Monday, February 23, 2009

The 81st Academy Awards

There are 3 types of Oscars. Those that Slumdog Millionaire (2008) should have won (and did win), those that Slumdog Millionaire should not have won (but did anyway) and Best Supporting Actor. OK, there might have been a few other notable categories stuck in between all of that, but for all practical purposes, that was it last night at the 81st Annual Academy Awards. Danny Boyle's critically acclaimed and universally adored Slumdog Millionaire took home 8 statues while top nominee The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) left with only 3 awards. Heath Ledger was posthumously recognized for his supporting role in The Dark Knight (2008) which was a surprise to no one.

There were a few surprises in the awards categories, namely for Best Foreign Language Film (Departures), and possibly Kate Winslet for her leading role in The Reader (2008). Since Waltz with Bashir (2008) and The Class (2008) were the only Best Foreign Language Film nominees being marketed to American audiences, I assumed it would be one of those that won the award. It also seems odd that Kate Winslet could win the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her work in The Reader and still win the Oscar for Best Actress for the same role. Meryl Streep should have won for Doubt (2008) but apparently the Academy feels that she has been recognized enough for her work already (she has been nominated for 15 Oscars).

I'm not the kind of guy that likes to yell, "Snub!" everytime his favorite movie isn't nominated for a category. However, I don't feel that Slumdog Millionaire should have won Best Cinematography or Best Film Editing. Looking at the other nominees, it is clear why it won both of those awards. The Wrestler (2008), however, had better editing than Slumdog Millionaire, yet it wasn't even nominated. Perhaps this is becuase of the film's low-brow main character: a professional wrestler. Hmm...

That said, who won the awards didn't really matter. The real "star" was Hugh Jackman. He was simultaneously able to torture the audience with his singing and dancing and bore us with his humorless jokes. The most interesting part of the Oscars, however, was the new presentation format. For the acting awards, a montage of past winners for that award was shown and 5 of them actually presented the nominees. It was very touching and nostalgic. For awards of the same category, the same presenters were used. This helped speed up the show and kept it moving along quite well. One thing I didn't care for was the tacky design of the proscenium arch; it looked as if a 70s hippy was allowed an unlimited budget for bead curtains.

The true highlight of the night was Dustin Lance Black's moving acceptance speech after he won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for writing Milk (2008). I'll let him do the talking:

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