Boy, that went by fast! Did they finish the telecast early? We’re a long way from the days when an Oscar ceremony would last around fifty minutes as best actor winner Jean Dujardin described in his acceptance speech (that was back when celebrities had families and secret gay lovers to run home to), but I find myself quite impressed with the overall pacing of the eighty-fourth Academy Awards. You know an evening’s running smoothly when the only thing you’ve got to make fun of is Angelina Jolie’s leggy exhibitionism. Even then, Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash, who took home the best adapted screenplay Oscar for their work on The Descendants, beat us all to the punch.
Having mentioned that, I’m also a bit disappointed. Sure, Billy Crystal was as talented a host as he’s always been, striking the perfect balance between old-fashioned glamour and casual irreverence, but I’m struggling to remember anything that happened past his near perfect crack about the “Chapter Eleven Theatre”. I suspect the problem is that, deep down, most of us want the Oscars to come across as bloated and pretentious, a faithful representation of the Hollywood self-indulgence we so envy and love to criticize.
Then again, maybe we just want to be surprised by who gets the golden statuettes every year. Unfortunately, the 2012 Academy Awards came with little suspense. We all knew Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist was going to win best picture, which made it a sure bet as well for best director and best actor in a leading role. Costume design and original score? Icing on the cake. Sure, we’re talking about another one of them artsy foreign flicks, and their nominations tend toward the token variety, but a black-and-white silent comedy about the golden era of American filmmaking: are you kidding me?
Most of us also suspected Martin Scorcese’s Hugo would be the runner up, earning all the technical awards as consolation. For those keeping tabs, that means cinematography, art direction, sound mixing, sound editing, and visual effects, effectively giving the shaft to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2. I’m no fan of the franchise, but it seems to me, if The Return of the King (2003) can win best picture to commemorate the success of Lord of the Rings, surely the concluding chapter of J.K. Rowling’s octology deserves some recognition. Of course, the real insult would come next year if The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 gets Oscar praise.
At any rate, the popularity of Hugo strikes me as a no-brainer, what with the Academy Awards celebrating film and the children’s story teaching the inherent splendour of the cinematic medium. I find it intriguing, though, that the two dominating pictures this year would comprise a French comedy about an American entertainer and an American fairy tale about a French creator. Maybe that’s why producers Brian Grazer and Don Mischer rushed through the categories. They feared American viewers (okay, just those who watch Fox News) might accuse the Academy of being dirty frog lovers. Bunch of left-wing communists!
Exit Stage Left
What else? Though I was rooting for Nick Nolte to take home the best supporting actor trophy, Christopher Plummer was a shoe-in for his charismatic performance in Beginners. Poised and thoughtful, he delivered by far the best acceptance speech, but Octavia Spencer from The Help gave the most heartfelt one after winning best supporting actress. It’s too bad she ended her strangely affecting babbling by thanking a bunch of business people no one cares about. I hate it when they do that.
Then again, who cares? The problem is I had no horse in this race, not even a black one that injured its leg a few weeks earlier but still gave its all to teach its child owner the value of hard work, friendship, and perseverance. No, scratch that. The real problem is they cut out the musical number the one year I liked all the nominees (granted, there were only two because the Academy apparently doesn’t share my undying passion for The Muppets’ “Life’s a Happy Song”). Sure, the Cirque du Soleil acrobatics kicked major butt, but wouldn’t you have loved to see Kermit and his friends sing “Man or Muppet” on a live stage? So would’ve everyone else.