Monday, February 23, 2009

81st Academy Award Winners and reactions (with more pictures!)

In case you missed it, here's who took home a statue...

Best Picture: Slumdog Millionaire

Actor in a Leading Role: Sean Penn, Milk

Actress in a Leading Role: Kate Winslet, The Reader

Actor in a Supporting Role: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight

Actress in a Supporting Role: Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire

Original Screenplay: Dustin Lance Black, Milk

Adapted Screenplay: Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog Millionaire

Animated Feature Film: WALL-E

Foreign Language Film: Departures (Japan)

Original Score: A.R. Rahman, Slumdog Millionaire

Original Song: "Jai Ho," A.R. Rahman and Gulzar; Slumdog Millionaire

Art Direction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Cinematography: Slumdog Millionaire

Costume Design: The Duchess

Makeup: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Film Editing: Slumdog Millionaire

Documentary Feature: Man on Wire

Documentary Short Subject: Smile Pinki

Animated Short Film: La Maison en Petits Cubes

Live Action Short Film: Spielzeugland (Toyland)

Sound Editing: The Dark Knight

Sound Mixing: Slumdog Millionaire

Visual Effects: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award: Jerry Lewis

The Good:

  • Slumdog's epic 8-Oscar sweep (out of 10 nominations). A fantastic final reward for a fantastic film.
  • Hugh Jackman as host. He brought class, energy, and an old school charm to the show, which was beginning to become somewhat tiresome after years of comedians hosting (save for the brilliant Billy Crystal). The best part of Jackman's performance? He didn't try to crack some one-liner every 15 minutes. Even though his 2 or 3 opening quips were just OK, he rebounded with a lively "recession-budget" musical sequence that ended with a brief duet with Anne Hathaway, earning Jackman a well deserved standing ovation. Things were off to a great start.
  • The Baz-Luhrmann-directed musical extravaganza halfway through the show. Even the presence of those two High School Musical twits couldn't take down the spectacular sight of Jackman, Beyonce (who sounded INCREDIBLE), and a slew of backup dancers in tuxedos.
  • The stage. Any misgivings I had about it when I saw the first mock up sketches was done away with the instant the lights went up. Absolutely gorgeous design.
  • The idea to structure the presentation of the awards (mostly) around the order in which films are actually made. Had it been done in a more traditional order, Slumdog's sweep would have become boring really fast.
  • Having a presenter/a pair of presenters present two or three awards back to back. While it (somewhat) cut down on the number of presenters, it sped up the process of giving the awards out, and helped keep the acceptance speeches to a reasonable length (for the first time, there was no one who I wanted to get thrown off stage).
  • Having five previous winners pay tribute to/present the four acting awards. The only downside was that there weren't any clips from the nominated performances.
  • Best Presenter/s: Tina Fey and Steve Martin presenting Original and Adapted Screenplay.
  • Runner Up: Best Actress, presented by Sophia Loren, Shirley Maclaine, Marion Cotillard, Halle Berry, and Nicole Kidman.
  • Best Acceptance Speech: Penelope Cruz, after winning a much deserved Supporting Actress Oscar, pays tribute to her castmates, her family, her country, and ends her tribute in Spanish, just live Javier Bardem did last year when he won Supporting Actor.
  • Best Inside Joke: Ben Stiller (presenting alongside Natalie Portman), pokes fun at Joaquin Phoenix's recent bizarre appearence on Letterman.
  • Livliest Moment: Best Original Song, in which the stage was filled with Indian dancers, drum players, and an African choir. Exhilarating and spectacular.
  • Funniest Sketch: James Franco, Seth Rogen, and (randomly enough) cinematographer Januz Kaminski paying tribute to the comedies of 2008, before accidentally laughing at serious films like The Reader and Doubt.
  • The montages dedicated to romance and action in 2008 (even if the romance one did include High School Musical and Twilight).
  • The "star" of documentary Man on Wire makes a coin disappear and balances the film's Oscar on his chin as he walks off stage.
  • The amount of unrestrained applause. Everyone was having a great time, and it showed.
The In-Between:

  • Milk wins Original Screenplay and Best Actor for Sean Penn, killing my dreams of upsets by In Bruges and Frank Langella respectively. No offense to the film, which I did like, but altogether I found Milk to be, well, nowhere near award worthy. And the more I think about my experience watching Milk, I finally realized what that funny feeling I had in my stomach was everytime Sean Penn was on-screen (no, it wasn't the disgusting artificial butter I put on the popcorn): Though Penn gave a good performance, there were many times when it all felt too calculated, as though he was still rehearsing and hadn't figured out how to make all of Harvey Milk's ticks flow naturally.
  • Nicole Kidman being forced to pay tribute to Angelina Jolie and call her "unforgettable". I'll agree with you Nicole, she was unforgettable...but for all the wrong reasons.
  • No Daniel Day-Lewis or Javier Bardem. *sigh*
  • The final third of the show, where everything started to slow down a little, causing the show to run overtime by 30 minutes (although, to be fair, it still felt faster than some of the shows that made it under 3 hours...).
  • Bill Maher presenting Best Documentary. His comment about how our "silly gods" have done too much harm was funny, even to this Catholic, but there's just something so innately SMUG about him that it almost ruined the joke. Almost...
The Ugly:

  • What the **** happened to Sophia Loren and Goldie Hawn?
  • Whoever decided to keep cutting back to Queen Latifah during the In Memoriam montage. It's about the people who DIED, not the person SINGING.

So, overall, the 2009 Oscars were nothing short of a massive success. The structure, the stage, the stars, the host, etc... Despite his 81 years, Oscar has never felt so vibrant and alive.

Overall show grade: A (perhaps the best show since Billy Crystal hosted in the 04 ceremony).

And now, a quick glimpse at what 2009 holds in store for us...

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