Monday, February 25, 2013

The Morning After: Oscars 2012

I think that this ranks as easily the most enjoyable Oscars ceremony in years. Usually, I enjoy the run-up to the event, predictions and all, much more than the actual handing out of the awards themselves. I didn’t have positive expectations for Seth MacFarlane since I’ve never been a fan of “Family Guy,” but I did think he was quite genuine and funny. Unlike, say, Ricky Gervais, he was even and energetic throughout the night, not simply content to stand around holding a glass of alcohol and insulting people. His humor isn’t all that different, and therefore it’s refreshing to see MacFarlane do so well. I’m not sure why William Shatner’s time-traveling Kirk needed to appear, and I wasn’t in love with the many songs performed, but I do think that there was a spirit of showmanship and spectacle that was very welcome.

I’m happy to have reclaimed my top spot predicting within the pool at my own party this year, scoring 17/24. That’s up from 15 last year, and, before that, 19 in 2010, 17 in 2009, and 16 in 2008. The categories I got wrong were:
Best Director: I knew that it wouldn’t be Spielberg somehow, but I was genuinely not expecting Ang Lee. Objectively, Haneke or especially Zeitlin would have been much cooler, but I suppose Lee does deserve credit for making his film much better than it could or should have been. He wasn’t as humble as usual up on stage, but it’s not a bad win. It’s still jarring to see that end up as the most rewarded film of the year.
Best Actress: I guessed that Emmanuelle Riva would win out because of her age, but, nominations aside, it looks like “Amour” did really just win Best Foreign Film, making it far less successful in broader Oscar terms than “Life is Beautiful” and “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” both of which were foreign films that managed nominations for Best Picture. Jennifer Lawrence’s win was wholly deserved, though either Wallis or Chastain would have been exciting too.
Best Supporting Actor: This one really was a crapshoot, and Waltz was actually my winner, so I’m happy about his victory. He certainly looked happier than Tommy Lee Jones and Robert De Niro, so I’m glad that he got it over them. The role wasn’t anywhere near as good as “Inglourious Basterds,” and neither was Tarantino’s screenplay, for that matter, but at least it’s recognition that Waltz can still work wonders.
Best Art Direction: I would have thought that “Anna Karenina” and “Les Miserables” were easily more lavish and well-designed than “Lincoln,” but it makes sense that the most-nominated film of the year would get an Oscar to go along with Daniel Day-Lewis’ trophy. A measly two wins isn’t much for a film that earned twelve nominations.
Best Original Score: I probably should have gone with Danna since he won the Golden Globe, but I guess that I was hoping that a different score would win. The music from “Anna Karenina” was even more film-defining than it was in “Life of Pi,” and that doesn’t even acknowledge my two favorites of the year, “Beasts of the Southern Wild” and the admittedly ineligible “Moonrise Kingdom.”
Best Makeup and Hairstyling: I don’t presume to be an expert in this particular race, and I think that “Les Miserables” is an inarguably strong choice. Despite three nominations, “The Hobbit” went home empty-handed, after all three “Lord of the Rings” films went home with at least two Oscars, and, in the case of the third installment, eleven.
Best Animated Feature: It didn’t help me to watch “Wreck-It Ralph” earlier this week. I’m not among the “Brave” naysayers, and I think it was equally deserving of this trophy. “Frankenweenie” and “Ralph” would have been great choices too, and it was interesting to see just how unspectacular this victory was, especially since Mark Andrews ran up there and rambled on in his kilt. Good for Pixar, though, and a refreshing affirmation of the studio’s quality after mediocre reviews for this film.

Some other thoughts about the telecast:
- Ben Affleck certainly was emotional about his film winning Best Picture, and comments were made throughout the night about his snub for Best Director. I do think that it was popular enough that he would have won had he been nominated, but this will forever be remembered as one of the most glaring snubs. It’s a shame, too, since no one seemed to care that Kathryn Bigelow suffered the same fate for a better film.
- A tie in Best Sound Editing was about the most random thing that could have happened. I pointed out during the show when Barbra Streisand came out to sing that she was the beneficiary of the only tie I knew to have occurred – in 1968 for Best Actress, which also went to Katherine Hepburn for the third time. As it turns out, there were a couple more, but it really is such an infrequent and, in truth, unfulfilling occurrence.
- I certainly hope that the song writers of the nominated tunes from “Chasing Ice” and “Life of Pi” were asked to perform and declined. While their songs did work well to the montages from their films, it’s unacceptable to have so many musical performances and showcase only the songs affiliated with the Bond tribute, the nod to musicals, and the one from the host’s film. In a show that runs three and a half hours, there is no excuse for not performing five songs that only run a few minutes each.
- Michelle Obama presenting Best Picture was strange but cool, and it seemed like everyone there was overjoyed. After Bill Clinton showed up at the Golden Globes, awards season is becoming awfully intermingled with the White House these days!
- After screening all of the animated and short films over the weekend, I was excited to have predicted both categories correctly. Last year, I did the same thing without having seen any of them, and this year, I achieved that feat with the Best Documentary Short category, the one race in which I didn’t have a chance to watch any of the nominees.
- I’m not so upset that my screeners of “Kon-Tiki” and “War Witch” went unwatched. I only missed five nominated feature films this year: fellow foreign film “A Royal Affair,” documentary “How to Survive a Plague,” and “Snow White and the Huntsman.” None of them won, but I’d like to watch them at some point just to round out this cinematic Oscar year.
- Overall, I really did enjoy the show. It wasn’t completely terrific, but it was thoroughly engaging and definitely an appropriate, energetic celebration of the best in film in 2012. What were your thoughts?

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