Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Finally, the Oscar goes to a woman

The 82nd Academy Awards (dubbed by the co-hosts as “the biggest night in Hollywood since last night”) have come and gone. It was a solid show, if not occasionally uneven, and though the evening was largely devoid of surprises, it did deliver some memorable moments.

My favorite film of the year, The Hurt Locker, took home the Best Picture and Best Director awards, marking the first time that a woman has won an Oscar for film direction. James Cameron’s Avatar is a rollicking spectacle that rightly claimed the technical awards, but Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker really was the year’s best film: an intelligent drama that perfectly captured the tension of the current conflict in Iraq.

The Oscar telecast began with a musical number by Neil Patrick Harris, and I imagine that I wasn’t the only viewer wondering why he wasn’t hosting. Harris has seen a huge career boost over the last five years, and I’ll be surprised if the Academy doesn’t tap him to host in the near future.

The two seasoned comedians who did host, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, provided some laughs but weren’t as humorous as I had hoped. More than play off of each other, the two just alternated one-liners. They didn’t feel much like a comedic team, and I had anticipated a stronger charisma. Again, they had plenty of funny jokes, but switching to the two-host format should have brought something new to the table. I didn’t see anything from the two hosts that couldn’t have come from one host.

Though the acting awards all went as expected, the acceptance speeches were outstanding. I can’t remember a previous set of winners that gave more appreciative, sincere remarks, but then again, these were special circumstances. None of the four winners had won Oscars previously, and three of the four had never been nominated. The two supporting-performance winners, Mo’Nique and Christoph Waltz, carried their films in unusual ways. Discussions of both Precious and Inglourious Basterds will often turn to the strength of those supporting performances.

I was thrilled to see the continuation of the tradition begun last year in which each lead-acting nominee receives a personalized tribute from a colleague onstage. Each speech was heartfelt, and the tributes really do make it more of an honor to just be nominated. Sandra Bullock gave perhaps the strongest speech of the night, and everyone seemed pleased that Jeff Bridges’ fifth nomination finally did the trick.

My personal favorite moment was the special tribute to John Hughes. About Hughes, Roger Ebert recently wrote, “His films seemed good at the time, and in these dreary days, they seem miraculous.” That is so true. Few comedies get funnier and more magical over time, especially comedies built around teen angst, but Hughes’ charming coming-of-age pieces have only improved. At the end of a film montage, several iconic actors from Hughes’ movies stepped onstage and paid personal tributes.

During the “In Memoriam” recap reel of last year’s deaths, Farrah Fawcett’s name was conspicuously absent. It was apparently nothing more than an honest-to-goodness oversight, but especially in light of how her death was overshadowed by Michael Jackson’s back in June, her omission here was unfortunate.

All in all, it was a good awards show with worthy recipients. The evening’s lasting legacy will almost certainly be that a woman finally won for Best Director. Barbara Streisand, who I still say should have been nominated as Best Director for Yentl in 1983, tore open the envelope and said, “Well, the time has come.”

No comments:

Post a Comment