The trick here is to write down all my thoughts about tonight’s Oscars before I read or hear anybody else’s impressions. It’s really difficult, because I have to turn off the TV and avoid my favorite websites until I’m finished. It’s a sacrifice, but I have done it. So, these notes might not seem very original, but I promise, they are my very own.
I enjoyed the opening “number,” which thankfully was not a song and dance extravaganza, but instead a film sequence where hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway were inserted into scenes from the nominated films. I have to confess, I also enjoyed the “song” clip from Twilight: Eclipse about Jacob not owning a shirt. The worst joke of the night, and the one most likely to elicit protests from middle America, was the suggestion that the mom in Toy Story 3 might be a lesbian (“where is dad?”). I thought Anne Hathaway sparkled, but James Franco was just…off. He was stiff, he seemed nervous, and his material was weak.
My favorite pair of presenters had to be Russell Brand and Helen Mirren. It was a most unlikely pairing, even though I know they are in the remake of Arthur together. I admire Brand for getting through the tricky pronunciation of the nominees’ names for foreign language film. (I commend the decision to have those pre-recorded, too.) The least successful presenters were Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake. Their timing was off, and their jokes fell flat. And, why did presenting pairs Josh Brolin & Javier Bardem, and later Robert Downey Jr. & Jude Law, all look like their tuxedos were too tight?
I thought the most amusing speeches were given by Randy Newman, for best song, and by Luke Matheny, for best short film. Matheny got big laughs for mumbling that he should have gotten a haircut, and later for thanking his mom for doing the craft services for his film. (Lots of moms got mentioned tonight, and that was a very nice trend.) The most awkward acceptance speech was by the winner for costume design, Colleen Atwood (Alice in Wonderland), since she read her entire speech off a notecard with her statuette pressed against her side under an elbow. They tried showing her from a different camera angle to make it look better, but it didn’t help. I give a special nod to Aaron Sorkin for mentioning his daughter’s guinea pig (an Oscar first?), and to adapted screenplay winner David Seidler’s reference to being a “late bloomer,” since he’s only 74. I expected the night to be given over to the younger crowd, for the sake of ratings, but the old fellows really held their own.
94-year-old Kirk Douglas was delightful, but he really does look and sound that old. You’ve got to admire his spunk, and he seemed to be enjoying every second in the spotlight. I don’t think he wanted it to end. I suspect that it was his segment that started them running behind schedule. Melissa Leo didn’t help with her rambling speech, but what really shocked me was when she grabbed Kirk Douglas’ cane as they walked offstage together. Who yanks away an old man’s cane??
Melissa Leo was a bit of a disaster. Her dress was weird, her hair was a wreck, and her acceptance speech was not what I expected from someone who had plenty of practice at other award ceremonies this year. Her f-bomb at least gave others something to joke about. Natalie Portman was lovely, and while I admired her memory when she mentioned a long list of names, most viewers have come to expect more emotion and spontaneity from the best actress winner. Still, I’m happy she got her Oscar.
I always cry during the In Memoriam, and this year was no exception. Celine Dion sang Smile, and most of the photos and clips showed smiling faces, which broke my heart, especially a grinning Leslie Nielsen. I noticed Corey Haim wasn’t included, but I don’t know all the guidelines. Do you have to be a nominee or member to be included? I’m sure I’ll be reading about it tomorrow. I’m not sure why Lena Horne got singled out for a special tribute, but it was telling in a year with few (or no?) black artists nominated for awards.
There were several things included in the presentation that were completely pointless. Just because Cate Blanchett presented costume and makeup awards, there was no reason to have a huge tribute to Lord of The Rings behind her. Is there a New Line/Disney/ABC connection, and are they already promoting The Hobbit movie? There was a big montage of movies from Gone With The Wind to Titanic, winners of the “trifecta” of best film, art direction and cinematography. Three films this year had the opportunity to do it again, but as soon as Tom Hanks announced that Alice in Wonderland won the first of the three, that whole big build-up died a quick death. Billy Crystal’s appearance and the tribute to Bob Hope were nice, but they slowed down the pace of an already dragging show. Finally, was an introduction to the history of film music really necessary? They streamlined the nominated songs so nicely, then tacked on this rather pointless introduction. I had a hard time understanding the lyrics during the song performances, which may have been a technical problem.
The saddest moment for me came during a commercial break. There was 2002 Best Actor winner Adrien Brody singing in a beer ad. Sure, I’ve seen the ad before, but to see it during the Academy Awards illustrates that an Oscar does not guarantee that great roles will keep coming your way.
Overall, the award winners were almost entirely predictable, particularly in the major categories. The only thing that surprised me at all was Alice in Wonderland winning a couple of technical awards. Even though they were front-runners, I was still incredibly delighted that Colin Firth and Christian Bale both won, and I thought they gave two of the best speeches. I hate Bale’s beard, but he had a lot of energy onstage, even when it seemed like he forgot his wife’s name. Bale has been consistently good throughout a long career, and the fact that this was his first nomination amazes me. I still think he should have been nominated for Empire of the Sun, and I’ve been waiting since that film for Bale to get the Academy recognition that he deserves. It was a great night for British actors. Colin Firth had a touching balance of sincerity, humor, and dignity in his acceptance speech.
I cheered when The King’s Speech won for Best Picture. I haven’t even seen it yet. I really need to make the effort, because I know I will enjoy it. I was impressed when one of the producers thanked his boyfriend during his speech. I don’t know if that’s a first, but it’s still pretty cool.
So, what did you think?