'The Artist' The Right Pick For 'Best Picture'?

Host Michel Martin dishes on the wins, losses, and fashion faux pas of Sunday night's Academy Awards. She checks in with Wesley Morris, film critic for The Boston Globe, and Sheila Marikar, entertainment reporter and producer for ABCNews.Com.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. The 84th annual Academy Awards were held last night in Los Angeles. Reviewers said the show would be a nod to old Hollywood, very nostalgic, but some critics are saying the program was a little too old Hollywood, not very fresh.

So let's find out what our guests think about the show - about who won and of course, the fashion. Sheila Marikar is with us, entertainment reporter and producer for ABCNews.com. She was up late last night, covering the awards in L.A., and joins us today from NPR West. Sheila, thank you.

SHEILA MARIKAR: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: And on the East Coast, Wesley Morris, film critic for the Boston Globe. Welcome back, Wesley. Thanks so much for you.

WESLEY MORRIS: Thank you, Michel.

MARTIN: So let's start where it began, on the red carpet. You might recall that we talked last week about actor Sacha Baron Cohen's desire to go to the Oscars as his movie character, the dictator. And the Academy reportedly asked him not to but he did it, anyway - and stayed in character when he dumped an urn with what he said was Kim Jong Il's - picture on it, all over interviewer Ryan Seacrest. Let me just play a short clip of that. Here it is:

(SOUNDBITE OF ACADEMY AWARDS BROADCAST)

SACHA BARON COHEN: It's fine. It's OK for you. Now, if somebody asks you what you are wearing, you will say Kim Jong Il.

RYAN SEACREST: Have fun this evening. Well, you know, part of me thought he would be up to something,Giuliana.

MARTIN: So Sheila, I can't tell whether he was enjoying that or not. I'm thinking not, but how was that little bit of business received?

MARIKAR: You know, I think that Ryan Seacrest was prepared for Sacha Baron Cohen to do just about anything there. He did mention that he had another jacket with him so he wouldn't have to wear whatever it was, exactly, that he sprinkled over him. It looked like, maybe, pancake mix. We're not...

MORRIS: That's what he thought it was. Yeah. He seemed to think it was Bisquick.

MARTIN: Oh, dear.

MARIKAR: Exactly, exactly. But I think that he was trying to roll with it, and you saw the security guards come in. And I think that they were also in on the whole stunt. It seemed like it was planned that Sacha Baron Cohen would act out like this and create a big splash.

MORRIS: I don't know. It seemed like - but I mean, I was watching E's coverage and all of a sudden, it was like, 20 minutes of like, NFL halftime show, like - where, like, you know, Terry and Coach and the gang sit around and talk about the outfits. Like, there were people on the red carpet, but yet there was no Ryan Seacrest, so I don't know if...

MARIKAR: Yeah.

MARTIN: So you had the feeling that they didn't like it and didn't feel comfortable with it?

MORRIS: I feel like Sacha Baron Cohen - he broke E, basically. He basically - you know, he found the weak point, which apparently was like, getting anything on Ryan Seacrest's suit - and he broke the network.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Well, Wesley, while we're talking with you, Billy Crystal has hosted the Oscars nine times. The only person to beat that is Bob Hope, at 19. But there was a lot of talk - I know I've seen a lot on the blogs today about how it was boring. And I wondered if that was your sense. It was just too predictable; Sacha Baron Cohen - his stunt aside from that. Your take?

MORRIS: You know, I think the Oscars have a perennial identity crisis, and they've had it in the ongoing questions about what to do about the way people watch their movies, and how to allegedly bring younger people into watching the show. I just don't know if these are questions the producers need to be asking themselves. I just don't think young people are saying, I don't want to watch the Oscars because they're not cool. They never were cool.

And I just feel like this hand-wringing that they do over and over again is sort of self-defeating, in a lot of ways. Last night's theme wasn't just like - it wasn't just old-fashioned in the sense that "The Artist" won, and "Hugo" had a lot of nominations. It was also that the show sort of self-defensively kept reminding us as viewers about the joys of movie going and to go to the movies. And I just don't think we need to hear that because many of us are still going to the movies.

But Hollywood feels like they're under siege, basically, by technology and the software, and this sort of diversification of entertainment options and entertainment consumption. We're a device culture, and they aren't - they're terrified about how to deal with that.

MARTIN: So speaking of that, I mean, just for people who didn't see the broadcast and aren't exactly sure what you're talking about, there were the vignettes - there were these interviews, kind of documentary-style interviews with recognizable faces and a diverse cast of recognizable faces - like, for example, Gabourey Sidibe, who played Precious in the very provocative Lee Daniels film a couple of years ago; and an array of actors talking about why they liked the movie. So there was that bit.

But Sheila, what did you think of the broadcast overall - as a broadcast? And just one other point that the L.A. Times pointed out last week that Oscar voters are predominantly older, white men. And you did see a diverse cast of performers up there. So Sheila, just overall, how did you feel it played as a broadcast?

MARIKAR: Yeah. I think that they did lean heavily on the tributes and the sort of - the montages that we're talking about, which sort of felt, to me, like an Apple commercial.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARIKAR: An extended kind of glorification of movies and everything that's great about it. But I do think that they tried to liven things up. I will say that it felt like it went by a lot faster than some shows have lasted in the past couple of years. And I think that the two minutes that Chris Rock was on stage – I believe he was presenting Best Animated Film – were some of the funniest moments of the show. And I wouldn't be surprised if he was invited back next year to actually host the whole thing. But...

MORRIS: I would be.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Well...

MORRIS: That's exactly why they had Billy Crystal, to save....

MARIKAR: Right. There's always hope.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MORRIS: ...to prevent people like Chris Rock from being honest about what we were actually there - you know, the discrepancy between the way we consume movies and who consumes them, and what it is to get a movie made. I mean, there's a kind of rawness that the show is trying to also avoid. And in addition to bringing younger people in, they don't want the people in the house to feel uncomfortable.

MARTIN: They don't want any edginess – no edginess.

MARIKAR: Right.

MARTIN: We're talking about the Academy Awards. And our guests are Wesley Morris, film critic for the Boston Globe, and Sheila Marikar, entertainment reporter and producer for ABCNEWS.Com.

So let's talk about the winners. Wesley Morris, you were right on target with your picks of Best Picture and Director for "The Artist." But you picked Brad Pitt for Best Actor, and instead it went to the French actor Jean Dujardin.

MORRIS: Jean Dujardin.

MARTIN: And so I would like to tease you about that, but...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: But do you think it was deserved...

MORRIS: Hey, Michel...

MARTIN: ...even though you didn't pick him?

MORRIS: You know, I got to tell you, I made those predictions before the L.A. Times story broke. I...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MORRIS: I mean, I think that knowing who our voters are really makes it a lot easier to predict what they'll do.

MARTIN: Mm-hmm.

MORRIS: And I think, in my mind - you know, you just have this fantasy that it's a lot more – there's a lot more going on with those 5,700 people than there actually appears to be. The most telling statistic, to me, was not that it was only 94 percent white. It was that 14 percent of the membership is – only 14 percent is under the age of 50.

That's a mind-blowing statistic given, you know, the movies we actually wind up getting and that those people – those very people are the people who say there's nothing out there for them, which is kind of why you end up with the movie like "The Artist" winning Best Picture, a silent movie about a transitional moment in Hollywood, you know, and sort of lament for the death of a certain type of filmmaking.

MARTIN: The other thing about "The Artist" is, it's the only film that - it was shot entirely in Los Angeles.

MORRIS: Mm-hmm.

MARTIN: And I do have to wonder whether there was a little bit of hometown boosterism going on there.

MORRIS: Well...

MARTIN: Because this is the...

MORRIS: Michel, not only - it's a French movie that shot in Los Angeles. You know what I mean? It's a French director with a, you know...

MARTIN: Mm-hmm.

MORRIS: ...French crew, you know, making a Hollywood movie. I mean, that's its appeal, really.

MARTIN: Let's talk about – I'm just going to skip past Meryl Streep, just for one second, and go to Octavia Spencer because her speech was viewed by some people as kind of another one of the - kind of bright spots of the evening, just because it was so obviously unscripted. And she won for Best Supporting Actress, for her role in "The Help." And here is a clip of her.

(SOUNDBITE OF ACADEMY AWARDS BROADCAST)

OCTAVIA SPENCER: I have to thank my families - my family in Alabama, the state of Alabama...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SPENCER: SPENCER: ... my L.A. family, watching at Steven's or at Gada; my "Help" family...

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

MARTIN: So Wesley, do you think it was deserved? And did you think that her speech was a highlight - for you? She was heavily predicted to win, by the way, but...

MORRIS: You know, but every - that happens all the time where, you know, you think oh, she's won. I mean, she's been spending the last two months winning things. You would think that she would be OK with just going up there and giving her speech. But, you know, I mean, I think there's something really powerful about - I've never won an Oscar, but I imagine the stress and shock of actually having it happen - and the relief, I think; the stress of wondering whether it was going to, after being told it's going to, and then having it happen.

I also wonder if, the way the show is produced, she was cued - you know, you get that thing, you've got 10 seconds to finish your speech; wrap it up.

MARTIN: Mm-hmm.

MORRIS: I think she wanted to give a speech as good as the one she gave at the Golden Globes, but I think that between her being overwhelmed, and her being stressed out about the orchestra starting, she just kind of, she let the emotion - she just went with her emotion. And I think, you know, I think that that aspect of the production kind of has to change because it ruins a lot of speeches.

MARTIN: She could've said something...

MARIKAR: I have to say...

MARTIN: Go ahead, Sheila.

MARIKAR: I thought that it was beautifully raw. And you do see people...

MORRIS: Yeah. Yeah.

MARIKAR: ...break down. And the bit about thanking the state of Alabama was just so - kind of funny and random to throw in there. But she really did seem genuinely overwhelmed in a way that I'm sure that anyone would be, the first time that they're up there getting that Oscar. It was lovely.

MORRIS: Sure.

MARTIN: Well, and speaking of who was not was Meryl Streep, who made a point of thanking her husband first because she said, you know, the music always comes up when you thank your family, and that gets lost. So she's going to thank her husband first. But she also said that she felt that perhaps people weren't as excited for her because this is her third Oscar. So Sheila, I'll ask you - she won for her performance as Margaret Thatcher in "The Iron Lady" - Sheila, do you think she deserved it?

MARIKAR: She was really neck and neck with Viola Davis, from "The Help," going into last night. And I think that, again, it's - "The Iron Lady" is the kind of thing that the Academy loves. It's a period piece; it's based in Britain. It was really between Meryl and Viola; either of them could have taken it. But it was funny how she got up there and said - you know - I feel like half the country is going oh, no, her again. And then she said: But, whatever.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARIKAR: It was - it's funny; it was sort of reminiscent of the Madonna-Elton John moment at the Golden Globes...

MARTIN: Yes. Right.

MARIKAR: ...where Madonna was like, I won this, Elton. Too bad for you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: That's true. Finally, Wesley, I'm going to ask you because I think it's funnier to ask you this question: What was your favorite dress? Who had your - best outfit? Very quickly.

MORRIS: My favorite, you know, I had a lot of dresses that I really liked. I liked Rose Byrne's dress.

MARTIN: OK.

MORRIS: She wore this sort of black, glittering thing that fit her really well. I thought Tina Fey looked uncharacteristically glamorous last night.

MARTIN: OK.

MORRIS: She had a great dress on. I liked that.

MARTIN: All right. More fashion to come. Sheila Marikar is an entertainment reporter and producer for ABCNews.com. She was with us from NPR West. Wesley Morris is a film critic for the Boston Globe, and he joined us from Boston. Thank you both so much.

MORRIS: Thank you.

MARIKAR: Thank you.

Copyright © 2012 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.