Rants and Raves: The 83rd Academy Awards
The King Didn’t Sweep But He Took the Top Prizes
Sunday, February 27, 2011
Another Oscar telecast is over and I have to say it was one of the blandest on record. Maybe that's a reflection on a ho-hum year. Here's a rundown of the awards with photos.
Ever since Billy Crystal hosted the Oscars (so why doesn't he do the show any more?), the Oscar telecast has opened with an elaborate montage placing the host(s) in the movies in a fancy CGI display. After all this is the Oscars and it is Hollywood. They should be able to create a slick opening package. This time out we got hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway in an "Inception" dream with Alec Baldwin and Morgan Freeman. Funny but not terribly clever. Franco in leotards was amusing though.
Hosts Franco and Hathaway made an attractive couple but he seemed a bit baked like his character in "Pineapple Express," and she tried too hard to sell her lines and gags. The actual live show began with a salute to previous great films but that tribute sputtered out after an opening credit for "Gone with the Wind." It served to remind me of how bad this year's films really were by comparing them to the best of the past. First award of the night was for Best Art Direction and it went to "Alice in Wonderland."
And barely taking a breath, the award for Best Cinematography was hurriedly given out to Wally Phister for "Inception." Quickly it became clear that Franco and Hathaway were just onstage to introduce other celebrities that pack more star power than they have. Making Franco and Hathaway hosts was just a way to tap into a younger demographic. It was also a move by the Academy to give a nod to the next generation of stars. Plus they were Hollywood folks and not TV talk show hosts/comedians (like David Letterman and Jon Stewart), and therefore unlikely to ad lib and say something inappropriate by going off script.
Next up: Kirk Douglas (who has suffered a stroke but seemed fairly spray and sharp) to deliver the first award for Best Supporting Actress. Jacki Weaver was the one most deserving of the win but the award goes to Melissa Leo for "The Fighter." I guess buying your own award ads didn't hurt her chances as some suggested. Only Kirk Douglas could get away with opening the envelope and then stopping to recount some silly story just to prolong the actresses' agony.
Leo partially flashed the audience on the way up the stairs (women need to be careful how high up the slits in their dresses go), then she asked Kirk what he was doing later that evening, and then dropped an f-bomb in her acceptance speech. She rambled on past the point of being amusing but after the f-bomb they didn't dare give her the hook for going over on the time allotted for acceptance speeches.
Justin Bieber... um I mean Justin Timberlake (is there a difference?) gave out the award for Best Animated Short with Mila Kunis (nice dress, can you say cleavage?). The award went to "The Lost Thing," and amazingly, it was actually the best one nominated. But I have to wonder why they let Melissa Leo go on and on but they give the hook to the animated short winners – Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann. This is one thing that really drives me crazy. The Academy talks about how the awards pay honor to the creative people who make films but they refuse to allow these people their brief moment in the sun. I would much rather have the winners – especially when it's two people – get an extra 30 seconds to give thanks rather than have pointless montages.
Best Animated Feature was no surprise. It was "Toy Story 3." Director Lee Unkrich – who didn't even bother to feign surprise when his film was announced the winner -- said he wanted to share the award with anyone who had ANY part in getting this film out. Do you really think he means that? Will the interns in the office get to take the award home for a night? Why do winners make such silly hyperbolic statements?
Next up, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem were introduced and appeared in classy white tux jackets. Male eye candy.
They gave out the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay to Aaron Sorkin for "The Social Network." Another well deserved win. He invoked the name of another great writer as he accepted his award: "It's impossible to describe what it feels like to be handed the same award that was given to Paddy Chayefsky 35 years ago for another movie with 'network' in the title. His was an original screenplay, this is an adaptation of a book by Ben Mezrich, so I'm accepting this on his behalf as well." Then Sorkin added thanks to his agents, "Ari Emanuel and Jason Spitz who never blow my cover and reveal that I would happily do this for free." But even Sorkin got the "ax" music and was encouraged to hurry up and finish his speech. Maybe that was because he hails from TV.
Best Original Screenplay went to David Seidler for "The King's Speech." I had the chance to interview him and was quite happy to see him win. He opened his acceptance speech charmingly, "My father always said to me, I would be a late bloomer. I believe I am the oldest person to win this particular award." Then Seidler, who stuttered like the royal character he wrote about, concluded by accepting the award "on behalf of all the stutterers throughout the world. We have a voice, we have been heard, thanks to you the Academy."
As you'd expect the two attractive hosts went through quite a few costume changes. The best was when Hathaway came out in a man's tux (she didn't rock it like Marlene Dietrich did though) and Franco came out in a dress! In fact he was dressed like Marilyn from "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes." Hathaway got to sing in her tux but why didn't Franco get to sing "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend." That would have been awesome.
After seeing so many atrocious dresses on the red carpet it was refreshing to see the always elegant Helen Mirren looking fabulous. She along with Russell Brand (I think they were the oddest couple onstage) gave the award for Best Foreign Film to Susanne Bier for "In a Better World." We still haven't had this film screen in San Diego but I'm looking forward to this. Glad to see Bier win.
Reese Witherspoon presented the award for Best Supporting Actor to... no big surprise... Christian Bale (with Grizzly Adams beard) for "The Fighter." Bale promised not to drop the f-bomb like his co-star Leo. He gave props to the real Dicky Eklund, the character he played in "The Fighter," and remembered Eklund's website where people could go but then he seemed to forget his wife's name. Good thing he has that golden Oscar to go to bed with.
Continuing with a lack of imagination, Aussies Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman were paired to give us a history of movie sound or rather a history of John Williams' scores. The Oscar for Best Original score went to Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails) and Atticus Ross for "The Social Network." I have to say that even though a lot of films I didn't admire got nominated some good ones were actually winning.
Matthew McConnaughey and Scarlett Johansson gave the sound award to "Inception." It won for both Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. Sound Mixing co-winner Lora Hirschberg might have made something of Academy history by kissing her "wife" (in the acceptance speech her colleague Gary Rizzo gave thanks to "our wonderful wives" so I'm assuming that's who she kissed before running up to the stage). It was nice to see her moment of celebration.
Hollywood is well known for unintentional irony so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to see one of the worst dressed actresses at the Oscars give the award for Best Costume. Cate Blanchett is usually so well dressed and looks so good but this year she looked good but was wearing the most bizarre dress. It had what looked like an antique oval frame on the front (my friend said it needed a mirror inside the oval) and then what looked like vomit around the neck. Ew!
Anyway, back to the awards. First she gave the obvious Make-up Oscar to Rick Baker and Dave Elsey for "The Wolfman" (the make up was the only good thing in that movie). Baker won the first Make Up Effects Oscar ever given out for "An American Werewolf in London" back in 1981. He has won six Oscars in this category. Pretty impressive. Best Costume went to "Alice in Wonderland," which makes me wonder if CGI costumes are eligible for costume design.
Best Documentary Short went to "Strangers No More." And Best Live Action Short went to "God of Love" (from NYU Film School). It's youthful maker, Luke Matheny, was so excited that it reminded me of what an Oscar win can mean and made me feel a little bad for spending the whole night dissing the Awards… but I only felt bad for the 30 seconds he was allowed to give his acceptance speech.
Oprah gave the Best Documentary award to "Inside Job," a liberal doc that makes the kind of political statement the Academy likes. Winner Charles Ferguson said, "Forgive me, I must start by pointing out that three years after a horrific financial crisis caused by massive fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail and that's wrong." Indeed. "Inside Job's" win was something of an upset since many were expecting the Banksy doc "Exit Through the Gift Shop to win." I think the Academy was afraid to give it to "Gift Shop" because they were uncertain if it was a prank or not. But I loved "Gift Shop," and what's great about it is that it works as either a prank or a real doc.
My award for best presenters goes to Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law. They had the only fun banter of the evening. They gave the award for Best Visual Effects to "Inception." And in the spirit of racing through the tech awards that viewers might find boring, they also gave the Best Editing award to "The Social Network." Even more of the technical awards are relegated to a separate luncheon days before the Oscars, and that ceremony is always hosted by a hot actress that the geeky tech guys can drool over.
Earlier in the show they did a dumb montage of people on the street talking about their favorite Best Original Songs. Unfortunately that cannot justify what I think is the silliest and most superfluous award category. Okay a few good songs have been done in films like "Casablanca" and "Once." But too often these songs are slapped onto the end of a film just to get a nomination or sell a soundtrack. Plus we have to suffer through the songs during the show.
Jennifer Hudson -- famously slimmed down but dressed like a pumpkin – got to give the Oscar for Best Song to Randy Newman for "Toy Story 3." It was Newman's second Oscar. In his acceptance speech he whined about the fact that only four songs were nominated and the other categories have five nominees so why couldn't they find one more song to add in? Mercifully they didn't or I would have had to suffer through one more song.
Billy Crystal was introduced so he could introduce a montage of clips of Bob Hope hosting. So why are we padding an overly long awards show with these kinds of montages when they keep cutting off the winners' acceptance speeches?
Next Celine Delon came out to sing for the montage of people who died last year. But how come they have time to include a publicist who died last year but not Corey Haim? (Last year they left out Farrah Fawcett). I was shocked to see that two veteran editors -- Sally Menke and Dede Allen -- passed away last year. Sad to lose such talented people.
Now for more silliness as Hathaway introduces Hilary Swank who introduces Kathryn Bigelow who is dressed in a red sack of a dress as opposed to the elegant silver gown from last year when she won her history making Oscar for Best Director. Then she gave out the directing Oscar to the absolute wrong person: Tom Hooper for "The King's Speech." I think it's because he looks like James Cameron and the Academy voters got confused. Anyone else would have been better choice. "The King's Speech" was well written and well acted but not well directed. Hooper in his acceptance speech refers to the "triangle of man love" on the film.
In a very weird moment, there was a montage of old acceptance speeches and then Kevin Brownlow, Francis Ford Coppola, and Eli Wallach appear on stage and are whisked off. What happened? I was confused until someone pointed out it was a kind of recap of the honorary Oscars presented to film historian and preservationist Kevin Brownlow, director-producer Francis Ford Coppola, director Jean-Luc Godard (not in attendance), and actor Eli Wallach. I think the Academy did this because Godard refused to show up to accept his award so to avoid embarrassment they simply breezed over these awards. Plus it cut down on awards that viewers might have no interest in. But again, isn't this supposed to be about honoring artists not getting ratings?
Jeff Bridges gave the Best Actress award to Natalie Portman (she feigned surprise) for "Black Swan I thought that the last pregnant actress to win was Eva Marie Saint for "On the Waterfront" but there have been three others between Saint and Portman (Meryl Streep, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Rachel Weisz). Although she thanked Luc Besson (for giving her her start in "The Professional") and the camera crew people, Portman's speech reminded me that now performers place their agents/publicists/managers at the top of their thank you's and that's kind of sad. Since she was pregnant they did not give her the hook even though she was just rattling off a laundry list of names.
Presenter Sandra Bullock (ugh, a reminder that she undeservedly won Best Actress last year) gave the Best Actor award (do all the clips of nominees have to show people crying) to Colin Firth for "The King's Speech" but he should have won last year for "A Single Man." In his acceptance speech he confessed he had the urge to dance to show his joy. Now that would have been fun.
The big guns or gun came out for the Best Picture award. Steven Spielberg announced the film to take the year's top award. I really don't like the new ten nominees in this category (it used to be just five); it just dilutes it. "The King's Speech" was -- predictably -- given this year's top prize and another Oscar show comes mercifully to an end. No film swept the Awards but "The King's Speech" walked away with the top honors. Although some of the better films won, this was one of the dullest shows on record. In trying so hard to please a broader audience, the show's producers simply produced a bland product.
Complete list of winners:
Best Picture: "The King's Speech"
Actor: Colin Firth, "The King's Speech.
Actress: Natalie Portman, "Black Swan"
Supporting Actor: Christian Bale, "The Fighter"
Supporting Actress: Melissa Leo, "The Fighter"
Directing: Tom Hooper, "The King's Speech"
Foreign Language Film: "In a Better World," Denmark
Adapted Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, "The Social Network"
Original Screenplay: David Seidler, "The King's Speech"
Animated Feature Film: "Toy Story 3"
Art Direction: "Alice in Wonderland"
Sound Mixing: "Inception"
Sound Editing: "Inception"
Original Score: "The Social Network," Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
Original Song: "We Belong Together" from "Toy Story 3," Randy Newman
Costume Design: "Alice in Wonderland"
Documentary Feature: "Inside Job"
Documentary (short subject): "Strangers No More"
Film Editing: "The Social Network"
Makeup: "The Wolfman"
Animated Short Film: "The Lost Thing."
Live Action Short Film: "God of Love"
Visual Effects: "Inception"
Previously presented honorary Oscars: film historian and preservationist Kevin Brownlow, director-producer Francis Ford Coppola, director Jean-Luc Godard and actor Eli Wallach.
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