E: It came to me yesterday afternoon (as I was headed to the grocery store for more strawberries) that Oscar is a lot like dating in junior high. Most people don’t do it, but everyone wants to. It’s wrapped up with all sorts of vital seeming romantic drama – it feels like the most important thing in the world – but in the end, it generally has little to do with who you might actually have a good relationship with. Usually it’s about who’s popular – not even who you like, but you’re supposed to like.
As for the telecast itself? Well, there it was. Soon we’ll have a full on debate about the show – what worked, what didn’t, who sounded great, who looked better. We’ll discuss the dances, the dresses, Neil Patrick Harris, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, James Taylor and the John Hughes memorial (and how Judd Nelson could be that unrecognizable), the occasionally screaming announcer, and a rather inexplicable horror movie clip show. But first I’m going to give you a quick rundown of the big races and how it all worked out. (Hint: if you read my predictions, you already know.)
Best Supporting Actor:
Christoph Waltz, Inglourious Basterds
I absolutely loved the extended Oscar clips – instead of a snippet of dialogue which meant little outside the film, you get a real sense of the character, an arc, even. Good work, Adam Shankman and co! As tradition dictates, last year’s supporting actress winner Penelope Cruz (stunning in a maroon gown) presented the award, and could be seen talking animatedly to the winner as she escorted him out. Waltz was neat and cute in a precise tux and a huge smile. (Is he really small, or does it just seem that way? How can I think of a terrifying Nazi as a cute little pocket sized man? And yet, I do.) He gave a typically inventive speech – which seemed to baffle Harvey Weinstein, if you noticed them shooting him from the audience – about his life long ambition to discover a continent and how he got to do just that by trusting Quentin Tarantino instead of his instincts. Will he make more American movies, I wonder, or will he be the sort of obscure Oscar winner who goes right back to their old milieu (a la stage actress Mercedes Ruehl) ? He certainly seems to be enjoying himself. Do I can either way? I wish him well, I’ll say that.
Best Supporting Actress:
Stepping in for last year’s supporting actor winner Heath Ledger, former winner Robin Williams presented this award. Again, we have the full character arc clip (which, by the way, included Maggie Gyllenhaal at the porch door, which so screamed out Oscar clipwhen I saw Crazy Heart). She is a powerful speaker, isn’t she? She’s pithy, memorable, and she packs an emotional wallop. Love it. Reward the performance, not the politics – nice line, and the delivery! Thanking Hattie McDaniel (the first African-American acting winner, for her role in Gone With the Wind) for going through ‘everything’ so she didn’t have to – and, nice. Her husband for telling her “to forgo doing what’s popular to do what’s right – and baby, you were so right.” I hope she gets more work out of this. I’d be really happy to see more drama (or anything at all) from Ms Mo’Nique. I didn’t like her blue gown as much as her golden SAG one; do you think she, Mariah Carey and Gabby Sidibe coordinated?
Jeff Bridges, Crazy Heart
After a gracious, lovely series of affirmations (thought did anyone else think it was strange that Colin Farrell was there to talk about Jeremy Renner when he costarred in Crazy Heart with Jeff Bridges?) – one by an actor or actress who had worked with each of the five nominees – Kate Winslet (stunning in a fitted silver gown) arrived to hand Jeff Bridges the Oscar we’ve all known was his for the last several months. I thought he started off strong, looking up to heaven and thanking his parents for introducing him to the business, but wandered into unfortunate laundry list territory midway through and generally lost the tenor of his remarks. Oh well. The fact that anyone can say something meaningful under these circumstances is probably remarkable. He didn’t. He did look like he washed his hair, though, and his wife looked stunning, and it’s so nice to hear that someone in Hollywood has a long, stable marriage and a good family life. He seems like an affable guy and is clearly quite well liked.
Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side
After another set of lovely affirmations, Sean Penn babbles incoherent and then blessedly tucks in to simply read the names of the nominees, and the winner. Sandra Bullock! Ah. Like Bridges, Bullock gets a standing ovation as she takes the stage. She’s wearing a stunning, regal silver gown – the top is composed of what looks like tiny interwoven vines and leaves, which joins an slender column skirt in solid silver. She’s got sleek, simple hair, and a perhaps controversial slash of crimson lipstick, and it is very very clear who will top the best dressed lists. She begins: “Did I really earn this or did I just wear y’all down?” She thanks the Twoheys (the family whose lives are chronicled in the movie) , pays a personal, charming compliment to each of her competitors (including “my lover, Meryl Streep”), and closing by dedicating her award to “the moms that take care of the babies no matter where they come from”, referencing her family, and her husband (standing with tears in his eyes) and the gift of Oscar. It’s lovely, personal – specific to her life as a step mom and her film role as a foster mother – and it made me cry. She couldn’t have done better.
Can I just observe how silly it is that Sandra Bullock – a gifted comedienne – had to go outside her subject area to be noticed by Oscar? The woman is hilarious, and she makes you fall in love with her. Why is that less worthy than, say, Marion Cotillard’s dramatic hysteria in La Vie En Rose? I would suggest that it’s not. Why does the Academy only honor comic performances in the supporting categories – and even that rarely?
Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker
Barbra Streisand – who directed Best Picture nominee The Prince of Tides, but was not nominated for Best Director – is the presenter. Oh, nicely calculated, Adam and co. She repeats the commentary from earlier in the evening (was it the screamy announcer?) that we could have a woman or a black man win for the first time ever – or three white writer/directors, all of them previously nominated and one a winner. She opens the envelope. “Well, the time has come,” she says with a smile, and we see a shudder go through Kathryn Bigelow. Funny that nobody thought it was Lee Daniels winning, huh?
Bigelow – tall and stunning in another gray gown (clearly the color of the evening) with organic detail on the top half – ascends the stage. She gives a bit of a halting laundry list; normally, this would annoy me, but I’ve heard her speak before, and since she’s normally quite well spoken, it’s clear that she’s stumbling from great emotion, which makes it rather endearing. This is truly the moment of a life time, she says. She thanks Mark Boal (who surprised me by beating out Tarantino for Best Original Screenplay) a journalist who “risked his life for the pages of this screenplay”, and the troops in theater. Nicely done, m’lady. Nicely done. When she’s ready to leave, the orchestra strikes up “I am Woman, hear me roar.”
The Hurt Locker
The Hurt Locker
Tom Hanks (Oscar winner and Academy Governor – which is what?) sprints out, and opens the envelope without even bothering to read the names of the ten nominees. That’s fair enough. It’s The Hurt Locker, and Kathryn Bigelow is pushed back on stage, and Mark Boal and the other producer who isn’t Nick Chartier (man do I feel sorry for him) also take the stage. Boal (a cute, floppy haired Jason Reitman type) is meandering when my dvr cut out. I am surprisingly unconcerned by this. I’ll have to look up and see if anyone said something incredibly moving, but I doubt it. It can be tricky when a movie wins multiple awards (in this case, 6) and the producers have all had their chance to talk. Unless you have something to pull out like a Holocaust tattoo, there’s not generally a lot to say at that point. Which is a shame. You’d think that would be the most powerful speech of the night, but it rarely is. It tends to be laundry list-y, and have little to do with the movie’s themes.
Let’s assume they did their most important speaking on the movie screen
More to come soon! Did you find the awards as predictable as I did? Did anything about them make you happy? Did you enjoy the show? Do tell!