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2012: An Oscar Commentary

Another year, another Oscar commentary. This may well have been the emptiest experience I’ve had watching the Oscars to-date. The effort was there, the entertainment, the experience . . . but there was so little life among the contenders. The edgy films, the revolutionary films, the exciting films . . . Those were all shut out in the nomination stage. Now here we are with an Oscar night that lies there, comatose, as they hand the Oscars out, for the most part, exactly where everyone expected them to go. It almost defeats the purpose of keeping it a secret, as it’s hard to imagine less suspense either way.

Billy Crystal was clearly a strong choice for hosting duties. He kept things moving, wasn’t obtrusive, entertained the audience, and got in some good jabs without being overtly mean . . . A solid performance from an old pro at this game. I basically approve. There were some genuinely awesome acts, as well, particularly the hilarious “focus group” sketch and the spectacular Cirque du Soleil performance. If there had been a bit more of this, and a bit fewer confusing montages, lukewarm wins, and commercial breaks, tonight would have really sung, but it can’t be said that there weren’t people giving 100% on this one.

The Artist, as best picture winner, finished the night tied with Hugo for most wins at 5 awards apiece (out of 10 and 11 nominations, respectively). That keeps it well out of sweep territory, and just above years when the awards have been even more evenly split (The King’s SpeechNo Country for Old Men, and The Departed all won 4). Of the remaining nominees, only The Iron Lady, with 2 wins, won more than a single award. And is anyone really happy about that?

Of the other Best Picture nominees, only The DescendantsThe Help, and Midnight in Paris won anything at all. 4 Best Picture nominees went home completely empty-handed, and three of them were films I really liked. It may be a long time before the Academy lives down shutting out The Tree of Life and Moneyball, in particular. Then again, the biggest fans of those films already know better than to take the Academy seriously. Spielberg will be back again soon, I’m sure. His star-studded Lincoln is due out in December.

Looking back at my initial predictions, it looks like I had 8 right, but increased that to 13 when I tweaked my predictions before the ceremony began. That’s a tie with last year, but my record is not improving. Maybe that has something to do with so few of the awards going the way I most wanted them to. Here’s hoping for something better, all the way around, next year!

Full commentary continues below the fold.

I’ll admit it, my expectations are low for tonight’s Oscar ceremony. I’m not extremely passionate about any of the expected winners. I’m interested to see what Billy Crystal does, but I don’t think it will knock my socks off. Mainly, I’m just hoping things won’t be as boring as it’s been sounding like they will be based on the predictions. As of this writing, Sacha Baron Cohen has already done what he could to enliven the proceedings with his particular brand of in-poor-taste shock humor, dumping ashes (Kim Jong Il’s) on Ryan Seacrest while walking the red carpet. I really hope that isn’t the most unexpected thing that happens all night.

I do love the opening montages . . . “Have fun storming the fuhrer!” Good one. Lots of good gags in here.

And now Crystal is doing his corny opening number . . . Ah, tradition, I guess. I like the look of the stage . . . Theater marquee. Nice. I assume they’ll be playing up the nostalgia angle this year. You could do a lot worse for an Oscar theme.

Best Cinematography: Tom Hanks! This award absolutely needs to go to The Tree of Life . . . but it doesn’t! It goes to Hugo! I don’t feel that this is just, but I don’t feel inclined to complain. Hugo is my favorite film in contention, and it faces stiff competition down the line from The Artist. It will need all the momentum it can get early on.

Best Art Direction: It goes to Hugo! As it should! 2 early scores for my favorite. That should dull the pain later on.

And we’re back for the worst movie montage ever. I’m not sure what this is trying to be, but when you lead with Forrest Gump and Titanic, and then segue into Twilight, you lose me.

Best Costumes: Jennifer Lopez and Cameron Diaz are out to present this one. And The Artist takes its first award of the night. It would have been amazing for Hugo to take this award, too, but . . . There it is.

Best Makeup: This should and does go to The Iron Lady. Looks like a major disappointment building for Harry Potter fans. A loss in visual effects will mean a total shut-out.

Stars are appearing in a montage to talk about their childhood movie memories. Neat idea . . . And, yep, nostalgic.

Best Foreign Language Film: Sandra Bullock presents the award in Mandarin Chinese . . . that sounds suspiciously like German. A Separation is the favorite for this category. I have seen none of them. A Separation takes it. I actually would like to see all of the movies in this category. But they remain very difficult to find, even after being nominated, and sometimes even after winning. There are nominees from multiple years ago that I’ve still never been able to see. So far beyond lame.

Best Supporting Actress: Christian Bale is announcing. I really hope Jessica Chastain wins (for Tree of Life even though she’s nominated for The Help), but I think Octavia Spencer will win. I hope she doesn’t, though . . . She played a comic stereotype alongside Viola Davis’s real human being. But she does. Well, I certainly don’t wish her ill. Looks like it will be a historic evening, with 2 black actresses taking the performing awards. Very weepy speech. She might get played off . . . She’s actually asking to be played off.

Oh my gosh! The Christopher Guest mockumentary group is pretending to be a focus group for the original 1939 Wizard of OZ. I LOVE THIS.

Best Editing: Tina Fey and Bradley Cooper present . . . Tina Fey should host someday. Why hasn’t she yet? I think Moneyball should definitely win this category. But the award goes to “most editing” for Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. David Fincher apparently didn’t even show, his movie was snubbed so badly. This is a surprise, but good on it.

Best Sound Editing: This should go to Drive, just so it wins something (worst snub of the year). But I predicted Hugo, and it wins! That’s three for Hugo, and a good chance now that it will rival The Artist as big winner of the night. If Hugo can’t win Best Picture, it can at least win the most awards. Great speech from that second guy, whose name I didn’t catch.

Best Sound Mixing: This one I’m calling and hoping for Hugo. And it gets it! Four! Things are shaping up nicely on that front. Very exciting.

Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy introduce an amazing routine by Cirque du Soleil, which starts off with a stunning reference to North by Northwest. So. Awesome. A slap on the hand to the producer who decided to cut to Clooney’s reaction mid-performance. Like we care whether he’s enjoying it . . . We want to see! Seriously.

Best Documentary: Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert Downey, Jr. doing an awesome, category-appropriate presentation. Love it . . . Downey Jr. has such a fun off-screen persona now that he’s back in the limelight. I know nothing about this category, but the award goes to Undefeated, which is apparently about a high school football team. I’ll try to find it soon.

Best Animated Feature: Chris Rock is presenting . . . and calling animation “easy” when what he means is “voice acting is easy.” Still, his routine is funny. I’m hoping Rango doesn’t win this, honestly, because I didn’t care for it that much, but I suspect that it will. I think Dreamworks deserves the win this year. But Rango does get it. Oh, well. No surprises, again. He “doesn’t know” if his movie is for kids? Really? It’s not . . . I’m not sure who it’s for, actually. Here’s the good thing about Rango and its success, though. It genuinely was something different . . . but I won’t call it original, since it borrowed its entire plot from Chinatown. Anyway, rant over. Let’s keep moving.

Best Visual Effects: Ben Stiller and Emma Stone (yay!) are announcing this one . . . She is so funny. I’m loving her presentation. So many very deserving nominees in this category. Could be another win for Hugo. My hopes are on Rise of the Planet of the Apes, though, for doing the best and most cutting-edge work this year. It needs to win. And here we go . . . Oh my gosh! Another win for Hugo! That makes five. I’m a bit disappointed, but at the same time, not. And a dead shut-out for the final Harry Potter film.

Best Supporting Actor: Melissa Leo, last years supporting actress winner, is out to give this one. Christopher Plummer and Max von Sydow or both looong overdue for an award, but honestly I didn’t feel that either of their performances were the best. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I feel like Jonah Hill should win it, and I loved Branagh’s performance as well. Christopher Plummer wins it, as expected . . . And about time he was recognized here, certainly. Plummer gives a classy speech . . . He’s so old-school.

Best Original Score: Penelope Cruz and Owen Wilson . . . an odd pairing with Woody Allen in common, as Billy Crystal reminds us. Some great scores here, I love most of what I’m hearing . . . But a big ball of NO! for an “Artist” win. Not an original score, people! Argh. This category just makes me mad, year after year. It almost never goes to the right movie. And a lousy acceptance speech, too. Not happy at all.

Best Original Song: Will Ferrell and Zack Galafinakis present, and mock “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” . . . Bonus points for that! And Bret McKenzie of “Flight of the Conchords” wins for his “Muppets” song! Yes! Really pathetic category here, with 2 nominees, which I don’t get, but it had to go to The Muppets, no matter how many movies were nominated, so whatever. No complaints here.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Angelina Jolie announcing this one. Don’t they normally get screenwriters to do this? I think The Descendants will win, but it needs to be Hugo . . . Fingers crossed. The Ides of March and Moneyball were both excellent, as well, and better written than The Descendants. And why haven’t I seen Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy yet?! I hate you, movie distribution. Anyway, The Descendants takes it, which gives us the incredibly bizarre spectacle of the Dean from Community standing on stage accepting an Oscar for a serious film. Who knew?

Best Original Screenplay: Here’s hoping for not an Artist win . . . Hooray! Woody Allen wins for Midnight in Paris, his best film in many years, but isn’t there to accept. Shortest speech of the night, so yay. Pretty underwhelmed by the presentation of these two. Writing is underappreciated enough without having Jolie toss them out with so little fanfare, and no Woody Allen to brighten things up.

Milla Jovovich did the Scientific and Technical presentations in the nerd ghetto this year, so she’s giving us the quick summary. I don’t know why they bother to even talk about this, they pay so little attention to it.

Best Live Action Short: The cast of Bridesmaids is presenting these, along with a wildly inappropriate euphemistic exchange about short vs. long, erm . . . films between Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig. It goes to The Shore. I haven’t seen any of the nominees.

Best Documentary Short: Haven’t seen any of these, either. It goes to Saving Face. And Rose Byrne and Melissa McCarthy are playing an Oscar drinking game. Of course they are.

Best Animated Short: Again, haven’t seen them. Will try to, particularly the winner, which is The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. What a great title, though.

Best Director: Michael Douglas is announcing this award, and I’ve got my fingers crossed for Scorsese (or Malick on a long-shot), but I’m afraid this is where The Artist will come into its own. Yep. It seems pretty certain that The Artist will end the night with five awards, tying it up with Hugo, and totally bumming me out. Scorsese deserved that award for being the kind of world-class artist that Michel Hazanavicius is only imitating. Come on, Academy.

Time for the In Memoriam montage. This is one of the better moments in every ceremony, a reflective bit in the midst of all the self-absorbed award-giving. And any excuse to listen to a lovely rendition of “Wonderful World” is certainly welcome.

Best Actor: Natalie Portman, as last year’s winner, announces. I’m hoping for a Brad Pitt win. I’d love a Demian Bichir win, but no one saw his movie. Magnificent performance by him, though. This is the last award that The Artist might miss, but I’m pretty much expecting Jean Dujardin to win. And he does. *yawn* His performance was all quirked eyebrows and big grins, and I hated his character so much. That doesn’t mean he didn’t act well, but it should have gone to any of the other nominees. Seriously.

Best Actor: Colin Firth comes out to announce, of course. Viola Davis deserves to win this and almost certainly will. I thought Michelle Williams was magnificent as well, and Rooney Mara. But the award goes to Meryl Streep, after all! I absolutely did not expect that, a third win on her 17th nomination. But still one shy of tying Katharine Hepburn’s 4 wins. I’m bummed for Davis, and I think/hope that Streep is, too.

Best Picture: At last we come to the big award, to be announced by Tom Cruise. As expected, predicted, known . . . The Artist makes history as the first silent film to win this award in over 80 years. I also think it’s the least worthy film of the last several years to enter the pantheon, but at least it didn’t sweep, tying with Hugo for night’s biggest winner at 5 awards.

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~ by Jared on February 26, 2012.

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