Episode 243: As They Tear Your Show Apart

The Overthinkers tackle the 2013 Academy Awards.

Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Matthew Wrather overthink the 2013 Academy Awards, focusing on Seth MacFarlane, the bi-modal tone of the Oscars, changes in the media industry, your tweets, and, oh yes, who won.


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31 Comments on “Episode 243: As They Tear Your Show Apart”

  1. cat #

    After watching all of the Oscars and writing a recap, I am still awake. Might as well keep going.


    • cat #

      I don’t think that the show has to be mediocre or that we have to come at it as the audience with our knives at the ready. I spent the night chatting with people online and I was personally thrilled at how good the opening of the show was. Things kind of went downhill from there but I was open to enjoying the show as I always am. Why would you want to watch something horrible for 3+ hours? It’s when I’m starting to suffer through the slow parts that I head to twitter for snarky comments. So I suppose I agree with Matt.


      • cat #

        What? I tweeted and did not hear about how much Lee may or may not have disliked the performance from the cast of Les Miserables. I feel robbed.


        • Lee OTI Staff #

          OK, here’s my take on the Les Mis performance. (There was a lot of chatter in the room so I couldn’t hone in on every audio detail, so keep that in mind.)

          – I didn’t like Jackman’s vocal performance the first time around, and this performance did nothing to change that opinion. No better, no worse.

          – The new song “Suddenly” is still totally forgettable and weak.

          – “One Day More” was performed with reasonable competence, although it felt extremely choppy given the edits they had to make for time.

          – Anything will pale in comparison to Jennifer Hudson singing “And I Am Telling You” from Dreamgirls, even with half of the song cut. She sang the crap out of that. Gave me chills.


  2. Chris Morgan #

    First, the song Barbara Streisand sang is not called “Memories,” but “The Way We Were.” Also, Marvin Hamlisch sort of won dying this year, what with the shout out from Babs and then his image being up on that big screen the entire song. It just felt a bit odd considering the effort they put into keeping applause from happening during the slideshow.

    I only just finished catching up with movies from 2011, and have just begun with films from 2012, so I haven’t had a chance to see any nominated for the major awards, although I did see The Avengers. However, the highlight reels for the Best Picture nominees sort of felt pretty spoilery to me, particularly Django Unchained. I suppose that’s what one gets for watching an award show for movies they haven’t seen.

    I think the only award that was even a minor upset of the major awards was Waltz for Best Supporting Actor, but barely if at all. I don’t think Brave winning counts because it is Pixar. Even if it wasn’t considered up to Pixar’s usual snuff, it has that name brand recognition.

    As a show, it was pretty good I thought. I am not a fan of MacFarlane’s shows (unless they are hiring in any of their writers’ rooms, in which case they are all tied for my favorite) but I thought he was a decent enough host. I could have done without the Chicago lovefest, however.

    While I agree with Fenzel that Hathaway’s comments were quixotic, because the world always has been and always will be an irredeemable and horrible place, what else is she supposed to say? It was a nice thought, even if everybody knows it is nothing more.

    Kristen Stewart and Twilight won a ton of Razzies, so maybe she was burnt out from celebrating that.

    In the end, this year’s Oscars telecast will probably best be remembered as the year a bunch of long haired dudes won awards. We all had the chance to make Edgar Winters jokes on multiple occasions. In the end, is that not what life is about?


    • fenzel OTI Staff #

      “While I agree with Fenzel that Hathaway’s comments were quixotic, because the world always has been and always will be an irredeemable and horrible place, what else is she supposed to say?”

      I think the issue with Anne Hathaway’s comment is her level of specificity was off in the way she used the phrase.

      Wanting there to be “no more people like x” invites the listened to infer what the unspoken “x” is that we hope will go away.

      The phrase is almost always used when “x” is obvious to the listener. “Someday there will be no more children like this child who has polio” or “Someday there will be no more children like this child who is starving because of the wars in Somalia.”

      The thing with Fantine is that she has a lot more than one thing wrong with her life, so the “x” isn’t clear. The most notable thing about her is probably that she sings a sad song. Are we really hoping that nobody sings sad songs? That is a weird thing to hope. People like sad songs. Anne Hathaway won an Oscar for singing one, because people find value in it.

      What are the other bad things she’s faced? Are we hoping there are no more women who have youthful summer romances that end in the autumn when the man breaks his promises and leaves the woman heartbroken? That doesn’t seem like the kind of thing the resources of the world ought to be spent to prevent. We might hope we or the people we love never have to go through that sort of thing, but it doesn’t require a U.N. task force.

      Are we hoping that there are no more women who have children out of wedlock who they can’t support financially?

      The weird thing here is that the figure of speech implies that preventing the “x” thing from happening must seem like an unreachable goal — a dream. The means for achieving it must seem at least a little bit mysterious (Even in the case of going into the Democratic Republic of the Congo and administering polio vaccines — yeah, the polio vaccine is a simple matter, but going into the DRC to reach everyone is not).

      But the solution for having there be fewer teen moms is obvious — birth control and condoms. That’s what works. It’s not something to wish and dream about, and it’s something people are fighting very hard for in very specific ways.

      It’s like saying “Oh, maybe some day the law will step up and find a way for people to make more than pennies a day working at WalMart” — it has; we have minimum wage. It’s just a specific controversial thing as to whether it is implemented or not or how, not a vague musing.

      And this specifically isn’t a problem in France. Europe does not have a crisis of too much fertility — especially of the native French population. Maybe if Fantine were an Algerian immigrant rather than obviously a French woman it would resonate more. But as it is, wishing that some day French people learned to use birth control seems like closing the barn door after the barn has been knocked down and replaced with condos.

      Even then, maybe she would stand in for women around the world who have children they can’t afford to support — except there is a bunch of _other_ bad stuff that also happens to her.

      Fantine is a prostitute. Are we hoping someday there will be no more prositutes? This is a weird thing to hope for and not really the message of Les Miserables — it’s not a musical about abuse in the sex trade, and it doesn’t even begin to address legalization/prohibition, health standards and coverage, abuse — I mean, it just isn’t working on that level.

      She is also fired from her job in a sweatshop because of distracted ownership and hateful and nasty coworkers. Are we saying sweatshop owners need to be more attentive to when their laborers are being victimized? Maybe. Are we saying coworkers should be nicer to each other? Sure. But how is being nice to your coworkers related to birth control and condoms?

      We can’t say that it’s about how Fantine is abandoned and alone and nobody helps her, because Jean Valjean does help her – to the extent that he can. So there’s not a clear message about whether, in wanting there to be no more Fantines, we want there to be no more people who are helped or who aren’t helped or who aren’t helped until they are dying of tuberculosis or whatever and are then helped at the last minute.

      Are we saying that women shouldn’t be semivoluntarily shaved and have their teeth pulled out? This is where it gets silly (it’s actually been silly for a while). Of all the causes in the world, this is a _very_ specific one. For all I know it is widespread, but I really don’t think it is. And we don’t identify with Fantine because this happens to her. Les Miserables is not a movie about dental exploitation in developing nations.

      What we do to infer, then, is line up all these things and figure out what tent they live under — what is the pattern that connects everything about Fantine? Is there one central thing that ties it all together?

      Heck, some of the things that happen to Fantine are her own fault, and some of them are not. So we can’t even say that she’s been victimized in particular because of either nature or nurture, politics or personal choices — it’s basically the whole nine yards.

      The tent has to be really big — and under it lives “shitty things happening to people because of bad luck, structural poverty and poor life choices.”

      The show is about unhappy people, bad things and social injustice in a very broad sense. That is why it is called “Les Miserables” and not “La Prostitué Sans Dents.”

      Thus, the “x” is conspicuously, impossibly broad, and requires a different part of speech than the one that calls for some specific thing to end in the future. When you’re comparing something to everything at once, analogy kind of collapses.


      • Elena #

        Maybe she means that there should be no more women who are sex trafficked and die of STI’s all because they committed the terrible crime of trusting the wrong man.


        • fenzel OTI Staff #

          But Fantine isn’t sex trafficked, she just chooses to be a prostitute. We never see her forced into prostitution, kidnapped, hidden, or transported anywhere, and she doesn’t have an abusive boss or anything like that. She appears to make her own financial decisions (albeit desperate ones), and the person who assaults her isn’t a boss, it’s a customer.

          Plus, you have to acknowledge the role of Fantine’s coworkers malice and Jean Valjean’s poor timing / negligence in her downfall – there’s even a whole song about it. She was doing just fine with the guy leaving her as long as she still had her factory job.

          So it’s not as simple as all that.


          • Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

            Maybe Anne Hathaway means that it IS as simple as that.

      • Stokes OTI Staff #

        Well *actually*, Hathaway was probably referencing Victor Hugo’s preface to Les Miserables:

        “So long as there shall exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilization, artificially creates hells on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine with human fatality; so long as the three problems of the age—the degradation of man by poverty, the ruin of women by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night—are not solved; so long as, in certain regions, social asphyxia shall be possible; in other words, and from a yet more extended point of view, so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.”


  3. Redem #

    Hey I kinda like how much the resume of a lot of people can be connected to super-hero

    Ben Affleck played Dardevil in a movie produced by George Clooney who played Batman

    Ang Lee directed

    Hugh Jackman play Wolvereine

    Anne Hateway played Catwoman


    • Lee OTI Staff #

      Don’t forget Jennifer Lawrence in “X-Men: First Class” and Amy Adams in the upcoming “Man of Steel.” I’m sure there are others. Just goes to show how ubiquitous and lucrative superhero/comics movies are these days; they get the same prominent actors that also do Oscar-type prestige pics.


    • yellojkt #

      George Clooney has gotten a lot of interview mileage as the guy who destroyed the Batman franchise for plenty of years. Which is taking a bit more credit than he deserves.


    • Josh #

      Everything that I can think of:

      Affleck Played Daredevil
      Hathaway Played
      Lawrence played Mystique
      Jackman played Wolverine
      Tommy Lee Jones played two face.
      Christoph Waltz played the villain in the Green Hornet.
      Amy Addams is playing Lois Lane in this years Man of Steel
      Sally Field played Aunt May in the Amazing Spiderman.
      John Williams wrote the score to Superman.
      Tim Burton, who was up for Frankenweenie, directed Batman
      Ang Lee of course directed Hulk.
      Spielberg has made a comicbook film at the very least with Tin-Tin.


      • Josh #

        *Hathaway played Catwoman.


  4. yellojkt #

    The Seth McFarlane trick of hanging a lantern on how badly he was going to be reviewed was too clever by half. The best example was the deliberately bad John Wilkes Booth joke was was a set-up for the ‘Too soon?’ remark which is arguably just as hacky.

    And like the Prometheus explanation, I upset he never delivered on his promise for Napoleonic era jokes.


    • Redem #

      Isn’t that a joke from family guy where a guy would say “this is as limp as FDR legs” and then every gasp and the teller of the joke would say “too soon”


  5. Pasteur #

    While you will incidentally end up seeing Wreck-it Ralph, you should go out of your way to see ParaNorman.


  6. robertsharp #

    Hey! Matt! You know how British people get pissy when you call them all ‘English’? Consider your knuckles rapped for calling Damian Hirst an English artist.

    I invoke this ruling on an obscure technicality, because Damian Hirst is in fact English!. However, he rose to prominence in the early 1990s as part of a group of artists who have together become known as the Young British Artists, or YBAs for short. With that in mind, calling him an “English artist” feels weird and wrong to British ears.

    Hirst, and other like Tracy Emin found fame afyer they were exhibited Charles Saachi’s ‘Sensation’ exhibition.

    Hirst is known for some extremely cynical ‘art for arts’ sake pieces, including a diamond encrusted skull and the formaldehyde animals you mention. The Tate Modern in London just hosted a retrospective of his work, and I have to say some of it is quite compelling.


    • Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

      I stand (kind of) corrected — and my knuckles hurt.

      I have Welsh and Northern Irish friends and a girlfriend a mere two generations removed from the Republic of Ireland, plus my father’s father’s lineage is Scottish (granddad always claimed that “Wrather” had something to do with the Cape of Wrath, which as genealogy is a bunch of self-aggrandizing bullshit, but is kind of fun nonetheless, and at least gives me a destination to put on my bucket list), so I certainly should be more sophisticated in my descriptions of goings on in the British Isles.

      I was at the Tate Modern this summer during the retrospective. I didn’t see it, because I figured I was better off spending my money to see the Edvard Munch exhibit, which was on at the same time. And the weird installation/performance in the big hall where performers walked in patterns and told you stories from their lives was really fun.

      And any of my fellow Americans who want to learn about the nuances of the UK, GB, the Crown, &c would be well advised to view this:



    • fenzel OTI Staff #

      We’ve had some private conversations about it, and I don’t think we were ready to come out guns blazing on the subject. It’s a more complex and nuanced question, in my opinion, than a lot of the online outrage would lead people to believe. I mean – sure, people are offended, and that’s valid – but if people are asking me to concur with their offense to the point of thinking it was a morally bad thing to do, it’s not entirely clear to me that the argument for it is persuasive.

      But, putting aside the larger conversation for a moment (there may be an article about it later this week) — the New Yorker article is very clearly mistaken about one thing:

      The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is not a trade group, it’s an honorary organization. The Motion Picture Association of America is the Hollywood trade group, and actors and other film professionals have a variety of other trade groups and guilds. The Academy is closer in its mission to something like an Elk’s lodge, Junior League or Rotary — managing workplace issues are not part of its mission.

      This can be potentially confusing — the Tonys and the Grammys are issued by trade organizations with a mission to support their industries and the lives of artists, but the Emmys and Oscars are issued by nonprofits with an artistic mission, not a commercial one.

      Thus the responsibility for the Academy to speak as if it is the “employer” in the way the New Yorker article seems to assume it ought to isn’t really as cut and dried as all that.

      Imagine, by comparison, a modern art museum that held an exhibit on the substance abuse problems of famous painters and sculptors — connecting their art to their personal vices — versus an art institute holding the same exhibit, but only about its faculty.

      There are tasteful and tasteless ways to do each of these, and ways that could succeed or fail, but one of these is a lot more dangerous, irresponsible wrong than the other — the New Yorker seems to think the Oscars is the latter, when really it’s the former.

      Once you get that down — that the Oscars has no professional, legal, or mission-mandated obligation not to make fun of Hollywood working conditions or the personal or sexual lives of Hollywood people — then I think you’re closer to a way of talking about the offensiveness of the show that will get my attention — that is, if anyone cares about getting my attention, which maybe they don’t, and they just want to vent.


  7. fenzel OTI Staff #

    One other thing I’ll say about the New Yorker article — a couple times it acknowledges a framing device or self-aware gag that MacFarlane included in the bit to indicate he didn’t really mean the whole piece to say what his own character was saying — and the New Yorker article just dismissed these devices for no reason — seemingly just for the purpose of getting angry.

    “But that premise is not an excuse.”

    Yes it is! A self-deprecating premise is totally an excuse to say offensive or insensitive things. Context matters. See Stewart, Jon and Colbert, Stephen.

    “And who knows what the Los Angeles Gay Men’s Chorus thought that it was doing by serving as MacFarlane’s backup singers, but it’s hard not to wonder what the rhetorical point was meant to be”

    Um, no, it’s not hard, you’re just not trying. The point is that the song is supposed to be a mess and a bad idea, but an ultimately harmless one — and the joke is revealing the different levels of what a bad idea it is.

    Having gay men rather than straight men sing about boobs makes it less sexually threatening and more whimsical and childish. It’s also funny because it’s a basic ironic reversal that undermines the potential exploitativeness of the song.

    Meanwhile, Seth MacFarlane is in the singing and dancing and having a great time. He’s the fool, and we’re laughing at him for wanting to make something that is so obviously amateurish and misconcieved even has Grandpa Shatner is over his shoulder telling him “No, no, no, no no!.”

    I don’t disagree with everything the article says (although it seems to miss that the rather obvious point that joke about being an exotic dancer was directed at Channing Tatum, not at Jennifer Anniston.), but a bunch of it seems hopelessly rigid, ignorant or intolerant of self-awareness, metatheatrics or context.

    The article plays dumb to prove a political point that it doesn’t need to play dumb to prove. There are a lot of sexist things about Hollywood. I wouldn’t even rank MacFarlane’s performance in the top ten sexist things at the Oscars — especially if we hew by the notion that sexism implies either harm or malice.


    • yellojkt #

      It’s very hard to decry the sexism of the host of an event which includes a Red Carpet Mani-Cam.


      • fenzel OTI Staff #

        Yeah, it’s like the blogosphere is a Vichy colonial gendarme admiring the hundreds of photographers and cleavage-bearing gowns and then calling out “I am shocked, SHOCKED that the female body is being objectified in this establishment!”


  8. Gab #

    So are you talking about street teams for music artists?

    With regards to bringing the craft to the awards show. What if they set up moments of improvised situational acting? Like Christopher Guest-style scene-setting?

    Hey, JGL gets me goin’ like nobody’s business, bros. ;p

    I didn’t watch again this year.

    Yes, I agree, Looper was pretty great.

    I’m curious what you thought about the animated shorts- if you saw any of them, including the winner. I saw them all, and I could give more of an opinion, if anyone cares.


    • cat #

      I only saw Paperman but go ahead and elaborate. I care!


      • Gab #

        Haha! Okay, well, I did think that one tore at my heartstrings the most, of all the shorts. But I think it also earned it because of the way the technology used to make it was used. It wasn’t drawn by hand, mostly, but computer, yet was done with such throwback in its style, execution, and color- the setting even seemed vaguely “period,” did it not? It had everything going for it, and if anyone reading this hasn’t seen it, rent Wreck it Ralph so you can, once that’s out. I know one of Disney’s channels had the whole short up for a while (which is how I saw it), but I think they took it down.

        But anyway, the lines and shading of it were phenomenal, and I think doing it in black-and-white (except, of course, for the lipstick mark) gave it something it would have lost, had they done it in full color. And aside from enhancing the importance of that lipstick mark, too. Again, I feel like it was as if the short was harkening back to not just the golden age of Disney (be that when the demographic here were kids, or the ooooold era, when Walt was still around), but of cinema itself. Again, the “costuming,” character design, and “production design” were vaguely period. It was timeless, yet not in this time.

        One could do a rather scathing feminist critique of it, no doubt, but… I don’t really want to. Maybe I’m a bad feminist, but I’m actively silencing my alarm bells.

        So my love for this animated short, it makes me wonder, is Disney having trouble making full-length movies that good now? Along those lines, Pixar- as the guys on the podcast expressed, Pixar’s oomph seems to be dying out, too. Perhaps Disney is better at the short moments than the long plots? Because I loved Brave, but not in its entirety- it had moments, but I wasn’t captured by it the whole way through as I’ve been with other Pixar movies. So back to Disney animated, Mulan was the last time one of their main full-length animated films kept me engaged the whole time (although, The Tigger Movie is pretty friggin’ amazing, too, but I don’t think that’s considered “Disney canon”- also, those friggin’ Tinker Bell movies are a helluva lot better than they have a right to be, but they’re CGI, and I digress…).

        I guess this is more speculation than opinion, or speculation based off of opinion. But “Paperman” was really good. So maybe the creative minds there are better at short tugs at the heartstrings than a consistent pull now?


        • cat #

          Paperman is currently on hulu.

          There are probably a lot of reasons you could point to for the perceived drop in quality of recent Disney efforts. I’m not going to talk about Pixar, because you know I’m heavily biased. My instinct is that a successful Disney movie is the sum of its parts. And they’ve been having trouble lately getting all the parts to work together. I really enjoyed Princess and the Frog despite a lot of the silliness but for me the Randy Newman score was a letdown. Tangled had a ton of problems. An animated musical film is a big project. You need the right writer, director, animators, composer, lyricist, and voice actors. Whereas an animated short without dialogue or music requires the involvement of fewer collaborators and the smaller budget also means that it can be a testing ground for new talent.

          I’m cautiously optimistic about Frozen.


          • Gab #

            I’ve been “cautiously optimistic” too many times and am starting to lose faith. I enjoyed The Princess and the Frog, as well, but it lost mem too, for a few reasons. Eh, maybe I was too distracted by my hope that the crocodile voiced by Emeril Legasse would say, “BAM!” or, “Kick it up a knotch!” But I suppose me thinking that over and over on first viewing kind of proves the point- wouldn’t have, and still doesn’t happen, with older Disney movies when I watch them, movies I have memorized.

            I may know your feelings on Pixar, but does everybody else? ;p

          • Gab #

            Although… if we’re talking story-without-words… That opening scene of Up.


            (See what I did there?)

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