Monday, February 25, 2013

Red Carpet Manners – "Seth McFarlane Spins His Brand of Sarcasm at the 85th Academy Awards"

I’ll begin by saying that I’m not particularly a fan of Family Guy and I never saw the movie Ted so I wasn’t expecting much from this year’s Oscar host, Seth McFarlane, other than I was imagining the worst, something along the lines of Ricky Gervais, but even more crude.  I would’ve never guessed that the man behind such irreverent and profane humor would actually appear rather dapper dressed to the nines in an elegant black tux and donning a beautiful smile and great posture.  I had absolutely no idea he was a wildly talented song and dance man who had performed at both Carnegie Hall and London’s Royal Albert Hall and been nominated for two Grammy’s!  So when he launched into his first song, “We Saw Your Boobs,” however ridiculously inappropriate the subject matter, I was impressed with his vocal and production chops. I was further mesmerized by his commandeering presence on the stage clapping vigorously and jumping right in with his hosting duties after each musical cue. His jokes, although sometimes dipping into the dangerous – the Chris Brown and Rihanna mention was a specifically low jab – garnered a steady stream of laughs from the audience.

That being said, there is no way around the fact that the show ran long clocking in at three and a half hours exactly.  And we’re not just being literal here.  The monologue, which contained some witty one liners, started to become monotonous. The William Shatner “Star Trek” and Sally Field “Flying Nun” references I could have done without.  However, the skit with sock puppets poking fun at the movie "Flight" was absolute genius!  The banter among the presenters seemed to drone on a bit long. Note to the Avengers cast, Paul Rudd & Melissa McCarthy: Were you supposed to improvise or was it scripted? And, the song and dance numbers began to border on wearisome. Did we really need to see dancing from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Daniel Radcliffe and was the final number with Kristin Chenoweth to celebrate the losers truly necessary?  Apologies in advance to the producers, Neil Meron and Craig Zadan.  I don’t mean to offend. You are undoubtedly two talented guys and I do love Smash, but the show clearly could’ve been edited down.  I was worried about the poor starving female nominees, presenters and winners in their fabulous dresses who were already withering away when they arrived!  They must have been salivating at the thought of Wolfgang Puck’s creations and what they would soon be devouring at the Governor’s Ball.

Now on to the awarding of the Oscars themselves.  It was a spectacular year for movies with a total of nine films up for Best Picture alone.  What was noticeably different was that there was not one clean sweep for any one picture, but that the wealth was spread amongst the top contenders.  While Ben Affleck was snubbed for Best Director, his biopic, “Argo,” won for Best Picture as well as Best Adapted Screenplay.  The Best Director nod went to the extraordinarily imaginative Ang Lee for “Life of Pi.”  Best Actor, Daniel Day-Lewis, gave “Lincoln” a nice affirmation as did Best Actress, Jennifer Lawrence, for “Silver Linings Playbook.”  The Best Supporting Actor and Actress roles went to frontrunners, Christoph Waltz and Anne Hathaway for their steady portrayals in “Django Unchained” and Les Misérables.”  Our recap wouldn’t be complete, however, without our red carpet manners commentary encapsulating the most noticeable moments of the night. Here they are.

A Colorless Red Carpet. Each awards show the legions of hired stylists highlight a central color on the red carpet and this year’s Oscars was no different.  We spotted an almost wedding party theme with an inordinate amount of light pinks and blush dresses on everyone from Jennifer Lawrence and Charlize Theron to Anne Hathaway and a pregnant Georgina Chapman. Shades of grey ranging from barely there to gunmetal in interesting fabrics were worn by celebs including a striking Naomi Watts, a wispy Amy Adams, a leggy Stacy Keibler and even the First Lady, Michelle Obama, were in abundance! There was a small spectrum of other colors donned by celebs including Jennifer Garner in burgundy, Jennifer Aniston in red, Helen Hunt in navy and Jane Fonda in yellow. Trains were a plenty. Makeup for the most part sparse with pale lips.

An Ominous Interrupter.  Please don’t even get me started on whose decision it was to play the theme music from Jaws every time an acceptance speech ran long. That may have been the worst choice in history!  And, why were the earlier acceptance speeches cut off by the music whereas the night’s biggest winners had license to thank virtually every one they’ve ever known without threat? Each time I heard the famous strings taunt, I imagined a giant shark ripping through the stage.  I was thinking to myself, “Are they kidding us with this?”

An Excruciating Acceptance.  The gravity of the menacing music was felt most during the acceptance speech for Best Visual Effects for the film, Life of Pi.  The Oscar winners said their thanks and then just as they began to make mention that the irony was not lost – referring to the recent press about visual effects house, Rhythm and Hues, having to file Chapter 11 - they were cut off abruptly by the band.  Whether they had reached their allotted time limit or the producers did not want the show to be used as a political platform is debatable.

A Flawless Performance. The theme for the 85th Oscars was a celebration of music in film.  There was no doubt that the show’s producers would throw in a number from their hit film Chicago with the reliable Catherine Zeta-Jones (by the way – was she lip-syncing?), and certainly Oscar nominated Les Mis had to have a moment on stage, but it was the performance by the gorgeously svelte, Jennifer Hudson, that was the evening’s show stopper.  First of all, it is hands down one of best songs ever written and secondly, there is no comparison to the strength in her voice and raw emotion. Her pain is palpable.  I will always love Barbra and saw her in concert at the Hollywood Bowl last Fall, but she just wasn’t feeling it last night. Nora Jones is wonderful to listen to during a spa treatment, but not to watch on a nationally televised show.  Adele’s voice is also heavenly, but “Skyfall” is not one of our favorites. We were delighted; however, to hear (and see) Dame Shirley Bassey’s Bond tribute that earned her one of the night’s standing ovations. Old Hollywood never fails.

A Most Patient Audience.  After the second hour hit, we could see the audience starting to squirm and the tension beginning to build as they struggled to figure out how in the world the show was going to finish on time.  We’re not sure if it was originally planned or was brought in to save the day, but the lovely outfitted candy girls offering sweets and popcorn to sedate fidgety spectators was a great idea!  On the subject of length, is there good reason why audiences must be held captive while they save the most important awards for the bitter end?  The problem is those last ten minutes are the part of the show that is mainly worth watching and, due to limited time, we are forced to cram both the awards and the speeches into a warp speed mess!

A Disastrous Moment.  Kudos to whoever styles Jennifer Lawrence from head to toe.  Her dress, her hair, her makeup and her jewels were entirely flawless.  I will say, however, that I’m not sure if the train on her elaborate dress by Dior was a blessing or curse.  She was obviously overwhelmed with excitement as she took to the stage to accept her award for Best Actress, but she didn’t account for the layers of fabric around her feet which prevented her from getting their faster. One quick step and she was down!  Thank goodness, however, that the dress was as full as it was because at least she was fully covered and was able to recover quickly, especially thanks to the aid of Hugh Jackman who was nearby. It will definitely go down in history, but as the saying goes, it could’ve been worse.  She might have hit her face and broken a tooth! Could you imagine???

A Presidential Presenter.  The First Lady, Michelle Obama, has never looked better.  She probably completed extra reps of arm weights to prepare for last night’s appearance on the Oscars because they happened to look especially toned.  It’s not every day that the White House presents the Best Picture Award and it did make quite the impression.  There was a long speech by the First Lady that may have sent some for a quick restroom break, but when the envelope was opened and Argo was announced the winner, it was especially gratifying to witness the many service men and women who continuously fight for our country and to think about the countless other Americans who are held captive in foreign countries every day.

A Breathless Victory Speech. The evening finally came to a close with shoe-in, Ben Affleck, accepting the Best Picture award for Argo.  Overcome with emotion, he at least had a moment to compose his thoughts while fellow producing partners, Grant Heslov and George Clooney, took to the mic.  When it was his turn to speak, he was still breathless, but genuinely humbled, and spoke reverently about his first Oscar win for Good Will Hunting fifteen years earlier.  His thanks was plenty mentioning virtually everyone who helped him make his film possible from the actors to the hosting countries.  His only slight misstep was when he appeared a bit overzealous thanking his wife, the demure Jennifer Garner, for working on their marriage emphasizing perhaps a tad too much that although it is the best kind of work - marriage is definitely work!  Those of us that are married may concur, but best perhaps to keep that conversation limited to your small circle of friends rather than the one billion people watching the show! 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Red-Carpet Manners – “Stripped Down & Sturdy Performances Shine Most at the Grammy’s 2013”

The 55th Grammy Awards started with a circus spectacle by the lovely Taylor Swift and ended with a rowdy tribute by the host and rapper, LL Cool J, with a little help from Beastie Boy Chuck D.  But the most noteworthy acts of the Grammy’s three and a half hour long show were the stripped down, raw and emotional performances that were sprinkled in the middle. 

The band, Fun, whose anthem-like rendition of “Carry On” executed on a simple stage with pouring rain and talented musicians, set the tone for the evening that hard work and perseverance really do pay off.  Bordering on the intense and definitely more restricted than we are accustomed to, Rihanna’s soulful delivery of her new single “Stay” alongside Mikky Ekko, was gut-wrenching, especially if you picture her singing this song to former-turned-current beau, Chris Brown.  

No lip synching allowed here.  The Grammy’s adhere to a strict policy that all artists must perform live.  This may explain why many of the performers selected songs sans movement.  This is a welcome change from the typical fan fair we are used to seeing on stage that is often more distracting than entertaining.   

In comparison to other music awards shows, the Grammy’s are known for their elegance and sophistication continuously trying to pay homage to the old guard while nurturing the ingénue.  This is evident in their musical pairings which this year did not disappoint.  Couplings from Elton John and Ed Sheeran, Sting and Bruno Mars, Black Keys and a New Orleans band of jazz musicians and Mavis Staples with the lead singer from the Alabama Shakes, will go down in history as classic Grammy moments.  

What else did we notice?  Of course, we have a few red carpet manners passes and violations to hand out.  Here they are in no particular order. 

Wardrobe Misdemeanors.   CBS, the network hosting the Grammy’s, issued an explicit advisory in advance stating, "Please be sure that buttocks and female breasts are adequately covered. Thong type costumes are problematic. Please avoid exposing bare flesh under curves of the buttocks and buttock crack."  While they made their best efforts, ladies who couldn’t help themselves included Katy Perry who looked like her breasts were permanently glued into her dress and Rihanna, who dressed elegantly for her ballad, but then changed into a bosom-peaking top for her tribute to Bob Marley. Presenters J.Lo and Kelly Rowland also decided to ignore the guidelines by bearing too much leg and revealing more than a comfortable amount of skin.

Sophisticated Gents.   There were a number of men, however, that were looking rather elegant for the affair.  Black suits and separates in a variety of styles with tasteful gold accessories or gold bling depending, seemed to be the uniform of choice.  Our favorite crooner Justin Timberlake and the always dapper Jay-Z held the standard.  I would expect nothing less from the duo who lent their talents to a song entitled, “Suit & Tie.”  R&B artist Miguel and rapper Wiz Khalifa inspired their own street takes while Bruno Mars, Sting and Adam Levine garnered dressed down versions.

Cheerful Cheerleaders.  Once her opening number was completed, the perpetually cheerful Taylor Swift was seen flailing about, clapping and singing her way throughout the Grammy’s.  It’s no surprise that music worshiper, Ellen DeGeneres, would be singing and dancing in the aisles as well, displaying her love and support for her favorite artists. Kelly Clarkson must also be included.  She is fiercely talented and so comfortable in her own skin that she inspires everyone she meets.

Questionable Acceptance Speeches.  Frank Ocean was the newcomer underdog and he may have not been expecting to win, but his handlers might have suggested preparing a speech just in case.  Instead, we were treated to some muttering about picturing the audience naked followed by a quick thanks.  Adele’s speech for Best Pop Solo was also a bit too casual for our taste.  Yes, she won oodles of Grammy’s last year, but a little more gratitude and graciousness this year would have also been nice.  Lead singer, Nate Ruess. of Fun opened up his acceptance speech for Best New Artist with the unforgettable lines, “I gotta pee so bad.” Thanks for sharing.

Ladies Who Chew Gum.  The camera happened to pan on Adele once again chomping on a wad of gum in her mouth while watching in the audience.  She may need a gentle reminder that the camera has eyes whether you are on stage or off.  I was surprised, however, when we also caught blues maven, Bonnie Raitt, in the action.  I suppose we should just let it go and be happy knowing these ladies like to keep their breath in check.

Good Time Guys.  I want Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars at my next party!  These guys don’t have to brood, they just smile and the world is their oyster.  They know how to own the stage and have an awesome good time!   They are charming and convincing.  JT was out of the picture for a while, but has come back in full force complete with his own orchestra.  I loved the throw back to the days of the big band and lead vocals.  I can’t wait to hear the new album in its entirety.  Bruno Mars is no slouch either.  He owned the stage with his latest hit “Locked Out of Heaven” blending perfectly in sync with Sting and then invited Rihanna and Ziggy Marley to participate in a vibrant tribute to the legend Bob Marley.

Most Humble.   Accepting an award for Record of the Year from an icon like Prince is a dream come true and that’s exactly how Belgian-Australian singer Gotye and New Zealand singer Kimbra felt when they accepted the award for their breakout hit, “Somebody That I Used to Know.” Their humble wishes sending a warm thanks to all musicians and ending with a resounding “Cheers!” left everyone feeling appreciative just to be in attendance and that is exactly how it should be.