On Sunday night the winners of the 82nd Academy Awards were revealed in a show that was light on the surprises, heavy on the emotions and served with a heaping helping of awkward.
As far as surprises go, the biggest of the night was when Sandra Bullock received Best Actress for her performance in the feel-good football flick “The Blind Side,” the kind of film that very rarely gets nominated, let alone wins.
Bullock’s acceptance speech was one of the night’s most sincere, and it came from an actress that very few people thought actually deserved to be there, making it all the more relevant during an award show that is frequently accused of being out of touch and irrelevant. Sadly, this was really the only surprise of a night that otherwise was very by-the-books.
As it turns out, this was the year of heart-wrenching acceptance speeches, with the camera showing plenty of teary-eyed celebs, both in the audience and at the podium.
Jeff Bridges took Best Actor for his performance as Otis “Bad” Black in “Crazy Heart,” and during his rather lengthy acceptance speech made everyone realize exactly what’s so great about him: he’s an endearing and earnest performer.
While nowhere near as surprising as Bullock’s win, Bridges really is the type of actor that the Academy routinely ignores in favor of a safer, more traditional performance—like last year, when Sean Penn beat out Mickey Rourke. Bridges has earned a reputation for eclecticism, but thankfully that didn’t prevent the Academy from giving him his dues.
The supporting acting awards went to Christoph Waltz and Monique, who were both heavily favored to take home the awards, despite being relative outsiders: Monique is best known for performances in comedies, while until his role in “Inglorious Basterds” Waltz had almost exclusively done German-language films. As Monique said, it’s nice to see the Academy actually choose roles over politics.
But, as always, it was the two biggest awards that generated the most discussion, and this year’s winner was the gripping action thriller “The Hurt Locker.” Director Kathryn Bigelow became the first female Best Director winner, and saw her film go on to be named Best Picture, making it one of the rare war films to take the honor.
Of course, the fact that the film won six awards won’t help it in the controversy department—the filmmakers are being sued by a Michigan soldier who claims that writer Mark Boal (who won Best Original Screenplay) used his story as the basis for the film. On the bright side, at least now they don’t have to worry about having enough cash to make this a clean out-of-court settlement.
It’s not much of a surprise that “Hurt Locker” took the top honor, but during the ceremony it seemed like “Precious” had a rather odd energy around it, which the camera operators only added to by constantly cutting to ecstatic young actress Gabourey Sidibe as she smiled, laughed and cried throughout the night. Unfortunately, the goodwill momentum wasn’t enough to give the film more than two wins, but really, Sidibe seemed to be the night’s biggest winner.
And the biggest losers? Unfortunately, that dubious distinction goes to the evening’s hosts—Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin—who really seemed to be going on autopilot for most of the show.
Whether it was poor writing or just the constraints forced upon them by a network that seemed to do everything in its power to make the show bland and unremarkable, Baldwin and Martin really phoned it in, looking more like the tired old hacks they pretend we think they are, than the witty cynics we really wish they could be.
The show’s biggest problem was the awkward moments, which pulled the audience out of what otherwise was a surprisingly earnest proceeding, as far as the Oscars go. So many of the acceptance speeches really felt authentic and heartwarming, but odd moments like Neil Patrick Harris’ atrocious opening dance number and Tom Hanks’ rushed, suspense-killing reveal of the Best Picture winner left audiences scratching their heads.
A lot was said about how important this show was in terms of keeping the Academy Awards relevant, and to be perfectly honest this show was just more proof of what’s wrong with it in the first place: it’s become incredibly stale.
From the winners to the hosts, the show was just too safe and easy; and while making it cool and edgy isn’t the answer, if the network wants to make future shows outstanding they will put the production in the hands of producers and hosts that will bring a spark of creativity that this year’s show was lacking so badly.
For a full list of winners visit Oscars.com.