The 84th Annual Academy Awards are over and it was quite an exciting night for some with a few shocks and surprises and not all the expected frontrunners walking home (or more likely taking a car or limo) with Oscars. You can see all the winners here or read on for the Oscar Warrior’s take on the evening.
When all was said and done, the two movies with the most nominations, Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, took home five Oscars each although The Artist won three of the more high-profile awards including Best Picture, Actor in a Leading Role and Director to Hazanavicius himself.
For all the talk of Sacha Baron Cohen appearing at the Oscars as his character from The Dictator, he showed up on the red carpet to make a nuisance of himself but was nowhere to be seen inside the “Hollywood and Highland Center”… as the former Kodak Theater had been dubbed before the Kodak corporation had their name removed as part of a bankruptcy hearing. It may have been confusing for those watching the red carpet shows with “Kodak Theater” still prominently displayed on the iconic Hollywood building.
Otherwise, it was very much a night of nostalgia with the return of Billy Crystal to hosting duties, as well as being a night when Woody Allen and Meryl Streep each won their first Oscar in almost a quarter of a century, Allen taking his fourth Oscar in 18 nominations and Streep with her third win in 17 nominations.
Allen’s 2011 movie Midnight in Paris was very highly regarded, being his first movie with nominations for Best Picture and Director and though he was expected to win for his Original Screenplay, Allen himself wasn’t in attendance to accept the award.
While Christopher Plummer and Octavia Spencer continued their awards season domination in the supporting acting categories, the night’s surprises started early with Hugo taking two technical Oscars, one for art direction and the other for cinematography, the latter many felt should go to Emmanuel Lubezki for his work on Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life after he had been nominated four times previously without a win.
The Artist started its own run with an Oscar for Costume Design but then it lost the Film Editing category to David Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – that film’s only Oscar win. Hugo then took both the Sound Editing and Sound Mixing Oscars, but The Artist then took the Oscar for Original Score over three-time Oscar winner Howard Shore’s Hugo soundtrack. The biggest surprise and possible turning point was when Hugo won the award for Best Visual FX over favorites like Rise of the Planet of the Apes and the final Harry Potter, starting many theories it may pull out a surprise Best Picture win or that Scorsese himself might win for direction. (Hugo‘s lack of a nomination in the acting categories still put it at a disadvantage in terms of Best Picture.)
Neither film won in the screenplay category in which they were nominated, Alexander Payne’s The Descendants instead taking Adapted Screenplay and Allen for Original Screenplay. The real coup for The Artist came late in the night when director Michel Hazanavicius won the Oscar for his direction, followed by actor Jean Dujardin, virtually unknown on these shores a year ago, who won as Leading Actor over the longtime favorite George Clooney for The Descendants.
Streep’s win over her good friend Viola Davis, who had been thought of the frontrunner for The Help, was somewhat bittersweet, Streep’s performance in The Iron Lady being more than deserving but many feeling Davis deserved it just as much. The writing on the wall may have been when The Iron Lady won for Best Make-Up earlier in the evening, setting up a similar situation as La Vie en Rose a couple years back, which won for make-up before its star, Marion Cotillard, pulled out a somewhat surprising win for Leading Actress over the favored Julie Christie.
As far as the host and the presenters and the overall show? Billy Crystal did a perfectly fine job providing a comfort zone for the Oscars to return to familiar territory and establish the respect it had before some of the more experimental years (like last year’s failed dual hosting by Anne Hathaway and James Franco).
Crystal opened with his usual montage of movie spoofs and a song about the nine Best Picture nominees, and then appeared from time to time making rather tame light-hearted jokes about the presenters. His tribute to former Oscar producer, the late Gil Cates, before the annual “In Memoriam” segment, was effectively heartfelt and poignant, and long-time Oscar viewers probably appreciated the “back to basics” approach he took with his hosting duties.
There were some well-produced montages of big-name stars talking about their early movie memories were generally entertaining–the night’s theme was the “Magic of the movies”–and the way the nominees in the technical awards were presented was very well conceived. The only stumble in the night (at least in this writer’s mind) was the performance by Cirque du Soleil, the closest the night came to any sort of spectacle, although personally, we would have rather seen the two Original Songs performed live instead.
Some of the funnier presentations included Iron Man stars Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow riffing on documentaries before presenting that award, Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis showing up in white tuxedoes crashing cymbals loudly before presenting Best Song to the favored “Man or Muppet?” and a bubbly Emma Stone, looking stunning in all red playfully teased Ben Stiller before they announced the Visual FX award. The female cast of the R-rated comedy hit Bridesmaids presented the awards for short films after doing an extended bit of innuendo comparing them to the length of male genitals. (Which may have been funnier if Michael Fassbender had been nominated for his performance in Shame, so he could have been included in their act.)
For the most part, it was a good Oscar show – nothing too groundbreaking but nothing that left a bad taste in our mouths as in past years. Many of the CS commenters during our live blog expressed the general feeling that it was a weaker year for movies and that they hadn’t seen many if any of the Best Picture nominees.
So that’s it for the Oscar Warrior’s coverage of the 2011 Oscar season; look for our first look at the 2012 Oscar possibilities sometime soon! You can check out a gallery of 100 photos from Sunday’s presentation by clicking here.