A Magical Night of Foregone Conclusions, by Kyle Anderson
For a show trying so hard to be young, hip, and exciting, the 83rd Annual Academy Awards relied heavily on things that have been done already. The hosting choice of popular young actors Anne Hathaway and James Franco was a calculated one. Both actors are hip and well liked in the youthful demographic and both have proven they can be funny when hosting Saturday Night Live. They also both are considered “good” actors having both received Oscar nominations recently, Franco getting his this year. This way the show could be trendy without being accused of turning their back on good work.
That all being said, what exactly did the hosts do? Say some jokes, do a couple of bits, and throw to presenters. There was a bit that went nowhere involving Hathaway’s mother and Franco’s grandmother standing up and saying adorably funny things. It wasn’t bad due to the hosts’ relatives not delivering their lines properly, quite the contrary in fact, it was bad because it was poorly written and realized. No ground was broken. Anne Hathaway changed her clothes and James Franco seemed stoned. Who’s surprised? The big hilarious opening, where the hosts were superimposed into scenes from the Best Picture nominees, was done by Billy Crystal in the early 90s to frankly better comic effect.
Perhaps this was planned, though. Throughout the proceedings, various multi-Oscar winning films were showcased, and Billy Crystal himself appeared at one point to talk about Bob Hope’s long tenure as host. There always seems to be a sense of looking back to Hollywood’s glory days at the Academy Awards. While it’s true, Hollywood does have a long and varied history, and I’d much rather watch any old movie than any new movie, focusing too much on the “great movies” and thereby comparing the new batch to them only serves to downgrade the movies we’re meant to be celebrating.
Regardless, the actual awards followed by and large what was expected, with one or two exceptions. Like last year, they tried to make the show more cohesive by coupling like categories together. I enjoyed last year’s method of presenting the awards more or less in the order of the jobs being done, but naturally that can’t work when you have to pepper in all the acting awards and the shorts and documentaries and what not. This year, the couplings made sense, but were pretty much placed haphazardly throughout the ceremony. Keeping with this, I’m going to talk about the awards not as they were broadcast but as I think of them.
Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland took home two awards for costume design and art direction and Rick Baker and Dave Elsey left with an Oscar for their makeup work in the film The Wolf Man. Both of these movies are, for the most part, terrible and it’s somewhat dismaying that they’re being rewarded in any capacity, though I suppose those people shouldn’t be punished for doing good work on a crappy movie. I just ran rings around myself, logically. Also, did anyone else think it was a little strange that the clip they kept showing to illustrate Baker and Elsey’s makeup work was CGI of the transformation?
There was also a fair amount of bone throwing to movies that probably should have gotten more wins than they did. Say what you will about the film, Inception was a film built on its directing, and to not nominate Nolan for it while still recognizing it as a Best Picture contender is a bit of a crime. I was pleased to see Wally Pfister win for his cinematography on the film, however, as it was beautiful to look at and was properly ethereal. The dream movie also won for Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, and Visual Effects, all of which I thought were well deserved.
Toy Story 3 won best animated film. Anybody who was surprised by this, please stand up so I know where to aim the slingshot. The film also won Best Original Song, which went to Randy Newman who now looks so much like a sea turtle I was actually worried about him being on land for such a long time.
I didn’t see any of the short films that won, but it finally happened, with the Best Live Action Short winner, that a dirty hipster won an Oscar.
I watched most of the Oscars with the sound down due to having dinner with friends at the time, but even so I was upset by Celine Dion singing during the In Memoriam segment. I mean, haven’t these poor dead people been through enough without having to endure that kind of eulogy? And what was she doing in LA in the first place? I thought Vegas had her chained by the leg to Cerberus at all times.
Those Danish seem to be making good films. If I could just understand what they were saying…
The Social Network won some awards too. Fincher can’t seem to catch a break. I still maintain that, if Zodiac had been released during awards season and not banished to February like an unwanted puppy, it and he probably would have gotten nominated if not won. Then in 2008, Fincher was the early front runner for Best Director for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button but then Danny Boyle’s dark horse depressing/feel-good movie Slumdog Millionaire blew onto the scene and won the whole thing. This year, again, Fincher seemed an early lock to take it all, but then another British indie blasts through and wins gold. Poor Fincher. He made a good film, just not good enough, I guess, to win him an award.
Aaron Sorkin won the award for wittiest banter. I mean, Best Adapted Screenplay. Everyone knew he’d win. Even he knew he’d win, as evidenced by how quickly he shot out of his seat and took the stage. Now, maybe he’ll take the momentum built up by this to make another television series about the making of a television series. I could use another one of those.
The Social Network also took home awards for Best Editing and Best Original Score, both of which were quite good. Again, funny was the clip shown for Best Editing was the rowing sequence. It’s a great scene, and absolutely well-edited, but it’s probably the least indicative of the film as a whole. Oh, and Trent Reznor has an Oscar. This just sits nicely with me.
The acting awards, where to begin? While I think everybody who won did a great job, I do not like this trend that started a few years ago of having the presenter say a little special something to each nominee before the award is announced. Even though I know the answer before I ask it, why should actors get any better treatment than anybody else? They’re already given nearly carte blanche to say whatever they want for as long as they want, why should they get the extra ego stroke of having a respected member of the acting community blow sunshine up their ass for two minutes? All it does is lengthen an already long event.
Regardless, the actual awards were, I think, given to deserving people. Melissa Leo did a fantastic job in The Fighter and, while I would have liked to see Amy Adams get it, Leo was nearly unrecognizable in the role. Christian Bale, too, I felt did a great job, though my friend has a valid complaint about him, which is that you can always see him acting. I think that’s only true of when he speaks in public. He’s somehow more believable and likable as a crack head than as an actor receiving an award.
Natalie Portman’s win for Black Swan sits fine with me and the clip they showed, of her crying on the phone to her mom out of a mix of happiness and exhaustion, is one of the main reasons for it. That was nice of her baby-daddy to help her up the steps seeing as he did that to her.
Colin Firth won best actor. If anyone was surprised by that, please stand up and accept your slingshot blast. He did an excellent job as the stuttering royal in The King’s Speech and was bound to win. He’s a class act and while his acceptance speech was long, I wasn’t once bored and was in fact entertained throughout.
The King’s Speech cleaned up. While I pretty much knew it was going to win Best Picture, I was surprised David Seidler won for Best Original Screenplay and very surprised Tom Hooper won Best Director. Seidler makes sense given the hardship he had in getting the script produced, having a royal mandate slowing him down and all, as well as his own stuttering. While I think Tom Hooper did a good job, I thought Fincher’s, Aronofsky’s, and even the Coen Bros.’ direction was more indelible than Hooper’s, but again, I was unsurprised and even happy with The King’s Speech winning best picture. I suppose it was all part and parcel.
The Oscars are over for another year. All the buildup is over and we can go back to what really matters: watching big budget summer blockbusters! When’s Cowboys and Aliens coming out?