cwfilmbuff: (movies)
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After 50 years a Bond movie finally won the Oscar for Best Original Song.

A movie partially funded by Kickstarter won an Academy Award.

There was a running theme in the acceptance speeches about the importance of encouraging new talent and colaborating on artistic endevors.

The First Lady of the United States madea surprise appearance.

For only the sixth time in 85 years there was a tie.

With any other Oscar ceremony these would be the topics of discussion the morning after. Instead the producers' latest misguided attempt to draw a younger audience is what's getting the attention.

I didn't think MacFarlane was the worst host in recent memory, definitely not as bad as a Chris Rock or a James Franco (who also managed to be terrible yesterday, but this post is about the Academy Awards, not the Daytona 500), but his missteps were bad enough to undo any goodwill he might have garnered with the bits that worked. He wasn't as bad as an episode of Family Guy, but he definitely wasn't up to the task of hosting the Oscars.

What did work, for the most part, was the awards themselves. Am I disappointed that my favorite movie of the year was the only Best Picture nominee not to take home a single award? Yes. But for the most part the winners were deserving films so there's not a lot to complain about.

Looking over my predictions, in half the categories I guessed wrong the award went to what I thought was the more deserving film, which is always a pleasant surprise. Brave, for example, was the best animated film released last year, but since it lacked the universal critical and audience support most Pixar films enjoy I didn't think it would take home the Oscar. I was very happy to be proven wrong (and even happier that, unlike the globes, Brenda Chapman was recognized as director).

On the other hand sometimes my cynicism is accurate. Life of Pi was a beautiful-looking film, but that's due to the visual effects team, not the cinematographer. Yes, Miranda had to frame his shots to leave room for the CGI, but his contribution to the look of the final film is not nearly as impressive as what Deakins did in Skyfall. Looking back over the past several years though I'm beginning to accept that this category will almost always disappoint me (the last time the Oscar went to what I thought was the best cinematography was 12 years ago).

And then there's the category I don't think anyone predicted: Sound Editing. It was one of the night's few surprises, and unlike most of what was written ahead of time it was handled smoothly, announcing the winners and letting each speak, not making them compete for time lest they be classlessly played off with the Jaws theme.

With better writers, this could have been mined for some humor. Pointing out that one of the handful of other people who have shared a win was performing that night. Instead it passed without comment, the show sticking to the script despite all indications that what they'd written wasn't working. Randomly performing full numbers from Chicago and Dreamgirls but only having one of the nominated songs performed in full was a puzzling choice. I'm not sure whether the inequity is better or worse than last year's complete omision, but it definitely didn't help the show (also, did Scarlett Johansson do something to anger the Academy? She wasn't there to perform "Before My Time" and was the only Avenger not on stage to present the visual effects awards - almost seems they went out of their way to exclude her).

With a less polarizing host I think the highlight of the evening would have been Michelle Obama announcing Best Picture (something that briefly gave me hope, as she's been a vocal champion of Beasts of the Southern Wild, but I knew it didn't have a good shot at winning). Aside from having a sitting First Lady show up, it was just about the only thing about the night that wasn't announced ahead of time. Throughout the night I kept hoping something like that would happen - more performers of classic Bond themes during the 007 tribute, or getting the six Bonds on stage, for example. Heck, Bassey would have been even better if her being on the show hadn't been announced weeks ahead of time, and the same goes for Streisand. I know they announce these things ahead of time to attract viewers, but a better technique would be to build a reputation of unpredictability - get people to watch not because they know what's coming, but because they want to see what happens next.

But this is all morning-after criticism. All we can really do now is see what, if anything, next year's producers learn (or fail to learn) from this year's failed experiment.
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