The story proceeded into one about In the Bedroom, which is neither here nor there, but it says a lot that, for me, one of the most memorable retorts of the night came not from the ceremony itself, but from the banter between friends. "Banter between friends", that sure is a line that Oscar producers could learn from for as much fun as the opening skit with hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway walking through various Best Picture nominees - curiously, however, several were left off - the rest of the show simply looked as if Franco and Hathaway had barely spent an hour or two getting to know each and other and learn each others styles and performing rhythms. Maybe James was too busy napping with cats or installing a light show in an Upper West Side apartment for the benefit of nobody but himself, but it was like he only just got the script as the ceremony began. This was a first take performance and it's telling that their best moment was the filmed introduction where they got to act.
It must be said - and almost everybody and their dog has done so already, or will do so soon - that Franco was a nonentity on the night and that Hathaway, clearly noticing that neither Franco nor the crowd were particularly into it, over-compensated. But, it wasn't just Franco's strange blank expression punctuating the awards - that was, however, during the few times that he managed waltz out on stage between spliffs - that felt decidedly uncharismatic. The crowd itself was just not present last night. Perhaps it's exhaustion after the seemingly neverending awards season, or perhaps they were as bored with the winners as the rest of us, but when the only true standing ovation they gave was for Billy Crystal? Aaron Sorkin's win for Best Adapted Screenplay was met with peculiar silence. Wins for Natalie Portman and Christian Bale - acting honours that most were truly excited about despite their inevitability - didn't seem to register much excitement in the crowd.
Add to all of that a bland set that had neither the intimacy of the 2009 Hugh Jackman ceremony (still the best one of the last chunk of years) or the grandness of other years gone by. The newfangled "classic cinema" backdrops began nicely, if awkwardly staged, with Gone with the Wind, but Justin Timberlake's Shrek-ifying of the set a brief time later was just plain odd. It seemed to be a concept that the producers ditched after not too long, which made sense given the schizophrenic nature of the show. Before the awards night it had been said that the ceremony would ditch the montages that are a constant source of frustration with viewers (a "salute to animation" featuring more Space Chimps than is acceptable), but we still got a needless Billy Crystal standup routine as an intro to a needless Bob Hope clip package, which was all just a big roundabout way of introducing Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law to present Best Visual Effects. At least Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin looked amazing in their matching white tuxedos with white bowties. Shame that they edited out their dance and lip lock!
Or how about having Hilary Swank walk out to introduce Kathryn Bigelow? Isn't that what Franco and Hathaway were there for? And, as an aside, I found it quite irritating that they trotted Bigelow out and yet still made no mention of the fact that two female directors had films up for Best Picture (Debra Granik and Lisa Cholodenko). Similarly, Halle Berry's emotional eulogy to Leena Horne felt more token than anything else. Are Halle Berry and Hilary Swank really the best Hollywood stars the producers could mustre? Where were Denzel Washington, Liam Neeson, Will Smith, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Quentin Tarantino, Clint Eastwood, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Marion Cotillard, Keira Knightley, Angelina Jolie and so on? Tom Hanks, Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman were as "Hollywood's Biggest Stars!" as it got. Hell, it's been a couple of years now where Jack Nicholson hasn't been in the front row and it's actually quite disappointing!
Still, if they were so desperate for these to be the "young, hip Oscars" where were the likes of Mia Wasikowksa? The young ator who starred in a Best Picture nominee (The Kids are All Right) and a billion dollar-earning Tim Burton hit. What about Josh Hutcherson, Amanda Seyfried, Jamie Bell or Rooney Mara, all of whom have big hits behind them and bigger hits ahead of them? Are they keeping the Harry Potter stars locked up over there in England or are they just waiting to parade them out next year when the eighth and final instalment makes a last ditch effort for Oscar gold? Thank heavens for small mercies at the lack of Miley Cyrus, Robert Pattinson - although James Franco, at times, looked a little Edward Cullen - and Justin Bieber, or whatever other "teen sensations" this years' producer thought the kids would want to see.
As for the awards themselves? Well, we all knew The King's Speech was destined for Best Picture glory, but I still don't think I quite understand Tom Hooper's win for Best Director. The film didn't sweep the technical categories like I had predicted, instead only taking home four trophies. Thankfully The Social Network won three excellent awards (Adapted Screenplay, Original Score and Editing), but Inception showed Academy voters still can't get a handle on what "sound mixing" and "sound editing" actually mean with its haul of four statues. Wins for The Lost Thing (Animated Short), Toy Story 3 (Animated Feature), Inside Job (Documentary Feature) and In a Better World (Foreign Language Film) were all richly deserved, which is more that can be said for Alice in Wonderland's baffling two wins for Costume and Art Direction. huh?
As sad as I was for Jacki Weaver missing out, at least Melissa Leo's speech - f-bombs, continued campaigning and insane yelling included - sure was... memorable, yeah? I did okay with my predictions, but I continue to find myself going against my better judgement when it comes to people like Weaver and David Fincher. I got 15 correct from the predictions I listed here at the blog, however I did submit predictions a week or two earlier for an Oscar viewing party I was attending and on those I correctly predicted Inside Job's win, so we'll say I got 16 and be done with it, yeah?
All in all, I can't say I was too impressed with yesterday's show. I don't think it was as shoddily produced as last year's diabolical "WTF?"-worthy ceremony, but it was so dull and flat. On one hand I blame the people involved - the producers, the writers, James Franco - but, on the other hand I blame all the other award shows that are so desperate to be Oscar harbingers that as the end of February rolls around it's all a bit been there done that with the winners. The Oscars can easily be fixed, it will just take the right people to do it.
Let's end this with a gif from the amazing Clem Bastow's rundown of the evening. The only thing better than this moment was that incredible reaction shot of the Coen brothers looking disinterested by Oprah's Best Documentary introduction. I also loved that Michelle Williams brought along Busy Phillips as her guest. Dawson's Creek and Cougar Town represent!