While watching the Academy Awards last night, there were several things that I wanted to comment on:
NPH - Apparently, Neil Patrick Harris did the opening number, I didn't tune in until after. I bet it wasn't that good.
Best Supporting Actor/Actress - Christoph Waltz and Mo'Nique win. No big surprises here. The Waltz victory is very deserved. I haven't seen PRECIOUS, but the clips of Mo'Nique's performance do suggest an excellent performance. I'm sure her win is also justified.
The John Hughes Tribute - This was nice. I'm glad they did this. Molly Ringwald looked a little wild-eyed though. The tribute means a lot considering Hughes wasn't as much of a critical darling in his heyday as people might expect. This is a rare example of the Academy exercising hindsight and appreciating a career they never recognized.
The tribute to Horror Films - This may have been the worst misstep of the whole program. I won't mince words - whoever arranged this is an idiot. I start by expressing my confusion at Kristen Stuart and Taylor Lautner presenting such a tribute. The TWILIGHT series is not horror, in any way, though it made it in to the tribute, probably just because these two brats were presenting. I think the Lautner train will die off very quickly when the franchise is finished. This talentless wiener has no business attending the academy awards. Kristen Stewart, despite not being a very good actress, has at least built up a bit more of a resume, so I can see justification for her inclusion. However, she needs to stop acting like a such a snot all the time. You're a successful, young actress, get over yourself and enjoy the fact that you get to be a part of the most important award show in your industry. Anyway, now back to the tribute itself; I bet you could find a hundred better horror movie mash-ups on YouTube - done by amateurs. The compilation had no rhythm or any sense, jumping from black and white to modern day, featuring some films way more than others. THE SHINING was prominently featured, it's as if the editor couldn't think of more than a dozen or so films. Also, the above-mentioned inclusion of TWILIGHT was just ridiculous, as was using a clip of EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (also not a horror film!). The whole idea of doing such a tribute is a little weird, but a well-executed one might have been a treat.
The Class-Act Award - This goes to Sandy Powell, winner of Best Costume Design, for dedicating her award to the equally hardworking people of her profession who don't get acknowledged because they don't make period clothing.
THE HURT LOCKER running away with things - I have been concerned since the Golden Globes that AVATAR might dominate the Oscars, but fairly quickly I could sense that the Academy favored THE HURT LOCKER. The film won various achievements that I'm not so sure couldn't have gone elsewhere. It won two awards for sound, which could have (more fittingly) gone to any of the more blockbuster films. Most frustrating though would have to be its win for Best Original Screenplay. I figured this would be the category in which they'd throw Tarantino a bone. Even from the clips beforehand, it was obvious that BASTERDS contained a lot more dynamic writing, which is Tarantino's greatest asset. Probably the most disappointing moment of last night was realizing that I would get to see him accept his second Oscar.
The Hosts - Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin did an okay job, but the whole thing seemed a little off. I also didn't feel like I really saw them all that much.
Best Foreign - EL SECRETO DE SUS OJOS wins. I'm excited to see this film. I thought Golden Palm winner THE WHITE RIBBON would win, or critical darling, A PROPHET. Despite loving THE WHITE RIBBON, I won't judge the this other film winning until I've seen it. I remember a few years back really wanting PAN'S LABYRINTH to win in this category, only to be disappointed when THE LIVES OF OTHERS took home the award. Then I saw THE LIVES OF OTHERS and was completely blown away.
The Speeches - If I had to describe the acceptance speeches from last night the word I'd use is - heartless. I feel sorry for most of the winners because they really didn't get to enjoy the moment or say anything interesting because they were rushing. I usually hate long acceptance speeches, and the show went long anyway, but I still think 45 seconds is too short, especially when you have three people accepting an award. Many winners didn't even get a chance to say anything at all. I feel very sorry for these people, I can imagine they're at least a little disappointed. I was as happy as anyone that the bad guy from HACKERS won an Oscar for producing THE COVE, but we didn't get to hear from the director himself, who likely would have had something to say about his incredibly important cause, because he got cut off. It wasn't a problem for the Best Actor/Actress to go on as long as they liked because they are just so much more important than everyone else, as made clear by the overlong mini-tributes done for EACH of the nominations in their categories. Cutting out this nauseating ritual would have trimmed the show down 30 minutes. I can understand the no-limit approach for Best Director and Best Picture because those are the biggest awards and arguably the most important, but I don't feel the Acting awards are as important. Sandra Bullock and Jeff Bridges can just go on Letterman or any news outlet and thank everyone. Those poor behind-the-scenes workers will never see the limelight again and they were cut off from cherishing their moment of glory, probably the highlights of of their careers, if not their lives.
Best Actress - Sandra Bullock wins. Admittedly, I'm just hating on Bullock and THE BLIND SIDE, but every clip I've seen of her performance reveals nothing special. She just seems like plain ol' Sandra Bullock, who also won the Razzie for Worst Actress in WHAT ABOUT STEVE on Saturday.
Strange Acceptances - I feel bad for Best Documentary Short winner, Roger Ross Williams, who was interrupted during probably the proudest moment of his career by co-winner Elinor Burkett, who appeared to have rush at him from off-stage and take control of the mic while he was mid-sentence. Also, Geoffrey Fletcher, winner for Best Adapted Screenplay, was acting like he was on drugs - talking very slow and a bit incoherent. The speech was so strange Steve Martin made a crack about it, saying "I wrote that speech for him". There were a few more that struggled a bit last night, even Kathryn Bigelow seemed really out-of-it while accepting for Best Director and Best Picture.
The Lop-Sidedness - I'm fine with THE HURT LOCKER winning as I do think it was one of the 10 best films of 2009 and I really didn't want AVATAR to win, but I think the Academy went a little overboard. There was just so much hype about AVATAR and THE HURT LOCKER that a lot of other, deserving films were lost in the shuffle. Did The Hurt Locker really deserve to win for sound and screenplay? I don't think so. I just think Academy members wanted to legitimize their picking of THE HURT LOCKER for Best Picture by giving it the nod in numerous other categories. It can still be Best Picture and no take home every award. There were 10 nominations this year, but there might have well been 2. Nobody was even fooled into thinking some other picture might win, which is sad. It's like saying that they didn't even deserve to get nominated. The hype train also extends into the acting categories. Jeff Bridges was very good in CRAZY HEART, but was he so much better than everyone else that there was no possibility of another actor winning? Bridges is a well liked and well respected actor with a nice story who hadn't won yet, so he got the award. I feel like the Academy was honoring his career more than his singular performance. Last year, the Oscars had a chance to recognize another great story with Mickey Rourke (who really did deserve that Oscar), but they chose to throw another award at Sean Penn. Perhaps Bridges is just a more savory candidate than Rourke. When Sandra Bullock got on stage last night, the first thing she said was "Did I really deserve this, or did I just wear you all down?". I would say the latter. With this statement, she even recognizes the importance in campaigning for an award. Her whole victory started with the notion that her performance was something special when the film was released and that snowballed into a guaranteed Oscar since even before the Golden Globes. Hype, and not quality, has become way too important for a medium that requires intense scrutiny to weed out what is truly great.
I look forward to more agitation at the 83rd Academy Awards.