Awards season has finally come to a close in LA with a decisive whimper. There was all the usual sort of buzz leading up to the Oscars—from the unusual choice of Anne Hathaway and James Franco as co-hosts to the 11th hour race between The Social Network and The King's Speech for the major categories after the former's early lead became distinctively less decisive mid-way through the season when the latter started winning Golden Globes and other awards. And while there is always the inevitable let down after a big event is over with, especially one as big as the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, this year seems especially underwhelming.
The ceremony started in an interesting manner—with a smart and funny little pre-taped video short with hosts Hathaway and Franco having an Inception-like experience using footage from the top contenders' films. And toward the end, all 10 Best Picture nominees were presented as an actually rather lovely montage set against Colin Firth's climactic voiceover from The King's Speech. Unfortunately the 3+ hours in between those bits had little to recommend themselves.
Awards shows, especially the Oscars, are a particularly perilous gig. I can't remember one in which the host—almost always a comedian of some sort—has been roundly praised. This year, it seems the Academy tried to go both distinctly un-controversial (scared off by Ricky Gervais's Golden Globes perhaps?), and youthful. But while Franco and Hathaway are both fine actors, even comic actors, they are far from actual comedians. And without a proper comedian hosting the event, you get actors delivering the same old dull, stiff, unfunny one-liners and gags that are meant to pass as jokes.
In short: to my mind (and the minds of everyone in the room watching with me), the 83rd Annual Academy Awards was a parade of the long, the slow and the dull. The awkward jokes about how the show was "for the young and hip," the terrible Les Mis parody they made Anne Hathway do, the neverending, uncomfortable introduction by Kirk Douglas for Best Supporting Actress, the especially brutal "in memoriam" montage made even more so by Celine Dion's singing (Seriously? She's America’s favorite punch line.), the rambling Bob Hope speech by Billy Crystal, and the excruciating parade of winners at the end with the conspicuously urban New York public school children's chorus—it was like the Academy was desperately trying to connect with every possible viewer and in so doing, connecting with no one. Tonight we were treated to a Hollywood especially in love with itself that was trying to produce a show matching its idea of what the flyover states would like, and falling woefully short. It was vanilla to the point of coma. It was: not good.
And as for the winners? Few surprises if any at all, and if you went with the safe bets for your Oscar pool you had a good choice of winning. The King's Speech and Inception were the big winners of the night, each taking home four Oscars—although the only "big" one Inception got was Cinematography. The King's Speech managed to carry its mid-season steam for the win, beating out The Social Network for Best Picture and Best Director (in addition to Best Actor and Best Original Screenplay). The Social Network won three statuettes (Film Editing, Original Score, and Adapted Screenplay), and The Fighter, Alice in Wonderland, and Toy Story 3 each won two apiece (Toy Story 3's win for Best Original Song was a bit of a surprise for always-a-bridesmaid Randy Newman).
When you look at it, the thing that's most shocking is that both True Grit and 127 Hours, both very strong films with Oscar-winning directors and multiple nominations, were shut out this year. But not everybody can win—even in a Hollywood that aims itself squarely at an edgeless middle.
What else won this year? Click here to see the full list of Academy Awards winners.