Thoughts on the Oscars: Winners, Losers and everything else

February 23, 2009 in Entertainment by pacejmiller

oscar1The 81st Academy Awards ceremony finally took place last night.  Here are just some of my thoughts on it.

The Ceremony

It was…surprisingly not that much different to previous years despite all the talk of a toned-down version due to the global financial meltdown (though Hugh Jackman did make a joke about it).  A few subtle differences in the presentation and sets, but most of it still involved ascertaining who was with who and who was wearing who and what; a musical medley and some jokes to kick things off; predictable winners and long, emotional acceptance speeches.  Hollywood pats its back for another year well done.

That being said, I still enjoyed it.  It’s not often that you get to see all the biggest stars in one place, and see them not as their characters but for who they really are.  Sometimes, through their reactions (to winning and losing) and their acceptance speeches, you get to see a side of them you don’t normally see.  I think this year’s was one of the best we’ve had in a while.

The Host

A big reason was the host.  Hugh Jackman did an excellent job.  It sounded like a strange choice at the beginning, but he really showed off his multiple talents, from singing and dancing to joking and hosting.  He seemed reasonably relaxed given the occasion and gave it his all.  However, if you’re used to seeing him as Wolverine, he might look a little awkward doing all these things you’re not used to seeing.  His job was to host and he did that by not being too dominant and leaving most of the attention to the nominees and winners.  He was classy, and that’s important to the Oscars.

The opening number was awesome.  I’m not sure if anyone can ever top the Billy Crystal classics, but Jackman’s might be the closest we’ll ever get.

[NB: Not sure how long this will last before they take it down]

The Highlights

As usual, they had some clips in between.  Most were pretty standard, but they did have clips on genres, such as romance and comedy.  I thought the highlight of the night, apart from Jackman’s number (above), was the comedy clip presented by Pineapple Express, with Seth Rogen and James Franco.  Man, Seth Rogen has lost a lot of weight, probably in preparation for his Green Hornet role.  And James Franco was just sensational.  I really thought he should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor rather instead of Robert Downey Jr for Tropic Thunder.  Check it out soon.

 

[NB: Poor quality and might get taken down soon, but it’s the best I can get]

Apart from that, there was a little song and dance number with Hugh and Beyonce and the leads of High School Musical and Mamma Mia!  Personally it didn’t do much for me but there wasn’t really anything wrong with it.

The Winners and Losers

Despite reading everywhere that there were going to be some ‘surprises’ this year at the Oscars, when it came to predicting the winners, there weren’t many surprises at all, especially in the major categories.  As expected, Slumdog Millionaire absolutely dominated, winning 8 of its 10 nominations including Best Picture and Best Director for Danny Boyle.  Also expected was the disappointment for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which, despite leading with 13 nominations, came away with just 3 wins.

Below is the total list of winners and how they compared with my predictions (and some thoughts). 

Best Picture

Winner: Slumdog Millionaire

My Pick: Slumdog Millionaire

Thoughts: A foregone conclusion by the time the last award of the night rolled around.  I don’t think there was one person in the audience that expected anyone else.  This just about completes a sweep of all the major awards for Slumdog Millionaire this year.  Was it deserving?  Probably yes.  Were there better films?  Absolutely.

Best Director

Winner: Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)

My Pick: Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire)

Thoughts: Another one that was well in the bag even before the ceremony began.  Boyle’s acceptance speech was okay, nothing special.

Best Actor

Winner: Sean Penn (Milk)

My Pick: Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)

Thoughts: I thought based on merit, Penn and Rourke were neck and neck.  But I felt Rourke would take it out because Penn won not that long ago for Mystic River, and he’s the type of actor that will continue to be nominated as long as he’s acting.  Rourke on the other hand, was one of those heart-warming, comeback stories.  His character’s journey was very similar to that of his own.  I thought that may have struck a chord with the voters, but apparently not.  I think Penn won because: (1) he was truly brilliant and deserving; (2) the Academy likes portrayals of real people (especially in the last few years: Ray, Capote, The Last King of Scotland); and (3) Mickey Rourke must have really pissed off a lot of people.  Penn’s acceptance speech was gracious and genuine.  Some have criticised him for the slightly controversial comments about equal rights for homosexuals (eg marriage), but he probably would have been criticised too had he not said it.

Best Actress

Winner: Kate Winslet (The Reader)

My Pick: Kate Winslet (The Reader)

Thoughts: It was Kate’s time, and I was so glad to see her win after so many disappointments.  Some may say she was probably better in Revolutionary Road, but I don’t think she cares.  Congratulations!

Best Supporting Actor

Winner: Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)

My Pick: Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)

Thoughts: Since everyone expected this, it didn’t turn out to be the emotional affair one may have pictured a few months ago around the time the nominations were announced.  The acceptance speech given by Heath’s father and sister was relatively subdued.  Still, a great achievement, and his performance as The Joker will go down in history as one of the greatest.

Best Suporting Actress

Winner: Penelope Cruz (Vicki Cristina Barcelona)

My Pick: Penelope Cruz (Vicki Cristina Barcelona)

Thoughts: This category is usually seen as the most wide open, but as usual, the favourite prevailed.  While I thought she was good in the role, I didn’t feel it was worthy of the win, especially againt the other nominees in the group.  Personally I would have preferred Amy Adams or Taraji P Henson.

Best Original Screenplay

Winner: Milk

My Pick: In Bruges

Thoughts: Milk was the favourite but I expected an upset here with In Bruges, which had some early momentum that was quickly lost.  Should have known better than to best against the favourites.

Best Adapted Screenplay

Winner: Slumdog Millionaire

My Pick: Slumdog Millionaire

Thoughts: When one film has the momentum at the Oscars, they tend to sweep all the awards, irrespective of whether it was truly deserving.  In this case I think you could make a strong case for the winner, but I felt it was pretty borderline.  Any of the other nominees would have been worthy winners.

Cinematography

Winner: Slumdog Millionaire

My Pick: Slumdog Millionaire

Thoughts: Another one that goes with being the most popular film at the Oscars.

Editing

Winner: Slumdog Millionaire

My Pick: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Thoughts: I should have gone with the favourite, but I thought maybe the voters had a kittle sympathy for Button because it was sure to be pummeled by Slumdog in all the categories where both films were nominated.  I was wrong.

Art Direction

Winner: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

My Pick: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Thoughts: As I said, if Slumdog wasn’t nominated, and Button was, then Button would win.  I was right this time.

Costume Design

Winner: The Duchess

My Pick: The Duchess

Thoughts: The heavy favourite.  The film wasn’t known for much else.

Makeup

Winner: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

My Pick: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Thoughts: Well deserved win here.  The makeup was truly amazing.  Also because Slumdog wasn’t nominated, or else it might have been in trouble.

Visual Effects

Winner: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

My Pick: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Thoughts: Definitely a well-deserved win.  The most amazing special effects I’ve seen, probably ever!

Original Score

Winner: Slumdog Millionaire

My Pick: Slumdog Millionaire

Thoughts: Would have been good to see another winner here, but Slumdog was like a tornado this year, sweeping everything in its path.  I wonder whether the voters really paid attention to the particular category or whether they just went with the flow and voted everything Slumdog.

Original Song

Winner: Slumdog Millionaire

My Pick: Slumdog Millionaire

Thoughts: With 2 songs compared to WALL-E‘s one, this isn’t a surprise.  It’s the nominations that puzzled me.  I didn’t even know Slumdog had 2 songs, and I’m sure there are loads and loads of songs out there that could and should have been nominated.  I personally thought the theme song in Gran Torino (by Clint Eastwood) was awesome and at least deserved a nomination if not a win.

Sound

Winner: Slumdog Millionaire

My Pick: Slumdog Millionaire

Thoughts: Typical.

Sound Editing

Winner: The Dark Knight

My Pick: The Dark Knight

Thoughts: Very gald they got this one right because it was deserving.  And good to see one that Slumdog didn’t bag.

Animated Feature Film

Winner: WALL-E

My Pick: WALL-E

Thoughts: Possibly the most obvious choice of them all except for all of Slumdog’s wins.  Many thought WALL-E was a masterpiece and should have been in the Best Picture category.  I disagree, but it was certainly better than Kung Fu Panda.

Other winners

Best Foreign Language Film: Okuribito (Japan)

Best Feature Documentary: Man On Wire

Best Short Documentary: Smile Pinki

Best Short Animated Film: La Maison en petits cubes

Best Short Live Action Film: Spielzeugland

Thoughts: I did a prediction for these when the nominations were first announced, but they were just guesses because I hadn’t (and still haven’t) seen any of them, so I don’t think it’s entirely fair to make predictions on that basis.  Nevertheless, I managed to get Man On Wire (because I had heard of it) and Spielzeugland (because it sounded cool) correct.

FINAL THOUGHTS

My official predictions (which didn’t include documentaries, short films, foreign film, etc) did pretty well.  I came away with 16 correct guesses out of 19 categories.  If you include the other categories which I pretty much randomly guessed at the start, I got 18 out of 24.  The frightening thing is that it would not have been that hard to guess ALL of them, and I’m sure plenty of people did.  Just shows how predictable everything still is. 

Maybe a change in the voting system wouldn’t be such a bad idea?  It gets a bit boring when we all know who will win and it’s all driven by publicity and promotion rather than purely on merit.  But then again Meryl Streep might win every year and that would make it even more boring.