OFF THE CARPET: Sun came up

Posted by · 9:11 am · February 28th, 2011

Steven Spielberg couldn’t have put it more concisely during his presentation of the Best Picture category last night.  To paraphrase, he noted that whichever films did not happen to win Best Picture this year would join the ranks of numerous classics of the medium.

Was it preemptive damage control?  I hope not.  Why be apologetic?  Was it lecturing?  Maybe a bit, and I think a great many needed to hear it again (unfortunately).  But it felt so incredibly inside baseball that it was probably completely unnecessary.  After all, a very popular film won Best Picture this year.  It seems silly to address a media concern (albeit one shared by plenty of cineastes).

Ultimately, the season ended where many thought it might, going way back to the early days of September.  Some held out hope that David Fincher could take the lead in his field on respect and admiration alone, but Best Picture and Best Director will always be a better bet in lock-step.  The real post-show discussion focused on the ceremony itself, which was, mercifully, a short affair this year.  Just over three hours.  But they were three kind of excruciating hours.

What was James Franco’s endgame?  Was it some sort of Banksy-like subversive statement?  Did he freeze up?  Was he “feelin’ good?”  I really don’t know.  He seemed ill-at-ease, and the chemistry was non-existent with Anne Hathaway.  Whatever the point may have been, it was cloudy, unclear, unfocused, much like the show itself.

Everyone seems to be pleased with an opening montage segment that I confess I can’t even remember.  The MTV Movie Awards comedy intro with the different films — trite.  It was a great stage set, but it wasn’t used in a very organic way.  And the writing was just wildly uneven.  Basically, I feel Roger Ebert’s Tweeted pain.  It was one of the worst Oscar shows I’ve seen.

As for the winners, the surprises numbered zero.  Best Sound Mixing excepted, it was guild winners all the way down the line.

Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross winning Best Original Score was called by many, but still felt just atypical enough to be a bit exciting.  “Alice in Wonderland,” as my hair-pulling research showed, made a lot of sense for Best Art Direction, and its ensemble of threads was always a fair enough call for Best Costume Design (even if it is now only the third fantasy film to win the award).  But it’s still odd that Best Picture winner “The King’s Speech” failed to win in a single craft category.

Speaking of craft fields, Roger Deakins remains Oscarless.  Part of me is glad he didn’t win for attractive but, by his set standards, lesser work for “True Grit.” If Matthew Libatique was destined to lose for “Black Swan,” then I’m very pleased with Wally Pfister getting his due, adding to a four-Oscar haul for “Inception” that matched the Best Picture winner’s tally.  And maybe Christopher Nolan’s name was spoken in enough speeches to shame the Academy just a bit for snubbing him yet again.

(Deakins, by the way, has good company in an another skilled craftsman, sound mixer Greg P. Russell, who racked up his 14th loss.  One day…)

In the Best Short Film (Animated) field, I felt a swell of support behind “The Lost Thing” in the final week, and it began to make some sense.  But I just stuck with my earlier inclination of “Madagascar, a Journey Diary” wowing with its technique.  And if I’m kicking myself for anything, it’s going with “Exit Through the Gift Shop” in the Best Documentary (Feature) category at the last minute after succumbing to the “Inside Job” logic earlier in the week.  I guess I went with my passion on that one, and so the Banksy saga ended by fading away when it could have been sold with a rather suspenseful “will he or won’t he” build-up.

And those are the six fields I missed, putting me at 18/24 alongside our own Guy Lodge and Rope of Silicon’s Brad Brevet for predictions.  Deadline’s Pete Hammond, despite misses in two of the eight major categories (all of which I nailed for only the second time in the 10 years I’ve been doing this online), managed to best all comers with 19 correct guesses.  (I’ll get to our pool winner in a separate post.)

The Coen brothers’ “True Grit” bottomed out, 0-10, in league with Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York” and just shy of “The Turning Point” and “The Color Purple” on the all-time Oscar loser list.  A shame.

I thought Christian Bale gave one of two grand speeches this season (the other being at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards, while his Golden Globe and SAG acceptances were a bit off the mark).  Randy Newman and short film winner Luke Matheny really charmed with their natural reactions, while Natalie Portman finally nailed down a classy speech, looking absolutely gorgeous.  Colin Firth also gave yet another dignified and graceful acceptance.

On the other side of the spectrum — no shock — was Melissa Leo’s display.  But part of me was nevertheless happy she made it out of Adgate in one piece, as it would have been a shame for her to always wonder if she had screwed herself out of an Oscar.

Also — and maybe it’s just me — but every time he’s on Oscar’s stage, Kevin Spacey proves why he should be seriously considered for the emcee job.

Anyway, that’s my postmortem.  We have a few more loose ends to tie up this morning before fully closing the book on the 2010-2011 Oscar season, including one last Oscar Talk.  But for now, Off the Carpet goes into slumber.  Thanks for reading.  And if you still somehow don’t know the winners, check them out at The Circuit.

[Photos: Associated Press, Getty Images]




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89 responses so far

  • 1 2-28-2011 at 11:44 am

    half empty said...

    My take on Franco….

    I don’t think what he did was deliberate performance art, but I do think his obvious preoccupation with subversion/Serious Art was to blame for the dull performance. I got the feeling that he just wasn’t comfortable faking it and acting goofy and amiable through the scripted stuff. He had that really awkward pre-show interview from the green room that made it seem like he was just above it all. When the interviewer asked him if he had enjoyed all the work leading up to the show, he said something along the lines of, “Oh, I’ve been in class during the week and had interesting times in class, and then I flew out here and prepped on the weekends.” It sounded like he was trying to distance himself from a process and show that he was never comfortable with. Like he wanted everyone to know that the real James Franco does weirdo performance art on TV soaps and nobody should use being an Oscar host as a knock on his cred.

  • 2 2-28-2011 at 11:58 am

    Andrew F said...

    I agree with many of the problems people have mentioned about the Oscarcast — but there’s one thing that strikes me.

    ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ — doesn’t anyone else think that it’s not the happy, hopeful song that people like to think it is? “If happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow, why oh why can’t I?” Not a triumphant swell, but a melancholy sigh of near-defeat.

    A strange ceremony: on one hand, they wanted it to be ‘young and hip’, but then they keep referring to the glories of the past.

  • 3 2-28-2011 at 12:00 pm

    al b. said...

    I only caught the last hour or so of the show due to prior commitments, but from what I’ve read I guess I was spared mercifully!

  • 4 2-28-2011 at 12:12 pm

    JJ1 said...

    I have to echo what someone said earlier. I thought the show was fine and it went very quickly for me. I’m sure that is aided by the fact that I was with 15 other people in the room. Constant talking, constant laughing, constant noise. I liked what I saw, I liked a lot of the winners, and then it was over in just over 3 hours. I loved the opening Franco/Hathaway segment. I loved their tux/dress switch. And their lack of chemistry together seemed to be more of a public at large/audience issue than anything else. At least, that’s my point of the view and the people at my party. And a lot of actors on the post-Oscar carpet coverage thought Anne & James were awesome; unless they were being sarcastic; which I don’t believe any of them were.

  • 5 2-28-2011 at 12:24 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Slightly surprised by all the support for the show. Hm…

  • 6 2-28-2011 at 12:28 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    So am I. It was pitiful.

  • 7 2-28-2011 at 12:40 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    The show was awful and not because TKS and Tom Hooper won but rather it was just horribly boring and stale.

    We knew coming in though that Franco/Hathaway are no comedians so I kind of expected what we got.

    Sandra Bullock’s actor introductions were funnier than anything the hosts did.

  • 8 2-28-2011 at 12:45 pm

    Paul Outlaw said...

    The show went by quickly, but it was cringe-inducing for the most part. Hathaway and Franco were not good. She was game (not good) and he was lame.

  • 9 2-28-2011 at 12:50 pm

    the other mike said...

    when was the last show anyone liked? its a wonder why anyone bothers to watch the whole thing. Me i just take it for what it is and try to enjoy it. its npt like they are trying to suck.

  • 10 2-28-2011 at 12:51 pm

    David said...

    Gotta join the ranks of show lovers. Laughed more than I usually do, loved the set pieces (Alec Baldwin’s dream, “He Doesn’t Own A Shirt”) and yes, even Franco’ stoned straight man bemused by wacky cheerleader Anne Hathaway.

    Just over three hours, loved the groupings of awards… much better than last year’s snorefest.

    The winners were another story. For all of Natalie Portman’s daring, she was not as raw as Michelle Williams or Nicole Kidman… No Deakins. No Fincher. And Melissa Leo – what the hell? A great actress caught up in making sure everyone knew how humble she was. Just terrible.

  • 11 2-28-2011 at 1:05 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    The last show I liked was probably the ROTK sweep year because Billy hosted. Granted I thought Mystic River was the best pic but that is irrelevant.

    Seeing a giant elephant step on Michael Moore was funnier than everything in last night’s show combined.

    I also liked the No Country year but mainly because all the nominees and winners were so damn good.

  • 12 2-28-2011 at 1:40 pm

    Speaking English said...

    How did you not like that opening sequence with Franco and Hathaway? It was hysterical. I don’t see how it’s any more “trite” than what Billy Crystal used to do back in the day.

  • 13 2-28-2011 at 1:40 pm

    /3rtfu11 said...

    What burns isn’t Portman’s inevitable victory but inviting Hilary Swank to co-present Best Director with Kathleen Bigelow. What was the purpose? Since the next award presented was Best Actress – Two-Time Academy Award Winner Hilary Swank. She beat Annette twice – once was fair because her Boys Don’t Cry performance is a beautiful and award worthy performance but MDB was just a lazy win.

  • 14 2-28-2011 at 1:47 pm

    James The Greatest said...

    Was it just me or were the clips chosen for each nominee horrendously chosen? The cinematography shots weren’t the best… the acting portions were slightly better but still flawed choices. In some instances, they gave away the endings to a number of films. Fine for me sicne I saw the films, but for the average viewer… possibly spoilery.

    The worst clips in my opinion, though, were in the film editing section, at least scene one of which featured NO CUTS.

    The best Oscars in recent memory, for me, would be the year that they paired similar categories together (Hugh Jackman-hosted, I think?) and explained the craft behind each nomination. Classy and intriguing insight that focused on the nominees and not random Titanic and Gone With The Wind references…

  • 15 2-28-2011 at 1:50 pm

    Speaking English said...

    People forget the past year’s telecast every year when they proclaim the current year’s telecast as the worst. Seriously. And the same claims are made EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. Newspapers might as well write the headlines a month in advance: “Boring, long, stale Oscars.” That’s what they say every year. This year’s wasn’t even long and they still said it was.

    Whatever.

  • 16 2-28-2011 at 1:52 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    I think once the Academy stops wasting every drop of energy on “putting on a show”, they might put on a good show.

  • 17 2-28-2011 at 1:54 pm

    JJ1 said...

    I don’t get it. What does everybody want then?

    I had no problem with the show. And I’ve actually now watched it back with my mom (earlier today) and any possible awkwardness with Franco/Hathaway kind of dissipated on a re-watch – and I thought they were fine last night.

    Franco was Franco. Hathaway tried too hard. But neither of them were an abomination. They kept the show going with their presenter intros.

    If ANYTHING, it was the presenters who were pretty bad. Hanks (looking strained the entire intro). Matthew McConaughey talking over Scar Jo when announcing the Inception winners, twice. Jennifer Hudson seeming indifferent. Mila Kunis bombing a joke or two with JT.

    No, I think Franco & Hathaway were fine. And I still think the flow of the show was decent. And to people who criticize Franco, in particular. … it seems that unless you’re jumping through hoops or going ga-ga (Hathaway veered close), than you’re a bad host.

  • 18 2-28-2011 at 1:54 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Chad, I definitely agree with that. Every year for some reason they want to reinvent the wheel, and I don’t understand why. Just give us a normal show. It wasn’t so hard before.

  • 19 2-28-2011 at 1:56 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Ratings are out. Down from last year (Avatar helped a lot). But quite a bit better than No Country and Slumdog years.

  • 20 2-28-2011 at 2:02 pm

    Matthew Starr said...

    The opening montage was good when Billy did it because he started it and did it so well. Franco and Hathaway just didn’t make it work for me. The key is Billy Crystal is a comedian, and they are not.

    Just get Sacha Cohen and Ricky Gervais to co host and I’ll be happy.

  • 21 2-28-2011 at 2:59 pm

    DarkLayers said...

    JJ1, well, on most comments sections where potential changes are discussed, people bring up dropping crafts categories. Eliminate them or put them on another ceremony.

    Richard Roeper said ratings will be down earlier because people don’t care about watching those they aren’t familiar with. The purpose of the show is to recognize worthy film work, and many people in crafts do that. Is it really so much to give them moments to shine, and isn’t it true that some people who do valuable work in movies aren’t household names?

    The thing about the quality movies line Anne brings up is many people know that AMPAS movies are of a certain breed, and that not fly accordingly.

  • 22 2-28-2011 at 3:54 pm

    John G said...

    One other thing I noticed – not sure what Ricky Gervais has been complaining about. Not one person thanked god in their acceptance speech.

  • 23 2-28-2011 at 5:07 pm

    pencho15 said...

    The biggest problem with this year and last year ceremony is simply that the oscars have become so predictable they are no fun to watch anymore.
    Four or five years ago many of the nominees on every field stand a chance of winning, and so it was exciting to guess and to bet with family or friends, and getting happy when you got the winner right or when your favorite film managed to get the prizes. That’s all gone, there is no excitemenet because everybody knew the oscars where going to be awarded to The King’s Speech, Colin Firth, Natalie Portman, Christian Bale etc… so we are just watching a three hour long ceremony to see this people awarded. Deserved or not when the final result is so clear so long before tha oscar is awarded just takes all the charm away from it.

  • 24 2-28-2011 at 5:24 pm

    DarkLayers said...

    Maybe the AMPAS needs to be more like the NSFC and rebel more against momentum.

  • 25 2-28-2011 at 5:31 pm

    James D. said...

    The Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross win is my favorite Oscar win in years. I had all the jubilation I was supposed to have for Mickey Rourke way back when.

  • 26 2-28-2011 at 5:40 pm

    JJ1 said...

    I think the explosion of the internet reporting/opinions (excepting incontention and a few other places, of course) along with critics awards abstaining from going their ‘own way’ has made the last 3-4 Oscars incredibly boring from a ‘upset’ perspective. The mold of the season is set early and rarely departs now.

    Is there just too much behind the scenes politics now, and there wasn’t before? It’s as if voting bodies (ANY of them) are afraid to go off from the narrative. And if that’s the major case/reason … why?

    It can’t be that we’re just incidentally in a stretch of years where winners are obvious.

  • 27 2-28-2011 at 6:00 pm

    Speaking English said...

    It has to do with you. You come to this site every day, constantly track the Oscars throughout the year, and make your hobby predicting how these things are going to turn out, paying utmost attention to every little critics award and guild award handed out. Of course you’re going to know what happens. If you want unpredictability, get off the web and stay in the dark. It’s the only way.

  • 28 2-28-2011 at 6:12 pm

    DarkLayers said...

    Speaking English, I did not personally have an issue. But, my dad thought it was boring because it was predictable. He didn’t watch most of the Best Picture nominees, just caught some predictions on the news.

  • 29 2-28-2011 at 6:29 pm

    mikhael said...

    with King’s Speech only won 4 it’s like the voters are saying,

    “this film is not the best of the year, but we really like it, so fuck it. here’ 4 oscars for you. hope that’s enough.”

  • 30 3-01-2011 at 4:33 am

    JJ1 said...

    I think The King’s Speech won the Best Picture race with a decent margin, but not the margin everyone thought 2-3 weeks ago.

    I believe it was a very, very close race with Director and Score.

    And I think TKS came in 2nd in these categories:
    1 – S. Actor.
    2 – S. Actress (still see no evidence from any industry award that Hailee was necessarily 2nd, and True Grit went home empty-handed).
    3 – Editing.
    4 – Costume.
    5 – Score.

    That would have given it 9 wins. It only has 4. But the support was there. TSN came close in the end, but not quite close enough.

  • 31 3-01-2011 at 7:55 am

    Sawyer said...

    Please do that Kris. I would like a topic for 2011 predictions. Would be fun!

  • 32 3-01-2011 at 8:52 am

    Craig said...

    Got 18/24 with you, Kris. Missed everything you missed, plus director, but got score to make up for it.

  • 33 3-01-2011 at 9:05 am

    Maxim said...

    “Most people did predict David Fincher for director. ”

    See this is one situation where I wonder if that’s actually the case or if the pedictions merely showed wishful thinking. In any case, those people should have seen it coming and I entirely disagree that after loosing DGA and PGA Fincher’s loss was an upset.

    For what it’s worth I got 19/24, missing only cinematography and shorts. Totally give myself credit for sticking with Leo and Reznor/Ross.

  • 34 3-01-2011 at 3:45 pm

    JJ1 said...

    That is VERY impressive, Maxim. Good on you.

  • 35 3-01-2011 at 4:12 pm

    Maxim said...

    Thanks JJ1 :) I couldn’t have done it completely by myself.

    How did you do this year?

  • 36 3-02-2011 at 5:00 pm

    JJ1 said...

    Actually, I believe I was 17/24. Of the major categories, I missed art d, cinematography, s. actress, and director.

  • 37 3-03-2011 at 12:55 am

    Ross said...

    There’s one thing I’m really glad the producers did this year. They had a nice line-up of presenters, that seemed even nicer in the wake of last year’s disaster.

    We had a lot (really lot) previous Oscar winners on stage – Spielberg, Hanks, Spacey, Blanchett, Witherspoon, Bridges, Bullock (still a joke), Bigelow, Kidman, Swank, Mirren, Jennifer Hudson, Bardem and in the performances Alan Menken, Randy Newman and Gwyneth Paltrow.

    We had the legend, the real big legend – Kirk Douglas.

    We had the really big names, big stars – Oprah Winfrey, Robert Downey, Jr., Jude Law.

    We had the mini stars – Justin Timberlake, Mila Kunis etc.

    We had the respected Hollywood royalty – many of the actual Oscar winners & Annette Bening.

    We had previous nominees – Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal.

    They had some nominees from the show – Amy Adams.

    We had TWO previous hosts – THE GREAT ONE (Billy Crystal) and the GOOD ONE (Hugh Jackman).

    So they had a pretty good line-up of presenters.

  • 38 3-03-2011 at 5:48 am

    JJ1 said...

    I’ve said it elsewhere. I’ll say it again. To anyone who’s not an Oscar whore, the show would have been boring. Borrrrring.

    But for me, the Oscars provide 3 hours of my life that I look forward to every year, for better or worse. I was not bored (15 screeching party guests throughout made it fly, too).

    And I don’t think it was better or worse than previous years. One of the bigger problems is how predictable the winners have become. I’m all for releasing vote totals, haha.

    And as for Franco, I’ve been thinking. He and Anne may have been told to keep the show going, so as not to make it go long (the films biggest criticism every year).

    And I noticed that Franco was constantly pushing to get the next presenter out while Anne was looking to milk thing a little. Again, I didn’t see sabotage. I saw Franco not knowing how/where/when to milk it or to calmly – but in a dry manner – surge forward with intent.

  • 39 3-03-2011 at 6:19 am

    Maxim said...

    I’d say, 17/24 is very respectable. Cinematography, Art Direction and Supporting Actress were all pretty tough.

    Also, I think Ross makes a pretty good point though I would strongly argue with his definition of Big Big Stars.

    I don’t like Franco at all, but all things considered he could have been worse. Mild praise, I know but it’s simply unfair especially considering he had to share a stage with someone like Billy Crystal, who, to me, simply is Mr. Oscars.