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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Oscar afterthoughts

I went 10 for 12 in my Oscar predictions (see previous entry). Not too bad. My only misses were in the categories of Best Supporting Actress, where the field truly was wide open, and Best Foreign Language Film, where the Japanese entrant, "Departures," upset the favored Israeli film "Waltz With Bashir."

Beyond that, it was mostly a "Slumdog Millionaire" night, which was fine with me. "Slumdog" was a great film that deserved all the awards it won.

As for the Oscar show itself, I found it typical: Too long and largely uninteresting. Every year, we're told this snoozefest is going to be shorter and better, but it never happens. Instead, we get painful song-and-dance routines (like Hugh Jackman's interminable opening bit and the overdone musical number in the middle of the show with Beyonce, et. al.), scripted jokes that fall flat and Queen Latifah singing while pictures of movie industry folks who died last year are shown. Ugh!

And bringing out five previous winners in each of the acting categories to gush about this year's nominees - rather than just having the traditional two people read a list of names - added at least 20 minutes to the show. No wonder this thing ended at midnight instead of the scheduled 11 p.m.

At least they managed to tighten up the presentations of the who-gives-a-damn technical awards and kept the Jerry Lewis tribute relatively brief.

The only truly memorable moments of the night were Sean Penn's Best Actor acceptance speech (in which he bashed opponents of gay marriage), Ben Stiller coming on stage as a presenter dressed like Joaquin Phoenix looked on David Letterman's show last week and Ulster County resident Philippe Petit balancing on Oscar upside down on his chin after "Man on Wire," of which he was the subject, won the Best Documentary Feature award.

Beyond that, the 81st Annual Academy Awards were little more than 3-1/2 hours of my life that I'll never get back.



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