2011 Oscars Recap

Well, another year is in the books, and I have to say — this was a damn good Oscar year. I don’t think they truly made that many mistakes. And in all, I actually agreed with just about every major category. Sure, I could quibble about some of the minor ones, but overall, I think they did a terrific job with this one.

I’ve also went and updated all my other articles, like the Rankings, the Viewer’s Guide, the Facts and Trivia, and all the little odds and ends articles (Ranking the Best Pictures, etc.) with the new results we now have.

That aside, let’s get into the recap of the big night:

Best Picture: The Artist

I have said all along that I’m a huge fan of this decision. I’m not going to quibble about whether or not it should be Hugo over The Artist, because either way, I think we won. Put it this way — in ten years, which film will be seen more? Hugo. Why? Because it was directed by Martin Scorsese. The Artist, without the Best Picture win, doesn’t have that. Now, more people can see this film, and they’ll also be seeing Hugo. I say everybody wins. They’re both about the same thing — the history of cinema. Sure, they’re about it in different ways and to different ends and one handles it in one way and the other handles it in another — whatever. The idea is that both films introduce today’s unwilling audiences to something they couldn’t give less than a shit about. And that’s good. And I’m glad it won. The Descendants or Moneyball or The Tree of Life — they wouldn’t have been good decisions. Not in the long run. I think they made the best decision that could have been made last night, and I’ve been ecstatic about this all along. I don’t care if the purists prefer Hugo, and I don’t care if the “high brow” people prefer The Tree of Life — I think they made the right decision. People got too cynical from the certainty of it all. Back in May, if you heard a silent film was gonna win Best Picture, you’d have been ecstatic too. I never lost sight of that, and I was rewarded with a very happy night. I was doubly rewarded by almost every other category they handed out too.

Also, didn’t Thomas Langmann look and sound just like Peter Lorre when he accepted that award? That was kind of creepy, right?

Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist

You knew this was coming. I still say Scorsese would have been a better choice, but you can’t argue with this. Best Picture and Best Director almost always link up. And Hazanavicius did the near-impossible — he made a silent film and he made it work. Well. That alone makes him a good decision. Sure, his name might not stand up in history alongside the other names in the category, but honestly — his feat does make him more deserving than someone like Tom Hooper, who beat four bette efforts and four bigger names. Here, Hazanavicius beat maybe two better efforts. So it’s not so bad, and I think will be an okay decision historically.

Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist

I think this is a terrific decision. Because, in ten years, no one’s gonna be talking about Clooney here. They’re gonna talk about Dujardin and they’re gonna talk about Gary Oldman. Bichir is nice to see there, but we all know he’d never have won regardless. So that doesn’t matter. And Pitt — I think he’ll give a better performance and earn this statue, same as Clooney will. I think, when we look back here, we’re gonna see two things — “Man, that guy did a great job acting for silents,” and, “I can’t believe they didn’t give Gary Oldman an Oscar.” I know that’s what we’ll be saying. Which is why I think this was a great decision. Because I know it’s a miracle that Gary Oldman was even nominated. Us saying he should have won is just that. It wasn’t gonna happen. Maybe we’ll get lucky and he’ll get a richly deserved Supporting Actor Oscar at some point and get that standing ovation Christopher Plummer got. But I think Dujardin did a terrific job, and I really think that performance is gonna hold up well. Because you can recreate that Clooney performance. You can recreate the Pitt performance. All of them. You won’t get many more silent films being made. Which is gonna made this decision and the Best Picture decision stand out as these wonderful little outliers alongside all these classical winners like Colin Firth and Jeff Bridges. And I think that’s what’s gonna help this one hold up really well.

By the way, just to keep track with the predictions, since I guess that is also part of it — I, as well as most other people (except for the extremely stubborn who still believed Clooney was gonna win despite him really never having anything going for him except a BFCA win and the perception that he would win), guessed all three of those. So by this point, I’m 3/3. Though not really, since I’m doing this all pretty much backwards. But the total will still add up in the end.

Best Actress: Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady

Call this one a relative shocker when it was announced, and a completely obvious choice thirty seconds later when we all stopped to think about it. It’s Meryl Streep. She played Margaret Thatcher! There’s been an outcry to get her an Oscar for years! Harvey Weinstein campaigned like crazy! Of course she won! This is a nice little reverse to 2008, where she won SAG and lost the Oscar to Kate Winslet, since this year, she lost SAG to Viola Davis and won the Oscar. Could it be the support from the Brits and the BAFTA crowd that tipped the scales? Or is it the support from the old (and possibly racist) white majority that did it? I don’t know. All I know is that this is actually a pretty decent decision. I was never a fan of the Viola Davis win outside of the race factor. I never thought that performance would hold up well against any of the other nominees (except Glenn Close), and never thought it was particularly worth a win. That said, it would have been a bit more refreshing to see her there than Meryl. On paper. In actuality, I bet when Meryl gave that speech, we all said, “Wel, it’s not so bad.” Since she did give what I felt was the best acceptance speech of the night. She was grateful and charming, and ultimately self-aware. That crack about, “I just heard half of America going, ‘Oh, no, not her again!” — and then the wonderful remark, “I really understand I’ll never get to be up here again,” which felt sadly true in a way, because that’s how these things tend to work. And if you watch the speech (do so here), the reaction she has afterwards was my favorite part of the whole thing — that silent assent of — “Yeah, probably.” That said a lot of things to me. I don’t know how many people caught that when it was live. It seems like there was this feeling in the Academy where it was, “Oh, no, not her again!” And I think that she had this feeling of — she’s about to start hitting that point in her career where she starts getting those honorary awards and the lifetime achievement awards — the old person awards. And it seems like she really wanted to get up there one more time. That “I really understand I’ll never get to be up here again,” felt like her acknowledging that she fought to be up there last night. Almost like — she was putting in the work, but never really campaigning hard and wanting to win, but this time, she felt, “I want this,” and fought to be like, “No, this time I want you to give it to me.” And they were like, “Oh — all right.” And when she got up there, she was like, “I know you didn’t really want to do this, and I know I made you, but it’s okay, because I know this is it for me.” I think. Or maybe it was an acknowledgement of, “I know I’ll be too old to be up here in the future.” Either way — I thought she gave a tremendous speech, and I think this win needed to happen. Because now, unless she unleashes some truly incredible performance that can’t be ignored in the next ten years — we don’t have to worry about her winning anymore. And that’s nice to know. Because with her last four nominations, there was always that threat of — “Is she gonna take it? She hasn’t won since 1982.” Now, we don’t have to worry about that. Sure, Viola Davis might have been a better choice from the race standpoint, but for most everything else (since Meryl did give a terrific performance. It was really the film and the script that let her down), Meryl was a great choice.

I also don’t believe for a second that this is the last time she’s gonna be up there. You watch. All it takes is another ten to fifteen years, she’ll release an On Golden Pond-type movie — I think she’ll get another one.

Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners

Perhaps the most locked award of the night (of the acting awards), next to the next one. No one had any doubt Plummer would be walking away with the statue. And I’m glad he did. However, I can say now, flat out — I didn’t like the performance and I didn’t particularly like the film, either. I know people loved Beginners, but to me, it really didn’t do anything for me at all. And then seeing the kind of people who kept saying they did love it (I can’t quite explain it without offending some people who did like the movie but aren’t the type of people I’m referring to, but it was the type of people I went to college with. Those other film majors. Those who know me know exactly what I’m talking about. It was those people who felt films like Martha Marcy May Marlene should have been nominated for Best Picture and that bigger films like The Descendants and Hugo were just mainstream trash. People who constantly rave about indie films (their top ten lists most likely included Meek’s Cutoff, Melancholia, Drive, A Separation, and things like that), and marginalize the mainstream stuff because it’s mainstream. And that mindset just turned me off of whatever marginal enjoyment of the film I had. That’s not to say it was a bad film — I just didn’t get interested in anything that happened. He had a gay father who came out after his mother died, and then the father died, and then he meets this flighty woman, and there’s a weird romance thing going on — I just didn’t see anything interesting in the story or the film. But to each his own. Since the category was incredibly weak, Plummer was a great choice. If you’re gonna reward a veteran, there are few (Max von Sydow) better than Christopher Plummer.

Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, The Help

You know it’s now gonna become a thing that when the Academy doesn’t want to seem racist, they keep awarding blacks in the Supporting categories. Though I don’t think we can declare it a trend just yet. Meryl is Meryl. Either way, I’m happy for Octavia. While I felt Jessica Chastain should have won in the objective sense, Octavia was a good choice. Good for her. (And at this rate, Chastain will get hers sooner rather than later.)

Best Original Screenplay: Woody Allen, Midnight in Paris

No shocker here at all. Woody’s streak of winning Best Screenplay when his films are nominated for Best Picture continues. I also, on my ballot, stuck with The Artist here even though it had next to no shot at winning. Also, for those keeping track, I missed this and Best Actress, putting me at 5/7 at this point in the night. I will, point out, however, that on the ones where I told people what they should take, I only missed Meryl so far.

Best Adapted Screenplay: Alexander Payne, Jim Rash & Nat Faxon, The Descendants

This was another no-brainer. I don’t think they should have won at all. Moneyball and Tinker Tailor were much better choices. That said — everyone had this. 6/8 on my ballot and 7/8 on the “smart” ballot, I guess is the proper term.

Best Editing: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The only real surprise of the night. Not many people at all saw this coming. It was a pleasant surprise, since the editing here was really terrific. That’s two years running for Wall and Baxter. I figure most everyone got this wrong, since this was one of the hardest categories to figure. The Descendants won ACE, Hugo had Thelma Schoonmaker, The Artist had the Best Picture sweep thing going, and Moneyball was Moneyball. Great editing job. Still — great choice, even though we all pretty much got it wrong.

Best Cinematographer: Robert Richardson, Hugo

I felt all along there was no way Tree of Life was gonna win this. And everyone said otherwise (kind of like this other award that I’ll be talking about soon). I stuck with Richardson on my ballot all the way. Unfortunately, because I didn’t want to tell you to go with me and have you be pissed off when you lost, I told everyone they should take Lubezki for Tree of Life. So that means I got it right but you (if you listened to me) didn’t. That puts my ballot at 7/10 and the other ballot at 7/10. (I also think this was a terrific decision.)

Best Art Direction: Hugo

Totally deserved in every way, and I had this cold all the way. Anything else would have been a shocker and a bad choice. Both ballots at 8/11.

Best Costume Design: The Artist

If you were reading my blog last night when the predictions went up, you’ll see that I did change my pick to The Artist at 11:30 last night. But then, I felt bad, since I had Jane Eyre, and didn’t want to vote for the sweep (since I had The Artist in a lot of categories. I had it for Editing and Screenplay too), and wanted to mix it up. So I went with a wild card (that happens to be something that tends to win in the category). And in the eleventh hour (literally), I changed my mind and wimped out and said, “Let’s just take what’ll probably win.” But then, at the very last second, I said, “You know, if I pick Jane Eyre and lose, I don’t feel bad. But if I pick The Artist and Jane wins, I’ll feel terrible.” So I changed it back. Knowing I’d probably get it wrong. But I did tell you that you should take it, which worked out nicely. That put my ballot at 7/12 and the other one at 9/12. (I also think this wasn’t a particularly strong decision, based on what was nominated. But another Oscar for the film is fine, and no one will really pay much attention to this one in the future.)

Best Makeup: The Iron Lady

Fitting that the film won for Meryl’s performance and the makeup, since those were the two things it definitely got right. (The film also went a perfect 2-2 on the night, by the way.) I said all along that this was going to win, and told you not to give in and take Potter because it didn’t have a shot. I hope you listened to me. 8/13 on my ballot and 10/13 on the other. (Perfect choice here too.)

Best Original Score: Ludovic Bource, The Artist

Was anyone voting against him? Sure, Howard Shore might have been a better choice, but on the ballot, there was no other one. Everyone had to have gotten this right.

Best Original Song: “Man or Muppet,” from The Muppets

Well fucking really?

Best Sound Editing: Hugo

The consensus was that the film was gonna sweep both categories. I stuck with War Horse anyway, just because. So I got it wrong, but I told you to take Hugo in both, so you did just fine. With the two music categories, that puts my ballot at 10/16 and the other ballot at 13/16.

Best Sound Mixing: Hugo

Perhaps the second of the three big no-brainers for Hugo on the night. There was no way it was losing this one. 11/17 for me and 14/17 on the other.

Best Visual Effects: Hugo

I reserved the right to say “I told you so” when I said this would happen. I told you Apes wasn’t winning, and I even told you to take Hugo. A Best Picture nominee has never lost this category since the category became modern in 1977. It’s never happened. There was no way this was losing, and the fact that everyone continued to take Apes tells me that were I in a room full of people, I’d have beaten them all because of this award. My ballot is at 12/18 and the other one is at 15/18.

Best Animated Film: Rango

Did anyone take anything else? 13/19 and 16/19.

Best Foreign Language Film: A Separation

I’m glad it didn’t lose. Also — everyone had it. 14/20 and 17/20.

Best Documentary: Undefeated

I’m glad it won. It’s the only one of these I’ll ever see. So that’s nice. I also picked it. So my ballot is at 15/21. The only question is — on the other ballot, I told you to take either this or Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory. Given that the rest of the categories are unpredictable, I said flat out — one of these two will win. Pick what you want. Because even I didn’t know what was gonna happen, so I couldn’t tell you to take one film unless I was sure. That said, if we cross-check it with my ballot, I took Undefeated. So I don’t know what you want to do here. Either the other ballot is at 18/21 or 17/21. Mark it however you like. I still told you one of those two was winning.

Best Documentary Short: Saving Face

This was always the obvious winner. I told you to take either this or The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom. This one was the obvious choice from the start. I took Cherry Blossom because I liked the title better and figured, “Well, I usually get it wrong anyway…” So my ballot is at 15/22. The other ballot is either at 19/22 or 17/22. (Or 18, if you want to give me one but not the other.) Take your pick.

Best Live-Action Short: The Shore

Star power prevails. I didn’t guess it on either ballot. So I was wrong on this. But not surprised. Mostly because it’s the shorts categories. I’m never surprised. So, 15/23 on my ballot and anywhere between 17-20/23 on the other.

And finally…

Best Animated Short: The Fantastic Flying Books or Mr. Morris Lessmore

I picked this. I had a feeling Pixar had a bias against it. I also said you should take this or La Luna, but also said that I felt this was gonna win. So I’m counting it as right in my head, but you can do what you want on the objective tally.

Final tally: 16/24 on my ballot (which is great, considering I knew The Artist was gonna lose Costume Design and Screenplay and took it anyway), and either 17/24 on the other one or as high as 20/24. Depends on what you want to give me. I say I got at least 18. If pressured to pick one choice in all the ones where I gave you two — I’d have probably told you to take Saving Face and Paradise Lost 3, so I say, if I stuck with one choice in all, I’d have gotten you 19/24.

The only categories I got out and out wrong were Live-Action Short, Editing (which I imagine most people got wrong) and Best Actress. Everything else I had picked on one of the two ballots. I’m satisfied with the 16 on my ballot, since if I were picking to win, I know I’d have gotten 18. I’m also happy I got everyone else (probably) 19.

Really what I’ve learned is that if I mix smarts and my instinct, I’ll do really well.

So that’s our Oscar night. Here are the awards tallies:

The Artist — 5 Oscars (Picture, Director, Actor, Original Score, Costume Design)

Hugo — 5 Oscars (Cinematography, Art Direction, Visual Effects, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing)

The Iron Lady — 2 Oscars (Actress, Makeup)

Beginners — 1 Oscar (Supporting Actor)

The Descendants — 1 Oscar (Adapted Screenplay)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — 1 Oscar (Editing)

The Help — 1 Oscar (Supporting Actress)

Midnight in Paris — 1 Oscar (Original Screenplay)

The Muppets — 1 Oscar (Original Song)

Rango — 1 Oscar (Animated Feature)

A Separation — 1 Oscar (Foreign Language Film)

Undefeated — 1 Oscar (Documentary Feature)

And then — The Shore, Saving Face and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore won the shorts.

You can see why I loved this Oscar night. My top two favorite films of the year won the majority of the awards. They also did a pretty decent job of spreading the wealth. Okay, so Moneyball got shut out, but meh. That’s not so bad. Overall, I think this was a very successful Oscar night. Especially considering I wasn’t particularly crazy about the year as a whole.

That’ll conclude our Oscar season, the first one I’ve been legitimately happy about for a long time. Here’s hoping next year turns out as well as this one did.

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