The 85th Academy Awards turned out to be a fairly equitable evening, as eight out of the nine Best Picture nominees received at least one award (only Beasts of the Southern Wild, in the happy-to-be-there category, was shut out). Argo, the Best Picture winner, only won three Oscars total, the lowest total since The Godfather in 1972. Life of Pi actually won the most, with four.
Therefore it’s difficult to notice any particular themes to the evening. One person, Daniel Day-Lewis, set a record by winning his third Best Actor award, but Robert De Niro, who ended up being a late favorite, did not win his third. Instead Christoph Waltz joins a select group of performers who have gone two-for-two in awards (Sally Field, losing for Lincoln, fell out of that group). Waltz was favored by some in a very difficult category to forecast, and it’s difficult to understand the reasoning–he only won three years ago. Waltz is also only the third person to win at least two Oscars working for the same director. Dianne Wiest has won two for Woody Allen, and Jack Nicholson two for James L. Brooks.
There was a tie, which is rare–there have only been six, mostly in below-the-line categories. The last major category tie was in 1968, when Katharine Hepburn for A Lion in Winter and Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl tied. This time it was in Sound Editing, which was one of the categories won by a man who had long white hair, in either an homage to Gregg Allmann or Lucius Malfoy.
As for the speeches, Daniel Day-Lewis, who seems to be effortlessly eloquent, had the best, quipping that his presenter, Meryl Streep, and he actually swapped the roles of Margaret Thatcher and Abraham Lincoln. I would like to see her as Lincoln, too, Daniel. Jennifer Lawrence had the most perilous winning experience, tripping on her way up the stairs. This only seemed to cement her persona as the goofy chick you’d like to have a beer with–in fact, she admitted to downing a shot before she faced the press backstage.
I didn’t agree with all winners. I certainly think Waltz paled in comparison Tommy Lee Jones, De Niro, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Quentin Tarantino winning Best Original Screenplay was a joke. But I was happy with others–I think Day-Lewis, Lawrence, and Anne Hathaway were all deserving, as was Adele for Best Song, the first song from a James Bond film to win the award.
As for the show, well, it certainly has ignited some controversy. I and the crowd I was with thought it was funny. The inclusion of William Shatner in the opening monologue seemed to purposely give the night a casual, who-gives-a-fuck vibe that was refreshing (loved the re-enactment of Flight with sock puppets). I thought Seth McFarlane was comfortable in the role, worked the self-deprecation stuff well, and was edgy without being mean. However, there are those that disagree, finding many of his jokes offensive, or even vile, especially about women. The center of this is the “boobs” number at the beginning, which some have taken to insult women in general, reducing the work of actresses to their flashing of nudity. I didn’t think it was so bad, but not I’m a woman, though the women I watched with didn’t object.
There were some other laughs, such as The Sound of Music gag in introducing Christopher Plummer, and some groaners, such as Paul Rudd and Melissa McCarthy’s banter and Samuel L. Jackson seemingly going off script in the Avengers’ bit. There were also some wow moments, like Shirley Bassey, who I couldn’t have sworn was still alive, belting out “Goldfinger” (the accompany Bond tribute montage was lackluster), and the cast of Les Miserables, every one of them, giving a rousing musical number (less successful was Jennifer Hudson screeching a number from Dreamgirls).
A poignant moment was the usually lachrymose In Memoriam segment, which ended with Barbra Streisand paying tribute to the recently departed Marvin Hamlisch by singing “The Way We Were.” Schmaltzy, maybe, but perfectly appropriate.
So that’s it for the Oscars for several months, which will please many, but it will start kicking up again come fall.