Monday, March 08, 2010

The Oscars put Avatar in The Hurt Locker

Avatar in the Hurt LockerThe media had hyped up the battle between James Cameron's Avatar and Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker. It had hyped up the fact that it was a battle between Cameron and his ex-wife, a divorce that itself had been quite ugly. Hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin even made a nasty crack about it in their opening bits, saying Cameron would give her a Toyota. George Clooney certainly didn't seem amused, making it awkward and even uglier as the camera focused on his serious face. Considering how happy and energetic he had seemed down the red carpet, it lent it even greater weight. The hosts made fun of his seriousness, but it did not seem to detract from the heaviness of the comment and the contrast.

After all the comments, the speculation, and the hype though, the 82nd Academy Awards were pretty much standard Oscar fare, as the Academy played it safe and predictable with its choices. Anyone who followed the awards season was expecting The Hurt Locker to win over Avatar, but of course, the Academy has sometimes offered surprises and with ten Best Picture nominees, I think many were expecting one. Unfortunately, this was not the time for surprises. The first directing Oscar given to a woman was Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker, which also took Best Picture, as expected (Six Oscars including the top two for The Hurt Locker, verus Avatar's three technical Oscars).

The Show

The OscarsThe broadcast overall may have been predictably safe but not necessarily in a bad way, as the streamlined show, which tends to stretch out in a boring manner, was entertaining overall. A lot of the traditional fluff was removed and the show was better for it. Gone were the torturous, extended dance numbers to the original score nominees, as was the singing of every single original song, sparing us from the million and a half pauses in-between each and the occasional terribly awkward performances. Of course, awkwardness still existed every now and again, as Kristen Stewart definitely showed in her presentation of a wonderful tribute to horror films accompanied by her Twilight co-star Taylor Lautner.

The opening followed excellently in the footsteps of Hugh Jackman's wonderful musical number from last year, except this time, it was performed by How I met your mother's Neil Patrick Harris and framed in a very elegant, classic style reminiscent of old burlesque shows with huge, feather fans and rockette-style dancing. The OscarsThe song spoke about not being able to do it alone and was a great intro for the hosting team of Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin who did not disappoint. They made fun of a number of their peers, but one of the themes that permeated throughout the comedy of the night was Meryl Streep, whose numerous nominations, Steve Martin referred to as "losses". The camera continually focused on her enjoyment of it all in her spectacular and well-commented-on beauty. If anyone had any doubt as to how gorgeous and talented she is, they were certainly reminded of it again and again.

With great cuts to the show come some strange and unusual items. For example, there's the Scientific achievement oscars which were cut down from an honorary clip to a mention at a hundred miles per hour while panning across a group shot of the winners. I think giving them an extra two seconds wouldn't have hurt. There was a short clip of the Governors ball where four lifetime achievement awards were given - move the camera to the two winners present at the Oscars, get up, sit down, goodbye (this was usually a wonderful moment in the show that is now gone, and seemed to me to lack the respect they deserved). Another was the wonderful horror homage introduced by the previously mentioned, horrified Kristen Stewart (perhaps her discomfort was on purpose...NOT!). And last but not least the extended tribute to the late John Hughes which had the entire Breakfast Club (sans Emilio Estevez), Mathew Broderick (from Ferris Bueller's Day Off), Macaulay Culkin (from Home Alone,), and Jon Cryer (from Pretty in Pink) on stage to speak of his influence in front of his family (who had great seats - kudos to the organizers). Perhaps strangest was seeing Judd Nelson from The Breakfast Club up there, looking like the stereotypical "Whatever happened to?" or "Wow, he's still alive?" or "Did he just come out of prison?" candidate, and more bizarre still, they let him speak!

And the winner is…

Thank you Penelope Cruz! She had the honor of providing one of the few big surprises of the night (as she was the first one to give out an oscar), and it was quite a welcome one. As a presenter, she ended the ridiculous saying that has plagued the Oscars for a number of years now, "And the Oscar goes to...". The attempt to devalue the honor of the Oscar as some toned down, politically correct, everybody's a winner, hypocritical bullshit has gone on for far too long. No, they are not all winners. It's an honor to be nominated, but there's a huge difference between being an Oscar nominated actor and being an Oscar winning actor.

Yes, in Hollywood, as in life, there are winners and there are losers. Ask anyone, and of course, they'd prefer to be taking home the little statue. So, it was great, if surprising, to hear the words come out of Penelope Cruz's mouth, subsequently followed equally by every other presenter's, "And the winner is...". Thank you Penelope and the Academy for that. You've saved the word "Actress" and the thrill (and reality) of winning.

The few, the proud

The fact that the show was mostly predictable doesn't mean that it didn't have its moments. Apart from the highly unexpected win by Geoffrey Fletcher in the Adapted Screenplay category for Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire, there were a couple of items that took me by surprise. One was the extremely bitchy thank you speech from Sandy Powell when receiving her Best Costume Oscar for The Young Victoria which she opened by saying, "Well, I have two of these at home" in an I-could-care-less-about-this tone.

Another was Ben Stiller in full Avatar Na'vi garb. This was highly publicized, but I found two things odd here. One was the unfortunate lack of Sacha Cohen who was The Oscarssupposed to do it with him but pulled out, alleging his not wanting to piss Cameron off to which Cameron responded he didn't mind the spoofing of Avatar. The other was choosing to do this bit for the one category that Avatar wasn't nominated for, Makeup. Ben Stiller even mentioned it, and said he would move out of the way to not detract from the winners with his amazing costume. In fact, the makeup almost made me wonder why Cameron used computer generated characters at all...well, not really, but it was both good and funny. :)

An emotional evening

The Academy Awards are usually not without their emotional moments as the winners walk to the stage to stand in front of their peers and accept their well deserved recognition of their work. Some get nervous, some make statements, some forget to thank their significant others, some cry, some dance, some scream. For the most part, they were kept under control, but there were standouts nonetheless. Mo’Nique, the comedic actress who won the Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her breakthrough dramatic performance in Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire said in her emotional speech that she was happy the Academy members chose performance over politics. The OscarsThere were a number of very emotional mentions of recently dead relatives. Geoffrey Fletcher could hardly speak when thanking for his Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar, after which Steve Martin joked that he had written that speech for him.

As always, the faces around the audience spoke loads, particularly those of the losers or those being joked about. The emotions always run high, but in the end, I think they run higher still at all the Oscar parties being held, not by or for Hollywood celebrities, but by people like you and me watching at home, scorecards in hand, hoping to win the bets they made to their friends. How did you do this time? Did you come out a winner? or Did you end up pulling off an Avatar-sized disappointment?

They say the average Oscar bet is fifty bucks. So, were you an Oscar winner this year?

The 82nd Academy Awards Winners List - 2010 Oscars

Best Actor in a Leading Role
• Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart”

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
• Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds”

Best Actress in a Leading Role
• Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side”

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
• Mo’Nique in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire”

Best Animated Feature Film
• “Up” Pete Docter

Best Art Direction
• “Avatar” Art Direction: Rick Carter and Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Kim Sinclair

Best Cinematography
• “Avatar” Mauro Fiore

Best Costume Design
• “The Young Victoria” Sandy Powell

Best Directing
• “The Hurt Locker” Kathryn Bigelow

Best Documentary (Feature)
• “The Cove” Louie Psihoyos and Fisher Stevens

Best Documentary (Short Subject)
• “Music by Prudence” Roger Ross Williams and Elinor Burkett

Best Film Editing
• “The Hurt Locker” Bob Murawski and Chris Innis

Best Foreign Language Film
• “The Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos)” Argentina

Best Makeup
• “Star Trek” Barney Burman, Mindy Hall and Joel Harlow

Best Music (Original Score)
• “Up” Michael Giacchino

Best Music (Original Song)
• “The Weary Kind (Theme from Crazy Heart)” from “Crazy Heart” Music and Lyric by Ryan Bingham and T Bone Burnett

Best Picture
• “The Hurt Locker” Kathryn Bigelow, Mark Boal, Nicolas Chartier and Greg Shapiro, Producers

Best Short Film (Animated)
• “Logorama” Nicolas Schmerkin

Best Short Film (Live Action)
• “The New Tenants” Joachim Back and Tivi Magnusson

Best Sound Editing
• “The Hurt Locker” Paul N.J. Ottosson

Best Sound Mixing
• “The Hurt Locker” Paul N.J. Ottosson and Ray Beckett

Best Visual Effects
• “Avatar” Joe Letteri, Stephen Rosenbaum, Richard Baneham and Andrew R. Jones

Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
• “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” Screenplay by Geoffrey Fletcher

Best Writing (Original Screenplay)
• “The Hurt Locker” Written by Mark Boal

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