Hollywood’s annual gala to celebrate the finest in film concluded Sunday night as the Oscars went off with little surprise, until the final award in the broadcast. “Crash” upset “Brokeback Mountain” for best picture, taking home its third Academy Award of the night.
“Brokeback Mountain,” generally considered the front-runner for the Oscar, based on its strong showing at other award shows leading up to the Oscars, received a total of three awards.
In fact, three seemed to be a popular number during the solid, but unspectacular broadcast, as “King Kong” and “Memoirs of a Geisha” also took home three Oscars each – all in technical categories. Neither of those films managed nominations in any of the major categories.
Among the acting categories, all four were first-time winners. Phillip Seymour Hoffman won for his portrayal of author Truman Capote in “Capote,” while Reese Witherspoon received a best actress Oscar for her performance as June Carter Cash in “Walk the Line.” Supporting actor and actress nods went to George Clooney for “Syriana” and Rachel Weisz for “The Constant Gardener.”
“Crash” and “Brokeback Mountain” each garnered screenplay Oscars, while Ang Lee was honored as best director. However, other best picture hopefuls, “Good Night, and Good Luck” and “Munich” both were shut out in the five categories for which they received nominations.
Jon Stewart from TV’s “The Daily Show” made his debut as Oscar host, with middling results. The popular comedian had his moments, but the telecast was missing much of the irreverent humor that he and his staff bring to the typical “Daily Show” episode. Perhaps the show’s producers restricted Stewart’s freedom, but where were any reports from his show’s correspondents? Plus, a golden opportunity to have Stewart reunite with former correspondent Steve Carell was lost, as he appeared as a presenter with Will Ferrell.
One segment that featured a humorous faux negative campaign ad from one of the nominees for sound editing hinted at the funnier direction the show could have gone.
Among the more interesting portions of the evening was the performance from Three 6 Mafia for best original song for the hip-hop number “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” from “Hustle & Flow.” The song won the Oscar, but was a real departure from the normally stoic and generally boring performances trotted out on stage in that category. Still, Stewart made a funny, yet pointed observation shortly after the group grabbed their Oscar – noting that for those keeping score, it’s Three 6 Mafia - 1, Martin Scorsese - 0.
Other observations from the 3-hour and 33-minute broadcast:
• Was it just me or did Charlize Theron’s bow on the shoulder of her dress look to be getting bigger as the evening went on?
• It's starting to feel like only the host of the show gets more screen time than Jack Nicholson these days. I mean, he hasn't even been in a movie since 2003. And was that just coincidental seating, or was Keira Knightley Jack's date?
• It’s good to encourage award winners to keep their acceptance speeches short, but having the band practically playing the people off the stage the moment they got up there seemed a bit rash. Not to mention it had to be a bit distracting for the winners.
• Two categories that were weakened for their lack of nominees were best visual effects (where was “Star Wars: Episode III”?) and best makeup (how does “Sin City” miss out here?). For that matter, “Star Wars” only got one nomination total, while “Sin City” was shut out entirely. Regardless of what you thought of those films’ overall quality, they were pretty amazing on the technical level.
• George Clooney’s acceptance speech that mentions his pride at being a part of the Academy seemed to be a bit self-congratulatory – especially for mentioning the 1939 Oscar going to Hattie McDaniel for “Gone with the Wind.” He referenced how bold that was of the Academy, as blacks were still forced to sit in the back at the time.
Yeah, but George, how long did it take for the Academy to honor a black woman for best actress? Answer: 2002, when Halle Berry won. That’s pretty slow progress. To my knowledge, no black woman has even been nominated in that category since then.
Don’t get me wrong – I like George Clooney. But let’s face it: The Academy has a long ways to go to seem truly progressive. Maybe finding a way to break up the predictability of the annual broadcast would be a good step. Then again, giving an Oscar for a song about a pimp doesn’t happen every year.