Monday, 28 February 2011

Big Oscar Winners: King's Speech, Inception

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OscarSunday night's 83rd Annual Academy Awards proved to be relatively entertaining. With a number of wonderful musical performances and compelling tributes, to the honoring of some worthy films, this year’s Academy Awards rightfully earned better ratings than in recent years.

The 83rd Annual Academy Awards began with an adorable tribute to old and new films such as Back to the Future and Inception, as well as to old and new Academy Awards hosts such as Alec Baldwin and this year’s hosts, Anne Hathaway and James Franco — two young actors with bright careers ahead.

After a charming introduction featuring an appearance by Hathaway’s mother and Franco’s grandmother, the co-hosts led us through a night honoring this year’s best films.

The two biggest winners at this year’s Academy Awards were The King’s Speech and Inception, each of which took home four Oscars.

The King’s Speech — a film about King George VI’s attempt to overcome his stuttering problem — walked away with awards for Best Picture, Best Director (Tom Hooper), Best Actor (Colin Firth), and Best Original Screenplay.  

For Best Picture, The King’s Speech faced a number of challenging contenders, including Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids Are All Right, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, and Winter’s Bone.

The King’s Speech tied with Best Picture nominee Inception, which also won four awards: Best Cinematography, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Visual Effects.

Another big winner was The Social Network, a film about the controversial creation of Facebook, which received the award for Best Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Adapted Screenplay.  

Melissa Leo’s performance in The Fighter as boxer Micky Ward’s overbearing mother earned her the award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, while Christian Bale’s depiction of Micky Ward’s brother Dicky in The Fighter won him the award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

Natalie Portman received the Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance in Black Swan, edging out Annette Bening of The Kids Are All Right, Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole, Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone, and Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine.

For Best Actor in a Leading Role, Collin Firth defeated Javier Bardem in Biutiful, Jeff Bridges in True Grit, Jesse Eisenberg of The Social Network, and James Franco in 127 Hours.

In addition to the aforementioned prominent awards, a number of other reputable awards were handed out as well:

Achievement in Art Direction — Alice in Wonderland
Best Animated Short —The Lost Thing
Best Animated Feature — Toy Story 3
Best Foreign Language Film — In a Better World from Denmark
Best Makeup — Rick Baker and Dave Elsey in The Wolfman
Best Costume Design — Colleen Atwood in Alice in Wonderland
Best Original Song — Randy Newman “We Belong Together” in Toy Story 3
Best Live Action Short Film — God of Love

While Franco and Hathaway proved to be charismatic hosts, at times, they toed the line, with jokes like, “This has been a great year for lesbians, not just in the world but in the movies. The Kids Are All Right? Lesbians. Black Swan. Dancing lesbians. Toy Story 3? (silence) Where is the dad?”

Of course, the Oscars would not be the Oscars without the apparent absence of God from acceptance speeches, and without the insertion of politics where it need not be.

For example, when Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon accepted the award for Best Short film for their work on Strangers No More, Goodman declared, “Through understanding and tolerance, peace really is possible.”

Similarly, when Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo, and Ed Novick accepted their award for Best Sound for their work on Inception, Lora Hirschberg referred to the great work of her sound crews, which she emphasized to be union workers.

The most blatant instance of overbearing politics came when Charles Fergusson and Audrey Mars accepted the award for Best Documentary Feature for their work on Inside Job, a film that incriminates fraudsters on Wall Street as the cause of the financial crisis. The first words out of Fergusson’s mouth were, “Forgive me, but I must start by pointing out that three years after a horrific financial crisis caused by massive fraud, not a single financial executive has gone to jail, and that’s wrong,” enticing audience applause.

Viewers were regaled by performances that featured the songs nominated for Best Original Song by Randy Newman (“We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3), Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi (“I See the Light” from Tangled), Gweneth Paltrow (“Coming Home” from Country Strong), and AR Rachman and Florence Welch (“If I Rise” from 127 Hours).

Hathaway did her very best co-hosting the awards’ show, but paired with the seemingly uncomfortable James Franco, fell flat most of the evening. Fortunately, there was a break from the monotony throughout the evening as a number of other awards announcers appeared, including Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, and previous Academy Awards winners like Marissa Tomei and Sandra Bullock.

Perhaps the most entertaining segment of the entire night was the montage of so-called “Movie Musicals.” James Franco and Anne Hathaway introduced this segment:

Franco: “As we all know, this was the year of the Movie Musical.”

Hathway: “I’m sorry, did I miss something, I thought there were hardly any musicals this year.”

Franco then introduced clips of films wherein they added music and funk to otherwise dramatic or tense scenes that were devoid of any musicality prior to the editing:

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 — When Ron returns to Hermione and Harry after deserting them for several days-The “song” in this scene was dubbed “Tiny Ball of Light.”

Toy Story 3 —  When Woody convinces the other toys that they’re not being thrown out, he reminds them of past opportunities that they could have simply been tossed aside. The song here was entitled, “We’re still here.”

The Social Network — Dubbed “Fishing for Facebook”, this song features the scene when Justin Timberlake talks to the creators of Facebook about aiming for $1 billion.

Twilight Eclipse — The song,“He doesn’t own a shirt,” describes the scene in which Jacob picks up Bella to bring her to safety, and is strangely without a shirt, much to the chagrin of Bella’s jealous boyfriend, Edward.

Also during the awards’ ceremony, viewers learned that ABC Television Network will continue to air the Academy Awards through the year 2020.

Celine Dion sang a moving tribute song for the Oscar greats who have died this year, including Tony Curtis, John Barry, Grant MucCune, Edward Limato, Tom Mankiewicz, Glorida Stuart, William Fraker, Joseph Strick, Lionel Jeffries, Sally Menke, Ronni Chasen, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Radnitz, Claude Chabrol, Pete Postlethwaite, Bill Littlejohn, Pierre Guffroy, Patricial Neal, George Hickenlooper, Irving Ravetch, Robert Culp, Bob Boyle, Mario Monicelli, Lynn Redgrave, Elliott Kastner, Peter Yates, Anne Francis, Arthur Penn, Theoni Aldredge, Susannah York, Ronald Neame, David Wolper, Jill Clayburgh, Alan Hume, Irvin Kershner, Dennis Hopper, Dino De Laurentiis, Blake Edwards, Kevin McCarthy, and Dede Allen.

Following Dion’s performance of Smile, Halle Berry honored Lena Horn as a trailblazer for being the first black performer to ever sign a long-term contract with a major studio in 1943.  

It’s clear that the Academy hoped to appeal to a younger demographic in this year’s Oscar Awards ceremony, and it proved to work. According to Nielsen Media Research Data, ABC more than doubled all of the competing networks combined last night, an improvement from both 2008 and 2009, though it did drop 7 percent from last year.

Photo: AP Images

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