Oscars 2011: Let’s Get Technical

© Copyright ABC Studios
© Copyright ABC Studios

Wow, painful. Not since the Emmys paired the Hollywood Squares guy with that German supermodel who said she watches “The House” and “The Bones” have I seen such awkward hosts at an awards show. I suppose Anne Hathaway deserves credit for trying (very hard, way too hard) and James Franco for, you know, showing up (sort of, not really), but I spent a lot of time playing with plastic Catwoman and Green Goblin figurines as a child. I never imagined their live action counterparts would turn out stiffer.

Mind you, the problem runs deeper than a couple of miscast MCs reciting stale material. Simply put, the eighty-third Academy Awards suffered from bland but all-too-sensible nominations that were impossible to get worked up about. The King’s Speech was both lovely and deserving but a bit too eager to please (like Anne Hathaway), and The Social Network didn’t move me so much as poke me. My favourite best picture nominees, Inception and Winter’s Bone (insert dirty joke here), had no shot in hell, so I was just glad they got attention. I mean, how many people have even seen Inception? Three? Three and a half?

The King, the Queen, the Super-Hero, and the Potty Mouth

All the acting categories were pretty much locked this year with the trophies going to Colin Firth for his portrayal of King George VI in The King’s Speech, Queen Padmé Amidala for her mad descent in Black Swan, Batman for learning to talk without marbles in his mouth, and Melissa Leo for playing my mom (just kidding). Fittingly, Firth gave the best speech, though I suspect most of us will remember Leo’s delightfully profane enthusiasm instead.

As an aside, I’m so happy for Natalie Portman, whose rendition of Matilda in The Professional (1994) inspired many a daydream as I was growing up. I believe I stepped on a stage for the first time because of her. Years later, just as my adult existence was simultaneously starting and falling apart, I would catch the actress again in a rental copy of the late Ted Demme’s Beautiful Girls (1996). Spoon in my mouth, cherry sorbet on my lap, I would then decide to become a writer. I state this without exaggeration or creepy psychosexual fan obsession: Natalie Portman changed my life.

It’s All in the Technique

Every technical award was given to a sci-fi or fantasy flick, including that for makeup, which went to Joe Johnston’s The Wolfman, the first scary movie to earn an Oscar since Bram Stoker’s Dracula in 1992. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland won for art direction and costumes, allowing designer Colleen Atwood to read her eighth grade book report in front of the Academy, while Christopher Nolan’s Inception got cinematography, sound mixing, sound editing, visual effects, and a legion of fans posting this joke on every message board: “Nolan is the director the Oscars deserve but not the one they need right now…”

Even though it took home as many golden statuettes as this year’s winner for best picture, The King’s Speech, I still feel Inception got overlooked in some of the major categories. As I mentioned in my review, the movie presents a unique variation on parallel editing, one with time distortion and metaphysical escalation. Surely, that ought to have earned editor Lee Smith at least a nomination. No? How about that perfectly timed final shot, which left so many viewers breathless? Nothing? Really?

The biggest snub of the evening, though, belongs to Tron: Legacy, which should have got nominated for original score and then won the Oscar, forcing William Ross and the Academy orchestra to interpret the film’s soulful techno tracks with brass instruments and a triangle. Also, Banksy should have presented the award in a bear suit, handing the golden statuette to the Daft Punk duo, who, of course, would have walked on stage wearing matching space helmets.

© Copyright ABC Studios
© Copyright ABC Studios

The Snore Fest Itself (or Bits and Pieces)

  • A Back to the Future (1985) reference? That’s the younger, hipper Oscars you advertised for a month straight? Excuse me. My pager’s beeping, which means I have to pick up my bangin’ boom box so my rad friend Max Headroom and I can do the electric boogaloo to the ace beats of Rick Astley.
  • You know what else screams young and hip? Tributes to Gone with the Wind (1939) and Titanic (1997) followed by a Bob Hope hologram.
  • Kirk Douglas was hilarious, as was Sandra Bullock. One of them should host the ceremony next year, preferably Bullock.
  • Whoever picked the film clips to showcase the nominees shouldn’t be doing this for a living. The makeup scene from The Wolfman was mostly CGI, and the sound mixing reel spoilt the ending to True Grit. No biscuit.
  • Hey, Chuck can sing!
  • The Academy has finally figured out how tacky and inappropriate it is to applaud during a memorial. Now if Céline Dion could learn not to show off…
  • Corey Haim was left out of the memorial montage, and Lena Horne was given a separate tribute. They picked a beautiful quote from her: “It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.”
  • I love Beethoven’s seventh, but isn’t it a bit sombre to introduce the nominees for best picture? At least, they didn’t kill any chance of suspense by using an extended sound clip from one of the top contenders as voiceover… Oh, wait.
  • Why put the kids’ musical number at the end? I stopped paying attention the minute the winner for best picture was announced.

So Inception didn’t turn out the great Oscar pioneer genre fans had hoped. To quote Steven Spielberg, it now joins “a list that includes The Grapes of Wrath, Citizen Kane, The Graduate, and Raging Bull.” Hey, let’s not forget The Wizard of Oz (1939), The Exorcist (1973), and Star Wars (1977)!

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Editor in Chief / Movie Critic: When he started this site, Dimitri never thought he'd be writing blurbs about himself in the third person. In his other life, he works as a writer, translator, and editor for various publications in print and online. His motto is, "Have pen, will travel."