The King has spoken.
It was a strange cold night (weather forecast was possible frost and hail over the weekend in California), particularly for the royalty, as The Social Network bagged 3 awards (Adapted Screenplay, Original Score and Film Editing) and Inception 4 awards (Cinematography, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Visual Effects) halfway through the show. Like a palace drama twist, apparent prognosticators on the blogosphere and twitterverse began to speculate the king might be usurped by the young college geeks at The Social Network in the prized Directing and Picture categories.
What a load of rubbish, the Brits would utter. The proceedings panned out to be nothing but hearsay and The King’s Speech was rightfully crowned Best Picture at the end of a long-drawn awkward night.
Franaway a Train Wreck
It was billed as the night where the dour Academy decided to be hip and savvy to appeal to the younger generation with two youthful telegenic movie stars taking over hosting duties from the standard stand-up comedians (Jon Stewart, Billy Crystal, Steve Martin and the Pink Panther, we kid).
The opening montage where James Franco and Anne Hathaway appeared in the 10 Best Picture nominees was a riot, especially when they appeared alongside veterans Alec Baldwin (“Who were those people?”) and Morgan Freeman (“Alec likes me to narrate his dreams. Says I have a soothing voice”). Hathaway appeared in The King’s Speech: “I’ve got news from the future. Microphones get smaller.”
The audience laughed sparingly and when Franaway (termed for convenience sake and not an indication of their sizzling combo) appeared in person on the grand stage, the playbook was out the window and everything kinda went more or less downhill.
“You guys are real,” cooed Hathaway. Awkward silence.
The audience was definitely for real, except Nicole Kidman’s nose. The chemistry between Franaway wasn’t. It felt strangely unreal the entire night. For most parts, Franco looked stoned and distracted. It was alleged he was busy tweeting backstage. Or maybe he was still stuck in that cave as screen legend Kirk Douglas aptly suggested. Franco simply seemed to be in pain or just plain constipated. Tellingly, he admitted in an interview with Vanity Fair earlier he only managed to rehearse on weekends due to his PHD studies in NYU. These young people never learn. Always practice, practice, practice.
At one point, Franco appeared in drag chanelling Marilyn Monroe in Some Like it Hot and made an uncomfortable joke about Charlie Sheen. Hathaway, on the other hand, was all smiles throughout the night and even mustered a solo Broadway number in tribute to Hugh Jackass, um, Jackman. Hathaway was much more confident, doe-eyed, seasoned and natural with ad-lib jokes (“And I thought F stands for The Fighter!”) and a cheery disposition.
‘Nuff said about the mismatched hosts because we are damn sure they won’t appear in the next Oscars telecast. It was evident the attempt by the Academy to attract younger viewers has somewhat tanked because the older folks were left to salvage the show, or whatever’s left. For instance, perennial ex-host Billy Crystal appeared briefly to a baffling standing ovation. Genuine laughter was heard in the auditorium when he joked on fast-forwarding the slow night: “Here are the nominees for Best Pictures.”
But why did Crystal even get a standing ovation? Did the audience miss his hosting prowess that much?
And there was 94-year-old Kirk Douglas who hammed it up with his deliberate delay of announcing the Best Supporting Actress. He fought with the gentleman helper over his walking cane. “You know,” catching his breath and pausing before announcing the winner. “You look more beautiful than you did in The Fighter,” he gingerly told Melissa Leo. We hope Franco was somewhere (even if it’s in that darn cave) diligently taking notes like how he did back in NYU.
Younger viewers would have loved Melissa Leo’s speech when she accepted the Best Supporting Actress award for playing a brassy mom in The Fighter. Clearly, her real life wasn’t too far off from her screen role. “Truly wow…I’m shaking in my boots here…When I watched Kate (Winslet) two years ago, it looked so f***ing easy!” The bleepers came on but it was too late. Twitter and Facebook was buzzing with the F-bomb.
Co-star Christian Bale, who won Best Supporting Actor in the same movie, paid tribute to Leo. In a sly reference to his F-bomb tirade on the set of Terminator movie, Bale said: “‘Melissa, I’m not going to drop the F-bomb like she did, I’ve done that plenty before.” Well played, Bale. The Dark Knight also gave thanks to Dicky Eklund, the real life former boxer he played on screen.
And the last word on the F-bomb belonged to Colin Firth, who chimed when picking up his Best Actor statuette: “I think my career has peaked. I would like to thank the Queen Her Majesty for not putting me in the tower for dropping the F-bomb.” It was a reference to the movie being re-released in America with cuts of the F-word by distributor Harvey Weinstein in order to gain more viewers. Firth later said backstage to reporters adamantly: “In the context of this film it couldn’t be more edifying or less malicious. It’s about a man trying to free himself through the expression of forbidden words. I think the film should stand.”
Listen to Your Mother
Indeed, it wasn’t a night for the young ones. The night belonged instead to the mothers and grandmothers. Hathaway acknowledged her mom in a nervous banter (Mom: “Stand up straight. Steven Spielberg is here!”) and Franco’s grandmother quipped: “I just saw Marky Mark!” The camera cut to a bemused Mark Wahlberg and the (infamous) constipated look on Franco.
On a more serious note, Tom Hooper, who won Best Director for The King’s Speech, attributed the making of the movie to his mother who called him after seeing a stage version earlier. “She said, ‘Tom, I think I’ve found your next film’.” He continued with one of life’s most important lessons: “Moral of the story is listen to your mother.”
And the Academy swooned over the moms, crowning a mom-to-be to be exact. The pregnant 29-year-old Natalie Portman, looking gorgeous in a deep-purple Rodarte gown, received the Best Actress award for her tour de force performance in Black Swan, the only award of the night for the film. She later revealed backstage that she would not be naming her baby Oscar and the baby was playfully kicking during the song performances. Cute.
Writers have the Last Word
A testament of their wins, screenwriters Aaron Sorkin and David Seidler demonstrated their wit and candour in their acceptance speeches. Sorkin, who won Adapted Screenplay for The Social Network, pleaded to his daughter for some “respect from [her] guinea pig”. He thanked everyone concisely despite the orchestra playing him off once.
And during Seidler’s acceptance speech for Original Screenplay, he spoke with fondness and warmth: “My father always told me I would be a late bloomer. I believe I am the oldest person to win this particular award. I hope this record is broken quickly and often.”
And the Best Presenters go to…
At times, the awards didn’t seem to fare too badly thanks to hilarious, however brief, moments from the presenters. Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr, when presenting Visual Effects which Inception won by the way, showed doses of remarkable wit in their banter, especially on Downey’s chequered past. Law retorted to Downey’s smart-alecky talk: ”If it wasn’t for them [visual effects artists], your closest association with a superhero would’ve been in 2001, when you got busted in a cheap hotel with a woman dressed as Batgirl.”
Downey had the last word, naturally: “”Okay, first of all, that cheap hotel room cost $1,250 a night with a corporate discount. Secondly, it was 2000, not 2001. And most importantly, she was dressed as Wonder Woman. And that attention to detail is what has won the respect of all the Academy voters.” The bromance was infectious.
Another hilarious couple, as odd as the pairing seemed, was comedian Russell Brand and Best Actress Helen Mirren. Brand translated (and fabricated) Mirren’s French when presenting Best Foreign Language Film. We’re pretty sure Mirren at one point called Brand an idiot, to which the bloke mistook as a compliment on his handsome rugged looks. We beg to differ, oui!
Similarly, Sandra Bullock reminded us why she is America’s sweetheart when she effortlessly introduced the five Best Actor nominees with great panache. “You scared the entire nation with your haircut,” she told Javier Bardem, nominated for Biutiful, not No Country for Old Men. She acknowledged Jeff Bridges as the Dude and asked Firth, the eventual winner, if he “planned on going home some time”.
And we almost gave the Best Presenter award to Oprah Winfrey as well when she came on but we didn’t. Because she didn’t give everyone in the audience a free sedan car or a trip down under.
As Time Goes By
Frankly, we are disappointed at how the telecast has once again failed to stir any imagination (or re-imagination for that matter) and ignite the movie-magic experience as a result of the hosts’ lack of chemistry, odd moments (another Bob Hope tribute, really?), awkward banter between hosts, presenters and even reporters and stars backstage, more awkward silences amongst the audience, presumptuous takes (the King’s Speech score soars through the 10 Best Picture montage before the winner was announced) and inconsequential cameos (Kevin Brownlow, Eli Wallach and Francis Ford Coppola appeared for a grand total of 4.5 seconds before being cut off).
The entire evening was just awkward, listless and dull. And you didn’t have to be in the Kodak Theatre to feel it. Pulitzer-Prize film critic Roger Ebert felt the same and called the show “dead in the water”.
In the end, the hype machine has failed. Young Hollywood, represented by the college kids of today’s wired and connected social network, didn’t really manage to take over the Establishment, symbolised by the stuttering King overcoming his condition and building a long-lasting friendship with his speech therapist in bleak World War times. The Academy, with its majority of old hands and wise adults favouring the warmth of a British period piece and its inspiring themes of friendship and conquering adversity, returned to its comfort zone, not ready to change or Facebook like the cool quotient.
One may argue The King’s Speech didn’t exactly make a big deal with a clean sweep of its 12 nominations but it did ascend to the throne nonetheless with four major prizes. That was a feat in an even playing field with equal distribution for all – Inception, the crowd pleaser and brain teaser mostly for younger geeks, took four prizes too in the lesser glam technical categories. The Social Network trailed with three prizes while The Fighter and Alice in Wonderland each had two.
But who’s keeping score, seriously?
The Oscars ritual has long since been demystified, with its tradition of comparing ballots excitedly amongst friends and simply watching the stars razzle-dazzle on the TV screen as idols disappeared down the rabbit hole. The desperate attempts by the Academy to be hip and all-inclusive by feeding online audiences with exclusive access and more backstage footage on Oscars.com (we hear the winners speak on and on about their wins) exemplified how the magical and mysterious attraction of the movie star are gone and audiences are spoilt for choices. Is it a case of too much for their own good? Even the joke to be relevant and Apple-hip fell flat (Justin Timberlake introduced Best Animation Feature with an app).
But we do not lament the inevitable.
It’s clear however as time goes by, the Academy will continue to woo the younger generation with new antics, conjurations and showings like a circus ringmaster. And we pray the circus will stay in town for a little while more.
For the full LIVE tweet transcript of the awards show, read here.
For the full LIVE tweet transcript of the red carpet, read here.
For the writer’s predictions on the Oscars (14 out of 18 correct), read here.
Layout: Yeong Kar Yan
Full Winners’ List
The King’s Speech
Colin Firth, The King’s Speech
Natalie Portman, Black Swan
Tom Hooper, The King’s Speech
We Belong Together,” Toy Story 3, Randy Newman
The Social Network, Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter
BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
Inception, Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley and Peter Bebb
Inside Job, Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
BEST LIVE-ACTION SHORT
God of Love, Luke Matheny
BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
Strangers No More, Karen Goodman and Kirk Simon
BEST COSTUME DESIGN
Alice in Wonderland, Colleen Atwood
The Wolfman, Rick Baker and Dave Elsey
BEST SOUND EDITING
Inception, Richard King
BEST SOUND MIXING
Inception, Lora Hirschberg, Gary A. Rizzo, and Ed Novick
BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
The Social Network, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Christian Bale, The Fighter
BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
In a Better World (Denmark)
BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
The King’s Speech, Screenplay by David Seidler
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
The Social Network, Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin
BEST ANIMATED FILM
Toy Story 3
BEST ANIMATED SHORT
The Lost Thing, Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Inception, Wally Pfister
BEST ART DIRECTION
Alice in Wonderland, Robert Stromberg, Karen O’Hara