The 83rd Academy Awards have been and gone. I went a subpar 15/24 on my predictions, largely because I tried to be too clever (I should absolutely have been able to pick up another 3 without trying). But that’s in the past.
(Though I’m trying to figure out, now, how to reconfigure my rule for picking Animated Short. It seems that I should have been able to nail “The Lost Thing” through my “least-favorite always wins” rationale, even if it wasn’t my least-favorite… “the most boring one wins”, perhaps? That fits the data, too).
The awards themselves went, as usual, to people and films that only vaguely deserve them; it’s simply not worth getting worked up over. Though I will say that, annoying as it is that Tom Hooper won, it’s not like he’s some hackwit yokel, the way the internet would seem to have it. He directed John Adams, for chrissakes, and if that doesn’t win him at least some measure of respect, then I don’t know.
Firth, Bale, Leo, all winning for less than their best work… it happens (Portman, I think, did win for her best work, which was still less than Bening at about 75%). Same for Randy Newman winning for one of the worst songs he’s ever written – I say this as a massive fan of Randy Newman’s 1970s output, and even of much of his Pixar work – but it was a particularly awful Best Song slate. I am heartbroken that Ugly Alice picked up two Oscars, but not massively surprised, though it’s a little bit hard to explain how The King’s Speech could pick up Best Director and none of its craft nominations.
And then there’s Best Cinematography. In which Wally Pfister, a very good DP, who did a very good job shooting Inception, managed to turn Roger Deakins from 0-for-8 loser into a 0-for-9 loser. It’s like 2007, only even worse: though both of Deakins’s films that year were better-shot than True Grit, at least Robert Elswit was at his career peak that year, too. Whereas this was maybe my least favorite of Pfister’s four nominations. When Emmanuel Lubezki loses next year for The Tree of Life (which he will), I’ll officially give up on this category, but for now I’ve only given up on seeing Deakins ever win. Unless he does so next year, beating Lubezki, because that would be fucking perfect.
As for the ceremony itself: what a dismal sack of crap. Anne Hathaway wasn’t a half-bad host, though you could see the effort to pretend that things were working at times; James Franco checked out by the time the pre-recorded (and I thought, tremendously unamusing) opening montage of a journey through the BP nominees was done. The highlight for me was undoubtedly Kirk Douglas being all sassy and coy and proving that a debilitating stroke doesn’t have to ruin your comic timing. The low point is harder to pinpoint: the holographic Bob Hope and the subsequent less-than-convincing Bob Hope impersonator made me faintly ill, Steven Spielberg’s little “sometimes the losers become even more classic than the winners!” bit was incredibly tacky, and the Magical Movie Kaleidoscope background never worked, though I think the concept is sound.
Speeches: Melissa Leo managed to combine my favorite moment in any acceptance speech – she said “fuck” at the Oscars! – with my least favorite – the rest of her wandering, aimless, yammering. I adored that Randy Newman’s speech was basically just him being irritated at God knows what. Lee Unkrich’s speech for Animated Feature was sweet and all, but I couldn’t stop staring at his eyes, wondering when the last time he got any sleep was. I don’t know what Pfister’s speech was like, because I was too busy sputtering and sending outraged text messages. Colin Firth and Tom Hooper had, beyond question, the classiest speeches; maybe that’s why the Academy gives so many awards to Brits.
At least it was short. Here’s to next year! when the hosts will be better and the direction more fluid and the montages hopefully still gone, and the winners more deserving. Or, y’know, none of those things, but a fella can daydream.