Come on: James Franco was kind of brilliant last night. He treated the Oscars like his own avant-garde conceptual art project, like the way he went on General Hospital for kicks and giggles. Like, what if an insanely pretty boy got up on TV in front of a billion people, and did nothing but smirk and squint and stare off into the distance and look embarrassed to be there? What if he barely said a word, just contemplating his own hotness and flashing his John-Mayer-post-lobotomy grin? What a bold statement on modern alienation! Like the tragic hero of Jean Cocteau’s Orphic Trilogy, he stood trapped behind a mirror, unable to make human contact, cursed to face his own reflection alone. Duuuude! I hope he got at least a B+ for that in his “Media Tedium Strategies” seminar.
He did look hot, though. And so did Anne Hathaway, whose goofball energy made a funny combination with his salvia-bong smile. She turned into Mary Tyler Moore in eager-hostess mode. Suffice to say it was a strange Oscars show all around. Franco probably wasn’t the only one who considered amputating his arm to escape. At one point, the 164-year-old Kirk Douglas seemed poised to jump off the stage face first rather than listen to another minute of Melissa Leo’s mind-bogglingly pompous speech.
Scarlett Johansson was the clear-cut fashion winner with her amethyst lace outfit, but the really badass move was her JBF hair, which looked like she just got back from a long elevator ride with Benicio. Our girl is clearly on her way back to full-on Scarlett mode, after her divorce and her dowdy Golden Globes dress, even if she couldn’t tempt Tim Gunn into the same red-carpet indiscretions that got Isaac Mizrahi in trouble. As Charlie Sheen would say, we’re all on a drug, and it’s called Scarlett Johansson.
Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor won Best Score (with Atticus Finch Ross) for The Social Network. Goth chicks everywhere died a little bit inside as they watched Mr. Big Time Hard Line Bad Luck Fist Fuck don a tuxedo and humbly thank the Academy, though he did not request to fuck the Academy like an animal. Trent’s score, making heavy use of a much-buzzed-about new instrument, the Dewanatron Swarmatron, was perhaps his finest film moment since he played Michael J. Fox’s keyboardist in Light of Day.
Randy Newman won Best Song for “We Belong Together” (from Toy Story 3) and gave a hilarious who-gives-a-crap speech. Jennifer Hudson, looking a little dazed, introduced Gwyneth Paltrow as “country music’s newest star.” President Obama made a brief video appearance to plug his favorite movie song, “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca. “Hot Tub Time Machine” won for. . .wait, nothing? It wasn’t even nominated? This is bullshit! Show me a scene in “The King’s Speech” that has the pathos of John Cusack shouting “I’ve only had two wine-kills, Captain Buzz-Cooler!”
When Billy Crystal showed up, viewers wagered on how long it would take him to make a corny joke about the show running long. It took six fucking seconds, and then he proceeded to demonstrate why all his Oscar shows ran so painfully long, as he rambled about the legacy of Bob Hope. Francis Ford Coppola won the Thalberg award, the movie biz’s most prestigious lifetime-achievement prize, but they didn’t let him say a thing, apparently because it was more important to hand the mic to Billy Crystal.
Colin Firth gave the second-funniest speech of the night, after winning Best Actor for The King’s Speech. (Though he should have already won it for Mamma Mia! I mean, he brought so much to “Take a Chance on Me.”) When he confessed, “I’m experiencing stirrings,” he showed why he’s been the ladies’ choice ever since he played Mr. Darcy in Pride & Prejudice. Well chosen, ladies! But the funniest speech was Luke Matheny, the NYU kid who won for Best Live Short and said, “I shoulda got a haircut.”
The big letdown of this year’s show? They totally screwed up the memorial reel. Every year, it’s a montage of dead actors, with an unspoken competition to see who wins the most audience applause. Tasteless, sure. But nowhere near as tasteless as cutting out all the audience applause and letting Celine Dion screech “Smile,” a terrible song that’s also terrible advice for dead people. Tony Curtis was robbed, since he probably would have won the memorial applause-o-meter, though Patricia Neal might have beat him in the stretch.
Even worse, the memorial montage left out Corey Haim -- a slap in the face to vampires, comic-book collectors, and recently licensed drivers everywhere. To atone for this injustice, you can honor Corey today by starting a Lucas-style slow clap in the hallway of your choice. And while you’re at it, clap for James Franco. He could probably use it.