Monday 28 February 2011

Oscar night: blow by blow

Well here we go again! At least the powers that be freshened up the formula by hiring two terrific hosts this year - the opening film clip reel was hilarious, plus a terrific self-deprecating opening double act. I loved the but where James Franco and Anne Hathaway chatted with their mother and grandmother in the audience. The set is simple and pretty cool, with arches that turn into videoscreens.

Tribute from Tom Hanks for the films that have won Art Direction, Cinematography and Best Picture, from Gone With the Wind to Titanic, followed by the Art Direction award to Alice in Wonderland. Then he gave Cinematography to Wally Pfister for Inception, a bit of an upset as Roger Deakins (True Grit) had been the favourite.

Kirk Douglas looking frighteningly ancient but still feisty, struggling a lot and really milking the moment to present Supporting Actress to Melissa Leo. A lovely 'Oh wow!' thank you, especially with the accidental F-bomb. Then it's Mila Kunis (in the night's most glamorous gown) and Justin Timberlake presenting the animation awards The Lost Thing (short) and Toy Story 3 (feature).

In a setting meant to evoke the first Oscars, dapper white-tied Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem present Adapted Screenplay to Aaron Sorkin, who gave a rather dry but generous speech. They then give  Original Screenplay to David Seidler, who is heartfelt, clever and charming. Now Anne in a tux starts singing a song from Le Mis with lyrics poking fun at Hugh Jackman - hilarious. Even funnier, James appears in an outrageous pink evening gown to introduce Russell Brand and Helen Mirren (not promoting their upcoming film at all) to present Foreign-language Film to In a Better World.

Now it's Reese Witherspoon, looking absolutely gorgeous, to present Supporting Actor to Christian Bale, who is grateful and earthy and enthusiastic. Then a couple of TV network types took the stage - does anyone care that they've signed a big deal with the Academy? Much better, Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman emerge grinning sheepishly. After a clunky scripted bit about the history of movie sound, and the appearance of an orchestra playing classic tunes, Original Score goes to The Social Network, with rockers giving a deeply dull but genuine thank you.

Scarlett Johansson and Matthew McConaughey make a very odd couple as they present the sound awards, saying the word 'sound' over and over again: Mixing goes to Inception, as does Editing of course. We kind of tune out while these techie geniuses give their speeches. Then Marisa Tomei appears to announce the Sci-Tech awards, presented earlier. 'Congratulations, nerds.' And Cate Blanchett, looking gorgeous, presents Make-up to The Wolfman and Costumes to Alice in Wonderland - a long, dull read speech by the great Colleen Atwood.

Now we get a montage of people talking about their favourite movie songs, with Kevin Spacey joking through his introduction ('Hello, I'm George Clooney').of the nominated songs, performed by Randy Newman, then Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi. Now Amy Adams and Jake Gyllenhaal arrive looking impossibly glamorous to present the short film awards: Documentary to Strangers No More.and Live Action to God of Love (accepted by a hilarious young guy with a massive fro). This is followed by a hilarious remix of the last Harry Potter and Twilight (and other movies) movies into musicals.

Oprah Winfrey is the next on stage to present the Documentary award to Inside Job, which of course sparks a very strong speech. And here's iconic Oscar host Billy Crystal, who gets a standing ovation, and deadpans a few jokes about hosting before a great story about Bob Hope, leading into a tribute to his 18 years as host. Somehow, Hope introduces Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law to present Special Effects to Inception. They then present Editing to The Social Network. And here's Jennifer Hudson to present the final two song performances by AR Rahman and Florence Welch, then Gwyneth Paltrow. And the award goes to Toy Story 3 and the great Randy Newman.

Now there's some sad music and Celine Dione to depress us even further while the in memorium clip reel runs.The final image is of Lena Horne, and Halle Berry gives a tribute to her, perhaps to counterbalance the all-white acting nominees this year. And here's another former winner, Hilary Swank, welcomes Kathryn Bigelow to the stage to present Directing to an overwhelmed Tom Hooper.And here's Annette Bening to talk about the previously presented Governor's Awards and the winners Kevin Brownlow, Eli Wallach and Francis Ford Coppola. Cue another standing ovation. And here's Jeff Bridges to present Actress to the lovely Natalie Portman, who gives a rambling huge-hearted thank you. And now Sandra Bullock presents Actor to, of course, the insanely gorgeous, warm and funny Colin Firth..

Finally and seemingly ahead of schedule, we arrive at Best Picture, which Steven Spielberg presents to The King's Speech, a predictable win to match all of the other major awards, which went right down the line with the guild awards. But it's a worthy year of winners, so no reason to complain. And the show felt lean and tight, even if it was a bit dull. James and Anne were terrific hosts, letting their personalities hold our interest rather than corny scripting or showy silliness, although there was a bit of both. Anne's series of outfits and hairdos were pretty amazing, although James' interest clearly waned as the evening wore on. The curtain call with the winners was a nice final touch.

And since I'm in New York tonight, it's time to go to bed (much nicer than being home in London, where the sun has just come up on Monday morning).

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