(March 8, 2010) — Another year, another snoozefest. Last night’s Oscar ceremony kicked off with a nice musical number from Neil Patrick Harris and Martin Short and then it slid on its ass for three hours and fell apart. Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin were game in their attempts to prop up the lame awards-show material, but they were somewhat restrained by the fact that a good half of the available jokes were off limits because freakin’ Alec Baldwin was the punchline. This is what happens when you allow the director of The Pacifer, Cheaper by the Dozen 2 and Bringing Down the House to run the show. You get tame Steve Martin 2.0, who lost his comedic fangs at the turn of the century and has been gumming his material ever since. Thanks, Adam Shankman, you flaming turd.
The Oscars themselves were mostly predictable — there have been so many awards shows already, and so many of the same names and movie titles have been recycled among them that it’s not terribly difficult to predict the winners based on previous awards. It was nice to see arguably the favorite, The Hurt Locker, take Best Picture over the biggest grossing movie of all time, Avatar (I still would’ve preferred Up in the Air), though I’d have hoped Kathryn Bigelow would’ve given a better speech and had not been so weirdly gracious to her ex-husband James Cameron, who had won Best Director just minutes before (it was a somewhat rare split for Best Picture and Best Director, but in this case, I actually think it was justified. I didn’t care for Avatar, but I can at least appreciate the effort, time, skill, and talent that Cameron put into it). The Hurt Locker’s win was a fitting anti-climax to a show that never really built up much momentum. Indeed, having 10 Best Picture nominees didn’t so much create more interest as simply drag out the show even more, as all 10 nominees had to have their two-minute video packages, which were each introduced by a different celebrity, which added another 60 seconds — all in all, those Best Picture nominee previews added an extra half-hour onto an already bloated telecast.
Oh, and so much for the idea of allowing the winners give their extended thanks backstage in an effort to cut down on the name-dropping. No one actually took that cue, did they? They never will. And this paradox was never so obvious as in this year’s show: We all want a shorter show, but we all get irritated when the winners are shuffled off-stage mid-speech.
Meanwhile, Christoph Waltz got his deserved Best Supporting Actor Oscar, as expected — he delivered the best acting performance of 2009 in any category, after all. Charming speech, too. He’s a good guy, and I look forward to seeing a lot more of him. MoNique took the award for Best Supporting Actress, and her speech was one of the few highlights of the night, even if it did feel kind of artificial.
It was a slight surprise to see Quentin Tarantino take the Oscar for Best Script, simply because Mark Boal was the favored nominee for The Hurt Locker. Tarantino gave one hell of a self-obsessed speech, but what else do you expect from him? He could’ve at least talked about himself in an entertaining way. Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner won for Best Adapted Screenplay for their Up in the Air, and Reitman was actually gracious enough this time to let Turner speak for a second or two before Reitman cut him off and turned his back to him. No surprise, either, that The White Ribbon took Best Foreign flick, while Up took Best Animated feature. Michael Haneke was just as depressing up on stage as he is in his films. He really does hate everyone.
Jeff Bridges won Best Actor for his role in Crazy Heart and got a standing ovation for simply appearing on stage. He deserved it, too. The Dude is one classy motherfucker, and he gave one classy motherfucking speech. It was only notable because Bridges delivered it, but sometimes, that’s really all you need.
The big surprise of the night, however, was that the Oscars didn’t surprise us at all in the Leading Actress category. I thought for sure they’d tap into their populist streak and pick Sandra Bullock for her role in The Blind Side just to piss off those of us with actual taste in movies. But they appropriately selected Carey Mulligan for her role in An Education, and Mulligan modestly shed an honest tear or two, and then rattled off a list of people she wanted to thank. Figures.
All in all, another lackluster Oscar ceremony, like almost all previous Oscar ceremonies. It’s faintly pathetic when one of the highlights of a show comes from Oscar presenters, although Robert Downey’s bit last night was pretty great, as was the awkward hilarity in seeing the height disparity between Tina Fey and Steve Carrell when they presented together. It’s the small details, people, that keep me going.