Unfortunately, I've had neither the time nor the money to see many movies over the past year or so, so I don't have a lot to say. I commend everyone involved in the broadcast for streamlining it so that it could still be done in four and a half hours even with twice the number of best picture nominees (although I still hate it when they have to cut people's speeches off). When I first heard that they were doing 10 best picture nominees, I thought, "Oh my gosh, the show's going to be 8 hours long!" But it wasn't. Martin and Baldwin were very good, very funny co-hosts, and I loved Neil Patrick Harris' song and dance number at the beginning (I'd love to see him get to take a turn as host).
I think the 10 picture nominees was ultimately a good decision though; it did allow for a wider variety of films to be acknowledged, including two science fiction movies and an animated movie. Of the ten of them, I had only seen two: Avatar and Up (which happened to be probably the most popular of the ten, go figure). I don't know how anyone ever chose among ten movies because just between those two I don't think I could ever have decided which was better. I enjoyed Avatar more but that's partially because I knew going into it that it was going to rip my heart out; I wasn't expecting Up to rip my out heart, so when it did I was surprised and bewildered.
So a breakdown: Of the ten nominees, I'd seen Up and Avatar. I wanted to see The Blind Side and District 9, but haven't gotten around to it yet. I have no desire to see The Hurt Locker (which won); I'm sure it's excellent, but I don't like war movies. I'm mildly intrigued by Inglourious Basterds and A Serious Man, but I've yet to see a Quentin Tarantino film that I enjoyed, and the Coen brothers have a bad track record with me too, so I'm not making an effort to see either of them. I didn't know much about An Education or Up in the Air before the nominations came out, but now I'm interested to see them. And then there's Precious which as we should all know by now, was based on the novel Push by Sapphire. I didn't know much about this movie before the Oscar nominations either, and I was confused at first why they felt the need to always reiterate that it was based on a novel by a different name. For a while, I wondered if the novel itself might not have been a fictional element of the movie, but no, it turns out there actually is a novel called Push and it actually was written by a person called Sapphire. The real reason for the clunky name change is that apparently there was already going to be another movie called "Push" this year, but they wanted everyone to get the connection between the movie and the novel. Okay. I've not seen Precious, and I don't know that I ever will. By all accounts it's an excellent film, so I'm sure it would be worth my time, but by all accounts it's also quite heart- and gut-wrenching. Just reading the plot synopsis was enough to give me nightmares, so I don't know if I'll ever gather the emotional fortitude to actually watch it.
A large part of me wanted Avatar to win, and yet, a tiny small part of me didn't, just because James Cameron has won it before and he just...you know, he's proud of his accomplishments and rightfully so, but sometimes he does come across as kind of arrogant, and part of me wanted to see him taken down a peg, and yet when he didn't win it wasn't satisfying at all, so explain that because I'm at a loss to do so. You know, if I had to pick the better film between Titanic and Avatar I would pick Avatar, no question, so it makes me kind of begrudge the success of Titanic, and yet if Titanic hadn't been so successful he might never have been able to make Avatar, so how can I hold a grudge? I also kind of wanted Up to win because it is the first animated movie to be nominated for best picture for nearly twenty years (good gracious, I'm old) and because it was so original, and it had TALKING DOGS!
But The Hurt Locker won, and I'm content to take the Academy's word for it because I have no intention of seeing it. It was nice to see a woman win best director, however. And on the eve of International Women's Day; how appropriate. Speaking of women, I would really have liked to see the girl from Precious win Best Actress; though I've not seen the film, I saw her on Good Morning America the morning they announced the nominations, and she was so charming and vivacious that it was a delight to see her delight at being nominated. But it was nice to see Sandra Bullock win for the first time too, and I thought her speech was very beautiful and eloquent and heartfelt.
I'm also disappointed not to see Morgan Freeman win Best Actor for Invictus. But on the other hand, he got to play Nelson Mandela, which perhaps is prize enough in itself. Nothing against Jeff Bridges, who is an excellent actor and, by all accounts, a wonderful human being. But that was the role of a lifetime for Freeman, and everything seemed to align so perfectly to bring it to fruition that it would have been nice to see him get the crowning achievement. On the other hand, people like Morgan Freeman and Meryl Streep, with such longevity and such integrity, it gets to the point where the quality of their bodies of work really speaks for themselves.
Some other moments that impressed me: I loved how the woman who won for costume design acknowledged the costumers for movies set in reality and in our own time, who work just as hard but often don't get the recognition. I was glad to see Up win the best animated feature, and I'm also impressed by the way the field of animated features has grown and developed and progressed. I remember when they first started awarding that category (which was close to ten years ago, gosh I'm old) and I remember some critic bemoaning the fact that they hadn't done it sooner (like in time for Beauty and the Beast) because the animated films at that time weren't up to snuff. There were some years when it seemed like they had to really scrounge around for a minimum of three contenders, but this year there were five strong contenders, encompassing different genres and with different animation techniques.
But I think the highlight of the evening for me (apart from Ben Stiller coming out in Avatar make-up, which was really quite well done) was when Michael Giacchino won the best score for the music in Up. Before they announced the winner, they played sort of a montage of the scores that were nominated, and Giacchino's was so different from the rest of them, and it reminded me of how much the music contributed to the movie's emotional resonance. It's light-hearted, as music for a movie called Up should be, but it's also so delicate and so tender, but so powerful because its delicacy is also its strength. To me it sort of underscores the themes of the movie, the symbolic significance of the balloons, which are very strong together, but very fragile by themselves, and similarly human beings are stronger when they are bonded together in relationships with others; left alone, separated from others, they become very fragile. Anyway, I also loved Giacchino's acceptance speech, when he talked about the support of his family, and when he said doing something creative is never a waste of time.
Oh, and this year they went back to saying "and the winner is..." instead of "and the Oscar goes to..." Why? In the interest of saving time? I don't like it when they say "the winner is" because then it implies that everyone else are losers, even though intellectually we all know better.