By Sarah Sluis
The best way to watch any awards show is with a DVR. But it's worth noting that for this year's Oscar broadcast, I mainly used my fast forward button for the commercials, not the show. I was most impressed with Anne Hathaway as a host--she has amazing confidence, sparkles, and possesses that chipper attitude that helps move things along. I suspect James Franco was supposed to be her laid-back, wryly humorous counterpart, but it didn't seem to work out that way. He wasn't a straight man, he was a dead fish. She hosted the show herself, and I enjoyed it. Mark me as one of those "next-generation people" the Oscars successfully won over, I'm guilty as charged.
The broadcast itself held few surprises. Most of the categories were a lock. The King's Speech was supposed to win Best Picture (along with Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor for Colin Firth), and it did. In fact, Tom Hooper even won Best Director over The Social Network's David Fincher, who has a greater body of work to support his talent. I now suspect Fincher will join the ranks of the groundbreaking directors whose work is rewarded on much, much later films: Alfred Hitchcock, who only won an honorary award, or Martin Scorsese, who was nominated six times before he won on his seventh nomination.
When The King's Speech finally won Best Picture, it seemed anticlimactic. As the producers thanked Harvey Weinstein, they cut to a shot of him with the biggest, grimacing sourpuss expression I've ever seen from someone whose movie just won something. Not even a chuckle, a smile? This year, the battle between The King's Speech and The Social Network served as a symbol of the Academy's conservative voting methods. Oscar prognosticators suspected that the Anglophile, feel-good story of a king would beat a movie about the motormouth underdog who founded Facebook, and they were right. Maybe if they make a movie in 2070 about the founding of Facebook, it will win.
Though most winners managed to throw in something clever, there were few tears or breakdowns this year. The award for best speech (watch it here) goes to Luke Matheny, a recent NYU grad who won for Best Live Action Short Film. In his acceptance speech, his filmmaking experience sounded like the reminiscences of an old, successful director. His mom did craft services! He forgot to get a haircut! His girlfriend composed the music! Turns out Matheny's film was rejected by Sundance and Slamdance, but now he's got the last laugh--and an Oscar.
The losing actresses didn't give convincing "happy" performances. Even though Natalie Portman was considered the strongest contender for Best Actress, Annette Bening looked disappointed when she lost. She deserves an Oscar! In the supporting actress category, Amy Adams looked sad when fellow actress Melissa Leo claimed the statuette, and her eyes betrayed a hint of moisture when she presented the short film awards later in the evening. Don't worry, Amy! You'll get your chance. As for Bening--quick, line up another awards film. Maybe the fifth nomination will be the charm?
Social shout-outs. I did in fact "two-screen" the Oscars, but only to IMDB Lena Horne and read her obituary (after Halle Berry mentioned the trailblazing actress). And play spider solitaire during slow moments. Turns out James Franco was tweeting the whole time (maybe that's why he was so stone-faced--distraction?). Besides extra content offered online at ABC, a million other websites liveblogged the Oscars.
The broadcast itself drew heavily from YouTube. The Auto-tune the News people turned Harry Potter and Twilight dialogue into ballads, and the P.S. 22 choir, a product of YouTube viral fame, sang "Over the Rainbow." A note for next year: continue to replace montages with zeitgeisty moments like these.
For those that are now in withdrawal, rest assured. Some sites are already predicting the Oscar nominees for the broadcast in 2012.