Sunday, March 7, 2010

Thoughts on the 82nd Annual Academy Awards

The telecast of the 82nd Annual Academy Awards concluded a short time ago.

The Hurt Locker won six of the nine awards for which it was nominated including Best Picture and Best Director for Kathryn Bigelow. It marks the first time a woman has won in that category.

There weren't any surprises of note. Jeff Bridges won Best Actor for his portrayal of an alcoholic country singer in Crazy Heart. I haven't seen the movie but it reminds me of an updated version of Tender Mercies where Robert Duvall plays an alcoholic country singer. Duvall won a Best Actor trophy for that role more than a quarter century ago. Interestingly, Duvall is also in Crazy Heart. Still, it was nice to see Bridges recognized. He is a vastly underappreciated actor as were his parents whom he thanked posthumously.

Sandra Bullock won Best Actress for The Blind Side. Last night, Bullock was the recipient of the Golden Raspberry Award (or Razzie) for Worst Actress in All About Steve. Bullock accepted the award in person. It marks the first time an actor or actress has won an Oscar and a Razzie in the same year albeit for a different performance. A few years back Halle Berry won a Razzie for her performance in Catwoman and accepted the award in person. The Razzie came four years after she won Best Actress for Monster's Ball.

As widely expected, Christoph Waltz won Best Supporting Actor for Inglourious Basterds while Mo'Nique won Best Supporting Actress for her performance in Precious. I'm not sure what she meant when she said during her acceptance speech, “I would like to thank the Academy for proving that it can be about the performance and not the politics." It could be she was referring to reports about her behavior with regard to promoting the film. But by the time she won the Golden Globe for best supporting actress back in January she was the clear favorite at the Oscars. So methinks she doth protest too much.

Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin were not as annoying as I thought they would be. Still, I would have preferred if Neil Patrick Harris had hosted. Harris did host The Tony Awards last June. He opened the Oscars with a comedic musical number.

Most Oscar shows have live performances of the nominees for Best Original Song. But this was absent from this year's Oscar telecast. The music on this year's show was sparse. Aside from the opening number from Harris there was a dance montage for Best Original Score and a performance of the Beatles "In My Life" by James Taylor during the In Memoriam segment. I thought that was particularly unusual. In previous years, the orchestra provides the musical accompaniment to the In Memoriam section as it does for the Grammys and the Emmys. As much as I like Taylor his performance seemed out of place for that particular segment.

I did, however, like the tribute for John Hughes.

There wasn't much in the way of political content this year. Of course, Hollywood is Obama Central so they were comfortably mum. With regard to The Hurt Locker both Bigelow and script writer Mark Boal made a point of giving thanks to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When The Cove (a film about dolphin hunting in Japan) won for Best Documentary Feature, Ric O'Barry unfurled a banner instructing viewers to text the word "dolphin" the cameras quickly cut away to the audience. I'm not sure what suprises me more. That Fisher Stevens was once Michelle Pfeffer's boyfriend or that is he is now an Academy Award winner (Stevens co-produced the documentary.)

Ben Stiller came out dressed as a Na'vi from Avatar to present the award for Best Makeup. However, contrary to what was reported in USA Today, Stiller wasn't speaking Na'vi he was reciting a Hebrew prayer. This is the second year in a row, Stiller has come out in a funny get up. Last year, he dressed up as a disheveled Joaquin Phoenix on the heels of his infamous appearance with David Letterman.

But perhaps the weirdest moment of the show came at the end of the night was when Tom Hanks came out and instead of naming the ten movies nominated for Best Picture simply announced that The Hurt Locker had won. Bigelow, who had won her Best Director statuette moments earlier, had to scurry back on stage. Not that I minded looking at her. I don't know if she's had plastic surgery done but she looks fantastic at 58. Was she wearing high heels or is she like six foot, three? Either way tonight Kathryn Bigelow stands tall.

Still, if time can't be found to name all ten movies nominated for Best Picture when it comes time to present the award then I think the Motion Picture Academy should reduce it back to five films next year. Paradoxically, expanding the number of films from five to ten actually generated less buzz for most of those movies. The only two movies nominated that I saw were Up and An Education. Yet they merited almost no discussion. It was basically the battle between The Hurt Locker and Avatar and mainly because Bigelow and James Cameron were once married to each other (although they have an amicable relationship.)

The Academy Awards ceremonies have had declining viewership in recent years. I don't know if this year will stem the tide. If not I'd give fresh blood like Neil Patrick Harris a shot or find a way to persuade Billy Crystal to host one more time.


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bizzla said...

James Cameron got screwed over. I mean how can a shitty movie that made 19.3 million dollars win over a very well made movie that made 2 billion? Only when the US is fighting a war in the place where the shitty movie takes place, that's how.