Monday, March 8, 2010

"The Hurt Locker" Triumphs At A Lackluster Oscar Night

It was a night for "The Hurt Locker" at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards as Kathryn Bigelow made history becoming the first woman to ever win Best Director. Other wins for her film included Best Original Screenplay, a category where it beat out Quentin Tarantino's "Inglourious Basterds," Best Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Best Editing, which all added up to a Best Picture win.

Barbara Streisand took great honor in announcing the winner for Best Director as if she already knew the name inside the envelope. With a dramatic pause before announcing the name, she said, "Well, the time has come." It was the ceremony's biggest moment as Bigelow earned herself not only a standing ovation but a place in Oscar history.

"The Hurt Locker" lead the pack with its six wins followed by "Avatar" with four and "Precious," "Crazy Heart" and "Up" each with two. As expected, "Avatar" took mostly technical awards including Best Cinematography, Art Direction and Visual Effects. "Up" won for Best Animated Feature and its score by Michael Giacchino. "Crazy Heart" took its honors for Best Original Song and, of course, Jeff Bridges for Best Actor as he, too, garnered a standing ovation. Mo'Nique got herself one, as well, for her Best Supporting Actress win for "Precious."

The second win for "Precious" came with arguably the night's biggest upset. "Up in the Air" got zero love as it lost to "Precious" for Best Adapted Screenplay. This, however, brought about a rather moving speech from screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher.

And speaking of upsets, the Best Foreign Language Film category just keeps getting more unpredictable. Neither "The White Ribbon" nor "A Prophet" won as the award went to Argentina's "The Secret in their Eyes."

This wasn't the only strange happening throughout the evening's ceremony, though, which proved to be a long slog that lacked entertainment and was riddled with technical faults. But it was the the draw of "Avatar" lovers that boosted the number of viewers for this year's telecast even with its flaws.

Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin as hosts could've been something really special, but their opening monologue, which had them playing off each other's riffs, was surprisingly less amusing than originally expected.

There was an effort to cut down the ceremony's time, but it still clocked in at 3-and-a-half hours and included some unnecessary fluff that should've been removed.

One major downside with having 10 Best Picture nominees was that we were forced to watch extended clips from not 5 but 10 films, and these really dragged. Another accessory to the night was the new way in which the nominees for Best Actor and Actress were presented. Esteemed colleagues lined up on stage and praised the work of each nominee they worked with, but no time limit was set on these speeches. They became long-winded, especially at this point in the night when it was hitting past the 3-hour mark with the four big awards left. Just get on with it already! Had these come sooner and perhaps been scattered throughout the night, they could've been more tolerable.

In accepting her Best Actress award for "The Blind Side," Sandra Bullock became the first and only one of the night to cry. She had a nice speech prepared giving her deepest thanks to all the other nominees, and, as a bonus, she even told Meryl Streep what a good kisser she was referring to their moment at an earlier award show. Bullock earned herself a standing ovation as many people were pulling for her to win. She knew it and certainly dressed for the occasion.

So how long did the Meryl Streep vs. Sandra Bullock hype hold up? Not at all. Instead, the night's drama came from an unexpectedly small source. When the film "Music by Prudence" won for Best Documentary Short, there was a bizarre discrepancy as to who deserved the credit enough to take acceptance. It turned into an interrupting Kanye-inspired speech that proved to be the strangest moment of the night.

Well, maybe except for when Ben Stiller showed up in Avatar-inspired garb to present Best Makeup.

Strange, too, was the appearance of Taylor Lautner and Kristen Stewart presenting a completely irrelevant montage to horror movies. It was like the Academy's way of telling filmmakers to start making some better horror films, so the genre could make its way back into the award circuit. Saving this montage was a hilarious spoof beforehand of "Paranormal Activity" put on by the hosts.

The tribute to John Hughes was a touching moment as his literal actor "children" came walking out on stage after a montage that reminded us just how good all those classic teenage movies were. Likewise, the In Memoriam sequence had nice musical accompaniment by James Taylor. That is until they forgot to include Farrah Fawcett. Oops!

The appreciative length of the clips for acting made up for the fact that there were no clips for the Best Cinematography category. And, my question: What about any performances for Best Original Song? I like when those are brought to the stage. Instead, we received a horrifying tribute to the Best Score nominees that temporarily transformed the evening into an episode of "So You Think You Can Dance." After seeing that, I honestly would've preferred to watch Neil Patrick Harris dance and sing in a tuxedo again.

By the time Tom Hanks strolled out onto the stage to reveal "The Hurt Locker" as Best Picture, time was short and he ripped open the envelope without any delay for suspense. But, then again, it was getting really tiresome by that time anyway.

Hanks did take time to make a rather poignant observation. The last time the Academy included 10 Best Picture nominees was in 1943. In that year we were at war, and "Casablanca" took home the top prize. Now, 67 years later, we're at war, and "The Hurt Locker" triumphed. Striking, isn't it? I think we have a classic on our hands.

Out of the 21 categories in which I placed predictions, 17 of those were correct. That's not too shabby, right?

Check out the complete list of winners for the 2010 Oscars.

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