Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A 'No Country' Night Among Bleak Contenders

The 80th Annual Academy Awards provided no real shockers as everybody had already predicted the outcomes going in. As expected, the Coen brothers came out on top with four wins (for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor) for their highly-acclaimed "No Country for Old Men." It was an interesting finish to a long night with Joel and Ethan lacking any eloquence in their final speech. And yet, by then, they had already been up there twice, and there was nothing left to add.

Even though "No Country for Old Men" was the front-runner of the night, it wasn't a true sweep. The Academy decided to spread the wealth as each Best Picture nominee went home with at least one win. And the movie with the second-highest total of three wins was none other than "The Bourne Ultimatum" for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Film Editing. Who saw that coming?

The first big award of the night went to Javier Bardem for Best Supporting Actor, which was memorable in that halfway through his speech, he launched into Spanish addressing his mother in the audience. While all of the Best Picture nominees were distinctly American, it was the foreigners who prevailed in terms of acting. Alongside Bardem, who was the first Spanish actor ever to win, was British actor Daniel Day-Lewis for "There Will Be Blood," French actress Marion Cotillard for "La Vie En Rose," and British supporting actress Tilda Swinton for "Michael Clayton."

Tilda Swinton's acceptance speech, as well, was particularly memorable through her poking fun at George Clooney who she claims to not find charming at all. It was also a delight to see the surprise on her face when her name was read, beating out projected winners Amy Ryan for "Gone Baby Gone" and Cate Blanchett for "I'm Not There."

As expected, Diablo Cody nabbed her win for Best Original Screenplay, and she sent her love out to the writers. Jon Stewart, too, brought up the writer's strike and was overall enjoyable a second time around as host. Also commenting on the darkness of the nominees, Stewart exclaimed, "Thank God for teen pregnancy!" About two hours into the night, it was bizarrely enough "The Bourne Ultimatum" in the lead with a third win for its rapid-fire editing, and as Stewart noted, somebody somewhere just took the lead in the Oscar pool based on a guess.

Cody's win was "Juno"'s only triumph last night, which is actually somewhat of a relief after its whirlwind of popularity. "There Will Be Blood" won its two for Robert Elswit's cinematography along with Day-Lewis. "Atonement" picked its one up for Best Original Score, and Swinton nabbing Best Supporting Actress was "Michael Clayton"'s singular win. "Ratatouille" rightfully received its win last night, as well, over "Persepolis" and "Surf's Up."

The crowd's warmest recognition went to Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova for their Best Original Song win for "Falling Slowly" from "Once." And bravo to Stewart again for bringing Irglova back out on stage to give her acceptance speech as she had earlier been cut off before she even began to speak.

While the Oscars were rather widespread, there were no surprises as to what everybody considered to be the evening's big film, and it was the Coen brothers who were the clear winners of the entire night.

Also interesting to note is that this 80th telecast of the Academy Awards was one of the least watched ever. Is it because of the movies being rewarded? It very well could be. People may have simply lost interest as the only Best Picture nominee to cross the $100 million mark at the box office was Juno. So, I guess not only was the Best Picture winner bleak, but so was the turnout.

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