28 February 2011

Recapping the Oscars

Well, that was ... something.

The show was disappointing — belligerently unfunny and lacking all affability — and largely, so were the results. Time and time again, the winners proved themselves to be the central element of the showing, excepting presenter Kirk Douglas, who brought more energy and verve and genuineness than almost anyone else at the ceremony. What began inauspiciously (hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway doing the full 1990s Billy Crystal by “appearing” in the nominated films) ended just as inauspiciously, with Steven Spielberg at the microphone holding the envelope and providing a caveat for the ages: just as many great films lose Best Picture as win it.

Some of the highs and lows:

• Early in the night I tweeted, “Most of those who complained the Oscar season was boring have started off 0-2.” And that’s pretty much the way the rest of the night went. I correctly predicted 16 out of 24, exactly two-thirds, which is my worst Oscar prognostication in three years. (In 2010 I guessed 18 right, and in 2009 I guessed 17 right.) I missed Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design, Documentary, Makeup, Original Score, Original Song, and Short Animated Film. If I hadn’t changed my prediction from Inside Job to Restrepo at the last minute, it would have been the first time I correctly predicted all of the above-the-line categories. Oh well—there’s always next year.

• My preferences overlapped with the Academy at a three-year-time low also, with only 6 out of 24, including: Actor, Adapted Screenplay, Editing, Original Score, Visual Effects, and Documentary. (Although I professed a ballot preference for Exit Through the Gift Shop, I’m not sad at all that the magnificent film Inside Job won for Best Documentary.)

• This was one of the most evenly split Oscars in a long time. No film took home more than four awards, including the Best Picture winner. Tied with The King’s Speech was Inception, with four technical awards, followed by The Social Network with three, and Alice in Wonderland (!), The Fighter, and Toy Story 3 with two. I like it when the Oscars spread the love, but Alice in Wonderland is my pick for worst film of the year, so there’s definitely a limit to acceptable love-spreading.

• I mentioned how the winners drove the show forward. Some of the better acceptance speeches included Aaron Sorkin, David Seidler (the best speech of the night), the director of the short film God of Love, the director of Inside Job, and Colin Firth.

• The show itself, if I may speak more analytically to its failures, was tonally off almost from the get-go. Much of what the Academy tried to do in the theater didn’t transfer well to televisions at home. Some segments went on far too long; some seemed so fleeting it made one wonder why they tried it at all. Although the failure for the humor lies with the show’s writers, James Franco deserves to be knocked around for acting like he couldn’t wait to go home. (In some respects, he acted like this before the show even began.) Anne Hathaway had white-knuckle charm even as she plowed, self-knowingly, through one bad joke after another. The show reached such an abysmal low that when Billy Crystal himself appeared on stage, not many people seemed to want him to leave.

• With The King’s Speech as Best Picture winner, I should say the Oscars have awarded better and the Oscars have awarded worse. I like the film quite a lot, though I’m not sure it’s one for the ages. Perhaps, though. We simply never know.

For more of what I liked and didn’t like, keep an eye out for my Best of 2010 list, which should arrive in a couple months. Until the next awards season, it’s back to film criticism.


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