways.?

On the hierarchy of being a news anchor: I dont understand the value of being on a pedestal. . . . This is a different world just in terms of pure numbers. . . . We completely understand that (Walter Cronkites world is not) what we live in right now (where one man can direct a nations political sensibility). . . . To try to attain a pedestal . . . would be a disservice to the viewer.?

On Jennings: Sometimes you didnt get the sense that he was mentoring you. It was more of an endurance. . . . Id much rather follow in his footsteps no matter how big they are and how much pressure that creates than anybody else, and I think thats the way all of us feel about it.?

On ABC News afternoon podcast: Those of us who still feel very strongly about serious news and informing our children, especially, this is a great new opportunity for us on so many fronts. Its really good for the reporters in the field, too, to know that when they do all this work and sometimes risk their lives to do it, theres a place that an audience can find it.”

On deciding upon who Woodruff or comely co-anchor Vargas gets to cover a story: Its a mud-wrestling match.?

Obviously, he was joking then, and just as obviously, we wish things were just so that his joke would remain just as funny today. That not being the case, we wish the best for Woodruff, his cameraman Don Vogt (who was also injured) and every soldier serving Americas cause in Iraq until the conflict can be resolved.

SAG: And that’s a wrap

Another shocker (imagine the word “shocker” in a really sarcastic typeface): Philip Seymour Hoffman is named Best Actor for “Capote.” Oscar nominations won’t even be announced until Tuesday, and already they’re old news.
“The only way to act well, is to know that other actors have your back,” says Hoffman, as good a way of acknowledging one’s (presumably trophy-less) co-stars with disingenuous humility as I’ve heard in a while.
The evening’s final presenter, Morgan Freeman, is kind of over-selling the importance of all this, but that’s just the kind of voice he has.
“Crash’s” cast wins the Ensemble “Actor,” SAG’s equivalent of the Best Film Oscar. Well, the film certainly had the most cast members of the nominees. Terrence Howard turns the thank-you over to Don Cheedle leaning on a cane, who, referring to his limp, warns America, “Pay your gambling debts. You don’t want this happening here.”
Holy cow! An awards show without a trophy for “Brokeback Mountain?” I demand a recount!
Here’s guessing “Crash” beat “Brokeback” mainly because the former has a much bigger cast than the latter, and SAG is trying, as I earlier recommended, to give everyone in SAG a SAG Award, so this was just more efficient. But “Crash” emerges as the only remotely significant competition to “Brokeback” once the Oscars are announced. Nonetheless, still no reason to watch the Oscars at this point.

SAG: Nearing the end now

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal were laughing as they came onstage to introduce their film “Brokeback Mountain” and laughed all they way through as they read the description. I’m not going to theorize what happened backstage that gave them their cases of the giggles.
Yet again: Reese Witherspoon is named Best Actress for “Walk the Line.” Honestly, is there any point in watching the Oscars at this point? “I can’t shake the feeling that I’m just a little girl from Tennessee,” she says, less convincingly than she was in “Walk the Line.” Not a bad tribute to June Carter Cash, though, talking about how she labored, undeservingly, in Johnny’s shadow. But then, thanking her co-star Joaquin Phoenix, she said, “Without your John, there’s no June.” Wait — but you just said …

SAG: Old news categories

Not much drama in these categories, since the winners have been honored for these roles since last September.
S. Epatha Merkerson won her third Best Actress in a TV Movie/Miniseries trophy (following the Emmy and the Golden Globe) for Lackawanna Blues.? I have to say a public thank-you to my divorce lawyer,? she declared, laughing so maniacally that, without knowing anything about him, you kind of felt sorry for her ex.
Paul Newman another trophy, another no-show. He won Best Actor in a TV Movie/Miniseries for Empire Falls? (following, like Merkerson, Emmy/Globe wins, though his Emmy triumph was in the Supporting Actor category). He clearly knew what he was doing when he bought the rights to Richard Russos book.

Interest SAGs…

How come they give Supporting Actor Actors? for films but not for TV? How come they give out Actors? for comedy and drama for TV but not for movies? Why ape, sort of, the formats of other trophy shows? Why not strike out boldly on their own? Dont they want to hand out as many of these things as possible, like at the Emmys, where theres about a couple dozen acting categories? These people shouldnt rest until everyone in SAG has a SAG award.
Paul Giamatti was named Best Supporting Actor for Cinderella Man,? which seems a makegood for snubbing him last year for Sideways.? Giamatti insightfully reflects, Being an actor is a hell of a thing. A hell of a thing. Its up and down; its great.? He then thanks everyone with whom he ever ate a donut. Honest. People are running out of people to thank, it seems.
And now, the requisite montage of dead people. Do they do that at the Pulitzers? The Nobel Peace Prizes? Just wondering.

SAG: The bit where you can best take a bathroom break

SAG President Alan Rosenberg is giving the usual blah-blah-blah about the significance of all this folderol, concluding with a nod to the men and women in uniform who are enjoying this broadcast in bases throughout the world.? If enjoying? is the right word.
Now, Dakota Fanning is presenting the Lifetime Achievement award to Shirley Temple Black. Fanning, of course, is the new Temple, but shes so eerily poised shes reading the teleprompter far better than anyone else has to this point that she absolutely must be a robot.
News flash: Jamie Lee Curtis tripped on her way down the stairs to continue the Temple Black tribute. Dakota Fanning would never stumble like that.
Temple Black takes the stage to the most lugubrious rendition of “Good Ship Lollypop” you’d ever want to hear. That explains the standing-O: The actors want to drown that buzzkill out.