For at least the past decade, the Oscars have been the same every year: a boring ceremony lacking in spectacle or pageantry that drags too long and ultimately disappoints. The excitement generated by the Oscars is never actually justified by the show that we end up with. It’s been the same for the longest time, and I can’t remember when it was last great. My most vivid Oscars memory is Billy Crystal’s intro to the movies of 1998, and my most violent Oscars protest was seeing Brokeback Mountain for a second time instead of watching the ceremony as a way of boycotting Crash (what an outrage).
But no, the Oscars are not a good show any more. We’re going to keep on doing it ad infinitum, and we’re going to find excuses for the severe lack of entertainment occurring. By the time we got to the In Memoriam phase of the evening, a lot of people on Twitter were saying that it should have contained “90% of the show” or at least James Franco and Anne Hathaway. Now, this isn’t fair. Franco and Hathaway did the best they could with what they were given, but the ceremony is so bloated that regardless of their performances people will just blame them for every shortcoming.
Observe Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin last year: a lot of people hated them, even though they were kinda funny. The identity of the host is mostly irrelevant, although some, like Jon Stewart, are undeniably worse than others. They simply don’t matter.
The hosts show up at the start of the show and introduce the evening, and then they occasionally come out just to remind you that they’re the hosts. Because they’re the sole focal point of the show (and this year they couldn’t even stick to their weird conceit of “let’s celebrate Gone With The Wind and stuff” beyond a few seconds), people focus on them. We blame Franco and Hathaway for the lack of momentum, for the rigidity of the system.
If we’re Ricky Gervais we somehow make it all about ourselves, writing a bizarre script suggesting that all of the jokes would be made at our own expense rather than talking about movies – a fine way of doing oneself absolutely no favours beyond the salvageable damage of the Golden Globes. One would think Gervais would be smart enough not to personally attack Franco and Hathaway, but … he’s not.
So let’s ignore the show. The show was boring, beyond a few key speeches. Let’s look at results!
Let’s just say it felt like a weird night. I didn’t make a lot of concrete predictions, but the only real upset was the romping home of The King’s Speech. Because The King’s Speech is both a late-2010 upstart and a British production, it’s been getting a lot of flack from people who think that it should have been roundly ignored. The Social Network had, of course, been the big favourite. That someone would dare make a film about the dreaded monarchy of the UK set in a time when the symbolism and power of the throne meant considerably more than it does today was an affront to steadfast and true American patriots and small r republicans the world over. The Nazi smear, popularised a couple of years back to throw the scent off Kate Winslet, proved ineffective.
While you should prepare yourself to weather a huge storm of backlash the likes of which have not been seen since Slumdog Millionaire, keep in mind The King’s Speech is actually a well crafted boutique or cottage film. I don’t mind it winning Best Picture, because this was a strong selection of ten and the movie was very good indeed. Firth definitely deserved his Best Actor nod, although it could just have easily found its way into Bridges’ hands. Many have railed against its direction, but I think that everything was perfectly measured. It’s not that strange a selection, but I would have expected Best Director to go to someone more flashy, like Aronofsky or, more likely, Fincher.
What went wrong with Fincher? I should make it clear that now The Social Network did not end up the winner I feel kind of sad for it. It had all of its hopes riding on it and it’s sad to see it punctured. It’s amazing what a difference 24 hours can make, but I’d like to see it again. Now that it doesn’t have the official overall backing of the Academy maybe I can appreciate it for what I always knew it to be: a well made movie about awful people that I thought was okay if nothing special (I’m listening to the Academy Award winning score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross right now and frankly it’s not doing that much for me). Poor kid.
At least Aaron Sorkin won his award, even if his source material for adaptation was surely very loose indeed.
The Fighter’s contingent was the obvious pairing of the rather boring Christian Bale and the ultra-mother Melissa Leo. Bale failed to surprise and the truest victory would have belonged to John Hawkes. Leo redeemed her dull if entertaining victory with the best speech of the night, because it’s always fun when someone forgets that American ears are too delicate to process profanity without opening a portal of sin and immorality in the mind. Leo’s speech almost justified a victory that should have gone to any one of the five in the field – although it would have been really nice to see Jacki Weaver take that stage. All of the clips that they showed for the other actresses were standard issue, but Weaver’s excerpt from Animal Kingdom was electric.
The Blackest Swan of them all was of course Natalie Portman, the most foregone conclusion of the entire event. I think that we won’t see a lot of performances like this one in attempts at Oscar bait simply because of the physical and emotional demands entailed. It would have been nice to see Nicole receive recognition for Rabbit Hole, but all of these actresses save Bening deserved the award, so I have no regrets.
The last film deserving of mention is, of course, Inception. It took away some technical awards and I guess you can’t say fairer than that. It was a movie of fine tuning and physical crafting.
The Oscars as a ceremony left me feeling empty, a sensation that I experience every year but conveniently allow myself to forget so that the magic of Oscar can live in my heart. The results, however, are not terrible. I can get behind these statues … and far away from school children singing Somewhere Over the Rainbow.