So, it ends for another year. I suppose, aside from the winners, you’d like to know what we thought of Hollywood’s night of nights. Well, here’s my unofficial rundown of the night, the best and worst of the show, and what I thought of the final result.
As far as it holds up against previous years, I’d say the 81st Academy Awards were right up there with the best of them. Gone was the starched, stuffy pomposity of years gone by, with hackneyed jokes and badly read autocue’s making the ceremony limp into frustrating awkwardness. Hugh Jackman, a breath of fresh air compared to the more planned and prepped comedians we’ve had to endure before, started the show with a wonderful, wonderful musical number, bringing back the era of showstopping singing and dance. He even managed to drag Anne Hathaway up on stage to sing a duet for Frost/Nixon, and my goodness, I wasn’t aware Hathaway had such a great singing voice! Who knew?! Baz Luhrman’s showstopping musical number at the shows halfway point was knock-down, drag-out the most greatest amazing musical number I’ve seen at the Oscars since I started watching them!! Hugh Jackman, Beyonce, the cast of Mamma Mia and High School Musical all came together to tell the world that “the musical is back!” with numbers from all the musicals in the last few years, and even the classics!! Dynamite.
Hugh managed to ramble his way through a few moments with the front-row stars, before commencing with the show proper. Like many a host before him, a gentle poking of fun at the key nominees was in order, and a fantastic hair-brushing one was reserved for Mickey Rourke. Hilarious! Throughout the show, he kept things bubbling along, his wide smile and easygoing air making for a vibrant, fast-paced Oscar show. Along the way, great comedic turns from Steve Martin & Tina Fey (who knew!), as well as Ben Stiller, Seth Rogen and James Franco (with a brilliant surprise appearance by Janusz Kaminski, DOP on Saving Private Ryan), helped propel the evening along.
To be honest, often the most annoying part of the show have been the acceptance speeches, most of which I covered in my last post yesterday. However, can I be so contrite to say that this year, the recipient speeches were excellent.
By far the most moving moment of the whole evening was the award for Best Supporting Actor, to Heath Ledger for The Dark Knight. His family, present for the award, moved even the hardest of hearts to tears (and many in the audience) with their forthright, eloquent speeches (Ledgers father, mother and sister gave speeches) to a standing ovation. Vindication, perhaps of the sentiment with which Ledger’s legacy was held within the Hollywood community. Strangely, though I didn’t spot Heath’s face in amongst the In Memoriam segment that traditionally eulogises those from the industry who have passed away in the preceeding twelve months. Regardless, Queen Latifah did a great job of her song whilst this was taking place.
Jerry Lewis’s short, sharp and shiny speech as he received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for his work with kids with muscular dystrophy was somewhat perfunctory, but he also received a standing ovation from the crowd (deservedly so, I think) and that probably cut into his time.
I doubt there were few surprises with the majority of the results, especially for the major awards, but regardless of the predictability of Academy voting this year, the show was still surprising in so many ways. Hugh Jackman not only defied his critics, but pummelled them into submission. Slumdog did indeed win just about everything it was nominated for. Music and dance featured prominently, bringing back the old-school charm of Hollywood of old. Sean Penn trumping Mickey Rourke for best actor? Well, hardly surprising, but still slightly disappointing for Mickey, although I guess one can be thankful that Mr Jolie didn’t win it. Old faces like Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise were conspicuously absent from the audience, which would seem to indicate the passing of the torch to a new generation of actors. And finally, for the first time in ages, the Academy gave us an Oscar night that was worthy of the celebration.
I have to say it was one of the most enjoyable Oscar nights I’ve witnessed, with the frivolity amped up, and the self congratulatory pompousness kept to a minimum. Let’s hope the Academy brings it again next year!!
Rodney T – Director, Fernby Films and Oscar-enjoyer.