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83rd Oscars: Mediocrity Prevails From Hosts to Best Picture

Hopefully the Academy Awards will go back to employing comedians as hosts. Hopefully the Academy Awards will go back to employing comedians as hosts.

Did anyone else find the 83rd Academy Awards a little lackluster? The 2011 Oscars went in a non-traditional direction by having movie stars, Anne Hathaway and James Franco, co-host rather than a comedian act as master of ceremonies. It was fine when Hugh Jackman did it, but can we get back to the comedy? And then there were the awards themselves, with The King’s Speech cleaning up, which was predictable. In fact, there were almost no surprises on Sunday night, which was the ceremony's biggest problem.

Because they kicked the whole thing off, let’s start with the co-hosts. Whereas Jackman acquitted himself well in the non-comedian-as-host role, Franco and Hathaway quickly had me suspecting that they weren’t up for carrying this type of event. I’m a fan of each as an actor, but this was clearly not their milieu. Franco seemed to alternate between stiff and detached, while Hathaway’s eagerness bordered on distracting. Where's Ricky Gervais when you need him?

On the other hand, the presenter of the evening had to be Kirk Douglas, who gave Melissa Leo her Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for The Fighter. Douglas had that crazy-old-guy-who-doesn’t-give-a-damn type edge, but his antics never crossed the line. It doesn't matter how old you are, if you got it, you got it.

But let’s talk turkey – who won what?

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago why I didn’t think The King’s Speech should win Best Picture, but, of course, it did. I thought I had resigned myself to the inevitability of that fact a month ago, but I still found it maddening that a movie with a cookie-cutter plot (a powerful person must befriend a quirky misfit to learn the real meaning of fill-in-the-blank a la Rain Man, The Bodyguard, Driving Miss Daisy, ad infinitum) can be so widely hailed as the best film of the past year. I saw at least a dozen movies in 2010 that I liked better.

Anyway, there’s much to admire about The King’s Speech - Colin Firth’s Best Actor-winning turn as King George VI perhaps most of all – so I don’t want to belabor the point. But seriously, Best Original Screenplay? In the same year that Inception was nominated? They’re using the term “original” pretty liberally here. Okay, enough. Let’s just note that the film also won Best Director for Tom Hooper, and move on.

The award that made me happiest was Natalie Portman’s Best Actress win for Black Swan. As an actress, Portman is a bit of a polarizing figure, but I don’t get where all the flack comes from. I’ve often thought Portman is an amazing actress, and in Black Swan more than ever. She goes from restrained to unhinged and commands attention at both ends of the spectrum.

In a category I felt less strongly about, Best Supporting Actor, Christian Bale won for The Fighter. All five nominees were deserving, so really, any outcome here would have satisfied me.

But in the end, the 2011 Academy Awards left me feeling flat. There were no eyebrow-raising moments, no surprises or suspense, and very few laughs. The 83rd Oscars could have been a fast-paced, quirky and clever affair or a cringe-inducing disaster, and either result would have made for more compelling viewing. Instead, I’ll just have to swallow all the James Franco, Anne Hathaway, and The King’s Speech stuff, while taking solace in wins by Natalie Portman and Toy Story 3.


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The 83rd Academy Awards featured a cross-dressing gag from hosts Anne Hathaway and James Franco. Apparently that's still supposed to be funny in the 21st century.
Last modified on Monday, 17 September 2012 14:39

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