Hollywood's Biggest Night

I really enjoy watching the Academy Awards show, the 84th edition of which was held last night and broadcast to an audience of some 40 million viewers. The high-def image is beautiful, the staging is lavish, the music is live, and Jennifer Lopez always looks gorgeous. But the main reason I watch is that movies are the driving force behind home theater, and the Oscars are one of the driving forces behind movies.

Many have complained that this year's nominees were mostly unworthy, but I respectfully disagree. In fact, I thought the field of contenders in most categories was unusually rich, and there were no foregone winners, making the awards more of a real horse race than usual. Yes, Hugo garnered 11 nominations and won five (Art Direction, Cinematography, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, and Visual Effects). I thought it might make a clean sweep, but The Artist surprised me, winning five out of its 10 nominations (Best Picture, Best Leading Actor, Best Director, Best Costume Design, and Best Music).

Apparently, the Academy wanted to honor these movies that both pay homage to the early days of filmmaking—which might be viewed as somewhat self-serving—but both absolutely deserved the awards they won. I was especially tickled that the Best Picture award went to a silent movie, only the second time in Academy history since Wings won at the first Oscars ceremony in 1929.

I didn't see The Iron Lady, but my wife did, and she says Meryl Streep was stupendous. Apparently, so was Viola Davis in The Help, but my wife thought that Streep was the right choice for Best Leading Actress. And I was glad to see Christopher Plummer win Best Supporting Actor for his role in Beginners—a sentimental choice, to be sure, since the 82-year-old veteran actor had never won an Oscar before. And his acceptance speech was by far the best of the night.

Of the nominated animated features, I was glad that Rango won, but I'm still bummed and bewildered that The Adventures of Tintin was not in the running. For Best Documentary Feature, I was rooting for Pina, which floored me, as I blogged about here, but I can understand why Undefeated, a classic American underdog tale, got the nod.

My favorite moment of the show was Esperanza Spalding and the Southern California Children's Choir singing "What a Wonderful World" to accompany the In Memoriam segment, in which tribute was paid to members of the movie community who died last year. Man, I love how she sings!

I was also happy to see Billy Crystal return as host of the show, including the commercials promoting it. His delivery was great as always, and some of the jokes were pretty funny ("Welcome to the Chapter 11 Theater!" and "…here at the Your Name Here Theater," references to the fact that it used to be called the Kodak Theater). But many were only lukewarm.

I liked the opening bit that parodied some of the nominated movies, and the performance by Cirque du Soleil was great. But there was also a lot of not-so-great filler material, making the overall pacing pretty slow. Why couldn't they have cut some of that and performed the two nominees for Best Original Song? (Speaking of which, I was rooting for "Real in Rio" over "Man or Muppet"—oh well, you can't win 'em all.)

And so the 84th Academy Awards pass into the history books. Did you watch the show? What did you think of it? How did your favorite movies do this year?

Mark Fleischmann's picture
Scott Wilkinson's picture
Excellent link; thanks!
David Vaughn's picture
Scott, I too enjoyed the show, but I've learned in the past to use TiVo and start watching it about 1.5 hours after the recording starts, so the pacing was excellent as far as I was concerned...no commercials and I could fast forward through speeches from winners that I didn't really care what they had to say. Crystal was excellent (as he always is), but I just wish more of the nominations were available on Blu-ray leading up to the event so I could have a horse or two in the race. Unfortunately, I have only seen a handful of the nominated movies and would have preferred to have seen more of them in the comfort of my own home before the show.
Jarod's picture

My wife and I really enjoyed the Oscars. Natalie Portman looked stunning! Of all the films up for best picture the only one I didn't see was The Artist and of course that's the one that won. Gunna have to rent it once it's out I guess.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
My wife and I both thought The Artist was superb. Definitely see it however you can!
Jarod's picture

Nice Scott we definitely will.

bugsy's picture

Like Billy Crystal said, there's nothing quite so invigorating as watching millionaires give each other gold-plated statues.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
One of the better jokes of the night!
Kermit262's picture

Loved the write-up. You expressed my thoughts exactly. Except of course regarding "Man or Muppet". But you can't be correct all the time. ;)

My 14 year-old daughter watched it all with me, which was a thrill. Hoping she has a better appreciation of the art and science behind the movies, as well as their cultural impact.

Scott Wilkinson's picture
It's really great that you shared the event with your daughter. And with a user name like yours, no wonder you preferred "Man or Muppet"!
Goyoishere's picture

Thanks for the post Scott. I loved the show. I also TiVo'd it, and I agree with David, it's nice to fast forward thru commercials and speeches I don't really care about. I think I would only watch it live if I was going to one of those Oscar parties with my wife, you know, the ones where you dress up, eat fancy dinners, and see it in a theater.
Loved Billy Crystal. It's obvious he takes a great deal of pride in what he does. It's clear he WANTS to be there. So much better than last year.
I didn't get a chance to see most of the contenders for best picture. I am really looking forward to Hugo, The Artist, The Decendants, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close,and Warhorse.

Robert.J's picture

I have to respectfully disagree with them as well. I think the actors and actresses who were nominated this year were more than worthy. I am also glad to see the awards go to those who have worked very hard over the years.

notabadname's picture

Ultimately, this is a show about handing out awards for the best achievements in various aspects of producing great entertainment. The irony is, while they give out awards for best direction, best editing, best acting, etc; their show is an absolute failure in every category they award.

Part of that failing is that the show is simply becoming too pompous. They spend 45 minutes over the course of the show paying homage to themselves. It feels too much like the Academy is trying to make itself and the motion picture industry seem like the most important thing in the world and our lives. I have never seen more self-aggrandizing packed into four hours than occurs each year with this show. Hollywood, get over yourself.

I absolutely love movies, and own about 250 blu-rays and have invested thousands in home theater equipment. But that love of film does not make the Oscars good. I would rather watch any film in my collection again during the period of the oscars and simply look at my iPad at 11:45 pm (because that is how far the show usually runs over its time-slot) and see who the winners are.

michaelje's picture

My wife and I really enjoyed the Oscars. Natalie Portman looked stunning! Of all the films up for best picture the only one I didn't see was The Artist and of course that's the one that won. Gunna have to rent it once it's out I guess.My wife and I really enjoyed the Oscars. Natalie Portman looked stunning! Of all the films up for best picture the only one I didn't see was The Artist and of course that's the one that won. Gunna have to rent it once it's out I guess.
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