Penélope Cruz wins. Is there anything else that matters? Not really, but let’s talk about it anyway. First of all, Hugh Jackman.
Well, we really didn’t see much of the host this evening. But when he was on, he was charming, graceful and even-keeled. We didn’t get a whole lot of side-splitting jokes, but we did get plenty of singing and dancing numbers (which is to be expected from a previous Tony Awards Host). The dancing number that was performed single-handedly by Jackman (well, he had plenty of help from the props crew) was loads of fun, particularly The Reader portion of the dance. Whisking Anne Hathaway from her front row seat to help with the Frost/Nixon bit worked surprisingly well too (and Anne Hathaway can sing… well!). His second dance montage didn’t do much for me, but hey, you can’t hit it out of the park every time.
Which leads to an interesting trend that I noticed throughout tonight’s telecast: picking on the nominated films no one saw and taking loving jabs at the Academy voters a bit for not nominating more popular films such as comedies or comic book movies. I think The Dark Knight was mentioned more than once throughout the evening in a baffled sort of way. I’m a bit surprised at the awards for taking those rips in stride. But I think main-stream watchers can appreciate this and that’s who the Oscars Presentation wants/needs to attract.
So what better way to do that than with montages. You’re probably thinking, “yeah right, another montage of 150 black and white people, 90% of whom I’ve never even heard of.” No no no, the telecast this year had a little high octane for the guys, a little relationship/romance for the ladies and some stellar animation for the kiddies. I thought this was a nice touch and added a bit of fun for everyone to the evening. For the kids, several of the top animated films of the year had clips glued together to make for a superb fun and entertaining bit of action. And speaking of action, the editing together of several great action sequences of the year was really spectacular. It started with cars and racing and shifted gears quickly to guns and explosions, to fist fights and sword fights, top notch stunt work (i.e. falling) and ended on a high note of all the jumping cars from the year’s films (Speed Racer, Wanted, Bond, Death Race, TDK, etc. etc.). And all of this edited note for note and beat for beat with… some song that fit in well with the atmosphere.
For laughs, we had James Franco and Seth Rogen doing a bit in their Pineapple Express characterizations. If you’re a fan of those characters, you got it. If not, maybe not so much. But Franco’s Pineapple character getting a little misty-eyed over his Milk character and then getting a little too touchy/feely with Rogen was a highlight of the evening. Oh and @Ben Stiller: c’mon; that gag was already done at the Independent Spirit Awards the night before.
How about the new format this year? I for one really liked the way the presentations were made for the acting categories. Seeing five of the older actors who had won Oscars (Shirley Maclaine, Michael Douglas) give a personal “pep talk” to each of the nominees (Anne Hathaway, Sean Penn) was a really neat and original way to announce the nominees. Huge kudos to whoever came up with that idea.
Then there’s the music, or lack thereof. The Awards needed to snip some time off of their presentaion this year and one of the more obvious ways to do that would be by cutting the music down a bit. Well, they succeeded with doing that; but instead of cutting the music all together, they mixed it into a sort of montage and all played by the Oscar orchestra. While it was some pretty music, it was also kind of slow and bogged down the flow of the show. Either keep it or cut it would be my suggestion. The straddling the fence approach didn’t really work for me. But hey, that’s just one man’s opinion.
And of course there were all of the winners. The most surprising had to be neither The Class nor Waltz with Bashir going back to their home country with a statue. Nope; instead, a little film out of Japan (Okuribito) no one’s heard of takes the cake. I haven’t seen the film, so I can’t comment on it’s worthiness, but nevertheless it is surprising.
The least surprising of course was Ledger’s win for the Joker. Was that not the lock of the show… maybe ever? Hardly worth mentioning it was so obvious. As was Slumdog’s sweep of almost everything it was nominated for.
In the acting category, we all knew it would be Penn or Rourke. Both were equally deserving in my eyes, but I sure was rooting for Rourke. He’ll maybe never see that opportunity again, which is a real shame. This is a win that, no matter which way it went, could be and will be debated for years to come. Plus, we didn’t get to see a (potentially) clean version of his speech from the night before. If you didn’t see it, you need to find it on YouTube asap. It’s entertaining stuff.
And Kate Winslet finally gets her much deserved trophy. As much as I was rooting for Hathaway, I knew this was Winslet’s year and was prepared for that. And anyway, she has worked the hardest for it and she has been shut down year after year after year. She truly deserves this and I think everyone was happy for her – especially her dad sitting way in the back of the theater.
Did I mention Penélope Cruz took home and Oscar? Her speech was the cutest of the night and thanking Almodóvar was a nice touch. Congrats darling!
So I guess all in all it was a pretty good show and a real success in terms of cutting back on the time factor and bringing a little something for everyone to the table. If only the nominees had been a bit more… accurate. Keep these changes in place for next year and tweak one or two things and bring back Jackman and I think you’ve got a real crowd pleaser on your hands. Just amke sure you nominate the right films this year Mr. Gainis!