THE 2011 ACADEMY AWARDS: A RECAP

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First off, an apology: owing to an unexpected last-minute snafu — one that, as the saying goes, was “beyond my control” — Part II of my Oscar preview, which would have included my predictions in several categories, never made it onto the website as promised… and for that, I am sorry. [block_content]
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But, in true better-late-than-never fashion, here we are, one night after the Oscars, and I’m offering a brief recap of the Big Night, plus — yes — a comment or two on the results.  Not to mention my own personal “big reveal”: the one movie that (somehow!) did not find its way onto the list of Best Picture nominees, but darn well should have… and its opposite number: the flick that DID make it onto the list, but (in my estimation) didn’t deserve the honor.
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The show was hosted, of course, by James Franco and Anne Hathaway, the youngest hosts in Oscar history. Hathaway shouldered most of the load, popping up, it seemed, to introduce one celeb or another after nearly every commercial break; lovely, engaging, and completely at ease, she may — if she’s willing — find herself hosting the festivities for many years to come.  Their “Inception”-inspired opening — a montage featuring the two of them “guest-starring” in all of the Best Picture nominees (ah, the wonders of special effects) — was clever, and above all, funny.  Shades of Billy Crystal! (Who, I’m happy to report, made an appearance of his own — eventually — to “introduce” Bob Hope.)
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But the show wasn’t about the hosts; it never is.  It was about the awards, and as the evening rolled along, this is how they went:
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BEST ACTOR:
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Colin Firth, “The King’s Speech”
(I would have voted for Jesse Eisenberg of “The Social Network”.  As the insecure victim of a near-crippling speech impediment — who also happens to be the King of England — Firth was, undeniably, excellent.  But his was a sympathetic character, and Eisenberg’s was anything but; in fact, Mark Zuckerberg was the kind of character audiences love to loathe.  And yet Eisenberg made him a human being, just like the rest of us, only smarter…and richer.)
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BEST ACTRESS:
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Natalie Portman, “Black Swan”
(My nod would have gone to the endearing Annette Bening as one-half of the lesbian couple in “The Kids Are All Right”.  Twinkly-eyed at some moments, hard as nails at others, it was hard to take your eyes off her.  Portman was fine, but it was essentially a one-note performance.  Bening played many notes, and always perfectly in tune.  No contest.)
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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR:
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Christian Bale, “The Fighter”
(The Academy got this right, at least.  Watching the amazingly versatile Bale play the emaciated drug addict brother of Mark Wahlberg’s up-and-coming young boxer, it’s hard to believe that’s he’s also Batman.  One of the finest performances of the year — maybe THE finest performance — by perhaps the finest actor of his generation.  A must-see.)
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BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS:
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Melissa Leo, “The Fighter”
(Not much of an argument here; as Mark Wahlberg’s tough-talking mama, Leo was, as always, the real deal, but I would have cast my vote for her co-star — and rival for her son’s affections — the equally tough-talking, but still radiant, Amy Adams.  Leo had the much showier role, and took full advantage; Adams, with the much smaller role, did just as much with so much less.)
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BEST DIRECTOR:
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Tom Hooper, “The King’s Speech”
(For making a excessively talky film about computer geeks, of all things, not only tolerable but absolutely compelling…for turning a disagreeable know-it-all like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg into a character we not only wanted to watch but, at times, even found ourselves rooting for…David Fincher gets my vote for “The Social Network”.  Did Hooper do a good job? Certainly.  But, once again, “The King’s Speech” had a built-in rooting interest, while “Social Network” had nothing of the sort.  And yet Zuckerberg & Co. grew on us, anyway.  Splendid work with much more difficult, and challenging, material.)
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BEST PICTURE:
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“The King’s Speech”
(So elegant, so refined, so…bloodless.  I should have been rooting for the anguished king right from the get-go, but — except in the most minor way — I wasn’t.  Not like I was rooting for Mark Wahlberg’s underdog prizefighter in David O. Russell’s gritty examination of the boxing game in the far superior “The Fighter”–a movie that, on this year’s list of Best Picture nominees, is head and shoulders above the rest.)
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And, finally, in the MOST EGREGIOUS OMISSION category — my vote for the film that should have been nominated for a whole slew of awards, including Best Picture, but wasn’t, goes to (drumroll, please)…
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“The Town”
How could the Academy ignore almost completely one of the most well-acted, skillfully directed, and exciting films of the year? Under Ben Affleck’s near-flawless direction, this Boston-based cops-and-robbers thriller was a film that had a storyline that moved us, action scenes that excited us, and — in the case of Jeremy Renner, the film’s lone nominee for Best Supporting Actor — a bad guy who just plain scared us.  The dialogue crackles, Affleck himself –as a career criminal with a conscience — is excellent, and the film’s climax, featuring Renner doing his best James Cagney “Come and get me, coppers!” impersonation, was as eye-popping as good guy-bad guy confrontations get.  But, alas, this was an audience favorite, and even, arguably, a critic’s favorite…but not an Academy favorite. What happened? Where was the love? And why was this film left out of the running for Best Picture while the following overblown trifle was entered in the race, instead… the winner of an honor you couldn’t find anywhere on the Oscar telecast, itself… my not-so-coveted WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?!? award… Christopher Nolan’s headache-inducing, stomach-churning “Inception”.
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To think that “Inception” occupied a slot on the Best Picture list that could have — SHOULD have — gone to “The Town”.
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What were they thinking, indeed?
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Well, that’s what I thought of the results — some of them, anyway.  I guess I should just be glad that the entire telecast came in at a relatively brisk three hours, and that — bookending the show like the pros they are — the great Kirk Douglas seemed to be having a blast as he handed out the first award of the night (milk it, Kirk, milk it!) and the effortlessly charming and always funny Sandra Bullock got just as much of a kick out of giving away the next-to-last award of the evening. (With all due respect to the wonderful Miss Hathaway, maybe it’s Bullock who has a future hosting these shows.  What great timing!)
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And do you want to know the best news of all?
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Next year, we get to do the whole thing again!
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OSCAR REVIEW by Stuart R. Brynien