The Academy Awards (2010). Hosts: Alec Baldwin & Steve Martin.

This Sunday finally witnessed the 82nd annual academy awards, an award show that was more hyped up for who it had and would snub, then who it would honor.

Right off the bat the show’s producers lined up the best actress and best actor nominees on stage. And for what? A big round of applause for Oscar’s favorite award, some silly audience reaction shots and the highlighting of one of the most predictable awards that night (just shy of the supporting winners).

But starting off the party (?) though, was a jubilant Neil Patrick Harris who sauntered in as if it was the Emmys all over again and Hugh Jackman was only a distant memory. A sad knockoff from his Emmy routine, Harris’ number was no where near Jackman’s from last year and made little sense as he was not even the designated host. Obviously Oscar producers felt that the actual hosts couldn’t make an entrance or rock a sequin blazer, how sad (but true).

Even sadder is that producer’s obviously thought neither host could handle the night alone, despite Martin’s previous experience with the event. Both men stood there, throughout the night, delivering jokes (some rather great though) in standardized fashion. Oh Alec, here’s that person, jab at them, oh look Steve it’s this actor, don’t we have a funny about them? And so on and so forth. (Come on even George Clooney looked bored, and yes, a bit miffed.)

The first award of the night is always a supporting one, and for this night a shoe-in. Having already won the Golden Globe and SAG award, Christolph Waltz graciously accepted the Oscar for best actor in a supporting role for Inglorius Basterds. In another circumventing speech, Waltz was able to thank Quentin Tarantino and a film that would ultimately deserve more than it was awarded.

Amply awarded best animated feature was Pete Docter’s UP, the next award announced by Cameran Diaz and Steve Carrell. Pixar is surely happy, as we all are, that their reign continues. Another safe bet was best original song that went to Ryan Bimgham and T-Bone Burnett for ‘The Weary Hearted’ from Crazy Heart presented by Amanda Seyfriend and a slouchy Miley Cyrus. And as Ryan made sure to tell his wife, I love you more than rainbows baby” we all breathed a sigh of relief for some actual genuine singularity in the night. (By the way, you know it’s a boring red carpet when Cameron Diaz is one of the best dressed, and the young actresses look like they came straight from prom, snooze.)

But trying to put some spark into the evening was Tina Fey and Robert Downey Jr. who got to present best original screenplay to Mark Boal for The Hurt Locker. Although a great screenplay I would have been happier to see the Oscar in Tarantino’s hands, for his amazing film that couldn’t just ride on being topical. And topical the night was, as Matthew Broderick and Molly Ringwald took the stage to address the death and celebrate the life and work of filmmaker John Hughes. A lovely, tender moment, this showed Oscar night in true classic form, as Hughes family stood in honor of him and reminded all audiences everywhere that influence and significance can come in any form or level.

Unfortunately, the rest of the night didn’t maintain that moment. As the tactless ‘Thank Heaven for Little Girls’ instrument from Gigi played Zoe Saldana (in a poorly designed purple poof of a dress) and Carey Mulligan presented the shorts awards. (I’m sorry, but didn’t pop culture decide long ago that this song was creepy?) With best animated short film going to Nicolas Shmerkin for Logorama, best documentary short to Roger Ross Williams and Elinor Burkett for Music by Prudence, and best live action short going to Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson for The New Tenants. In the most notorious speech of the night (how silly) Music By Prudence producer Burkett stole the spotlight and speech of filmmaker Williams. Not only did she appear to hijack the speech from him, but looked as if she broke his spirit, truly a travesty in filmmaking, a collaborative industry at its core.

And at the core of Ben Stiller is still comedy and daredevil mischief. Committing to his post as presenter for best make-up, Stiller took the stage in full Avatar make-up, including tail, to present and attempt words in the Navi language. Although Avatar was not even nominated, Stiller was a nice chuckle (maybe not for James Cameron who never really smiles) and a chance to honor Barney Burman, Mindy Hall, and Joel Harlow for their work on Star Trek.

Next up was Rachel McAdams and Jake Gyllenhaal to present the award for best adapted screenplay. In a bit of surprise, the award went to Jeffrey Fletcher for his adaption of Precious. Obviously a great moment for him and the Precious team, he neglected to thank Sapphire for her inspirational original content. Sorry, but is it not standard to at least acknowledge where your work is actually rooted in? Shame on you.

And shame on the Academy. Not only did you waste time later in the evening on silly horror genre montages and interpretative dances (sponsored by the Gap?), but you forced film icon Lauren Bacall to accept her Governor’s Award or Honorary Oscar (as some call it) at a lunch!?! And veteran producer Roger Corman too? Shame on the Academy, shame, shame, shame. If you are going to put on the biggest night in the business, do some research, honor your history, and have some class.

Well, at least, unlike her character. Miss Mo’nique maintained some grace while accepting the Oscar for best actress in a supporting role  for Precious. But it is still the same speech, from every other awards, woo-hoo. And woo-hoo for Avatar‘s first win of the evening for outstanding art direction, presented by Sigourny Weaver. Rick Carter, Robert Stromberg, and Kim Sinclair received the award and provided a great example of when there is little organization and someone gets the microphone for the whole speech (oddly I don’t feel sad for them, hmm).

Next up was Tom Ford and Sarah Jessica Parker (in that god awful Chanel mishap) who presented Sandy Powell with her third Oscar for costume design for The Young Victoria. Thanks Sandy, for reminding audiences of the little people who don’t get Oscars, and the big people who revel in their own success. Thanks.

Not even going to tackle the Baldwin/Martin Paranormal Activity spoof (is this the MTV Movie Awards now? Just checking).

Attention Academy, now it’s time for those pretty young things to present, you know, for the ratings. If you thought you got through Miley alright, well here’s Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner of Twilight and New Moon fame introducing a pointless horror movie montage of the last thirty-seven years of the genre. But why? Is anyone in the mood for a ‘guess that movie game’? I. Don’t. Think. So. And no one is in the mood for them either. Sorry kids, you still have a lot to experience.

But, of course, cue more youngsters, Zac Efron and Anna Kedrick (at least she’s relevant) to present the next award. And with a Morgan Freemon narrated segment actually explaining the sound editing category, audiences can be relived that someone somewhere knows what to their doing. Walking away with this award was Paul N.J. Ottosson for The Hurt Locker and then with his colleague. Ray Beckett, for best sound mixing. Very well deserved awards, but I’ll leave the opinions to the experts at the Sci-Tech awards who already had their ceremony with pert Elizabeth Banks.

But it’s back to Avatar again as Mauro Fiore wins for best cinematography from then-nominee Sandra Bullock. His passion is evident, as for his love of Italy, and his Avatar fever is plenty infectious to make up for stoic Cameron (strategically seated behind Kathryn Bigelow, ex-wife and director of The Hurt Locker so they could be in the same shot?).

In popular culture history the Academy Awards are revered as the highest accolade in the film industry. Therefore, as the telecast and awards show has evolved, its ‘In Memorium’ section of the night has also been equally treasured. This year, introduced by Demi Moore, the montage of names and faces, talent and fame, was shown to James Taylor singing, live,  ‘All My Life’ by the Beatles. Not only did he not get to sing his own song, but Taylor became trapped in the continuing cycle of live soundtrack that is actually a distraction from the montage. But regardless of snubs or omissions, this Oscar moment is special every year and Karl Malden, honored with the last spot, will always be the Reverend Ford from Pollyanna (1960)). Standing in the grass, debating his sermon, and being shocked by a young Hayley Mills’ view of the world. Because that is what the Oscars are, they honor these treasured cinematic moments, and have and should remind us why we love the movies.

Yet, sadly, this night lost out on that overall feeling. As right after the memorium Sam Worthington and Jennifer Lopez introduced a dance segment to the soundtracks nominated for best original score. Beautiful pieces of music and beautiful dancing, but entirely mis-matched and inappropriate. Somehow the beige washed costumes enhanced the blah-factor as most audiences surely wondered why we could have this segment and not other standards. Clearly, new Oscar producer Adam Shankman (of reality show So You Think You Can Dance fame) does not understand his audience. Yes, let’s bring the young people in, but let’s also not alienate everyone else. Or, frankly, to a night celebrating cinema!

The next couple award were well predicted with Michael Giachinno winning for the best original score for UP. Gerard Butler and Bradley Copper giving best visual effects to Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham, and Andy Jones of the Avatar crew. Matt Damon was called on to deliver the best documentary feature to Louie Psihoyos and Fisher Stevens of The Cove who were cut off due to flag waving (got to let them try). Then Tyler Perry (way to buy yourself an Academy invitation) presented best film editing to Bob Murawski and Chris Innis for The Hurt Locker. Ending the humdrum with directors Pedro Almodovar and Quentin Tarantino (being themselves!) giving best foreign language film to the Argentinian film El Secreto De Sus Ojos.

Now, finally, we get to the meat of it. The awards Oscar clearing reveres most. Similar to last year’s ceremony, fellow actors took the stage to honor the nominees. However, this time they weren’t all winners in that category, but rather actors who’d previously worked with the nominees (way to go Colin Farrell for keeping a straight face while applauding nominee Jeremy Renner, we are all sure S.W.A.T. was an amazing experience). Clearly emphasizing that the award is also about the person, as much as it is about the performance, naturally Jeff Bridges for Crazy Heart was given the Oscar from Kate Winslet, last year’s best actress winner. Yes, Jeff, your parent’s love “show biz so much” and show biz loves you, a well deserving careers, but not a well deserving performance.

(I’d like to point out here that Ms. Winslet was the only one that night to say correctly, “and the Oscar goes to,” rather than “the winner is” which apparently everyone else read off the prompter. Shame on you Academy, and the presenters. Never, never through out tradition and the excuse to seem unbiased out the door. Never!)

Next up was the colleagues of the best actress nominees, with Precious executive producer Oprah Winfrey taking the stage for newcomer Gabourey Sidibe (she even sounded like she was on her show!). With last year’s best actor winner, Sean Penn handed off the Oscar to Sandra Bullock for The Blind Side. Yes you wore us down Sandra, yes we like you, yes it’s great you were recognized, but please really? An Oscar? Now, go away so we can stop kicking ourselves for liking you and giving it to you for no reason.

Lastly, the icon Barbara Streisand waltzed on stage, obviously preempting this win, and seemed thrilled to hand  Kathryn Bigelow her Oscar for best director for The Hurt Locker. The first woman in eighty-two years to ever receive the award, Bigelow was clearly in shock and refreshingly gracious. So that, whether or not you like the film or her vision, you at least have to like her and how she has handle herself amidst the glare of Cameron and critics.

And who better to end the night then Tom Hanks. Abandoning all frivolity or a recap of the best picture noms presented throughout the night, he ripped open the envelope to a roar of excitement for The Hurt Locker. With the three main actors swaying behind Ms. Bigelow, the scope of the project and genuine enthusiasm was at least palpable. But that is more than I would say for most of the night.

The last time there was ten nominations was in 1943 when Casablanca won and the world was at war. Now there is still war, but more choices are returned. Yet unfortunately this wasn’t the year for ten nominations as the ten selected were hardly of the same caliber. A nomination shouldn’t just be given to fill a category, but given when worth should be rewarded. Let us all hope the Academy and its show producers remember that next year. Worth and tradition, it is why Hollywood still reigns supreme. Let’s not forget it.

2 thoughts on “We’ve Never Seen Oscar Like This (and we don’t want to!)”

  1. I am so glad you didn’t complain about The Hurt Locker. What a wonderful film. I can’t get it out of my mind. The ensemble acting and the recreation of the tension and camaraderie and dislocation — so much to like. I am tired of people dissing it because it wasn’t widely seen. So what? It was beautiful.

    1. I can’t complain about it no. I eventually saw it on dvd, which is why a review is not included here. I thought it was an intense and raw portrait, but did not achieve as much as they hype had be expect.

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