Bits and pieces, Oscar night

We all know the Academy Awards are more about commerce than art, that the best picture award rarely goes to the film that deserves it. But how is it that a film can win for best picture but not best director? Why did Argo take top honors when its director, Ben Affleck, wasn’t even nominated?

This is like naming a work by Junot Diaz the best novel of the year right after you’ve named Zadie Smith best novelist of the year.

Snarky host Seth MacFarlane, panned by critics for being politically incorrect, scored with a joke about the silliness of the awards process: “[Argo] is so top secret that the film’s director is unknown to the Academy. They know they screwed up.”

But who cares about making sense? This was a night for the stars to come out and distract us from impending economic doom. Salma Hayek won for special effects, in a gown with a glittering neckline that appeared to be choking her to death. Best actress Jennifer Lawrence (she’s great in Winter’s Bone, 2010), wearing the world’s largest quilt, made the best pratfall. Christopher Plummer won for most charmingly embalmed, and Affleck, snubbed for his directorial effort, was named most earnestly handsome.

Footnote: So what does the Dave Clark Five have to do with movies — the Oscars, in particular? No more or less than Michelle Obama who, for reasons known only to the Academy, announced the best picture award via satellite from the White House while surrounded by unidentified young people wearing tuxes and gold braid.

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