February 26, 2008

Oscars 2008: A Post Mortem

Well, it's all over. The 8oth running of the Academy Awards has come and gone, although I suspect there are parties still raging as I type this. Everyone who walked away with a statuette should be proud; you accomplished something. You made a film that a large group of people truly enjoyed and was deemed strong enough to be considered one of the greats, no one can take that away from you. While I may not agree with all of the choices, or even with some of the nominations in general, there is no denying that films of quality were being recognized.

Now, I could be cynical and complain about how the Oscars, and awards ceremonies in general, are little more than backslapping sessions put together and used as a marketing tool by the studios to squeeze a few more dollars out of their product. To some extent, that is probably true. However I choose not to take that bent, the Oscars get something of a free pass. There is something about the over the top night that appeals to me.

Before getting to how well my predictions, I would like to share some general observations of the show. Mind you, I had a few things going on at the same time, so I did not have my eye on the screen for every moment, but I think I saw enough.

Jon Stewart hosted, following up his fine job last year with yet another. He does a good job of sprinkling in some funny jokes and keeping the show moving along, including the classy move of bringing Marketa Irglova out so she could deliver her speech.

Each year the broadcast brings a few moments that are memorable, will be remembered, or stand out in the moment. This year was no exception. Among the moments this year, the ones that stood out to me included:

Javier Bardem's acceptance speech for the best supporting actor for his role in No Country for Old Men was very good. There was a great sense of genuine emotion from him as he thanked the Coens for the haircut and then spoke to his mother in Spanish. I have no idea what he said and do not feel the desire to know, just that he was truly happy and it showed.

In a backstage interview Javier had nothing but praise for the other nominees: "I mean, Philip Seymour Hoffman, for me, is one of the most amazing actors of all time. ... Hal Holbrook, ...When I saw "Into the Wild," I have a heart attack almost, and I almost have to leave the theatre in Toronto with the scene in the truck when he wants to adopt him. .... Casey Affleck, the whole journey is a piece of jewelry, jewelry, like every piece on time in order to create a really a spectrum of a ghost. And Tom Wilkinson, I haven't ever seen a madman so funny, crazy, dangerous, and the same time so heartbroken."

Another moment of unbridled excitement and true emotion was when Marion Cotillard won the Oscar for actress in a leading role for her performance in La Vie en Rose. I may not have pegged her for the win, I cannot say that I am disappointed. This clip from her acceptance sums it up: "Well, I'm speechless now. I -- I -- well, I -- thank you life, thank you love, and it is true, there is some angels in this city. Thank you so, so much."

During a backstage interview with Ms. Cotillard she was noticeably excited and shocked by her win. She comes across as genuine and real, without an ounce of artifice: "It's just joy and so unexpected that it's surreal, but I love it, I love it."

That brings me to Diablo Cody and her well-deserved win for Original Screenplay for Juno. This was a wonderful script that deserved the win, but what surprised me was Ms. Cody, herself. Over the past month or two, I have heard a few interviews with her, and she comes across as being so comfortable with herself and confident in her work that I expected something similar from her speech. I was surprised to see the wall break down and reveal an emotional woman who was genuinely happy and surprised. It was quite a moment, interesting dress aside.

The last speech moment I want to speak of I have already mentioned. It is the win for Glenn Hansard and Marketa Irglova for "Falling Slowly" from Once. Let me say that it is an amazing song on a great soundtrack from a great film. This duo was a delight in the film, and they made the most of their moment. Glenn spoke of the small scale of the film and how proud they were of it, closing saying "Make art. Make art." As for Marketa, she was sadly cut off, but through a classy act by host Jon Stewart, she came back out and was bale to deliver her speech asking for support of independent artists. Her speech included this great line: "...this song was written from a perspective of hope, and hope at the end of the day connects us all, no matter how different we are." How true it is.

As for the rest of the telecast, the performances of the five original song nominees were fantastic. Marketa and Glenn's performance of their winning song was very moving; although I think Amy Adams solo performance of "Happy Working Song" from Enchanted was the most, uh, enchanting. The song from August Rush was also a moving performance.

Overall, the show felt a little sedate and it kept moving along at a nice pace. All in all, I enjoyed the show and look forward to whatever comes next year without strike drama making us wonder if the show will go on.

Shifting gears, I feel the need to take a look at how well I did in my predictions over what actually won. I am a bit disappointed in how I did this year, last year I believe I got sixteen of the twenty-four awards correct. This year I was merely twelve for twenty-four and slightly better on my want to win choices at thirteen of twenty-four.

What were the big ones I missed? Well, both actress awards. I was truly surprised when Tilda Swinton took the prize for supporting actress in Michael Clayton. If it was going to be an upset, I was sure it was going to be Ruby Dee. I thought Cate Blanchett was going to walk away with it. As for lead actress? Julie Christie and Ellen Page topped my list. I have not yet seen La Vie en Rose, but with the positivity around her performance I cannot be too disappointed.

I did not figure The Bourne Ultimatum to sweep the three categories it was up for. I was figuring more for the big two of No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood, not to mention Transformers.

That brings me to visual effects, the one I am probably most upset over. How in the world can The Golden Compass win? It was the worst of the three, this should have gone to Transformers hands down. The only thing I can think is that the Michael Bay film split the vote with the Pirates sequel, thus allowing the fantasy film to slip through for the gold.

The only other one that I got wrong that was a bit upsetting was Elizabeth: The Golden Age winning for Costume Design. It may be the fact that I am not too keen on the film coloring my judgment, but I thought Sweeney Todd should have taken it. The Burton film had such a great look while Elizabeth was ornate for the sake of being ornate. In the end, I won't lose sleep over it. Sweeney did still win an award, in Art Design, so that makes me happy.

My prediction numbers were bolstered by a couple of lucky guesses in the shorts category, where I was able to guess the Documentary Short and the Live Action Short.

Here is my chart, my picks for will win, what I wanted to win, and who ultimately did win next to each to see just where I went wrong:

Best PictureNo Country for Old MenNo Country for Old MenNo Country for Old Men
Best DirectorCoen BrothersCoen BrothersCoen Brothers
Best ActorDaniel Day-LewisDaniel Day-LewisDaniel Day-Lewis
Best ActressJulie ChristieEllen PageMarion Cotillard
Best Supporting ActorJavier BardemJavier BardemJavier Bardem
Best Supporting ActressCate BlanchettAmy RyanTilda Swinton
Animated FeatureRatatouilleRatatouilleRatatouille
CinematographyThere Will Be BloodNo Country for Old MenThere Will Be Blood
Art DirectionThere Will Be BloodSweeney ToddSweeney Todd
EditingNo Country for Old MenThe Bourne UltimatumThe Bourne Ultimatum
Visual EffectsTransformersTransformersThe Golden Compass
Writing (Original)JunoJunoJuno
Writing (Adapted)No Country for Old MenNo Country for Old MenNo Country for Old Men
Costume DesignSweeney ToddSweeney ToddElizabeth: The Golden Age
DocumentaryNo End in SightTaxi to the Dark SideTaxi to the Dark Side
Music (Score)AtonementRatatouilleAtonement
Music (Song)"Falling Slowly" Once"Falling Slowly" Once"Falling Slowly" Once
Sound EditingNo Country for Old MenThere Will Be BloodThe Bourne Ultimatum
MakeupPirates of the Caribbean 3Pirates of the Caribbean 3La Vie en Rose
Sound MixingNo Country for Old MenTransformersThe Bourne Ultimatum
Doc, ShortFreeheldFreeheldFreeheld
Foreign LangugeBeaufortBeaufortCounterfeiters
Animated ShortI Met the WalrusI Met the WalrusPeter and the Wolf
Live ShortLe Mozart des Pickpockets Le Mozart des Pickpockets Le Mozart des Pickpockets


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