Oscar Summary 2011 – What Worked, What Didn’t, and Highlights from the 83rd Academy Awards

The conclusion of last night’s Academy Awards ceremony brought with it the end to another cinematic year. 2010 was another significant, but not revolutionary year in the world of film and some of the year’s best cinematic achievements were recognized at the 83rd Academy Awards. There were a few surprises, a few snubs, and a few well-deserving nominees finally got their due. Overall I went 17 for 24 on my predictions, which can be seen along with the complete list of winners over at the live-blog page.

The telecast was not one of the best in Oscar history, but it also wasn’t the worst. Here is my overall take on last night’s Academy Awards and my final posting about the 2011 Academy Awards:

What Worked

  • The opening. Co-hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway did the usual opening bit where they insert themselves into scenes from several of the year’s Best Picture nominees. The Inception-based concept was that they were invading former Oscar host Alec Baldwin’s dreams, which happened to be of other movies. The best moment came when they inserted themselves in True Grit and Franco approached Jeff Bridges and Hailee Steinfeld in the bear costume. Then Bridges’ Rooster Cogburn greets them with the perfectly timed “you are not LaBoeuf.”
  • The art direction. Although the set for the ceremony was not always used to its full potential, it was damn pretty to look at. The overall arch appearance lent itself well to the final “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” song and there were some clever moments when they changed the colors and layout to make it appear like an old Oscar telecast. A recording of Bob Hope appeared delivering a monologue from decades ago and the bit was nicely integrated into the set to make it look like he was standing at a lectern. Very cool.
  • The In Memoriam piece. My complaint in previous years with this part of the show is that when they have someone singing live, they don’t zoom all the way into the screen and instead pull back so we can watch the singer and the slideshow at the same time. This time they gave Celine Dion some brief camera time and then made it all about those we have lost. I do wish they would have played some audio clips so we could hear dialogue from Tony Curtis, Dennis Hopper, and Leslie Nielsen but other than that it was very classy.
  • The Best Actor/Actress presentations. Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock presented the main acting awards by giving individual praise to each nominee before the clip. This was not quite as effective as when they would bring out five past nominees and do the same thing, but I still like the overall effect.

What Didn’t Work

  • The hosts. James Franco said in an interview the week before the Oscars “If it’s the worst Oscars show ever, who cares?” He definitely brought that sense of apathy with him to last night’s ceremony as he seemed to approach everything with the attitude that he had no interest in being there. Contrarily Anne Hathaway was over-the-top with her enthusiasm and could not make an insulting joke at another star’s expense without immediately laughing and apologizing. The Oscars need to go back to hiring comedians who aren’t afraid to roast the self-congratulating stars in attendance. Their egos can take it.
  • The attempt to appeal to a younger demographic. Apart from just the hosts, the Oscars were trying desperately hard to appeal to younger viewers. There was a bit where they auto-tuned movies to make them look like musicals that was temporarily funny, but got old quickly and only referenced movies that younger viewers would have seen. It was an MTV Movie Award, not an Oscar moment. There was also frequent cases where the hosts opted for the immature rather than sophisticated (such as Franco calling Winter’s Bone and Rabbit Hole “inappropriate” movie titles). Face it Oscars, your audience and your voters are old. Might as well aim to please them.
  • Not enough Oscar history. There were a few random and scattered attempts to pay tribute to classic films, like Tom Hanks opening the show with Gone With the Wind, but they never went anywhere or seemed to have a purpose. I’m a sucker for historical movie tributes, but those were definitely lacking this year.
  • P.S. 22 closing. There was big deal made in the weeks leading up to the Oscars and on the red carpet that internet sensation P.S. 22 choir was going to be singing at the Oscars. Then they were left until the very end of the ceremony and only allowed to briefly lip sync “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” It made all of the hype feel very anti-climactic and was disappointing that the Oscars would make such a move.

Best Acceptance Speech

  • David Seidler, Best Original Screenplay for The King’s Speech. He opened with “my father always told me I would be a late bloomer” and continued to charm the audience from then on. In his speech he also mentioned how the film inspired him and how he was the oldest winner in the category’s history. He was gracious, eloquent and witty.

Worst Acceptance Speech

  • Melissa Leo, Best Supporting Actress for The Fighter.First of all it was annoying that she acted so surprised and then carried on with that sense of surprise throughout the speech. She then babbled on about things that made absolutely no sense and apparently had no context, dropped the first F-bomb of the night, and stumbled off stage.

Biggest Surprise

  • Alice in Wonderland wins 2 Oscars. A film that received a lukewarm critical reception took home more Oscars than several Best Picture nominees. It’s not a complete shock that veteran costume designer Colleen Atwood took home the Oscar, but Best Art Direction? What about Alice in Wonderland was that different than any of Tim Burton’s other films? That first Oscar of the night caught everyone off guard.

Biggest Snub

  • Roger Deakins loses Best Cinematography. With all due respect for Wally Pfister of Inception, it should not have been his year. The greatest living Director of Photography is now 0 for 9 with the Academy and has earned another snub after being absolutely deserving. Maybe Andrew Niccol’s Now will get him another nomination, but it would only seem right for him to win for a Coens film.

Most Satisfying Win

  • Randy Newman wins Best Original Song for “We Belong Together.” This enigmatic Disney composer has written some of the most hilarious and heartwarming songs of the past several decades and his single from Toy Story 3 was hands down the best song nominated this year.

Funniest Moment

  • Kirk Douglas introduces Best Supporting Actress. It began uncomfortably, but became the most hilarious moment of the night as the legendary Kirk Douglas rambles on before delivering the award for Best Supporting Actress. He opens the envelope, builds up the suspense, and then breaks it with “you know…” Brilliant.

Best Line

  • “In a moment, one of these ten movies will join a list that includes On The Waterfront, Midnight Cowboy, The Godfather and The Deer Hunter. The other nine will join a list that includes The Grapes Of Wrath, Citizen Kane, The Graduate and Raging Bull.” — Steven Spielberg introducing Best Picture

What were your favorite moments from last night’s Oscars? Were all of the winners deserving?

[Images: The Hollywood Reporter]

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  • Worst Moment: The idiotic introduction that drew some ridiculous connection between Art Direction, Costume Design, and Cinematography. They seemed to think King’s Speech would win all three or something. They sure missed on that one. Also, what the hell was the point of the Bob Hope thing? I gotta say, I thought it was a pretty awful show. Kirk Douglas was my favorite moment and Randy Newman was my favorite speech.

  • Jose

    It seemed like Anne Hathaway was doing more work that Franco, and some of the intros were clunky but I’ve seen worse. Best montage of the night would probably go to the best picture finale. Anmd what was with that new format? Best director behing best actress instead of second to last? And I preffered the acting categories in the past two years where instead of one clip it was a montage of the nominees in the movie (I felt that most of the clips for the nominees were pretty weak).

    I thought it was a fun show though.

  • Andrew R.

    WHAT WORKED: The In Memoriam tribute, the opening montage (though they forgot a few nominees), some of the presenters and some of the acting clips, Best Original Song performances.

    WHAT DIDN’T WORK: The AWFUL PS 22 performance (those kids are not that good), the hosts (although they had their moments), and that awful speech about Art Direction, etc, The Bob Hope tribute, the cheesy speech that you chose as the best of the night.

    BEST SPEECH: Melissa Leo, it was hysterical. But I did like the Documentary acceptance speech.

    WORST SPEECH: Christian Bale, I was bored out of my mind.

    BIGGEST SUPRISE: The Alice in Wonderland Art Direction award.

    BIGGEST SNUB: Social Network loses Picture.

    MOST SATISFYING WIN: Portman.

    FUNNIEST MOMENT: Leo’s speech, Kirk Douglas, the opening number, and Helena B-C’s reaction to her King’s Speech clip.

    BEST LINE: Timberlake’s speech about short films.

  • Dan

    Andrew R.
    “BIGGEST SNUB: Social Network loses Picture.”
    -Absolutely not. Maybe David Fincher for best Director. Like a Crash/Munich surprise would have been nice.

    James Franco: “If it’s the worst Oscars show ever, who cares?”.
    -He meant that in a different way and you know that. He obviously was going to try his best. That is the way Franco acts in person if you watch some interviews.

    Melissa Leo was a disgrace.

  • It would have been awesome if Spielberg had said this instead:

    “In a moment, one of these ten movies will join a list that includes On The Waterfront, Midnight Cowboy, The Godfather and The Deer Hunter. The other nine will join a list that includes E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Saving Private Ryan, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Jaws.”

    I liked the show. I’m glad that the King’s Speech won Picture and Director, although I am mad that Exit Through the Gift Shop didn’t win.

    My favorite moments were Kirk Douglas, Spielberg, and the fake Musical montage.

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