Few Surprises At Speedy 2011 Oscars

When you’re wrong, you’re wrong.  The King’s Speech was the big winner at the 83rd annual Academy Awards, one of the speediest ceremonies in recent memory.  The highly regarded feature was named Best Picture over The Social Network.  Roger Ebert’s reading of the tea leaves turned out to be correct.  As expected, Colin Firth was named Best Actor for playing the stuttering King George VI.  His sometimes amusing speech was overly self-deprecating for the most part.  Just because you’re a Brit, that doesn’t mean you can’t show a wee bit of pride for winning and being respected.

After I made my pick for Best Director, I cursed myself for forgetting about the Director’s Guild of America prize.  Roughly 90% of all DGA winners go on to win the Oscar.  This year was no exception.  Tom Hooper won both for helming The King’s Speech. 

David Fincher didn’t stand a chance.  Damnit!  

Hooper’s anecdote about how the whole idea for the film got started (his lovely mom, who attended the ceremony with him, saw a stage version of it and pitched her son the idea of turning it into a cinematic production) was absolutely touching and revealing.  Hooper ended his speech with the amusing quip:  “Always listen to your mother.”.  70-something screenwriter David Seidler won the film’s other prize, Best Original Screenplay.

The highly regarded Inception also won 4 Oscars for Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing and Best Cinematography.  As for the last category in that list, Roger Deakins’ winless streak continues.  The True Grit DOP is now 0 for 9.

Despite losing out on most of the big prizes, The Social Network did manage some consolation victories of its own.  Aaron Sorkin took home Best Adapted Screenplay and defiantly kept rattling off thank yous despite the returning menace of the Play-You-Off-Stage Orchestra, a tiresome cliche still waiting to be retired.  (Let the winners speak, for Christ’s sake!)  In a bit of a surprise, Trent Reznor, best known for his great Nine Inch Nails recordings, shared the Best Original Score Oscar with collaborator Atticus Ross.  The Social Network also won for Best Film Editing.

Three other notable films each secured two gongs a piece.  Randy Newman won his second Oscar (his first in almost a decade) for the catchy Toy Story 3 number, We Belong Together.  Too bad his quirky voice was completely drowned out by the music during his live performance.  His remarks during his acceptance speech, however, were feisty and funny.  The animated blockbuster was also named Best Animated Feature.

Alice In Wonderland won for Best Costume Design and for Best Art Direction while The Fighter cleaned up in the supporting acting categories.  Despite criticism for her open campaigning, Melissa Leo nonetheless managed a Best Supporting Actress victory.  Quite stunned but thankful, the passionate Leo managed to achieve something that hasn’t happened during a live awards show in years:  she cursed without being silenced.  For once, there was no goddamn delay.  More please.

A bearded, gracious Christian Bale took home The Fighter’s other award for Best Supporting Actor.  The famously tempermental Welshman briefly made light of his Terminator: Salvation tirade via his co-star’s utterance of “fucking” and then rightly noted how lucky it was that his film didn’t get lost in the shuffle of the marketplace as so many smaller-scale pictures do year in year out.  He even got in a website plug.

In the other feature film categories, Inside Job predictably won Best Documentary Feature while In A Better World provided the evening’s only true upset when it was announced as The Best Foreign Language Film winner.  (Scroll down to see the complete list of winners.)

As for the show, James Franco (who was sometimes stiff in his line readings) and Anne Hathaway (who giggled too much at times) were pretty much hit-and-miss as hosts, particularly in the monologue.  The opening film montage where they found themselves inserted in various scenes of Best Picture nominees (plus Back To The Future) was skillful from a technical standpoint but not very funny or original, despite a couple good laughs.  (Billy Crystal did this bit much better over a decade ago.  More on him in a moment.)  Overall, I longed for last year’s home run team of Alec Baldwin (who returned in the opening montage) and Steve Martin.  However, Franco’s drag bit was amusing (as was the obligatory but still funny Charlie Sheen one-liner) and his “Congratulations, nerds!” toss-off after the Scientific and Technical Awards segment was a nice bit of cheek in a show that sorely lacked it.

Much funnier were Billy Crystal (who introduced a needless and laughless Bob Hope Oscar hosting tribute which did however feature a neat modernized introduction for the next presenters) and a slowburning Kirk Douglas who despite looking really pale and sometimes sounding incomprehensible (thanks to a long ago stroke) ended up managing to be very funny as he dragged out the suspense for the announcement of the winner of the Best Supporting Actress prize.  His compliment to Leo was particularly funny and sweet.  Robert Downey Jr. was a good sport during a funny moment with Jude Law regarding a particularly low point in his life.

How wonderful it was to not have the In Memoriam segment ruined by any inappropriate applause for missed favourites.  As the names and faces of recently departed industry members flashed across the screen Celine Dion covered Charlie Chaplin’s Smile backed by an orchestra.  When it was over, there was just one round of clapping.  Keep it that way from here on out.

Unfortunately, the annoying “And the Oscar goes to…” line returned.  Last year’s “And the winner is..” was much better.

Probably the most entertaining film package involved auto tuning, that dreaded studio technique overused in so many hit songs these days.  (Damn you, Cher!)  By transforming regular dialogue from films like The Social Network and Harry Potter into electronic vocals was quite clever.  The Twilight Eclipse portion itself was hilarious.

Also cool was the background of the set which reminded me of the opening and closing of Merrie Melodie cartoons.  The arching screens were dazzling especially when filled with images from Shrek, Gone With The Wind, Titanic and stars in a night sky during Gwyneth Paltrow’s performance of Coming Home.

Despite the lack of shocking victories, the show moved briskly as there was little lag time between awards.  In just a little over three hours, it was all done.  Next time, though, bring back the comedians.

Finally, there’s the matter of the annual Earl Oscar Pool.  For nearly 20 years, we’ve bet on who will win the golden naked men.  This year, there’s good news for me and a little bad news, too.  The good news is I won my 12th pool by correctly guessing 14 winners out of 24 categories.  The bad news is so did my dad and grandma.  (My mom had 13 correct, unfortunately, so her slump continues.)  So, for the first time ever, there was a 3-way tie for first place.  My winning streak is now up to 7.

The complete list of winners:

BEST PICTURE – THE KING’S SPEECH

BEST DIRECTOR – Tom Hooper (THE KING’S SPEECH)

BEST ACTRESS – Natalie Portman (BLACK SWAN)

BEST ACTOR – Colin Firth (THE KING’S SPEECH)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Christian Bale (THE FIGHTER)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Melissa Leo (THE FIGHTER)

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – TOY STORY 3

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – IN A BETTER WORLD

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – INSIDE JOB

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT – STRANGERS NO MORE

BEST ANIMATED SHORT – THE LOST THING

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – GOD OF LOVE

BEST ART DIRECTION – ALICE IN WONDERLAND

BEST COSTUME DESIGN – ALICE IN WONDERLAND

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – INCEPTION

BEST MAKE-UP – THE WOLFMAN

BEST SOUND EDITING – INCEPTION

BEST SOUND MIXING – INCEPTION

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – INCEPTION

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE – THE SOCIAL NETWORK

BEST FILM EDITING – THE SOCIAL NETWORK

BEST ORIGINAL SONG – We Belong Together (TOY STORY 3)

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – David Seidler (THE KING’S SPEECH)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – Aaron Sorkin (THE SOCIAL NETWORK)

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Monday, February 28, 2011
2:52 a.m.

UPDATE WITH CORRECTIONS:  Tom Hooper’s mom actually saw an unrehearsed, unproduced stage reading of The King’s Speech, not a proper production as originally stated.  Also, he actually said, “The moral of the story is:  listen to your mother.”  A re-viewing of Randy Newman’s performance of We Belong Together revealed a much clearer vocal track.  For some reason, what sounded just fine on tape didn’t sound audible live.  And Bob Hope’s original voice wasn’t the only one you heard during the Billy Crystal segment.  As Canadian Press TV Critic Bill Brioux noted on Twitter, Dave Thomas did the introduction of the presenters at the very end.  It’s so pitch perfect I didn’t notice it until re-watching that segment.  If you stuck around for the closing credits, however, Paul Feig (who created Freaks And Geeks) was also credited for impersonating Hope.  According to reports, Feig’s original take was scrapped in favour of Thomas’ but he retained credit nonetheless. 

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
2:17 a.m.

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Published in: on February 28, 2011 at 2:52 am  Leave a Comment  

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