Friday, March 4, 2011

Oscars Analysis 2010: Recap

For someone who's completely obsessive about the awards handed out at the Oscars, I'm somewhat indifferent about the actual Oscars themselves. That's because the Academy Awards telecast, often dubbed the "Super Bowl for women", is a showcase for high fashion ("you're talking about fashion? you?"), banal stargazing, and inoffensive self-congratulation, absolutely none of which interests me. Don't get me wrong, I still view the Oscars as the most important event of the year in terms of cinematic recognition; I just think the show itself is a bit of a bore.

That said, this year's telecast has taken a relentless drubbing of criticism, and I'll venture that it wasn't that bad. Yes, James Franco was lifeless and disinterested, the original song performances remain a gigantic snooze, and most of the speeches were bland and uninspired. But the show had its share of moments, including Robert Downey, Jr.'s and Jude Law's rat-a-tat chemistry, Kirk Douglas reaching back for a mid-90s fastball, Billy Crystal's welcome cameo, and Jennifer Lawrence showing up in a stunning red dress and sending thousands of horny teenagers to their laptops to desperately Google "Jennifer Lawrence Esquire photo shoot". Plus Anne Hathaway did her damnedest to compensate for Franco's apathy with an abundance of boisterous energy, most memorably in an amusing rendition of Les Misérables' "On My Own". So while the 2010 Academy Awards telecast was hardly memorable, it was by no means a catastrophe.

(Personally, my favorite moment came during the Best Actress presentation, when a friend of mine, who shall remain nameless in order to protect his identity/relationship, texted me, "Whoa, who the fuck is Jennifer Lawrence and why is she so hot?" To answer the first question, she's the highly talented star of Winter's Bone, and although only 43 people in America saw that movie, mainstream audiences will have the opportunity to savor her this summer as Mystique in X-Men: First Class. To answer the second, I'll let that photo shoot speak for itself.)

Regardless, I tune into the Oscars for the awards, not the spectacle. As far as my predictions turned out, I – much like the show – delivered a thoroughly mediocre performance. I hit on 15 of 21 categories, and while that's hardly a disastrous showing, it's two off from my 17-for-21 mark at last year's Oscars. That said, it was a relatively difficult slate this year, so it's hard to be too disappointed. Besides, next year I can devote countless hours to the same pursuit in an effort to bounce back. (As if I needed an excuse.)

Alright, let's put a bow on the 2010 Oscar season and rip through the categories, with some brief (no, really) commentary for each. In order of the presentation of the awards:

Best Art Direction
Predicted winner: Alice in Wonderland
Actual winner: Alice in Wonderland

This was an early victory for me, as I had been concerned about a broad sweep in the technical categories for The King's Speech. I needn't have worried in that regard, as the high-prestige drama failed to pick up a single craft award.

Best Cinematography
Predicted winner: True Grit – Roger Deakins
Actual winner: Inception – Wally Pfister

Probably my biggest whiff of the night (I had labeled my confidence in True Grit as 3/5). I was convinced poor Roger Deakins would get off the schnide, but the Academy went with the more technically impressive picture overall. I had my issues with certain areas of Pfister's photographical style, but the film's visuals on the whole are magnificent, so I can hardly complain.

Best Supporting Actress
Predicted winner: Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit
Actual winner: Melissa Leo – The Fighter

The lone major category that was up for grabs, and I choked. Unfortunately, Leo's legacy will likely be that she dropped an f-bomb during her speech, when she really should be remembered for robbing Hailee Steinfeld. On the plus side, Kirk Douglas' meandering, unapologetically senile presentation of the award was phenomenal.

Best Animated Feature
Predicted winner: Toy Story 3
Actual winner: Toy Story 3

No bragging points here, as another victory in this category for Pixar was an absolute lock. For what it's worth, I cracked up at Justin Timberlake's confession to Mila Kunis, "I'm Banksy," even if I was only one of eight people in the country who laughed.

Best Adapted Screenplay
Predicted winner: The Social Network – Aaron Sorkin
Actual winner: The Social Network – Aaron Sorkin

It wasn't the only victory of the night for The Social Network, but it was the most important, as well as the most deserved.

Best Original Screenplay
Predicted winner: The King's Speech – David Seidler
Actual winner: The King's Speech – David Seidler

I'll admit that after Inception's surprise victory for cinematography, I was pulling for an upset here, but it wasn't to be. Kudos to first-time winner Seidler for perhaps the line of the night, when the 73-year-old informed the audience, "My father always said to me I'd be a late bloomer". Indeed.

Best Foreign Language Film
Predicted winner: Biutiful
Actual winner: In a Better World

I had absolutely zero confidence in my pick here, so I'm hardly surprised I was wrong. I look forward to catching up with Susanne Bier's latest, highly regarded film on Netflix in 2014. Also, Russell Brand and Helen Mirren showcased more chemistry in presenting this award than James Franco and Anne Hathaway displayed in the entire show.

Best Supporting Actor
Predicted winner: Christian Bale – The Fighter
Actual winner: Christian Bale – The Fighter

I should hope so.

Best Original Score
Predicted winner: The Social Network – Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross
Actual winner: The Social Network – Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross

Probably my best call of the night, as many pundits had pegged The King's Speech here. It was at this point that I started talking myself into David Fincher winning for Best Director. I hate it when I talk myself into things.

Best Sound Mixing
Predicted winner: Inception
Actual winner: Inception

The most technologically savvy movie of 2010 had no difficulty grabbing its share of Oscars, as it actually tied The King's Speech with four.

Best Sound Editing
Predicted winner: Inception
Actual winner: Inception


Best Makeup
Predicted winner: The Wolfman
Actual winner: The Wolfman

My favorite part of this category was when they showed clips of Benicio del Toro's various transformations, and my mother covered her eyes and groaned, "Tell me when it's over". I remember doing the exact same thing while watching The Fountain, only I had to keep my eyes covered for an hour and a half.

Best Costume Design
Predicted winner: The King's Speech
Actual winner: Alice in Wonderland

Prior to the ceremony, I'd likened The King's Speech performance at the Oscars to that of Slumdog Millionaire, which used its coattails to bring in eight total trophies. As it turned out, the more appropriate doppelganger was No Country for Old Men, which also won for its screenplay, director, and one of its actors but failed to garner any additional awards (you know, other than Best Picture). And the similarities between the two movies pretty much end there.

Best Documentary
Predicted winner: Inside Job
Actual winner: Inside Job

Ha! Take that, Banksy! And I hadn't even seen any of the nominees. Then again, perhaps that indicates that my fervent efforts to watch effort Oscar-nominated movie (outside of this category) is simply a waste of time. I don't want to think about this, let's just move on.

Best Visual Effects
Predicted winner: Inception
Actual winner: Inception

You were expecting something else? Also, Downey, Jr. and Law absolutely demolished their presentation and made a strong case for hosting next year. Then again, it's probably easier to come off as winning and natural when you're only on stage for three minutes as opposed to three hours.

Best Film Editing
Predicted winner: The King's Speech – Tariq Anwar
Actual winner: The Social Network – Kirk Baxter, Angus Wall

Kudos to the Academy here for not just tagging along with the Best Picture frontrunner and recognizing the superlative editing work in The Social Network. Poor Fincher must have considered himself the favorite for Best Director at this point.

Best Original Song
Predicted winner: Tangled – "I See the Light" (Alan Menken, Glenn Slater)
Actual winner: Toy Story 3 – "We Belong Together" (Randy Newman)

Boring song. Decent speech. Whatever. This category can get lost.

Best Director
Predicted winner: Tom Hooper – The King's Speech
Actual winner: Tom Hooper – The King's Speech

And this represented the one true moment of suspense on Oscar night. Following moderately surprising victories for editing and original score, The Social Network had positioned itself, if not to walk away with the big prize, then at least to see its mastermind receive recognition. No such luck.

Best Actress
Predicted winner: Natalie Portman – Black Swan
Actual winner: Natalie Portman – Black Swan

Anyone else disappointed that Mila Kunis didn't present this award as well?

Best Actor
Predicted winner: Colin Firth – The King's Speech
Actual winner: Colin Firth – The King's Speech

A friend of mine gambled on the Oscars, which can be sensible in certain situations. But it made me wonder: How high would the odds have had to be for me to pick someone other than Colin Firth here? I think I would have required a 500-to-1 return on my investment before even considering wagering on someone else. And I still probably would have chickened out.

Best Picture
Predicted winner: The King's Speech
Actual winner: The King's Speech

The actual award was a foregone conclusion, but the presentation itself featured some interesting moments. The first was the Academy's curious decision to have the climactic scene from The King's Speech act as the voiceover while showing a montage of clips from the 10 nominees, almost as if they were saying, "Look, you know what's winning as well as we do, and there's no point pretending, so we might as well have some fun with it".

The second was Steven Spielberg's remark that the losers in the Best Picture race would go on a list of films that included The Grapes of Wrath, Citizen Kane, The Graduate, and Raging Bull. (I would have been more impressed if he'd mentioned Saving Private Ryan, then just stalked off the stage in a huff.) It may have been innocuous, but if you were feeling cynical, you could argue that it suggested that The King's Speech, for all its gloss and prestige, is less likely to achieve cinematic immortality than losing nominees such as Inception or The Social Network. In any case, it was an intriguing end to an otherwise predictable night at the Oscars.

And that's a wrap. Thanks for following the Manifesto's coverage this year, and here's to doing it all over again in 2012.

1 comment:

Jake D said...

Highlights include: shameless lechery redux (disguised, in some fashion, as "my friend texted me..."), great clips and quotes to illustrate the point (though you misquoted The Social Network slightly), the usual self-deprecation, and, of course, the engaging and pithy writing. Well done, sir. As someone who doesn't give two figs about movies, you managed to entertain me through several blog posts. Keep up the good work: I've always wondered what it would be like to have a famous friend and you're my best hope to find out. Just don't get caught with a woman dressed as WonderWoman - that would be so 2000.