The hardware has been handed out, and like last year, it was a relatively surprise and drama-free edition. Some would call that ‘boring’. I still enjoy any Oscar ceremony – no matter what the outcome. The ceremony ended prior to midnight, which was a surprise. Only one lifetime achievement award was given out – what happened to the Irving G. Thalberg Award? We haven’t had one since 2001. There was only one “salute to...” montage. In fact Jon Stewart humorously referenced the overproduced and lengthy salutes such as the binocular/periscope salute or the ‘waking up to a bad dream’ salute. Though it didn’t generate as many laughs as it should, but it was a clever send up of itself.
It was Jon Stewart’s second outing as the host. The first-time jitters weren’t there like two years ago, and he assumed the role like a well-worn shoe. He relied less on the comfort-zone of his political jokes, instead weaving them in smoothly when appropriate. There were enough writers jokes to go around, and some of the usual roasting of the celebs. George Clooney, Dennis Hopper, and Jack Nicholson graciously took some nice shots. BTW: Remember Sean Penn taking offense to Chris Rock’s stab at Jude Law? Stewart was at his sarcastic best as well – my favourite crack was after Glen Hansard’s heartfelt and humble acceptance speech for Best Song in “Once”. Stewart’s crack, “he’s so arrogant” was a perfectly timed ad-lib.
As for the Awards, the Best Supporting Actress race promised and delivered the most drama. Tilda Swinton won over the slightly more favoured Cate Blanchett, Amy Ryan and Ruby Dee. Though I wasn’t the biggest fan of “Michael Clayton”, Tilda Swinton was the arguably the best part of the film. It’s also a great reward for over 20 years of fine art houses performances.
As has been the common over the past few years, there was an even distribution of Awards. In previous generations we suffered through huge sweeps of categories, especially in the technical categories. Ie, “Titanic” or “LOTR: Return of the King” sweeping categories like editing, art direction, special effects, sound etc etc. Instead we saw a deserving “The Bourne Ultimatum” take home three awards. Here’s breakdown of winners and the new tags they can now slap on their DVD boxes:
No Country For Old Men – 4 awards
The Bourne Ultimatum – 3 awards
There Will Be Blood – 2 awards
La Vie En Rose – 2 Awards
Sweeney Todd – 1 Award
Juno - 1 Award
Atonement - 1 Award
Once - 1 Award
Michael Clayton - 1 Award
Elizabeth: The Golden Age - 1 Award
Golden Compass - 1 Award
Ratatouille - 1 Award
The Counterfeiters - 1 Award
Taxi to the Darkside - 1 Award
Freehold - 1 Award
Peter and the Wolf - 1 Award
Mozart of Pickpockets - 1 Award
That’s 17 films taking home 24 trophies.
As for the Coen Brothers, I remember being so satisfied in 1997 when they won Best Original Screenplay, thinking they would never top “Fargo” and that they got the Oscar monkey off their back early. And so with three more personal trophies last night, that makes four trophies on each of their shelves. Unfortunately my personal favourite, Paul Thomas Anderson was left short again. He was previously nominated for best screenplay for “Boogie Nights” and “Magnolia.” But Hollywood has a habit of ignoring daring masterworks in the present – PT, expect a sympathy Oscar later in your career.
Other big news was Daniel Day-Lewis winning his second Best Actor Oscar, becoming the eighth member of the very select Two-Time Lead Actor Winners Club, joining:
As an aside, other than James Newton Howard, who’s been nominated for 7 Oscars, the Best Music Score nominees which are usually dominated by established veterans were either rookies or second-time nominees - and certainly no household names. No John Williams, Hans Zimmer, James Horner, Danny Elfman, Thomas or Randy Newman. As an aside, can anyone remember or hum any of this years' Best Score nominees? Just where have all the great music scores gone to?
One of the most awkward red carpet moments was Ben Mulroney (CTV Canada) interviewing Julian Schnabel. The notoriously difficult director was as unaccommodating as he’s ever been. He contributed to a very long 3 or 4 seconds of dead air when he refused to answer Ben questions.
The second-most awkward moment was Gary Busey’s invasion of Ryan Seacrest’s interview with Jennifer Garner and Laura Linney:
John Travolta was sporting a fur-like black rug of a haircut similar to the Rock and danced on stage before presenting Best Original Song – we get, you can dance!
Best humorous ego-boost: Jon Stewart/John Travolta’s gag about the Boeing 707 with its lights on. You can’t say he won’t poke fun at himself.
I love the fact that the Academy gets a really hot young actress to host the Science and Technical Awards (usually a few days prior). This year it was Jessica Alba, who looked stunning. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable she must have felt hanging out with the techie geeks at the Science/Technical after parties.
The success of “No Country For Old Men” is part of welcomed new trend in mainstream Hollywood cinema. It’s now back-to-back years with the big trophy going to very dark violence nihilistic pessimistic films. And it’s not a coincidence that we are seeing cherished franchises rebooted to be darker, more realistic and gritty. Is this a statement of our current state of affairs, or just the natural ebb and flow of cinema? A bit of both. It’s a good thing, because 15-20 years ago “No Country For Old Men” may never have a nomination.
It was a less entertaining ceremony for Oscar, but a greatly significant year for Hollywood - and year in which Oscar, for the most part, got it right.