To think that just a couple of weeks ago, this whole Oscar shindig might have been cancelled...
But the three-month-long Writers Guild strike was settled in the nick of time, so the biggest movie awards show in the world -- the American equivalent of a coronation -- could go on, and stars could gather to honor ... other stars. As host Jon Stewart quipped: "Having the Oscars helped end the strike ... before we spend the next four to five hours giving each other golden statues, let's take a moment to congratulate ourselves."
The 80th Annual Academy Awards were not all just pats on the back, writer jokes and fantastic frocks (well, actually, there were a lot of fantastic frocks): Many of the nominated films, actors, writers and directors were (double gasp!) actually deserving, and two of the pictures -- There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men -- are bona-fide masterpieces. If there was any kind of theme this year, it was Oscar getting it almost right (I could hand them a list of misses, if I could)-- nominating interesting films and artists from all over the world (England, France, Ireland, Italy, Spain and Austria were all represented). And of the contenders, there was new talent (Ellen Page for Juno), older icons (Hal Holbrook for Into the Wild) and, for heaven's sake, Viggo Mortensen (perhaps one of the coolest men walking the earth -- at least he looks that way) for Eastern Promises.
Still, maybe it was all this good taste and worthiness that made the show a little ... staid. Boring? Not enough horrible moments? Don't get me wrong, there were some surprises and spirited highlights, like Stewart's opening monologue, some heartfelt acceptance speeches and one (or should I say Once?) musical performance. And there were also some lowlights, like Academy President Sid Ganis' attempts at humor, the uninspired video pieces and three musical performances from Enchanted.
So I'm here to hand out awards for the best, worst and weirdest of Oscar's 80th. (Wow, Mickey Rooney -- who was there by the way -- is older than Oscar? Maybe he should run for president) Anyway, ahem... the envelope, please:
Most Moving Acceptance Speech:
How does he do it? Picking up his Best Supporting Actor award for playing psychopath Anton Chigurh in No Country For Old Men, Javier Bardem managed to be likable, studly, humble, casual and touching all at once. Ambling on stage with his mussed-up hair and mischievous smile, he said, "I have to speak fast here, man" and then pointed out everything from how amazing the award was to his curious Dutch-boy haircut from the movie. But when he honored his "Mama" (entirely in Spanish) with nary a trace of sappiness, the charming Spaniard caught us off guard. And then he all but strutted off-stage. Hmmm... maybe it's not Viggo but Javier who's the coolest man walking the face of the earth. Nah, it was Lee Marvin...
Best Jon Stewart Joke, Part 1:
"Tonight we look beyond the dark days and focus on happier fare. This year's slate of Oscar-nominated psychopathic killer movies. Does this town need a hug? What happened? No Country For Old Men, Sweeney Todd, There Will Be Blood. All I can say is thank God for teen pregnancy."
Funniest Acceptance Speech:
Tilda Swinton. She is known for her edgy, serious work in heavy films like Orlando and The Deep End and as the famed White Witch from The Chronicles of Narnia so who knew she was so damn funny? When accepting her Best Supporting Actress win for Michael Clayton, the red-haired Brit hilariously capped her speech by mercilessly teasing co-star George Clooney: "George Clooney... you know. The seriousness and dedication to your art, seeing you climb into that rubber bat suit from Batman and Robin, the one with nipples, every morning, under your costume, on the set, off the set, hanging upside at lunch. You rock, man. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" Ever the class act, Clooney took it like, well, like George Clooney -- a man.
Am I Crazy Or...
Was seeing acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee and his Jungle Fever star, recent tax evader Wesley Snipes, sitting together as essentially dates kind of heartwarming? And they looked fantastic. Maybe they'll make another movie together? I'm sure Snipes would be happy. The IRS is another story... Well screw them anyway. Team Snipes!
Edgiest Jon Stewart Joke:
"Julie Christie was absolutely amazing in Away From Her. Brilliant movie. It was a moving story of a woman who forgets her own husband. Hillary Clinton called it the 'feel good movie of the year.' "
Can Jerry Seinfeld please stop promoting that damn bee movie? We saw you on Oprah. We saw you on Letterman. We saw you on Larry King. We get it. You made freaking Bee Movie. And yes, we know it will be available on DVD this March. And showing the montage of great stinging film moments didn't make us want to rush out and buy (ugh!) Bee Movie. Seriously, we'd so rather watch that hilarious Bill Murray bee sequence from Rushmore over and over and over again over Jerry's entire animated (non) classic.
Bad in Black:
One would think black is basic -- that it flatters all who wear it. But the usually perky and lovely Jennifer Garner appeared downright dour in her dark frock, looking both unhappy and uncomfortable in such a gothic get-up. Helena Bonham Carter (where was she, anyway? I missed her.) she is not. (*I just saw that Gary Busey red carpet moment, now I realize why she looked so upset...I don't blame her.)
Ladies in Red:
Perhaps in the spirit of all the violent movies nominated this year, many actresses opted for bold red dresses. Helen Mirren, Anne Hathaway, a stunning Katherine Heigl channeling Marilyn Monroe, Heidi Klum and, uh, Miley Cirus all went primary. Wait, what the hell was Miley Cirus doing there?
Am I Crazy Or...
Is Amy Adams becoming really irritating? I don't dislike the supposedly lovable star, but her appearance this year left me with conflicted emotions. As she performed "Happy Working Song," one of the three nominated songs for her film Enchanted, I was both embarrassed and overwhelmingly annoyed by her Betty Boop/Snow White impersonation. Did she even want to perform this? And to make matters worse, little Miss Adams continued her cutesy, goody-goody act while presenting the award for Best Original Score. Typecast much? I hate to say this, but she needs to play a hooker/heroin addict/convicted murderer stat. That cuteness is starting to curdle.
Best Jon Stewart Joke, Part 2:
"There is a great variety in the nominated films this year. Even Norbit got a nomination, which I think is great. Too often the Academy ignores movies that aren't good."
Why do Scientific and Technical Achievement Awards always have to be handed out by Hollywood's latest babe-du-jour? I know, I know. I'm sure all those guys slaving over their computers and gadgets and inventions more than enjoy the presence of sexy Jessica Alba (who looks terrific pregnant, by the way), but why not something new next year? How about Philip Seymour Hoffman presenting the award -- preferably as his Ned Beatty/Wilford Brimley-esque character of Charlie Wilson's War.
Aside from an incredibly dapper George Clooney, who looked a cross between Cary Grant and Clark Gable with his slicked-back hair and perfect tux, this year's male attire was decidedly relaxed though strikingly attractive. Most everyone appeared a little unkempt (mussed hair, unshaven face, less-traditional tuxes) and yet not at all slobby. They were in fact elegant and eclectic. Viggo Mortensen looked extraordinary rocking a Vincent Van Gogh beard and knee-length dinner jacket. Daniel Day-Lewis' longer hair and more retro tux was fetching. And Javier Bardem, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and Harrison Ford all appeared with a little bed-head ... which was actually very sexy. I'm not even going to begin with Johnny Depp.
Least Surprising, Most Deserving Win:
I think he's a genius (sorry to all of you out there who think him a ham), so I was ecstatic when the entirely deserving Daniel Day-Lewis picked up his golden boy for his powerful performance as insanely ambitious oil-man Daniel Plainview in Paul Thomas Anderson's masterful There Will Be Blood. But come on -- everyone knew it was going to happen. As Tony Curtis said in Sweet Smell of Success, "The cat's in the bag and the bag's in the river." I'd add something about milkshakes but that's getting a little played out...
Best Jon Stewart Joke, Part 3:
"Democrats have an historic race going. Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama. Normally when you see a black man or woman president, an asteroid is about to hit the Statue of Liberty."
Diablo Cody, beloved hipster-ex-stripper-screenwriter-goddess, wins Best Original Screenplay for the indie hit Juno, a movie soaked (and sinking) with quippy one-liners that either delighted or seriously exasperated audiences (I was one of the exasperated) -- and all she can come up with is, "I especially want to thank my fellow nominees." Or, "This is for the writers!" Diablo! Honest to blog! Where was your arsenal of smarty-pants wisecracks and pop-culture Soupy Sales-isms? This is the Oscars, Home Skillet. This is your time on stage. As you wrote, this is "one doodle that can't be un-did." But hey, you pulled off the leopard dress, tats and your Louise Brooks bob. So at least you looked great. But... another thing. What was with your glum exit offstage? Was Harrison Ford taking you to Oscar detention?
Most Surprising Win:
Wow! No Julie Christie for Sarah Polley's heartbreaking Away From Her. I thought Christie was a shoe-in. But talented French hottie Marion Cotillard was the spoiler, picking up Best Actress for her performances as iconic French chanteuse Edith Piaf in La Vie En Rose. I'm thinking all those mixed CDs Academy voters picked up at Starbucks (I'm only guessing these exist -- those International flavor collections) with that strange-voiced French lady actually compelled them to do a little Piaf research. Nevertheless, though we were rooting for Christie, it was tough not to be happy for Cotillard, who appeared definitely shocked and as she said, "speechless." She also looked wonderful in white. Jean Paul Gaultier does a gal good.
The Real Enchanting "Once" Upon a Time:
Glen Hansard (he of the Irish band The Frames) and Czech musician Marketa Irglova performed their soulful, beautiful song "Falling Slowly" from their charming, musical indie Once. She on piano, he strumming a battered old guitar he's had since he was a teenage busker (street singer) in Ireland. It was gorgeous (though why did the camera choose to end on orchestra conductor Bill Conti? It was their moment, not his.) Next to all of those painfully corny Enchanted songs, some of which played like ads for Clorox Bleach (I could have sworn someone sang "Mama makes brights, bright like the sunshine ..."), the two channeled the late great Elliott Smith (remember him in his white suit, standing next to Celine Dion ... And losing?!). But the refreshingly independent Hansard and Irglova won! And we cheered when Hansard stated, "Make art! Make art!" (Good luck). Jon Stewart extended their moment by allowing Irglova, who was cut off by the over-anxious orchestra, to movingly extend her gratitude.
The Dudes Abide:
Though some of us were also rooting for Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood, Joel and Ethan Coen's brilliant No Country For Old Men was an entirely deserving winner for both Best Director (in their case Best Directors) and Best Picture. Their bloody, beautifully acted, poetic adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's novel was soulful, inventive, mysterious and truly horrifying. Though this is one of their best pictures, us Coen fans are also taking this as a win for Blood Simple, Miller's Crossing, Barton Fink, Raising Arizona, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and of course, The Big Lebowski. And you know, had No Country lost, don't think we wouldn't see Lebowski vet Walter Sobchak storming on stage screaming: "Has the whole world gone crazy! Am I the only one here who gives a shit about the rules?" (How could that movie never have won anything?) So with that, congratulations to the Coens.