Nikki Finke's Annual Oscars Live-Snarking…

I am live-blogging (more like live-snarking) the 83rd Annual Academy Awards starting at 5:30 PM PT tonight based on the  Academy Of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences 2011 nominations last month. Come for the cynicism. Stay for the subversion. Add your comment. Warning: Not for the easily offended or ridiculously naive:

Just as Deadline’s pre-show spoilers predicted, the telecast begins with a lame filmed bit involving hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco with constant mentions and appearances by Alec Baldwin who was last year’s kinda mediocre Academy Awards co-host with the much funnier Steve Martin. The shtick is that Baldwin is in some kind of Inception dream with the young emcees and hopes to host again this year. I’m surprised that the Academy would bring him back at all since the Red States despise Alec and the Blue States love him. It’s as in-your-face polarizing as opening with, say, Sean Penn (liberal) or Jon Voight (conservative). But tonight let’s not waste time wondering if there’ll be the usual Sarah Palin jokes. Let’s hope there’ll be Charlie Sheen jokes.

Because there are no original ideas in Hollywood anymore, Franco and Hathaway reboot Billy Crystal’s nearly trademarked opening which consists of the host/s popping in and out of the 10 Best Picture nominees. It was funny when Franco revealed he’s on a horse in a bear suit. Rest of it was so-so — certainly not nearly as smart as Billy’s physical gags and biting commentary. Oscar telecast producers Bruce Cohen and Don Mischer picked these two hosts because, as Hathaway quips to Franco, “You also appeal to a younger demographic.”

Actually, the main reason is that both Franco and Hathaway have hosted Saturday Night Live in front of a live audience and didn’t bomb. That’s why in the past the Academy has gone with so many stand-up comedians. A decision like this to host the Academy Awards is made by committee with your agent, publicist, manager and even studio weighing all the pros and cons. But the truth is that few movie stars want the gig because it can sink a career. The list of viable modern-day candidates can be counted on a single hand: Billy. Whoopi. Steve. They always ask Dave back even if the perception is he bombed. Hugh. Always Tom Hanks, even though he’s never said yes. Hugh again if only he wouldn’t keep saying no. Alec looks to become a regular. Now these two kids who after tonight not only may not want to ever emvee again but more probably won’t get asked to. On the other hand, as SNL head writer Seth Meyers quipped to me when Franco got the gig, “As an added bonus, James also provides lighting, sound, make-up, and valet parking.”

Yes, let’s talk about the multi-talented Franco and his career craziness to co-star in everything from the Spider-Man movie franchise to ABC’s General Hospital. Who isn’t getting tired of him — and his clones. (Unless one of them comes over and cleans my kitchen.) Yesterday he accepted Film Independent Spirit Awards’ Best Male Lead for getting caught between a rock and a hard place in 127 Hours and then made sure the audience knew he was working towards his PhD thesis. At the start of this weekend there was a press release that he had just fashioned two films out of left-on-the-cutting-room-floor footage from director Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho. Two film crews are following him around this Oscars hosting gig presumably to make a film documentary or TV special. He’s just signed to appear in what seems like a gazillion movies. And he keeps showing up in every viral video… Sure, we all admire him for his energy and ambition. But he’s so omnipresent and overexposed right now that a very little of Franco goes a loooong way. On the other hand, he sure is purty.

By the way, in case you were wondering, Franco, who’s nominated for Best Actor, decided to give up his Kodak Theatre seat and just stay onstage and backstage…

All this onstage chatter about lesbians. Sorry, but Joel McHale did it much funnier at yesterday’s Film Independent Spirit Awards, saying to a huge laugh, “2010 in independent cinema will go down in cinematic history as The Year Of Cunnilingus.”

The Mayor Of Hollywood in his own mind, Tom Hanks, is the first presenter, handing out the Best Art Direction and Best Cinematography Oscars. Why is it that there can never be an Academy Awards without Hanks or Spielberg onstage? Nothing like leading off and ending the broadcast with these too-familiar faces, Academy. How about actually using a little imagination.

On the other hand, the supposedly high-concept ‘Scenic Transitions’ to Hollywood’s past landed like a thud. These virtual reality lookbacks (at the very first Oscars, the first televised Academy Awards in black & white, and so on) were yawns.    

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN ART DIRECTION WINNER: Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney) – Production Design: Robert Stromberg, Set Decoration: Karen O’Hara

Robert Stromberg takes the stage: “Why didn’t I lose that 20 pounds?” Shout-outs to “everyone at Disney.. Bob Iger, Rich Ross, and the great Joe Roth. I’m standing here because of the great Ken Ralston and the great Richard Zanuck and the wacky world of Tim Burton. Meet me with a saw because half of this is yours.” I’m still gobsmacked that Alice wasn’t nominated for Best Picture if only because it’s made $1 billion at the worldwide box office. But Burton’s originality has yet to be welcomed into the Best Picture or Director club so the snub was not unexpected.  

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY: Inception (Warner Bros.) – Wally Pfister

“Breathe it in for a second,” Wally Pfister says to calm himself. “None of what I did could have been possible without the incredible vision of my master Christopher Nolan. His work (the audience applauds only to be admonished by Pfister, “You’re taking up my time”) has inspired me for 12 years. He’s a brilliant filmmaker as we all know.” Yes, everyone knows that ecept the green-with-jealousy Directors Branch who again snubbed Nolan for a nomination this year just like they did when he helmed The Dark Knight. Eff them.

Kirk Douglas looked swell. Really, I mean it. But the Academy shouldn’t have done this. Disagree with me, fine, but this is my opinion. Here’s what happened behind-the-scenes: breaking with tradition, neither 2010 winners Mo’Nique nor Christoph Waltz presented the Best Supporting Actor/Actress categories. Mo’Nique refused to be a presenter even though she was repeatedly asked, while Waltz is overseas filming. So Douglas was selected. Unfortunately, it was painful to watch and listen to. It also stopped the show cold for what seemed like eons and even cut into Melissa Leo’s acceptance speech time. And, no, I’m not ageist.


Really, really, really, WOW,” Melissa Leo said. Sweet that she was speechless. “When I watched, it looked so fucking easy!” That’s right, she said “fucking” on the air and it was bleeped. “It’s the young and hip Oscars,” quipped Anne Hathaway thinking that was a joke. This is why parents increasingly don’t trust Hollywood to babysit their kids. Families watch this broadcast. Across America, I bet a sea of people turned off the Academy Awards out of fear and loathing at Melissa’s potty-mouths even if bleeped.

I would have given this award to Jackie Weaver of Animal Kingdom because of those lame personal ads which Leo personally underwrote and placed in the trades (including on Not content to let the Paramount and Relativity marketing machine do all the campaign work, she got herself super glammed-up wearing “Faux (not real) Fur” and a glittery evening gown. Above text that simply said “Consider”  and then below that, “Melissa Leo”, and in very tiny fine print off to the side her web address, a photo credit, and a faux fur credit. There was no reference to her movie, The Fighter, or her critically acclaimed and gritty real-life character, Alice Ward. Leo late gave all sorts of excuses after she did it. But it was a classless thing to do. Just like swearing onstage tonight. Don’t let the door hit you in the ass as you leave Hollywood, Melissa.

Justin Timberlake makes a joke that only the Kodak Theatre audience understands: “I am Banksy.”

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM: The Lost Thing (Nick Batzias for Madman Entertainment) – A Passion Pictures Australia Production Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann

OK, I heard the winners’ Australian accent and stopped listening. Just kidding… (not).


This was a forgone conclusion for the toon and for director Lee Unkrich, who praised that Pixar “is the most awesome place on the earth to make movies”. But I must say how ridiculous it was for there to only be three slots in this category when there were so many fabulous animated or CGI toons last year. Left out of the nominations were Despicable Me, and My Dog Tulip, and Tangled, and I could go on and on. Because only 15 toons were deemed eligible, and not 16, the toonmakers get screwed. Fix this, people.


Aaron Sorkin gives a shoutout to his WME agents Ari Emanuel and Jason Spitz “who never blow my cover and reveal that I would happily do this for free”. Yeah, sure, and I have swampland in Arizona to sell you. Sorkin can say this because he knows his screenplay quote just skyrocketed. His speech sounds canned. And he was really arrogant to keep talking over the music which is the Oscars’ equivalent of giving long talkers The Hook.


Calling it terrifying, David Seidler got a big laugh noting that “My father always said to me I would be a late bloomer. I believe am the oldest person to win this award. I hope that record is broken quickly and often.” Seidler as a child suffered from a stammer and so drawn to the English King’s story. Which is why he told the Kodak: “We have a voice. We have been heard.” Both Sorkin’s and Seidler’s wins were pre-ordained. But I do think Chris Nolan should have won this category for Inception because of the incredible originality of that picture. (Yes, I am a huge Inception booster. Deal with it.)

OK, I am officially sick of Anne Hathaway tonight, tux or not. And I’m supposed to laugh at James Franco in drag? OK, now we have our obligatory Charlie Sheen joke when James says he just got a text message from the bad boy himself. Is it me or is this show devoid of writing this year, let alone any jokes? Weird because new writers joined head Oscars writer Bruce Vilanch and John Mack this time including Grammy Awards vet David Wilde and Judd Apatow-regular Jordan Rubin. I’d been told in advance that the presenters wouldn’t have to read those lame quips, and they haven’t,. But too much of this show has been placed on Hathaway’s and Franco’s rather narrow shoulders. Sorry, but that can’t carry my attention.


There’d been a lot of last-minute concern that The King’s Speech momentum might sink Christian Bale’s chances in this category even though he’d been the frontrunner for months in favor of Geoffrey Rush. Bale deserved this hands-down. “Bloody hell,” he exclaimed. Wow, what a room full or talented and inspirational people and what the hell am I doing here in the midst of you. It’s such an honor.” Don’t blame Bale for brown-nosing because he had a lot ground to make up lobbying for his award because Hollywood couldn’t stand him after he unloaded on that assistant director in the infamous audio made during the shooting of Terminator: Salvation. Meanwhile, can someone please tell me where he’s appearing in the dinner theater presentation of Fiddler On the Roof since clearly Tevya must be his next role or else why is he wearing that horrible orange beard?

OK, it’s been an hour and 15 minutes, and I want to put an end to this crapfest masquerading as an awards show. Why can’t anyone ever get this right?

By the way, did you know that Academy President Tom Sherak expected to break the news that ABC’s contract to broadcast the Oscars had been extended — but he couldn’t even get that right? High time for this incompetent to step down. You know that Deadline was banned from receiving its backstage press credential to cover the Oscars? All because we revealed a bunch of show spoilers that the Academy gave us. F.U.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES (ORIGINAL SCORE): The Social Network (Sony Pictures Releasing) – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING: Inception (Warner Bros) – Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo and Ed Novick

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING: Inception (Warner Bros) – Richard King

OK, so you’re a bigshot actor and the Academy’s show producers ask you to be a presenter, and you spend hours getting ready, and then you’re onstage at the Kodak for — what, 30 seconds? And say 3 words? And then you’re gone? And yet the Academy wonders why it has such trouble finding people willing to waste an entire weekend doing this? It’s a con. As is anyone who paid this year’s writing staff. WHAT WRITING? I’ve seen none. With all the incredibly funny scribes working in and around Hollywood, I don’t understand why the Oscars are devoid of humor year after year. This is how Bruce Vilanch described the pressure from his POV as head writer: “There’s no job quite like this in the world. You have to entertain this industry crowd, which is distinctly uncomfortable. You have to get dressed up nicer than you’ve ever been and do it early in the day. The lights are blazing down. It’s like 190 degrees. Everyone in the crowd has frayed nerves because their lives could change that night. And for every winner, there are 4 who don’t win. As the evening goes along, the audience fills with losers. Once that starts happening, they’re really not too happy to see the host/s come back out on stage. All you are is an obstacle between them and the rest of their lives.”

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP: The Wolfman (Universal) Rick Baker and Dave Elsey

Like this wasn’t obvious? What, you’re going to give the Oscar to Barney’s Version for doing a comb-over on Paul Giamatti’s nonexistent hair? Te- time Oscar nominee and now seven-time winner Rick Baker has worked on 1981’s An American Werewolf In London in 1981 and a huge fan of the original 1941 Wolf Man. So he wanted to turn Benecio del Toro into an amped-up homage to Jack Pierce’s work on Lon Chaney Jr. 

ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN: Alice in Wonderland (Walt Disney) – Colleen Atwood

Another no-brainer. Though the costumer who had to work with head-case Julie Taymor on The Tempest probably deserves a medal. Back to Colleen Atwood, she’d won two previous Oscars for Chicago and Memoirs of a Geisha and been nominated six times. She made Bozo The Mad Hatter and a teacky trailer park Queen. For Johnny Depp’s hat, she found some laser cut leather in Italy that looked like it had been burned. Then she re-embroidered with gold thread. She also designed a bow tie that Depp could operate himself to convey a mood change. Although they’re not visible, she etched subversive sayings on the Hatter’s  shoes. “It makes me laugh and it’s part of character building,” she told Deadline.

Uh-oh. President Obama just came onscreen. Hear that loud click? Because half the television sets in America just turned off. How dopey can the Academy be? Astoundingly.

NO, GOD NO, DON’T LET KEVIN SPACEY SING. Didn’t anyone putting on this show have to sit through the excruciatingly bad Bobby Darin biopic Beyond The Sea.

What a suckfest show this is turning out be. Seriously, no one could objectively say this isn’t torturous. Now comes the boring part of the Oscars when you go get something more to eat rather than listen to do-gooders talk about immigrant children, or starvation, or the Holocaust. Hollywood only wants to hear about those problems in the abstract, trust me. Unless it’s a buddy comedy.

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT: Strangers No More – A Simon & Goodman Picture Company Production Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM: God Of Love – A Luke Matheny Production – Luke Matheny

This guy has the night’s Best Hair, hands down.

So Anne Hathaway had something like 5 wardrobe changes so far, and she does the shimmy and thinks that’ll amuse us. At this point, the only thing that’ll amuse me after 2 hours of this tedium is if there’s a public hanging onstage of the show’s producers.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: Inside Job (Sony Pictures Classics) – A Representational Pictures Production Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs

Oh, Thank God: It’s Billy Crystal. “Where was I?” I’m running late because people keep phoning me and IM’ing me to say what a borefest this is. “You know there’s a problem when Bob Hope has the best lines,” one top Hollywood PRman emails. Until Billy showed up, being six feet under sounded like bliss to me. Just watching Crystal, you see a natural showman just like Hope who fills up the stage. This is why not every actor can host the Academy Awards, and after tonight, never Anne Hathaway or James Franco again. They just don’t have the chops.

I’ll give Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law (Sherlock co-stars) at least a B+ for effort for even trying to be witty. At least it was an attempt.

ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS: Inception (Warner Bros) – Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb

The Directors Branch may have rejected Chris Nolan, but the membership at large is embracing him with all these technical awards.

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING: The Social Network (Sony Pictures Releasing) Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter

How incredibly inauthentic to have Gwyneth Paltrow, who was raised and schooled in the poshest part of NYC, affect a Nashville twang and belt out a country song. Hollywood, you can’t fool all the people all the time — which is why Country Strong tanked at the box office.

ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC WRITTEN FOR MOTION PICTURES (ORIGINAL SONG): “We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3 (Walt Disney) – Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

If Alan Menken had won for the Tangled ditty, he would have become the most honored composer in Oscar history. As it is, Randy Newman has been nommed 20 times for, basically and famously, continuing to sing off key.

From Kevin Spacey to Gwyneth Paltrow to Celine Dion. MY EARS! MY EARS! They don’t make them like Lena Horne anymore, unfortunately.

So who did the Academy forget in their In Memoriam this year (since they always do)? Tell me…

Do Deadline was spot on with every spoiler it printed about the Oscars. But I’m bummed that Billy Crystal’s segment was so brief. Who isn’t jonesing for a 15-minute standup by him? But nooooooooooooooooooooooo.

So why is Hilary Swank introducing Kathryn Bigelow who’s presenting Best Director? Because the Academy told me that Bigelow refused to say the lines that had been written for her.


This is the only surprise winner so far. Seriously. Everyone explained away HBO’s John Adams miniseries director Tom Hooper’s win at the Directors Guild because of the overwhelming TV membership of that union. The thinking was that, with this movie bunch, The Social Network‘s David Fincher would win in a split decision with Best Picture. But Fincher has been and apparently still is wildly unpopular in Hollywood because of his unmitigated arrogance which people who like him describe as iconoclasm. Someone at Paramount once told me a hilarious anecdote about how David refused to bow down to Oprah just to have her publicize his movie Benjamin Buttons. And everybody was saying to him, ‘But this is so important. You don’t understand,’ and he’s like ‘I don’t give a damn about Oprah’. On that I totally agree with him. But that’s what causes you to lose Oscars because this is first and foremost a popularity contest, folks. Hey, wait a minute, Hooper failed to thank Harvey Weinstein! That guy raging in his seat at the Kodak right now is none other than Harv blaming Scott Rudin for this humiliating oversight.

Speaking of Scott Rudin, he’s a big baby for intending not to show up tonight. Clearly, he’s abandoned The New And Improved Scott Rudin trying to erase his image as the ashtray-throwing abuser and replace it with that of the kindness-embracer. Because he knows full well that the Academy members don’t vote for people they don’t like. It’s one thing to lobby (or pay off) the Hollywood Foreign Press for a win. It’s quite another to swing Academy members. Rudin’s longtime nemesis Harvey, too, kept trying for a niceness makeover in support of his Best Picture Oscar contender The King’s Speech. The last six weeks were ones for the record books as this comedy of manners played out like farce. And insiders told me that Rudin was so dispirited that one-time frontrunner The Social Network lost its mojo, that he couldn’t bring himself to sit in the Kodak Theatre and watch Weinstein’s movie take the ultimate prize.

Yikes, I find these fawning over actress segments just so embarrassing for Hollywood. Normal people wouldn’t even gush like this over someone curing cancer. But Hollywood is so tone deaf when it comes to their constant self-congratulating. What a time-waster this segment is going on and on and on. UGH.


No surprise here. Although many thought (or was it hoped) that 3-time nominee Annette Bening would stage a last-minute surge and snag Best Actress. Nope. Natalie gives a nice shout-out to her agent, CAA’s Kevin Huvane but otherwise it’s a very unmemorable acceptance speech.

Double yikes, still more fawning only this time it’s over actors. the show has dragged on now for 3 effin’ hours. At least Sandy is injecting some humor into the cringe-worthy lines she has to read. (Impromptu? Or did she force the writers to give her better material?)


Deadpans Colin Firth: “I have a feeling my career just peaked. I’m afraid to have to warn you I’m experiencing stirrings in the upper abdominals threatening to form themselves into dance moves. Joyous as they may be to me it will be extremely problematic if they make it to my legs before I get offstage.” Wry. And faithful Firth, who’s done 10 films in 20 years with Weinstein, thanks Harvey “for taking me on when I was a mere child sensation.” Firth had been a shoo-in for this category since Day One of awards season.

BEST MOTION PICTURE: THE KING’S SPEECH (The Weinstein Co) A See-Saw Films and Bedlam Production Iain Canning, Emile Sherman and Gareth Unwin, Producers

So strange that The King’s Speech was used to introduce all 10 Best Picture nominees after its win was a forgone conclusion. Which it was.  This is going to be a controversial move discussed for days, this having the winning film playing under the other nominated pics. What a stupid move. Hmm, I don’t see Harvey Weinstein onstage — and trust me, everyone would notice, even though the stage doesn’t look big enough for all those slim British bodies. Then again, this is very much a UK film through and through. (See Deadline’s Profile: UK Financier Of ‘The King’s Speech’) While in America, The Weinstein Co has received most of the PR bonanza for backing this year’s Oscar-winner, it’s really a British film financing company aptly named Prescience that first recognized the film’s potential.

With an office in Beaconsfield, a quaint market town 20 miles outside of London, Prescience only set up in business 5 years ago — which underscores how far this boutique film financier has come. Prescience has backed 25 films to date with a total production value of $400 million. It’s run by managing director Tim Smith and his co-director Paul Brett who’ve both worked in the movie industry for more than 20 years at British outposts of Hollywood studios. Smith used to work for Fox, while Brett has worked for Miramax, Pathé and Paramount. Both come from a marketing background. The Weinstein Company and Prescience were the first financiers in after UK distributor Momentum. Iain Canning, co-producer of The King’s Speech, had decided to keep the project independent, turning down an offer from Fox Searchlight to fully fund the movie. Instead, The Weinstein Company took North American rights plus a clutch of several other territories including France and Germany. Prescience’s job was to fund the production, lending against pre-sales, tax money, and territories which sales agent FilmNation had yet to sell. The UK Film Council and UK post-production company Molinare rounded out the $12 million budget with some equity. But as co-producer Gareth Unwin told Deadline: “Prescience were a key element of our finance plan. Without their commitment, the film would not have happened.”

So, what was it about The King’s Speech that made Prescience want to get on board a period English drama instead of the 300 to 400 other screenplays a year that comes in? “It was easily the best script I’ve ever read,” says Brett. Yes, the reason is that simple.

Well, the awards are over and Deadline’s many scoops were all dead-on accurate. Cue the finale: the 5th grade student choir from New York City/Staten Island School PS 22 closing the show by singing “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard Of Oz … A lovely end to the worst snorecast ever. Emails are pouring into me now saying the same thing. So I’m not the only one dissing the Academy tonight.


This article was printed from