Monday, February 23, 2009

The 81st Academy Awards

Last night's Oscar ceremony was the best I ever saw (although not the best host; that honor still goes to Whoopi Goldberg for what I'm concerned). The new format was original and svelte and will hopefully be kept and improved upon in the future.

Hugh Jackman did a good job and showed the world that he can sing and dance up a storm. He has a very nice voice and a lot of charisma. I'm quite sure he'll be invited back to host, perhaps even as soon as next year. His opening number was funny and he looked at ease. Even his skit with the beautiful Anne Hathaway looked improvised.

The stage was completely redesigned, with the orchestra in plain view (a change the musicians surely appreciated) and a series of mobile panels that were used as projection screens. The audience was seated much closer to the stage, which made for a more intimate experience and looked cozier.

I liked how the acting awards were awarded by five previous winners in those same categories. The presenters' introductions were touching and heartfelt, and the only complaint I have is that I miss the short clips from each nominated performance while each name is called. It's always nice to get a glimpse of the performance, especially if you haven't seen the movie.

I was a little concerned by how long this new format took to award the acting nominees however, since the Oscars' producers are always worried about running over time (which they did again, in spite of swearing they wouldn't, by about 30 minutes...). My concern was alleviated when I saw how they opted to squeeze together the technical awards and keep the same presenters for a series of them. This cut down on the time it takes to clear the stage and introduce new people and made for a nice flowing ceremony.

That's probably the best way to describe it actually, a ceremony with a good flow that delivered on the promise of the producers that the awarding of the prizes itself would have followed a storyline. Explaining the different stages of movie-making (pre-production, production and post-production) not only flowed nicely, but it also helped the viewers understand how movies are actually made.

I usually like the montages a lot, and even those were linked in a narrative, that of 2008 in movies. I liked the animated and the romance ones, but the comedy one made me feel like, judging by the clips shown, 2008 wasn't such a great year for comedies.

The musical number was fantastic, although I doubt Jackman's right when he says the musical's back. If it's a good movie, people will go see it, no matter the format, otherwise they won't.

As for the awards themselves, I was pleased with the winners, although I correctly forecast almost all of them, and this takes away any anticipation. I got 19/24 right, and if you take out the four "minor" categories of documentaries and shorts, I got 18/20 correct. Arguably my best showing ever, especially considering that one of the two I got wrong, Best Foreign Language Film, was maybe the biggest upset of the night.

I loved Slumdog Millionaire, and I thought it deserved to win, but I was still quietly hoping that Milk would pull an upset, given its theme, its focus, its lessons, and its message of hope. I was very happy therefore for Milk's wins in the Best Original Screenplay and Best Actor categories.

Dustin Lance Black's and Sean Penn's acceptance speeches were also the best of the night, especially Black's, who made me cry for his courage to speak directly to those kids out there who need to know they are not alone and unwanted.

And now, on to this year's potential candidates...


Vittorio said...

Nice post!
I would just add that it was absolutely shocking not to see the Honoray Award... being awarded! Don't you think so?
Is it possible that they couldn't decide on ONE name out of the millions of people deserving this award???

Massimo said...

Yes, I hadn't realized that they didn't hand that out this year!

I could think of 10 people who deserve it right now.

Who knows...