The Oscars this year were held once again in the spacious Dolby (former Kodak) theatre in Hollywood, a venue that seats over 3,000 people. The host was the versatile Seth McFarlane, tall, boyish, and easy to like. He can sing a little, dance a little, and he moves things along, a virtue when hosting a nearly four-hour show. The joke writers must be top of the line—this is the Oscars, after all—and yet, it seemed that the jokes were not Oscar level. There were a few gaffes, jokes about Jews and Lincoln, to name a few. McFarlane said that the person who really got into Lincoln’s head was John Wilkes Booth. Whoever thought that was funny ought to be drummed out of the Guild.
The theme of the evening was Music In Film, and several gifted singers performed beautifully. The singer that moved us the most, in part because seeing her on that stage was so completely unexpected, was Barbra Streisand, who sang a tribute to the brilliant Hollywood composer Marvin Hamlisch. There was no warning: suddenly she was there, and she touched us all, as she has so often through the years.
Despite the crowd of thousands, we spotted many friends and were moved when they were moved: Annie Hathaway won big, and our old friend Ang Lee won even bigger. His LIFE OF PI won four Oscars, and he won Best Director. We were glad: he took an almost impossible-to-adapt book and not only made it into a film, he made it better than good.
We were also pleased when ARGO won Best Picture. The failure of Ben Affleck to be nominated as a director irked both of us: the Oscars are quirky that way, to put it mildly. BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN failed to win Best Picture, although it should have. But at least ARGO won, and its rivals fell away. Jennifer Garner, Ben’s luminous wife, is special to both of us: we discovered her long ago while casting our miniseries from Larry’s novel DEAD MAN’S WALK. She was the one bright light out of 144 audition tapes featuring women hoping to play a young Clara Forsythe. No one knew who she was at the time, and TV executives balked at casting her, arguing that she wasn’t a star. We stood our ground, however. Diana remembers Larry’s final words to those skeptics: “She may not be a star now, but she will be.” And that was that.
Larry was happy for his old friend George Stevens, Jr., initial director of the American Film Institute, who received an honorary Oscar for his long service to everything film. Diana remembers George as gracious, smart and a champion for movies, actors, directors and screenwriters.
We’ve been watching the Oscars for a long time, and for the last several years we’ve been looking for signs of the changing of the guard. Jack Nicholson still gets to announce the Best Picture, and this year, he even got to introduce the First Lady, who joined in from the White House. President Reagan spoke at the Academy Awards, as did FDR (via radio), and Laura Bush showed up in 2002, so Michelle Obama’s appearance wasn’t exactly unprecedented.
The high moment, after Streisand, was when Quentin Tarantino—Mr. Tarantino, as Dustin Hoffman referred to him when he won for Best Original Screenplay for DJANGO UNCHAINED—took the stage: “I would like to say it’s such an honor to get it this year, because I have to say in both the Original and Adapted categories, the writing is just fantastic,” the former video-store-clerk-turned-Oscar-winning-director concluded. “This will be the writer’s year, man. I love the competition.”
We love Quentin and his work.
Maybe next year, instead of Music in Film, the Oscar theme might be Writing In Film.
And so it goes.
– Larry & Diana