Oscar is getting nostalgic in his old age. Hitting 84 this year, it spent much of the ceremony looking back. Perhaps unsurprising in a year when The Artist and Hugo were the lead nominees, two films that focused on the silent era of filmmaking and indeed, spent a lot of effort recreating it. Rather than feeling sorry for itself, Oscar was celebratory this year, bringing back fun to the ceremony and reminding us of why this is the most prestigious award in the film world.
Decking out the theatre to feel like the “old fashioned” experience of going to the movies, the celebrity guests (collectively worth billions) celebrated retro fun, complete with ushers distributing snacks. Directly referencing the economic crisis that has engulfed even Hollywood in the last few years, host Billy Crystal commented “Nothing makes you forget our economic problems like millionaires giving each other golden statues”.
The return of nine-time Oscar host Crystal engendered a sense of the familiar, with the Academy sending a very clear message that they would be celebrating the format, rather than trying to force fun with a younger host. There were very few upsets, with The Artist a foregone conclusion for the top prize. Yet with a just plain reliable ceremony, nobody really walked away as a loser this year.
Safe. That’s this year’s Oscars in a word. In fact, this is actually exactly where Oscar needed to be this year. After a major failure to grab the market they were going for last year, with the unfortunate pairing of Anne Hathaway and James Franco, the reliable schtick was the straight-arrow that this institution needed to solidify its reputation again. Some of the best laughs came from Emma Stone and Ben Stiller. Maybe they should host next year?
The pacing of the ceremony was a little odd. After a highly publicised refusal to allow the nominated songs to perform due to time restrictions, despite there only being two this year, there was still time for a very solemn series of interstitials from a Who’s Who of Hollywood, telling us why they were the greatest people on Earth. This was capped off by the highly-anticipated appearance of The Muppets, which amounted to nothing more than a lacklustre Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy introducing a Cirque du Soleil interpretive dance on going to the movies. That they had time for.
Yet the ceremony also seemed to move at a cracking pace at other times, getting through the middle section in leaps and bounds, with the audience finding themselves on the pointy end of the ceremony before they knew it. For the first time, all of the smaller technical awards went first, with Cinematography breaking with tradition and leading the announcements. This meant that all of the big awards came together, but we had to sit through Sound Mixing and Editing to get there. They all do fine work, but given how much emphasis is placed on the Red Carpet, we just want to see some nicely frocked people grasping statues or pretending not to care.
Winners and…The Not-Winners
The Artist took top gong, and keeping with tradition, also took out the directing prize for Michel Hazanavicius. Indeed, only three times in Oscar’s history has the director and the Best Picture not been for the same film. In this very traditional of years, nothing was going to change that.
Hugo got off to an early start, with two victories in Cinematography and Art Direction, and also went on to win Sound Editing, Sound Mixing and Visual Effects. Yet it was The Artist, who took the same number of statues, that came out on top with Best Picture, Directing for Hazanavicius, Actor for Jean Durjardin, Costume Design and Music (Original Score).
Here’s a breakdown of winners by film:
Hugo — 5
The Artist — 5
The Iron Lady — 2
Beginners — 1
The Descendants — 1
The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore –1
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — 1
The Help — 1
Midnight in Paris — 1
The Muppets — 1
Saving Face — 1
The Shore — 1
A Separation — 1
Rango — 1
Undefeated — 1