• A Word Concerning the Academy Awards

    Jon Stewart - the Oscars

    One of the three good hosts this show has had. Ever.

    We’re all adults here, right? We can talk like adults about whatever that was last night? Because what was that? Look – I recognize that I’m predisposed to be annoyed by any host that isn’t an acerbic comedian who pokes holes in the whole ridiculous construct of the show and Hollywood in general (Steve Martin the first time, Jon Stewart both times), and likewise, I can imagine that most celebrities are predisposed to be annoyed by any host who doesn’t make lame softball jokes that are make them feel good about themselves while creating the pretense that they’re actually laughing AT themselves when they clearly are not (Billy Crystal always, most other hosts). And I can also sort of understand Hugh Jackman – he’s not a comedian, and he was awful, but at least he threw himself into it. Whatever was there, he left it on the table in a maelstrom of singing and dancing and sucking.

    But other than him, basically every host has a background in comedy, which is to say a background of standing on a stage telling jokes to large groups of people without getting self-conscious or weird or boring (I’m being very kind to the comedic stylings of Ellen Degeneres and Whoopi Goldberg, not to mention Billy Crystal, but still). And even when they pulled Alec Baldwin on stage last year to pair with Steve Martin because they were in a movie together or something and someone thought it would be a good idea, at least Steve Martin was there to keep him from looking like a complete stiff. Because here’s the thing – comedians write and perform jokes, actors just read them. And since most of the night is actors reading (bad) jokes as presenters, you kind of need the host(s) to do something more than… that.

    Oh, don’t get me wrong – Anne Hathaway was generally charming and is very nice to look at and did the best she could with whatever Bruce Villanch could give her (which was also not very much). And James Franco, I have to assume, did his best to not seem like a replicant, which he was obviously not very successful at, because he’s a replicant. But even if James Franco hadn’t been awful and stiff and a replicant, what exactly did the academy think was the best-case scenario? Two attractive people reading jokes off cue cards? Here’s a pro-tip, guys – get a comedian. ALWAYS get a comedian. They write jokes and tell jokes and generally know how to stand up in front of people and make them laugh. And if your host(s) are just actors reading jokes, the audience (in this example, me) is pretty quickly reminded that really, nothing happens ALL NIGHT LONG at the Oscars. You need someone to break up the monotony, not prolong it. (Additional pro-tip, because I realize I may be digging myself a grave here – Dane Cook is not a comedian. Don’t book him.)

    So anyway, the Academy Awards were boring, which is not new, and The King’s Speech was an enjoyable movie but hardly the best of the year, so there’s that, but I was also asleep by then, so whatever. And by now, if you’ve read this many words, you’re wondering what a semi-lengthy screed about the Oscars is doing on a music blog, so I’ll include a song to justify all this. And next year, if James Franco slaughters everyone at the show in what turns out to be the beginning of 2012′s Great Replicant War, just remember that I called it.

    Generationals: “Carrying the Torch” (if you were wondering how many Bishop Allen’s the world needed, the answer, so far, appears to be two)

  • A Word Concerning Xmas Music

    Sufjan Stevens: Songs for Christmas(you can listen to Songs for Christmas in its entirety here, which is an activity I’d recommend. merry christmas, all.)

    I don’t think I’ll be making any bold proclamation if I say that Christmas music is uniformally pretty lame. There is, of course, a nostalgic/comfort factor to the old classics, but they were designed (I assume) to be universally appealing, and I’d say that anything that is designed to be universally appealing will be pretty lame as a rule. The lowest common denominator is not a bastion of tasteful creativity.

    However, over the 10+ years that I’ve been having Christmas outside of my parents’ house, an interesting thing has happened – we still listen to some of the old classics, because we’re not robots, and nostalgia can be a valuable emotion. But also, we’ve started playing a lot more of things that, I hope, will become classics for our kids – Sufjan Stevens, Low, David Bazan, Aimee Mann, The Boy Least Likely To, etc. Continue reading