Monday, February 27, 2012

My Thoughts on the Oscars

First things first, I only 15 out of 21 predicted categories right this year – not my best – missing Actress, Editing, Documentary, Visual Effects, Makeup and Cinematography. I must say however, I was not shocked by any of the winners – I probably should have seen Streep coming, as well as Undefeated for documentary. The biggest surprise was probably editing, going with the same team who won for The Social Network last year, winning for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The winners last night did not fill me with a lot of excitement. The big winner, of course, was The Artist winning Best Picture, Director, Actor, Costume Design and Score. In terms of the big three – Picture, Director and Actor – I think the truth of the matter is that they rank somewhere in the middle of all the winners over the years – not one of the best winners, but certainly not one of the worst either. I know The Artist took a lot of shots over the course of the season, with many thinking it was a fairly thin movie, which I cannot really argue with, but at the same time, I cannot imagine anyone who loves movies not at least enjoying The Artist. It fits perfectly in with most Best Picture winners – high class, yet middle brow entertainment. Nothing too challenging, but highly enjoyable.

The other acting winners, I must say, disappointed me. Don’t get me wrong, I think Meryl Streep is one of the best actresses in cinema history, and I have no problem with her joining the likes of Katherine Hepburn, Walter Brennan and Jack Nicholson as the only actors to ever win three acting Oscars (Hepburn has won four). But The Iron Lady was an absolute mess of a movie, and while Streep is good in the movie, I don’t like the fact that her third win came for one of the weakest movies of her career. Christopher Plummer has been a great character actor for years, and out of the nominees, his performance was the best, but the truth of the matter is that this was more a lifetime achievement award than anything else. And on that level, I certainly think two other nominees – Nick Nolte and especially Max von Sydow – have had better film careers, and one non-nominee, Albert Brooks, was clearly the best, and deserves a lifetime achievement award as well. I have to admit that I did enjoy Octavia Spencer winning, even though I do not like The Help at all. Yet, you cannot deny that Spencer has paid her dues over the years, working in bit parts in movies and TV for years and years now, and just kept plugging along. I do wish that it was a better movie though.

I did like that the technical aspects of Hugo got recognized – Cinematography, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Visual Effects and especially Art Direction. Yes, I would have loved to see The Tree of Life win cinematography, clearly the best work this category has seen in years, but I cannot complain about Hugo winning any of these awards, and was glad to not see a The Artist sweep.

I liked the fact that Woody Allen and Alexander Payne picked up writing awards. Loved that for once, they didn’t screw up the Foreign category, and gave it to A Separation, clearly one of the best foreign films in the past few years. I guess I need to see Undefeated, the only documentary nominee I have not seen, which of course means it won. And I did love that Rango, the best animated film of the year, got what it deserved. Oh, and I love the fact that the lesser known half of the brilliant Flight of the Concords, picked up a deserved Best Song Oscar.

Getting to the show itself, I enjoyed it, but didn’t love it. Billy Crystal set the standard years ago for the modern day Oscar host – and since I grew up watching him seemingly every year – he will always have a special place for me. And he did precisely what you expect him to do. He was funny and likable, did his schtick inserting himself into some of the nominated film, and singing his song, and kept the show moving along. Yes, I would like to see the Oscar get a little more daring in its choice of Oscar host, but daring gets us more James Franco and Anne Hathaway, than I’ll take safe every time.

Honestly, it is a relief for me that this season is over. I just didn’t feel the passion for the any of the winners this season – usually even though I don’t agree with many choices, there is usually one or two major winners I am very happy for. This year, not so much. Oscar night is the official end of the 2011 movie year, and I’m looking forward to talking about an entirely different group of films in 2012.

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