2011 Academy Awards Review

The Academy Awards were on last night, and I know what question is on all your minds this morning: “Did you win the Oscar pool?”

Why yes, yes I did. Thank you for asking, thus allowing me the opportunity to brag without coming across as obnoxious. I won the Oscar pool with 26 points, which means that I got 19 categories correct and 5 wrong.

Sidenote: Last night Jake Gyllenhaal made a joke about how the three categories for short films are known for screwing up everyone’s Oscar ballots. This is true, but there is a less dreary solution than his suggestion of actually seeing the short films. (No offense to people who make shorts – I’m sure some of them are very good.) To prevent people from fluke winning by guessing all the technical categories but getting everything else wrong, we make the major categories worth two points. The four acting categories, two for screenplays, directing and best picture are all worth two, the rest one.

OK, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about the show. The question that everyone was actually asking last night was “Is James Franco high?” The answer? No one can say for sure. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me. On the other hand, he could have been acting in a performance art piece that required the character of James Franco to be high. And then there’s the possibility that that’s just James Franco’s personality, in which case I’d love to know what he’s like when he is stoned. 

In any case, it resulted in some rather weak hosting. I wanted to like him, I really did. I love wacky James Franco, with his 52 jobs, PhD thesis and General Hospital appearances. He’s a jack of all trades – or all artsy trades, anyway – and I wanted him to be good at this too. Instead, he was so non-existent that I can’t even brand him with a grade. F? C? Who knows, he was barely there! It was like he was working on his dissertation backstage or something. When he was on stage, he looked to be in actual physical pain over having to deliver the lines put in front of him. It was almost like he had hated the material so much during rehearsals that he just gave up when it came time for the show.

Anne Hathaway, on the other hand, was a dorky delight. I’ve liked her since her Princess Diaries days, and I thought she just exuded charm, humor and class. I wish they’d paired her with someone more vibrant, like Justin Timberlake or even a more veteran Hollywood star – although as we all knew, “young and hip” were the watchwords last night. I’m glad Anne and James made a couple jokes about how they were there so the show could appeal to a younger demographic – things are always more comfortable when everyone acknowledges a situation. Acting like two hot, young Hollywood stars host the show every year would have been weird.

Really, I just thought Anne did a bang-up job. From the way she proclaimed “dancing lesbians!” when James mentioned Black Swan, to her adorable song-and-dance number about how Hugh Jackman stood her up for a duet, to her hilarious instructions for everyone at home to take a drink when she flubbed a line, I thought she was funny, natural and likable. I only wish she’d had a better co-host so the night could be remembered as a success rather than an awkward mix of funny and downright uncomfortable. Overall, though, I think she was good enough to save the evening – I liked the show, despite James Franco.

In particular, I liked the opening bit where they tried to hack into Alec Baldwin’s dreams, Inception style – especially since his dreams (or Franco’s dreams, as we later discovered) are narrated by Morgan Freeman. Really, whose aren’t? And though I’m not sure the auto-tuned scenes from movies like Harry Potter and Twilight would have appealed to anyone over about 40, but I thought it was cute.

There were parts didn’t work, though. The looks back to some of the most famous Oscar-winning movies? Totally lame. It made the show feel like it was dragging on after only about five minutes and, let’s face it, the Academy Awards are not in need of filler material.

As for presenters, the people who stood out for me were Justin Timberlake (with Mila Kunis), Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, Billy Crystal and the hilarious combination of Russell Brand and Helen Mirren. Other notable appearances were from Oprah (who looked great) and a clip of Barrack Obama telling us what his favorite movie song is because, you know, it’s been a really slow month in the world of politics and he had some time on his hands…

Did anyone know why former co-stars Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin were dressed as twins in ill-fitting white tuxes? Besides being a visual gag, was a joke ever explained? On a less funny note, I thought Celine Dion did a fantastic job during the montage of dead people. (Come on, there’s no nice way to say that.) While I’ll always be the first to admit that she has a voice like no other, Celine can be a bit…over-dramatic. Her understated, beautiful performance of “Smile” was just perfect.

Speaking of musical performances, what do we think? I was thrilled to see Chuck Bartowski perform his song from Tangled with Mandy Moore, and I thought they did a great job. People on Twitter really trashed Gwyneth’s performance, but I thought she was alright – though she seemed a little nervous, something I didn’t think she was capable of.

Now let’s talk speeches. Melissa Leo kicked things off (sort of – they opened with Art Direction and Cinematography this year, which was a strange and ill-advised choice) with a win Best Supporting Actress win for The Fighter. She gave a rambling speech that included an F-bomb, which apparently was bleeped in the States but was exposed in all its bizarre glory here in Canada. Am I surprised that someone swore at the Oscars? No, not at all. Am I surprised that it was Melissa Leo to do so? You betcha.

Christian Bale won Best Supporting Actor for The Fighter and hilariously referenced his infamous tirade,  and Colin Firth delivered as eloquent a speech as I expected for his Best Actor win for The King’s Speech. I heard him thank Tom Ford, which I thought was lovely – his performance in A Single Man last year was beautiful, and I thought he should have won an Oscar for it. This win felt like it was for both impeccable performances.

One of my favorite speeches came from Natalie Portman, who won Best Actress for her performance in Black Swan. Her speech was a bit lengthy but she was so touching in her genuine appreciation for the award and the people she mentioned. Plus she looked stunning, but more on that in the fashion post that will come later today.

Both Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock did a great job of honoring each nominee in the lead acting categories, but Sandra really stood out. She’s on of those rare people who can simultaneously make fun of and pay respect to someone. And although it made The King’s Speech win for Best Picture even more obvious than it already had been, I liked how all ten films were presented as the speech played.
The awards were pretty predictable, although I did get one major category, directing, wrong. I thought they’d give it to David Fincher for The Social Network since it wasn’t going to get Best Picture, but instead Directing went to Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech. He himself delivered a lovely speech and thanked his mother for telling him to make the film. Meanwhile, Adapted Screenplay went to Aaron Sorkin for The Social Network, Original Screenplay went to David Seidler for The King’s Speech. For a full list of winners, check out EW.com.

I was surprised how outraged people on Twitter were every time Inception lost an award. Did people really expect it to sweep the categories it was up for? Does everyone think it was THAT good? I liked it, but I much preferred The King’s Speech, The Fighter, 127 Hours and The Social Network.

What did you think of the show? Was James Franco a train wreck or adorably quirky? Did you like Anne Hathaway? (I didn’t mention her multiple gorgeous outfits because that deserves a post all of its own.) Did any of the wins surprise you? Did you bother watching those children sing at the end?

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