While Oscar was kind enough to open its doors to more audience-friendly fare this year ("Blind Side," "District 9," etc.), the winners were still more often than not the critical darlings that I expect to see rewarded every year. The theme of the night was substance over style but overall I thought the Academy did a good job this time around in honoring the right films and performances. A brief "Cheers and Jeers" look at the big categories and the show itself.
"Precious" wins Best Adapted Screenplay - Perhaps this is less a "Jeer" and more a "Meh." I haven't seen "Precious" though I've heard only good things. But Jason Reitman's script for "Up in the Air" is incredible in every facet of its content. The movie clearly didn't have the backing it needed to really get into the Best Picture race, yet I felt it more than deserved an award in this category. This had the feel of an award given more for social relevancy than for actual achievement in writing.
"Up" not a serious player for Best Picture - Sure it got nominated, but going into the night everyone knew this category was a two-way race between "Avatar" and "The Hurt Locker." I'm not saying either of those movies is underserving of the attention. If I'd had a vote I would have voted "Up in the Air" fifth, "Avatar" fourth, "Inglorious Basterds" third, and "The Hurt Locker" second. They were all excellent films and I think "Locker" is one of those movies that gets better the more you think about it. But "Up" is absolutely brilliant, truly unique, and emotionally compelling. If it wasn't an animated film, it would win Best Picture hands down.
Producer pulls a Kanye - In the only real awkward moment of the evening, the producer of "Music by Prudence" (Elinor Burkett) ran on stage and pushed the film's director to the side so she could get in her own, semi-intelligible speech. Turns out the two are feuding, to the point of lawsuits, but still this idiot came across as the loser of the night. See for yourself.
Jeff Bridges named Best Actor ("Crazy Heart") - Personally this would have been a very difficult category to vote in. Jeremy Renner and George Clooney were incredible in their roles and maybe even equal to Bridges. But when I walked out of "Crazy Heart," I felt like I had just seen the best leading performance of the year. Bridges' Bad Blake is magnificently true and authentic. And in general, it's good to see the impressive body of work Bridges has put together honored in this way.
Christoph Waltz named Best Supporting Actor ("Inglorious Basterds") - Waltz was absolutely mesmerizing from minute one of "Basterds." He was terrifying, methodically brutal, and yet verging on likeable in the strangest way possible. The most eloquent Nazi of all time to be sure.
Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin hosting - The duo displayed perfect chemistry and managed to be funny and relevant without dominating the spotlight. In fact I think you could make a case for their being underused. I love what they brought to the table.
John Hughes tribute - Even for a guy who doesn't quite get some of Hughes' more popular works, his tribute, overseen by some of his bigger stars, was quite touching. The ovation given his family in attendance was even more touching. And for some reason it's always cool/weird to see Macaulay Culkin as an adult.
Lack of preaching - I can't remember the last time I was able to watch a Hollywood-sponsored event without feeling like I was being inundated by an agenda. I hate being preached to when I'm not in church, even if I agree with the theme of the sermon. Because it was honored so often, those associated with "The Hurt Locker" had numerous opportunities to slam the anti-war message down my throat. Instead, time and time again they opted to go with the overall message of the film which was to point out the atrocities of war without preaching about the politics. "The Hurt Locker" was incredibly powerful and significant and that message would have only been diluted by excessive preaching. Kudos to the entire cast and crew, particularly director Kathryn Bigelow.
Sean Penn is still a tool,