In with the OLD, in with the NEW: The 83rd Annual Academy Awards

01 March 2011

Guest feature: Phil Hogan is based in Atlanta, GA

The 2010 Academy Awards continued with recent efforts to add a youthful approach to the ceremony, including two young hosts (James Franco and Anne Hathaway) and a broader selection of ten Best Picture nominees. Still, with The King’s Speech taking top honors in both Best Picture and Best Director, the Academy could not help but show its age favoring a film positively depicting British royalty in the first half of the twentieth century.

Even so, there was much to enjoy from the February 27 broadcast. The opening featured a compilation of the Best Picture nominees played to Trent Reznor’s reworking of “In the Hall of the Mountain King”, as featured in The Social Network. Reznor went on to win Best Original Score for his work on the film, one of the Academy’s more youthful moves. The opening skit featured hosts Franco and Hathaway traveling through the dream world (i.e. Inception) of previous host Alec Baldwin, trying to discover the secret to hosting the show as they popped up in clips of The Fighter, The King’s Speech, and True Grit. The skit was a throwback to host Billy Crystal, who used to insert himself in clips of the nominated films. Needless to say, it worked, and despite some later awkwardness, validated the two hosts.

The best representation of old Hollywood and past times at the ceremony came in the form of Kirk Douglas’ revelation of the Best Supporting Actress winner, Melissa Leo for The Fighter. The 94 year old Hollywood legend, speech impaired from a stroke about a decade ago, gave a very funny and at times uncomfortable reading of the nominees, lamenting before reading the winner, “You know … I remember this so well,” commenting on being nominated previously but never winning an Oscar. His over the top flirtatious nature with Hathaway and winner Leo only added to his charm. The presentation might very well be Douglas’ last public appearance, kind of what the Academy did with John Wayne presenting Best Picture in 1979 right before his death. Still, Douglas made quite an impression and will no doubt go out with a bang, reintroducing himself one last time to the generations who now watch the Academy Awards.

The speeches were mostly classy and unmemorable, despite Leo’s dropping of the F-Bomb, later referenced by winner Christian Bale who claimed to have done that too many times already. Aaron Sorkin, winner for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Social Network, said he was glad to be winning a screenplay award twenty-five years after Paddy Chayefsky won for Network. Randy Newman won Best Song for Toy Story 3, referring to Academy Members as “Y’all”; Natalie Portman thanked, among others, Mike Nichols, the director who helped her with her first nomination in 2004’s Closer; and Colin Firth further showed what a class act he really is after winning Best Actor for The King’s Speech.

It seemed more like an insult to have Celine Dion perform for the “In Memoriam” part of the show, but the clips of recently passed film figures still had an emotional effect. With the passing of Dennis Hopper, Jill Clayburgh and director Arthur Penn, a revelation occurred that iconic members of the Hollywood New Wave of the 1960s and 70s would be the next generation to start dropping like flies. Another moment to the show that added poignancy to the old vs. young mentality of the program featured a segment with Billy Crystal, Oscar MC of the 1990s, honoring the most famous host for the program Bob Hope. A clip of Hope was shown, made to look like he was currently addressing the audience, and through vocal manipulation, he introduced the presenters for the next category, Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. The Sherlock Holmes duo reminded everyone what great chemistry they have, ending up as two of the best presenters of the evening.

All in all, the show was split pretty evenly. Even though The King’s Speech took top honors, it tied with Inception winning four awards each. The Social Network picked up three Oscars, while Alice in Wonderland, The Fighter, and Toy Story 3 took home two awards each. Black Swan won its only reward for Natalie Portman, and True Grit, despite receiving ten nominations, walked away with zero. The show was watchable, and no one embarrassed themselves too badly. Still, one can’t help but feel that while the show was a little spunkier than usual, it still lacked something. They might be hip to nominate someone like Banksy, but not hip enough to let him on stage in a monkey mask. At the end of the day, the Academy goes with what they know best: Harvey Weinstein and period pieces. If there ever is a revolution, it certainly won’t be televised by the Academy.