Monday, 8 March 2010

And the winner is...

Some of you may already know how I feel about award ceremonies, firstly, quality is subjective and therefore to get a true gauge of something’s quality, you must find consensus. Everyone should be able to vote for these awards, not a panel of judges. Secondly, the Academy's own prestige, credibility and existence, makes things more than a little political. For example, the Oscars have pretty much snubbed science fiction since the dawn of man, it seems they feel giving science fiction major awards will somehow diminish their credibility. Last years snub of the Dark Knight in the best picture category was an absolute joke. I’m not saying it needed to win, but at least give the highest grossing movie of year a damn nomination.

But this year, or at least I hope. Things will be a different. Two seminal science fiction films had some major success this year, and they have already been recognised in the form nominations in several categories (Including Best Picture). Let’s see how it goes, now as I write these words I haven’t yet seen the ceremony, so I have no idea who won what, and my plan is to write down my reactions and thoughts on the show as I watch it. I won’t mention everything, but I hope to cover as much of it as possible without boring people.

So here we go.

They have opened by dragging all of the “Best Actor/Actress” nominees onto the stage, I’m absolutely behind George Clooney getting the Best Actor award this year; he was utterly brilliant in “Up In The Air”. And of the Actresses this year I’m really hoping Carey Mulligan will get it, she deserves it.

Neil Patrick Harris has just hit the stage singing the words “I know what you’re thinking, what am I doing here?”. Neil I think you’re great, but seriously… that’s exactly what I’m thinking. Isn’t it traditional to have the host do the first musical number? His song appears to be a number designed to introduce the hosts, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, nice idea but some of the jokes in the song are falling a little flat, not a patch on last years recession based opening with Hugh Jackman.

Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin are on now, it's a simple stand up segment making jokes at the expensive of all the nominated actors and directors. What I love about this section is how beautifully tame and polite all the jokes are, they could of done as Ricky Gervais did at the Golden Globes and make some quite harsh jokes at the expense of the people involved, but Martin and Baldwin are from a different era of comedy and have a subtle but brilliant air of respect about their jibes. No jokes about Mel Gibson’s Alcoholism in sight, and while I don’t have a problem with that type of thing, I like that older comedians have a tendency to show more respect, and it made the routine a rather pleasant experience, I hope they keep it up throughout the show as it really separates them as hosts. George Clooney didn’t seem to appreciate any of the jokes aimed at him, he looked seriously annoyed at the second one, but it's entirely possible he was either simply caught off guard or simply playing along, either way it entertained.

Best supporting actor up first, I’m really behind Christoph Waltz on this one, he was an amazing villain in Inglorious Basterds. And the winner is… Christoph Waltz. Great news, and a nice very complementary and humble acceptance speech.

Animation up next, Steve Carell and Cameron Diaz are doing quite a clever introduction to this award, if you haven't seen it, I recommend you youtube it. The animation award absolutely HAS to go to Up. That film was wonderful in a way that none of the other movies in this category were. What’s really nice is that instead of showing clips from the movies they have animated the central characters of each talking about what the Oscar means to them, it’s really quite cool. Particularly the Fantastic Mr. Fox one “Best Animation? I thought we got nominated like a real movie?”. And the winner is… predictably but deservingly… Up. Pixar’s award cabinet must be getting pretty full right now. Toy Story 3 will probably get this award next year, and "Newt" will probably get it in 2012.

Original Screenplay up next. I sort of want this to go to Inglorious Basterds for it’s dialogue, but the story of Up was just so wonderful. And both were so funny (Admittedly in very different ways). And the winner is… The Hurt Locker. Not entirely surprising considering it won the same award at the BAFTA’s. It definitely deserves the award for it’s authenticity and for the efforts the writer went through to bring that truth to his movie.

A section dedicated to John Hughes who died late last year. A great little video package dedicated to him and some very kind works spoken from some of the cast of his movies.

Ben Stiller just hit the stage in full blue makeup as a Navi and started making an absurd attempt to speak Navi. As this started I thought, the only way this will be funny is if it somehow upsets James Cameron. But he seemed to be smiling, and I really didn’t think Ben Stiller was going to do well with such a silly idea, but then he uttered the words “This seemed like a better idea in rehearsal”. I thought that was very funny, then he said he was there to present the award for best make up, which he then admitted Avatar wasn’t nominated for. And just before he announced who won (I’m routing for Star Trek on the basis it isn't likely to win much else this year, which is a shame) he said he would be sure to stand as far away from the winner as possible when they come to collect the award “so as not to demean their moment of triumph”. I also thought that was pretty damn funny. So far I genuinely think Ben Stiller has stolen the show yet again, after his brilliant Joaquin Phoenix impression last year. And the winner is… Star Trek.

Best Adapted Screenplay up next, I want either Up In The Air or District 9 to win this. District 9 because it genuinely deserves the award and also, it would be a big step in the right direction in terms of the Oscars snubbing Science Fiction. But if it doesn’t win, Up In The Air was a great movie, and is thoroughly deserving of it. I’ll be a whole less upset about District 9 not getting the award if it goes to the equally deserving Up In The Air. And the winner is… Precious. Well, it’s all obviously subjective and opinion, but I really don’t feel that was the best screenplay there. A great movie it was, and it certainly deserves several awards but I’m not entirely sure best screenplay is something it should of won, particularly over the movies I mentioned above.

Best Art Direction now… I’m barely going to discuss this award. It’s quite simply, going to Avatar. No matter what. Sigourney Weaver is presenting, and the winner is… Avatar. Of course it is. Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin are now showing a video parody they made of Paranormal Activity. It’s quite funny, hopefully this will be on youtube later on for those who missed it.

A special and well deserved nod to Horror Films this year, ironically introduced as the genre that doesn’t seem to command the respect it did 33 years ago when The Exorcist won two awards. Especially ironic considering there isn’t a single Horror film up for an award on this show. Not to mention that most of the movies in the montage are about 20+ years old. Let me just make this clear, the reason Horror films don’t get the respect they used to, is partly BECAUSE the Academy doesn’t honour them anymore, and in all honestly, this made the montage feel hollow and token. Particularly when there have been some absolutely incredible Horror movies in recent years that were completely ignored come Oscar time. The Strangers, Saw, REC, Let The Right One In, The Decent, The Hills Have Eyes, 28 Days Later and Dawn of the Dead. Just to name a few. So yeah, nice try, but pointing it out and doing a montage does nothing but bring attention to the lack of credit this genre gets and doesn’t actually do anything to fix the problem.

I barely heard a word Elizabeth Banks said when she came out, but she did look great.

Now a fantastic montage in honour of those the industry lost this year; set to a cover of the Beatles Classic “In My Life” by James Taylor.

Although on a less serious note, the audience clapped at every name that came up until “Michael Jackson” appeared on the screen. You could literally hear the audience’s applause falter while people tried to remember his contributions to the film industry, which let’s be honest, are negligible. Then you could almost feel the audience think “Yeah, alright then, I guess, he did that one thing” and some applause rose. Now, don’t get me wrong, Michael Jackson is a genius in his field and should be respected, I just found him an odd choice for recognition here in this setting.

Next up, best original score. I genuinely loved this part of the show, they went to a lot of trouble and presented each nominee with an extraordinary and very well choreographed dance routine from the Legion of Extraordinary Dancers. Who did a great job and really did justice to the music involved and brought it to life as well as being damn entertaining. And the winner is… Up. Which had an utterly brilliant soundtrack and deserved it.

Next up, outstanding visual effects... lets be honest here, is going to Avatar. Even bothering to say the nominations is a waste of our time. Not to diminish the efforts of District 9 and Star Trek, which both looked great, but we all know where this is going. And the winner is… Avatar.

Best Actor/Actress now, in my opinion they always drag this particular award out to the point of nausea. But I guess it’s nice to spend a few minute talking up each actor/actress before handing out the award, it just bores the hell out of me personally, they did it last year as well. First up are the Actors, as I stated earlier I’m hoping Clooney gets this as I really felt he has the superior performance from Up In The Air. And the winner is… Jeff Bridges. Well, not at all surprising, and certainly deserved. Not who I personally wanted to walk away with it, but no complaints from me. Next up the Actresses, I’m pulling for Carey Mulligan in this category as I mentioned near the start. And the winner is… Sandra Bullock. I have the same reaction to this as I have to Jeff Bridges, not my favorite choice for it, but no complaints here.

Best Director now, I’d really like to see Kathryn Bigelow get this award because the Hurt Locker is such a well shot and directed piece of film. But if I'm honest, also a little because she would be the first woman to ever receive this award. But the reality is, she is up against Cameron and Tarrentino, so unfortunately I can’t see that happening. And the winner is… Kathryn Bigelow. Quite happy and a little surprised with that result, definitely deserved and she seemed absolutely ecstatic about it as well.

Next up, best picture. This is a big one for me, it’s time to see if the Academy will acknowledge science fiction in this all important category or not, Avatar and District 9 both deserve this, but they are up against some stiff competition, particularly in the form of An Education, Inglorious Basterds and The Hurt Locker. So here we go, Tom Hanks is out to announce it, no bells and no whistles this time, not even a need to read out the nominees since they have been going through them one by one over the course of the entire evening with introductions from supporting actors and showing short trailers. So it's just the announcement…

And the winner is… The Hurt Locker.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t saddened by this. But at the same time The Hurt Locker was an incredibly deserving movie. So it’s hard to really be upset about the award not going to a science fiction movie when the movie that did win was just so damn good. And in all honesty I think we took a step in the right direction this year, Avatar got the Visual Effects, Art Direction and Cinematography awards and Star Trek got Make Up award; that’s four awards for Science Fiction. Double what science fiction received last year when the only wins were The Dark Knight for Sound Editing and Supporting actor. (And lets be honest for a second, as much as Heath Ledger deserved that award, he wouldn't of got it if he hadn't died.) I also want to add that it is a crime that District 9 didn’t walk away with any awards this year, it was an extraordinary film that made it's science fiction seem so real that it often didn't even feel like science fiction.

So, after all of that maybe the Academy Awards are still not entirely free of their prejudice towards Science Fiction, but we certainly took a step in the right direction this year.

Maybe next year we can take a step forward in acknowledging the Horror genre.

So, to quote Steve Martin from the end of the awards.
“This has gone on so long that Avatar now takes place in the past”

So it's time for me to sign off.
Thanks for reading
-- Dan

PS: Here are the awards I didn’t mention because I honestly had nothing particular to say about them. Either because they weren’t at all surprising or because all parties involved were equally deserving.

Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique
Best Song: The Weary Kind from The Crazy Heart
Short Film: The New Tenants
Short Doc: Music By Prudence
Short Animated: Logorama
Best Costume Design: Young Victoria
Best Sound Editing: The Hurt Locker
Best Sound Mixing: The Hurt Locker
Cinematography: Avatar
Best Doc Feature: The Cove
Best Film Editing: The Hurt Locker
Best Foreign Language Film: The Secret In Their Eyes (El Secreto De Sus Ojos)

PPS: Sorry if my past and present tense's got mixed up alot during this piece, I'm watching the ceremony the morning after it aired, so it's in the past, but I was writing as I watched it making my writing style sometimes use present tense. So yeah, sorry if that means this was hard to read.

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