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Post-Oscars Review: Bigelow Makes History

So, all the little golden men have been handed out. Some dreams have been crushed, others have been realized. Now it’s time to pore over the night that was, in needless detail. Because that’s just how I roll. So let’s see what I got right and what the Academy got wrong (and vice versa), and where it all goes from here.

In terms of picks, it was a decent night for me. I went a respectable 18/24 in the end. The six that I missed fall into three categories. There’s “Oh my God, what was I thinking?!” “Oh my God, what were they thinking?!” and “I really just have no idea what’s going on here”.

In the “my mistake” category, I chose Avatar to win best score and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus to win art direction. As the mash-up dance thingy immediately before the best score award was going on, I remember hearing the piano theme from Up and knowing right away that I was wrong to bet against Giacchino, because that was just a great theme. And going against Avatar for art direction was probably not a stroke of genius on my part either.

Then there were my picks for adapted screenplay and cinematography. I’m not really that shocked by what actually wound up winning, but I do feel that my picks were more deserving. I really, really liked the screenplay for Up In The Air, and I just found The White Ribbon to be a gorgeous film to look at. Not to say that Precious didn’t have good writing or Avatar wasn’t visually appealing, but I stand by my picks.

Finally, the last couple of misses for me came in best foreign film and best short doc. I’d only seen two of the nominees for best foreign film (The White Ribbon and A Prophet), so I went with my gut and was brutally punished for doing so. And sadly I did not get a chance to check out any of the short doc nominees, so that selection was based on what little material I did manage to see or read about the selections.

Overall though, I was happy with how most of the awards turned out. Seeing Kathryn Bigelow, the first female to win best director, with an Oscar in each hand at the end was pretty badass. Mo’Nique took one home for Precious. In perhaps the worst kept secret of the ceremony, Christoph Waltz got his Oscar. Sandra Bullock had her moment (I thought it was great that she basically said, “Well, this’ll never happen again”). Jeff Bridges finally won after being nominated for acting Oscars four times previously, and in the midst of it all, still made sure to thank his stand-in, which shows you how freaking great a person Jeff Bridges is.

As a random aside, I’m still kinda miffed that (500) Days Of Summer didn’t get any nominations whatsoever. Surely for editing, for screenplay, even for best picture, something?

For the most part, it was an unsurprising night. I would’ve loved to have seen some upsets. Even though I didn’t think it was gonna happen, I was really pulling for Quentin to get best screenplay. I remember they cut away to him at one point later in the night when he hadn’t won and he just looked visibly bummed. Actually, it was probably right after Mark Boal got that screenplay award. I also would’ve liked seeing Sally Menke win for editing, or Carey Mulligan for actress, or Vera Farmiga for supporting actress. Any of these would’ve made me happy. But basically all the stuff I expected to win did so.

As for the show itself, it was not a great evening. I appreciate what they’re trying to do with making the speeches faster, but cutting people off in mid-sentence just isn’t cool, in my opinion, especially if multiple people are sharing an award. I mean, I understand some people would just ramble on for ages if they didn’t do this, but there must be a happy medium in there somewhere.

The other point here is why do the four acting award winners and the best director get apparently unlimited time to say whatever if everyone else is getting cut short? And that whole long segment of other actors talking about working with this year’s nominees in the past? Hardly seems fair to set aside that much time for a few awards and shortchange everyone else.

With regard to the hosts, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin were not a great pairing. Things in general have not been great in the post-Billy Crystal years, but these two seemed especially flat to me. Not only was there not much chemistry between the two, but the material was not really funny either. Give me Jon Stewart over these guys any day. Also it would be awesome if they never did the thing with Ben Stiller dressing up ever again.

There are a couple of small areas where I have to give some credit. I like what they did with the score category, just mixing selections from each score together. Good time saver. The dancing that accompanied the score selections, on the other hand, was incredibly random. I mean, the robot? Really? Really? Anyway it could be a good idea in the future if they actually did some decent choreography.

I also liked their use of James Taylor during the montage of all those who died in the past year. I thought it was kind of a classy touch. But I do have to say I’ve always found it kind of weird and disrespectful how the audience will cheer some people like crazy and then hardly clap for others as the names and faces are coming up. Applaud them all equally or don’t cheer, people. It’s not a popularity contest, it’s a show of respect.

Ultimately, even though I had a lot of fun at the movies in 2009, I don’t think it’s going to go down in history as a particularly memorable year. Don’t get me wrong, I love The Hurt Locker. I’m also a big fan of Inglourious Basterds, and Up In The Air, and many others. But they all just seem like they vary between “good” and “very good”. I’m hard-pressed to say anything truly great came out last year. All in all though, I can’t complain. Already looking forward to doing this again next year.

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