Just a few thoughts on this year’s Academy Awards of Sunday, February 22nd.
Back on February 2nd, I predicted a win for “Slumdog Millionaire” as Best Picture, citing its “Rocky” factor. That prediction has turned out to be true, and “Slumdog”, by my unofficial count, carried off 9 awards, total, with the next biggest vote-getter being “Benjamin Button” with a mere 3.
Most of the winners were as had been anticipated, although Mickey Rourke lost in his bid for Best Actor, losing out to Sean Penn’s portrayal of Harvey Milk. This was very disappointing to those of us who root for the underdog and, in “Rocky”-like fashion, would have liked to have seen Mickey make it all the way back to the top in this role that was tailor-made for him. Still, “you’ve come a long way, baby,” and one can only hope that he continues to be cast in roles that let him show the talent he undeniably possess. Whether any of them will ever again be as strong as this Darren Aronofsky film is a good question, but I hope Mickey “lives well and prospers.”
I was pleased to see Kate Winslet win for Best Actress, and it was a thrill to see the likes of Sophia Loren, looking stunning in a diamond choker and a svelte gown (along with Halle Berry and other previous Oscar winners for Best Actress) salute the nominees. That stylistic change-up was a welcome bit of theater, as was the lack of a long, boring speech by the outgoing President of the Academy, who merely stood and waved.
“Slumdog” could not be stopped in the major categories, carrying off Best Picture, Best Director for Danny Boyle, best adapted screenplay, best song (“Jai Ho”), best film editing, best cinematography, best original score and best sound mixing. Only “Benjamin Button” and “Milk” (with 2) earned multiple awards thereafter, with “Benjamin Button” snagging awards for art direction, makeup, and visual effects, all of which it richly deserved. Sean Penn’s win as Harvey Milk gave “Milk” one of the 5 major awards, and it also won for best original screenplay. It also came as no surprise that “Wall-E” was named the best animated feature, competing against “Bolt” and “Kung-Fu Panda.”
For me, the tribute to Heath Ledger that was provided by posthumously awarding him the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor was touching, as it brought Heath’s entire family to the podium to give some very heartfelt and grateful comments. I do have this question, however: where was Heath’s picture during the tribute to those in the Academy who died during the past year, like Charlton Heston, Van Johnson, Paul Newman and Sydney Pollack?
Best Supporting Actress was snagged by Penelope Cruz in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” I had read that she was a favorite, but I was secretly rooting for Marisa Tomei of “The Wrestler.” (Any actress who can play almost her entire part in a G-string and pasties and look that good and do that well deserves to win!)
In the Foreign Language Film category, I rooted for “Revanche,” an Austrian film I saw at the Chicago Film Festival. It was an engrossing story with a complicated plot, and I was sorry that it lost to “Departure.”
Other random comments on the night’s festivities: Why did Jessica Biel wear a dress with a huge bow on it that completely hid her gorgeous figure? And what was up (or out) with Sarah Jessica Parker’s falling-out-of-her-dress cleavage situation? Best presenter of the night? Ben Stiller, who did a lethal riff on Joaquin Phoenix’s recent appearance on David Letterman, complete with mountain man beard, chewing gum, and a genuinely out-of-it demeanor. The other light-hearted moment that all of us at home enjoyed was Kate Winslet telling her father to whistle to let her know where, in the gigantic auditorium, he was seated, which he promptly did.
All-in-all, Hugh Jackman did “okay” in a musical performance that teamed him with Beyonce, although I would have given anything to see Billy Crystal in one of his funny parody songs, instead, and the show seemed to move along more swiftly than in some recent years. The two songs from “Slumdog Millionaire” nominated for Best Song (“Jai Ho,” which won, and “O Sayo,” which did not), allowed for some lavish Bollywood song-and-dance numbers, and the Jackman/Knowles collaboration was Busby Berkeley Redux.
“Man on Wire” won for Best Documentary. While the view from the top (this was the Frenchman who walked the wire between the World Trade Center towers) was fantastic, the film seemed overlong and really boring, to me. However, the acceptance antics of the aerial artist responsible rivaled Jack Palance’s one-armed push-ups, as he even did a little magic disappearing coin trick while at the podium.
All-in-all, with a few questions like the Heath Ledger one posed above, a fairly good Oscar night. Barbara Walters did her usual pre-show interviews, and most choices seemed logical to me, with one exception: why did Barbara interview the Jonas Brothers? Since when are the Jonas Brothers movie stars? With no songs in any of the nominated films, and no reason (other than the desire to attract younger viewers) to be sitting on Barbara’s couch, I found that insertion into the pre-Oscar interview program to be as puzzling as the omission of Heath Ledger from the tribute to those who died during the last year.