Monday, 25 February 2013

85th Annual Academy Awards Celebrates Music in Film

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Last night’s 85th Annual Academy Awards proved to be rather entertaining, particularly since there were a number of surprises and winning performances. The iconic Hollywood event was hosted this year by Seth McFarlane, creator of adult cartoon Family Guy. McFarlane got the show off to a rather silly, but funny start with an interactive skit with Star Trek character Captain James Kirk (William Shatner), who had come to the show from the future to warn McFarlane how his hosting would be reviewed the following day. In an effort to receive raving reviews, McFarlane was compelled to do some over-the-top musical numbers that featured big celebrities like Charlize Theron and Daniel Radcliffe, kicking off the spectacular evening.

Argo proved to be a big winner this year, taking away a number of coveted awards, most notably Best Picture, edging out worthy competitors Life of Pi, Lincoln, Les Misérables, Silver Linings Playbook, Amour, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django Unchained, and Zero Dark Thirty.

A dramatization of the 1980 joint CIA-Canadian secret operation to save six fugitive American diplomatic personnel out of revolutionary Iran, Argo was the first film since 1989 to win best picture without its director being nominated.

First Lady Michelle Obama was the surprising announcer of the Best Picture recipient. Before announcing the winner, First Lady Obama said that movies are “especially important for young people,” in that they show that “we can overcome any obstacle if we dig deep enough and fight hard enough.”

While Argo Director Ben Affleck surprisingly did not earn the nomination for Best Director this year, he had the last laugh at the end of the night when his film was awarded Best Picture.

"It doesn't matter how you get knocked down in life. That's going to happen," said Affleck. "All that matters is that you've got to get up."

Argo also walked away with Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay, an honor that was expected to be given to Lincoln, and Film Editing.

Accepting the award for Best Adapted Screenplay, first-time winner Chris Terrio said, “I want to dedicate this to a man named Tony Mendez. Thirty-three years ago, Tony, using nothing but his creativity and intelligence, got six people out of a very bad situation. And so, I want to dedicate this to him ... and people all over the world, in the U.S., and Canada, and Iran, who use creativity and intelligence to solve problems non-violently.”

Still, despite Argo’s successes on Sunday evening, the bigger winner proved to be Life of Pi, which earned four Oscars — Achievement in Directing, Original Score, Visual Effects, and Cinematography.

“Thank you, movie god,” said Life of Pi Director Ang Lee. Life of Pi began the evening with a total of 11 nominations, just one behind Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln.

Quentin Tarantino earned the award for Best Original Screenplay for his slave-revenge tale Django Unchained. Tarantino dedicated his award to his cast of characters, asserting, “I actually think if people know my movies 30 to 50 years from now, it’s because of the characters I create.”

Twenty-two year old Jennifer Lawrence, star of The Hunger Games, received the coveted award for Best Leading Actress for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook, a film about mental illness where she plays the troubled Tiffany Maxwell. The young Lawrence was so excited to receive such a prestigious award that she tripped on her dress as she approached the podium to accept it. Lawrence quickly brushed it off and made her way to the podium, prompting a standing ovation from the audience.

“You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell,” she joked in her acceptance speech. “That’s really embarrassing.”

Christoph Waltz shocked audiences as a long-shot winner for Best Supporting Actor as bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz over favored nominees Robert DeNiro in Silver Linings Playbook and Tommy Lee Jones in Lincoln. Waltz’s win was déjà vu as Waltz earned the same award three years ago for his performance in another one of Tarantino’s films, Inglourious Basterds. Waltz paid particular attention to Tarantino in his acceptance speech, remarking, “We participated in a hero’s journey — the hero being Quentin.”

It came as no surprise that Anne Hathaway received the award for Best Supporting Actress for her emotional portrayal of Fantine, a dying woman who leaves her daughter Cosette in the care of Jean Valjean, in Les Misérables.

Brave was named Best Animated Feature, earning Disney’s Pixar films seven of the 12 Oscars given out since Best Animated Feature was added as an Oscar category. Searching for Sugar Man took the documentary feature prize, and Amour was named Best Foreign Film. Ana Karenina received the award for Costume Design, while Les Misérables won the award for Best Makeup.

Earning the award for Best Leading Actor was Daniel Day Lewis for his role as Abraham Lincoln in Lincoln. Lewis is now the first man in movie history to ever win three lead actor statuettes. Lincoln earned one other prize for production design.

McFarlane provoked some mild boos from the audience when he joked, “I would argue that the actor who really got inside Lincoln’s head was John Wilkes Booth.” Responding to the audiences’ boos, he said, “A hundred and 50 years later, and it’s still too soon?”

Likewise, McFarlane’s “We Saw Your Boobs” song at the start of the awards show, which named specific actresses and the films wherein they bore their breasts, may not have won favor with some more conservative viewers. Later, McFarlane’s movie character of teddy bear Ted appeared on the show as an award presenter, who joked that in order to be successful in Hollywood, you must not only be Jewish, but a sympathetic donor to Israel.

Overall, however, likely much to the surprise of Family Guy fans, McFarlane was mostly polite and respectful and did not push the envelope too much, relying instead on his charm and vocal abilities throughout much of the evening.

This year’s Academy Awards was the first to feature a theme, which focused on music in films. As such, the entire evening was music-heavy with a surprise performance from Barbara Streisand, who performed “The Way We Were” during a brief tribute to Marvin Hamlisch. Adele performed the Skyfall theme song  “Skyfall,” for which she earned the award for Best Original Song, and Dame Shirley Bassey sang the theme from the 1964 James Bond film, Goldfinger.

Paying tribute to hit musical films from the last decade or so, Catherine Zeta Jones performed “All that Jazz” from the hit film Chicago, followed by Jennifer Hudson’s performance of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” from the film Dreamgirls. The segment closed with the entire cast of Les Misérables, including Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, and Russell Crowe, performing the song “One Day More,” a moving number from the film.

Photo of the cast of Les Misérables performing at the 85th Annual Academy Awards: AP Images

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