The awards season is always a funny thing. From September to the end of February, we spend day after day watching movies, speculating on what films and performances stand a chance, picking frontrunners, following critic and guild ceremonies, debating nominees, obsessing over snubs, arguing why certain films should win, and guessing which nominees will be honored with a prestigious award. Then the Oscars come and 3½ hours later, it’s all over. Plain. Simple. Done. This year, we were fortunate enough to have a pretty competitive season, jam packed with tons of ambitious films that not only entertained but that also pushed the boundaries and limits of filmmaking. At last night’s 85th Academy Awards, all eyes were on Argo – could it win Best Picture without a Best Director nomination? Of course it could and of course it did! While acting frontrunners Daniel Day-Lewis, Jennifer Lawrence, and Anne Hathaway also rode their months of buzz to victory, the night packed a ton of surprises, some great and some uncomfortable. Before we say goodbye to the 2012 awards season, here are some final thoughts on the Oscars:
Seth MacFarlane, Good or Bad?: I’m still not sure what to make of Seth MacFarlane’s hosting – it wasn’t as spectacular as I had hoped but it certainly wasn’t a train wreck either. The problem seemed to be that MacFarlane wasn’t sure what kind of host he wanted to be, and as a result, he gave us an awkward hybrid of the Family Guy creator we all know and love and the classic Hollywood song-and-dance guy that many had no clue existed. MacFarlane is a talented guy and he played both parts of the coin rather well (his dry humor is laugh-out-loud snarky and his voice is Sinatra smooth), but both sides of his personality didn’t mesh together, especially in the nearly 15-minute long opening number that took the spotlight away from the movies and made the ceremony all about MacFarlane and the fears that his sinister side would tarnish the Oscars. By switching from crude jackass to old school gentleman every other couple of minutes, I had a hard time immersing myself in MacFarlane’s routine, though a sock puppet version of Flight and a wonderful skit with Sally Field were pretty great (I cracked up at the throwaway Boniva line!). The boob song? The insistence that Zero Dark Thirty proved nothing besides the fact that women can’t let anything go? Those jabs we could’ve done without. Overall a valiant effort, but too mismatched to be the classic host I was hoping for.
Why Was The Theme Music?: The main problem I had with this year’s telecast was that it was music, music, and music. As Mike Murphy said after the show, “The Oscars out Tony’d the Tony Awards.” Why? Shouldn’t the theme have been the movies? This is the Oscars! This was one of the best and strongest years for film! Why celebrate the history of the movie musical and have Catharine Zeta Jones lip sink when we’ve could’ve used that precious time to honor the movies that left an undeniable mark this year? (On the side: Jennifer Hudson completely tore the damn roof off with a show-stopping performance that proved why she’s an Oscar-winner). I did not need to see the cast of Les Miserables on stage (I hated it the first time when I saw it on screen), nor did Norah Jones have to sing the unforgettable Oscar-nominated song from Ted. Only Adele’s stirring rendition of Skyfall, Dame Shirley Bassey’s golden pipes on Goldfinger, and Barbra Streisand’s beautiful “The Way We Were” felt necessary to the show. The rest could’ve been skipped and time could’ve been used to honor film (or make fun of it! I thought for sure MacFarlane would pull a Billy Crystal and do something along the lines of inserting himself into the Best Picture nominees but alas, nothing of that nature occurred!)
James Bond Bore: I may get into some hot water with Mike Murphy over this, but the much anticipated tribute of the 50th Anniversary of the James Bond franchise was a huge, gigantic letdown. Really? Was this the best they could come up with? Can this even be called a tribute? Bassey provided much-needed power to her classic Bond song, but that was essentially the entire tribute, that and a poorly edited montage of James Bond films that cut from one clip to the next so quickly I could barley keep up. Where was Paul McCartney? Daniel Craig? Pierce Brosnan? Sean Connery? How can you have a tribute to Bond without one of the Bonds? Definitely a missed opportunity with this one.
Love for Ang Lee: Ang Lee is the only director to win Best Director twice without winning Best Picture in the same year, and yet the Academy clearly loves him based on the rapturous standing ovation he received upon winning the award for his jaw dropping work on Life of Pi. Many people said the book could never be turned into a film but Lee proved the naysayers wrong and then some. Humble, graceful, and charismatically shy, Lee just looks like the coolest guy. I was so happy to see him win!
Lawrence Falls and Rises: It only seems right that Jennifer Lawrence, the casual and carefree firecracker of the awards season, fell on her way to the podium to receive the Best Actress award for her vivacious performance in Silver Linings Playbook. Upon seeing her standing ovation, Lawrence claimed, “You’re only standing because you feel bad I fell!” It’s honesty like this that has turned Lawrence into the anti-awards-darling awards darling, if that makes any sense, and she’s now the second youngest recipient of the Best Actress Oscar. As for those upset Chastain didn’t take it, she’ll get hers in the next 5 years, I guarantee it.
Daniel Day-Lewis is Funny: I never thought I would ever write those words but, hey, I did say the night had some surprises in it! Accepting the Best Actor award for his immersive turn as our 16th president, Day-Lewis joked with Meryl Streep that he was first planning on taking the role of Margaret Thatcher (for which Streep won Best Actress last year) since Spielberg wanted her to play Lincoln. Genius! I also love Day-Lewis’ shot out to his wife, who has got to be the bravest women for putting up with all these maddening characters Day-Lewis has played over the years (Can you imagine being married to Bill The Butcher and Daniel Plainview?). With 3 trophies for Best Actor – more than any other actor – Day-Lewis has sealed himself in history as an all time legend and it’s been an honor to watch him all these years.
Sound Editing Tie: I’ve never seen a tie at the Oscars before, but if there was ever a category where 2 winners were necessary, it was this one, where both Skyfall and Zero Dark Thirty were honored for their truly powerful sounds. Honestly, this was one of the best parts of the night for me, for both films would not have been as intense and nerve-wracking had it not been for sound editing. Though Skyfall was a loud actioner and Zero Dark Thirty a quiet, escalating force, both used sound to immerse you in the settings and to jar the hell out of you during moments of unrelenting violence and pressure. Great job, Academy!
Animated Screw Up!: I really can’t believe that Brave, Pixar’s safest and most unimaginative film to date, triumphed in the Best Animated Film category over three truly special films: Tim Burton’s glorious monster movie throwback Frankenweenie, the spooky and imaginative ParaNorman, and the all out fun Wreck It-Ralph. In a year that saw some of the most spectacular animation outside of the Pixar wheelhouse, it was a true shame to have Pixar win the prize.
Anne Hathaway, You Suck: Listen, I respect Anne Hathaway and her extremely emotional performance in Les Miserables (she really did show the deterioration of hope and of life in a matter of 4 minutes), and this is not intended to be rude in anyway, but something about her all awards season has truly pissed me off. Last night, my annoyance with Hathaway catapulted to extreme distaste when, upon accepting the Best Supporting Actress trophy, she uttered, “It came true…” Really? Of course it’s great to win awards, but Hathaway clearly wanted this Oscar so badly that all season she’s come off as cinema’s version of Taylor Swift, or as my mom brilliantly texted me, a “wannabe Audrey Hepburn”. Hathaway’s desperation to win an Oscar was beyond obnoxious, doesn’t she know that talent is talent regardless of Oscar wins (Alfred Hitchcock didn’t win an Oscar!)! It’s obvious that Hathaway is trying hard to be known as an accomplished dramatic actress, but the fact that she thinks winning an Oscar will do this for her is silly and pretty distasteful. Amy Adams may have lost this category but she’s been nominated 5 times (twice more than Hathaway), and despite the fact that she hasn’t won, she still blows Hathaway out of the water! See Anne, talent is talent and Adams has it.
Great Montages: In years past, the Academy has had previous winners march on stage, take up a lot of time, and serenade the Oscar acting nominees with pretty little speeches honoring their work and careers. This year, however, the Academy changed the format and let the acting speak for itself, providing us with longer montages than usual showcasing some of the best scenes the actors pulled off in their respective movies. Jessica Chastain may have lost, but seeing her as Maya again, ripping into Kyle Chandler and demanding protection so that she can find bin Laden, brought back all the ferocious nerves I felt while watching Zero Dark Thirty. Same can be said for Joaquin Phoenix, whose montage included the extraordinary “processing” scene from The Master.
The Jaws Music: Ok, the idea behind this was exceptional and totally a perfect fit for MacFarlane – using John Williams’ ominous chords to indicate to winners that it’s time to wrap up the speech – but the execution was rude and classless, with the music drowning out the Best Visual Effects artists from Life of Pi. It stared funny but ended pretty horribly.
Ben Affleck, You Are A Classy Dude: The defining theme of this year’s awards season was the unanimous praise for Argo and the unanimous uproar over Ben Affleck’s Best Director snub. Now, while I’ve been fussy all season about Argo’s dominance, I have to say that Affleck’s speech upon winning Best Picture completely won me over in the director’s favor. Though he started quickly – clearly nervous and overwhelmed with joy – Affleck settled down and talked about being an underdog for so long and rising back up to the top from his career-lows. In the ceremony’s best speech, Affleck emotionally reflected on how he had no idea who he was the first time he won an Oscar for Best Screenplay (Good Will Hunting) 15 years ago, and that now, thanks to the approval and support of the Academy, he now has purpose, which is something the movies give all of us in their own special way.
Awards For Everyone: The best thing about the Oscars this year was that they weren’t dominated by one film and one film only; the Academy truly spread the wealth around, and in a year that saw so many exceptional movies, this was definitely the right move on their part. Argo took Best Picture, Best Editing, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Life of Pi took Best Director, Best Score, Best Cinematography, and Best Visual Effects (4 awards total, the most of any film). Amour took Best Foreign Language film. Skyfall took Best Song and Best Sound Editing. Django Unchained took Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay. Lincoln took Best Actor and Best Production Design. Les Miserables took Best Supporting Actress, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Makeup. Silver Linings Playbook took Best Actress. Even Zero Dark Thirty won something (Best Sound Editing). With so many great movies, it’s pretty awesome that mostly all of the nominees can call themselves Oscar-winners this year. Bravo!
What did you guys think about the show? Did MacFarlane leave you offended or in stiches? Happy about the winners?
Oh, and let the 2013 awards season begin!
Article by Zack Sharf