2011: An Oscar Commentary

I don’t have much to say about this year’s show, which is one of the compliments that I would give it. It didn’t draw attention to itself, one way or another. It felt streamlined rather than bloated. It really felt like it was all about celebrating movies, and that’s all to the good.

As for the hosts: James Franco, I have to say, was kind of lacking in the charisma department. He walked out at the beginning and seemed like he was about to run screaming from the room from sheer nerves. When he came out again, he just stood there, stony-faced for the remainder of the show. Did he take something? Fortunately, Anne Hathaway kept plugging gamely along, carrying Franco as far as she could on bubbly charm (which she has in spades). Some of her jokes landed flat, but she didn’t linger. I give her top marks as an Oscar host.

As for the spread of awards, they were dis-satisfyingly thin this year. So much so that one would struggle to come up with a clear Big Winner. The King’s Speech, Best Picture, took only 4 awards, but so did Inception, while the night’s other favorite, The Social Network, received only 3. This ties The King’s Speech with (most recently) Best Picture winners No Country for Old Men (2007) and Million Dollar Baby (2004). What sets this apart, though, are the stunning 12 nominations that The King’s Speech had going in (compared to 8 and 7, respectively, for the other two). In fact, I think this might be the biggest nomination-to-award discrepancy every for a Best Picture winner. Clearly the Academy liked The King’s Speech . . . Just not that much.

As for the other categories, we’ve got 2 wins apiece for Toy Story 3, The Fighter, and Alice in Wonderland (a travesty), plus a single win for Black Swan to round things out. The other 4 Best Picture nominees (The Kids Are All Right, True Grit, Winter’s Bone, and 127 Hours) faced a complete shut-out in multiple categories (4, 10, 4, and 6, respectively). Of those, True Grit had the most devastating night of all, with the most losses. Very sad. At least they can have the satisfaction of having made a terrific film. I can’t wait to see what the Coens have for us next year!

Now to take a quick look at my predictions. I didn’t make public predictions this year, but I did continue my usual practice of joining the contest at “Beat the Crowd.” This year, unlike last year, I did not beat the crowd, and I actually logged my lowest score in years with only 13 correct predictions. Last year I had 15. That’s just how it goes sometimes. See you next year . . .

Full commentary continues below the fold.

I can’t remember a year when I’ve been more excited to just see what happens. I’m curious to see how James Franco and Anne Hathaway handle themselves as hosts (and what that will even look like), and to see what randomness crops up during the ceremony, but for once I’m just curious about the outcomes. I haven’t followed a lot of buzz this year (much less than normal, anyway), and I don’t feel a really strong affinity for any one movie over another in most categories. So this should just be a really fun night. We’ll see pretty soon.

Inception . . . What a great device to connect all of the nominees for a hilarious opener. Love it. Now let’s get some awards going. Also, holy crap, they are nervous.

I’m not sure what they’re doing with this Best Picture winners of the past thing, but I like it. Very cool to have a Gone With the Wind themed stage! I look forward to more. Oh, right now, okay. Alright, Tom Hanks . . . What award?

Best Art Direction: Boo. Alice in Wonderland is a crap movie, and its design was just all over the place. I would have taken any of the nominees over this one. I disapprove. Man, and here I thought I wouldn’t care who won . . . as long as Alice in Wonderland didn’t win any Oscars. Bummer. And not a great start for the speeches, either . . .

Best Cinematography: Wow, I’m genuinely surprised to see Inception win. Pretty cool, but the continued snubbing of Roger Deakins is not making the Academy look good. With another charisma-less speech we’re off to an ambiguous start.

Oh, my. Kirk Douglas is so old.

Best Supporting Actress: “Colin Firth is not laughing. He’s British!” Ah, Kirk Douglas . . . Say the name! Oh my goodness, say the name! Melissa Leo is freaking out. Nice. She is awesome, and I picked her to win. All of them were deserving performances, but only one of them vanished into their role. I watched 45 minutes of The Fighter before I realized which character she was playing, and I’ve been a fan of hers since The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. Aaand, she just managed to drop the f-bomb. Classic. Someone is going to have to carry her off. Oh, Kirk Douglas is doing it . . .

Best Animated Short: Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis are out to do this one. Can’t say I care for the homage to Shrek. I haven’t seen any of these nominees except for “Day and Night,” but I obviously need to. The award goes to “The Lost Thing” about which I know nothing. I’m sure I can go track it down in a few hours.

Best Animated Feature: I think we have 3 really deserving pictures here, but ultimately there can be only one. Who will it be . . .? Toy Story 3. Yeah, wake me up when Pixar wins a Best Picture award. There presence in this category makes it boring.

I have to say, the stage design this year is just freaking brilliant. I love it, and I love what they’re doing with it.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem are out to present. The Social Network picks up its first award of the night. Could this be a good omen? The buzz says not, but we can always hope. Dude, they’re playing you off. Leave the stage.

Best Original Screenplay: Our two top contenders aren’t competing for these awards, so it’s no surprise (and no disappointment) to see this one go to The King’s Speech. Nevermind what I said before about omens. I’m just waiting for the final count.

Great little Oscar in-joke number by Anne Hathaway (maybe a little too “in”?), and James Franco in mega-drag.

Best Foreign Film: A category that frustrates me every year because it’s so impossible to have any knowledge of it before the ceremony. The award, presented by Helen Mirren and Russell Brand (who are hilarious) goes to In a Better World (Denmark). Nice shout-out to the other foreign films and their makers. Best speech moment of the night so far (which isn’t saying much).

Best Supporting Actor: Reese Witherspoon is announcing this award. I was rooting for Geoffrey Rush in this category, but it’s hard to be genuinely sorry about a Christian Bale win. And I severely underestimated The Fighter, which is a fantastic film. Looks like Melissa Leo’s f-bomb is going to be the whipping boy of the night . . . I don’t recall my Oscar history, but I’m guessing that doesn’t happen very often.

Best Original Score: A fantastic little piece of film history here, beautifully displayed, and highlighted with the Star Wars theme! Could this get any better? Clearly not. Spoke to soon . . . Lawrence of Arabia, awesome. This is one of my favorite “minor” awards. Time to sit back and listen to the medley. Five really really great nominees this year, but the winner is: The Social Network! The King’s Speech has some catching up to do.

Best Sound: I’d tell you who are presenting right now, but I can never remember how to spell either of their names correctly, and I don’t feel like looking them up. Inception snags another technical award. No surprises there.

Best Sound Editing: There are like 3 people in the room who know the difference between sound mixing and sound editing. I’m sure they should be two separate awards, but I have no idea how to draw the distinction. Plus, with another win for Inception here, it’s hard to make that argument this year.

Now we have the little Science & Technology blip. It’s hard to overstate the importance of technology to film history and the film industry, but they really don’t pay enough attention to this part of the show to ever make it worth our while to hear about.

Best Makeup: Cate Blanchett is here along with an awesome shout-out to Lord of the Rings. I’ve only seen The Wolfman, but I really wanted to see The Way Back and missed it somehow. “That’s gross.” Hilarious. The Oscar goes to The Wolfman, which should not be an Oscar-winning film, but whatever. I find it very odd that no more prestigious films had outstanding makeup work this year.

Best Costumes: The Oscar goes to Alice in Wonderland a second time. Which is just so fail, but not like Art Direction. I will admit that this movie had impressive costumes. I’d have preferred a True Grit win, though.

Randy Newman performs his nominated song from Toy Story 3. Love the movie. Not a terrible song. Not really a Randy Newman fan. Next up, though, my favorite of the nominated songs, from Tangled. Really hoping this one wins.

Best Documentary Short: Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal are out to present. Gyllenhaal references the fact that no one knows anything about this category, and then Adams gives the award to Strangers No More. Might go find it later, might not.

Best Live Action Short: Some of these look really good. I might actually go looking for these. The Oscar goes to God of Love (which didn’t look that promising of the clips that I saw, but whatever). When in doubt, go with the artsy black-and-white. This winner is awesome, though. “Geez, I shoulda gotten a haircut.” Best speech of the night.

Now we have an epic montage of Auto-Tuned movie clips. Best. Idea. Ever.

Best Documentary: Oh, hi, Oprah. I’ve only seen a few of the nominees in this category, but this race seems wide open. I have no clue who will win it . . . Inside Job. I was kind of expecting Restrepo or Exit Through the Gift Shop. I need to see Inside Job, but . . . it’s about the financial crisis. Bleah. A nice little reminder to us all that the corporate thieves that masterminded the financial crisis still haven’t paid for their crimes.

This Oscar ceremony is feeling uncharacteristically self-referential. Still, I’m loving this homage to Bob Hope, the ultimate Oscar host.

Best Visual Effects: Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law are giving the award. And they’re making it feel like an ad for the Sherlock Holmes sequel (look at our hilarious chemistry!). Ah, well, on to the presentation. I think we all know who needs to win this one. And they do: Inception, which has now swept the technical awards and can go home happy.

Best Editing: I would give this to The Social Network, hands down. And so would the Academy, it seems. Hooray! Inception is actually ahead in the awards race right now, but it won’t win anymore.

A. R. Rahman is out to sing that song from 127 Hours. I’ve heard better stuff from Rahman, and there was better stuff attached to that movie. Still, it’s nice listening . . . that was really short. Anyway, Gwyneth Paltrow is out to do that song from Country Strong. I don’t like country, but I did like the song from Crazy Heart last year, and this is an okay song, too.

Best Song: Randy Newman wins the Oscar, much to my disappointment. I think the song from Tangled will become a Disney classic. This just sounds like all of Randy Newman’s other songs. He’s giving an amazing speech, though. I’m cracking up here.

A bit of a change in pace as we do the “In Memoriam” montage. Always a bittersweet moment in the show, as we remember all of the contributors to cinema who are no longer making great movies. (Wow, I don’t think I knew that Irvin Kershner died. How’d I miss that?) And now Halle Berry is talking about Lena Horne, for some reason.

With just 4 awards left to present, this feels like an unusually fast Oscar show. Let’s see how they manage to stretch the last 1/6 of the presentations waaay out.

Best Director: Anne Hathaway announces Hillary Swank announces Kathryn Bigelow who announces this award. Yeesh. Anyway, Best Director this year is Tom Hooper. I think we all know what that means. Time for The King’s Speech to pull out a minor sweep here at the end. David Fincher should have won this award, but no one is really surprised by this, I think.

Annette Bening introduces the Lifetime Achievement awards thing (which I’d forgotten about). This year it’s film preservationist and historian Kevin Brownlow, Francis Ford Coppola and Eli Wallach. They get to stand there and look at us as we go to commercial break.

Best Actress: Jeff Bridges (Best Actor winner from last year, as per tradition) is out to present this award. And he’s going to talk to each one of them, apparently, and then we’ll see film clips of the performances. Interesting. The award goes to Natalie Portman, as expected. Very exciting. I think it’s safe to say that she has finally overcome any of the stigma that might have been lingering from the days when she was being directed into the ground by George Lucas in the Star Wars prequels. And now she needs to stop talking, because it’s getting late, and we’re all a little tired.

Best Actor: Sandra Bullock out to present, for reasons mentioned above, and she’s going to be awesome, I’m sure. She just has no end of charm. And, of course, it’s a Colin Firth win. There really are no surprises left. “I have a feeling my career has just peaked.” He does a nice speech (speaking of no surprises). I’m guessing we’ve at least one more commercial break to sit through before the final, big award.

Best Picture: Steven Spielberg introduces the Best Picture montage leading up to the big announcement. Not sure why they played him on with the theme from Jurassic Park. That was a really cool little montage . . .

And the Oscar goes to The King’s Speech! No question about it, this is going to remembered as yet another Oscar miss. Happily, it’s one of those Oscar misses where I genuinely liked the winning film, and I’ll look forward to seeing it again. Meanwhile, The Social Network will go down as the Film of the Year, and nothing the Academy says is going to take that away. So, no worries here. And to all of the other deserving nominees in this category (surprisingly quite a few this year!), you definitely have nothing to be ashamed of. Fantastic.

~ by Jared on February 27, 2011.

2 Responses to “2011: An Oscar Commentary”

  1. James Franco is waaaayyyyy less nervous in a dress, I’m just sayin’.


  2. Now that you mention it . . . Wow. So true.


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