Argo takes center stage in lackluster ceremony
by Sara Michelle Fetters -
SGN A&E Writer
THE 85TH ACADEMY AWARDS
I'm having a hard time coming up with anything of note to write in regards to Sunday's Academy Awards. Argo was obviously the big winner, taking home three Oscars for Best Picture, Adapted Screenplay (Chris Terrio), and Editing (William Goldenberg), but as nice as that news is (the movie did make my personal top 10 for 2012, after all), it doesn't exactly have me excited. This year's telecast was something close to a disaster, as preordained by none other than Captain Kirk himself. 'Family Guy' creator and Ted director Seth MacFarlane lorded over a tired, unfunny, tasteless, sexist, homophobic, oftentimes sad, and overall embarrassing 210-minute-plus abomination offering precious few highlights.
It really was that bad. A celebration of James Bond showcased a poorly edited montage of clips succeeded by the legendary Dame Shirley Bassey belting her heart out but with the sound mix so off you could barely hear her until the final, beautifully breathless note. A tribute to the last decade of movie musicals was really nothing more than an excuse to showcase Chicago, Dreamgirls, and Les Misérables and forget about every other entry in the genre (no Hairspray, no Mamma Mia!, no Nine, and gosh-darn-it no The Muppets, just to name four) that also saw release in that timeframe. Adele sang the theme to Skyfall but faced the same sound-mixing issues that vexed Bassey (as did Norah Jones when it came time to belt out the theme to Ted). The Avengers re-assembled (sans Chris Hemsworth) and managed to look like fools who couldn't order decent shawarma, let alone save the planet. MacFarlane sang a song about 'boobs' with the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles, which sounds much better in concept than it was in execution. Worse, his final number with Kristin Chenoweth was a borderline disaster, and by the look on their faces it was apparent both performers knew it.
As for the awards themselves, Oscar didn't play favorites, doling trophies out left and right making sure no single movie left the auditorium with more than four. Ang Lee once again went home as Best Director-winning bridesmaid seeing his film (in this case Life of Pi, not Brokeback Mountain) lose out on the big prize yet still win multiple statues (in this case for Visual Effects, Cinematography, and Original Score). Les Misérables nabbed a trio of awards, Anne Hathaway singing her way to Best Supporting Actress while the film took home additional Oscars for Makeup and Sound Mixing.
In many ways Steven Spielberg's Lincoln came out the night's biggest loser, the critically revered historical epic managing to win only two of the 12 categories it was nominated in. Granted, while victory for Production Design was something of a surprise, Daniel Day-Lewis walking away with his third Best Actor Oscar, a record for the category, certainly was not, his trip to the podium to receive the award from last year's Best Actress winner Meryl Streep as forgone a conclusion as any the night possessed. But overall, Lincoln's poor showing was something of a minor shock, the film entering the pantheon of Spielberg awards-bait 'sure things' like The Color Purple, E.T., Munich, Saving Private Ryan, and War Horse that underperformed at the actual ceremony.
NO SILVER LINING
If there was another loser, though, it had to be director David O. Russell's Silver Linings Playbook. While Jennifer Lawrence did beat out stiff competition from Amour's Emmanuelle Riva and Zero Dark Thirty star Jessica Chastain for Best Actress, the widely admired comedy-romance-drama hybrid came out a loser in all seven of the remaining categories in which it was nominated. For a while many, including myself, thought this box-office hit was going to prove to be a serious contender for the top awards.
Of moderate surprise were two wins for Django Unchained, one for Quentin Tarantino's screenplay and the other for Best Supporting Actor. Pixar's Brave, by most accounts the category's fourth- or fifth-best film (and this is coming from someone who liked it a ton), took home the prize for Animated Feature, while Michael Haneke's devastating Amour came out on top as Best Foreign Language Film. In the Documentary Feature category the suitably entertaining, but not exactly deep or transformative, Searching for Sugar Man managed a win, while the 007 adventure Skyfall hit the bull's-eye twice, scoring for Original Song and Sound Editing. That latter victory did come with an asterisk, however, Zero Dark Thirty tying in the category a rare Oscar feat that has happened on only five previous occasions (the last coming in 1995 in the Live Action Short category).
THE OBAMA SURPRISE
I don't have a ton more to say. There were some great speeches - Day-Lewis, Haneke, Affleck, Tarantino, Lawrence, and Documentary Short winners Andrea Nix and Sean Fine the obvious standouts - and I loved Barbra Streisand's tribute to Marvin Hamlisch during the In Memoriam sequence, but for the life of me I don't seem to have the energy or the passion to transcribe any of what they said right now. I'm still too annoyed at the telecast in general, upset at large chunks of it (Visual Effects winners Bill Westenhofer, Guillaume Rocheron, Erik De Boer, and Donald Elliott were callously played off to the main theme of Jaws just as they were delivering a heartfelt thank-you to currently bankrupt effects house Rhythm & Hues), so much so even the winners I'm happy for and a surprise appearance by First Lady Michelle Obama to announce Best Picture can't erase the bad taste the show itself left in my mouth.
This is unfair, of course, as 2012 did prove to be one of the strongest years for cinema we've seen in quite some time. The 85th Academy Awards did recognize this fact, the diversity of nominations and the way the actual Oscars were divided between so many quality entertainments representative of the fact. But as an entertainment writer and a passionate lover of film I feel that every viewer who suffered through this abomination deserved better, and while we're not talking about Rob Lowe dancing with Snow White, part of me can't help but think as far as long-term memories are concerned the aftereffects of this monstrosity could prove to be far worse than anything we can imagine at the present time.
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