Hollywood actors and producers experience 84th Academy Awards

Whitney Cyr

Managing Executive Editor


Everything about Oscar night was about a throw back.

Whether it was the old Hollywood style on the red carpet, to the fact that “The Artist,” a black and white silent film won the Best Picture prize, recalling Hollywood in the golden era was the theme for the night.

While Anne Hathaway and James Franco frittered away the chance to bring a little bit of youth to the Oscar telecast, Billy Crystal brought the exact opposite—an aged routine peppered with the one completely out of place racist joke about “The Help.” Billy Crystal stands alongside Bob Hope as the hosts who have had the job more times than any other, but it doesn’t mean he’s among the best of Oscar hosts.

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Can anyone even tell me what he’s been up to the past decade besides being in hibernation?

As far as films go this year, it was an incredibly weak field. “The Help” was actually a fairly-okay reviewed film, but the Academy loves to nominate Oscar-baity things like the Civil Rights Movement, even if it’s not as good a film as others. In addition, Meryl Streep continues her streak of putting in a brilliant performance in not-so-good movies (such as 2009’s “Julie and Julia” and 2006’s “The Devil Wears Prada”). Streep won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance as Margaret Thatcher in “Iron Lady,” a major, major upset for “The Help’s” Viola Davis, who continues to be an absolute powerhouse in unassuming roles.

Streep however, remains one of the best actresses we have ever seen, having been nominated a total of 17 times and winning twice now. It would be rash to say that Streep’s award was completely undeserved.

Also included in the relatively weak field this year was “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.” Based on one of my favorite books by Jonathan Safran Foer, “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close” has all the makings of what I would call “Oscar porn.”

Academy favorites Sandra Bullock and Tom Hanks are in it, as well as a solid performance from a child actor.

It also deals with the aftermath of Sept. 11, which gives it the sentimentality and historical reference point everyone can easily rally behind.

It is a story that is completely worth telling, but not in the sucrose-covered, pompous way director Stephen Daldry presents it. It was not worthy of its Oscar nomination, especially after it was so poorly reviewed, garnering a 47 percent out of 100 on the movie rating website, rottentomatoes.com. The categories weren’t completely filled with weak films, however, as some definitely earned their right a top Academy voters lists.

“Hugo” was an enchanting film, which swept most of the technical categories, was Martin Scorsese’s love letter to making films, but it still didn’t have enough substance to make it my favorite film of the year.

“Moneyball,” starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, was a film about baseball statistics, was also an entertaining film—it was solid, but in no way was it worthy of any of the major awards.

“The Artist,” the critics’ darling and outright favorite to win big Oscar night, was an absolutely delightful movie.

It’s stunning to see a French director so accurately capture the spirit of old Hollywood in such a charming way.

Star Jean Dujardin was debonair and amazing in the film, as was his costar Berenice Bejo.

One of the year’s most majestic, albeit confusing, films was the Terrence Malick masterpiece “Tree of Life.”

The film is dense and not for everyone, as Malick attempts to put the creation of the universe—a monumental and possibly impossible task—onto film.

Cutting back and forth between the birth of dinosaurs and the family life of a particular family in 1950s suburbia is not easy. Somehow, Malick pulls it off, and the cinematography proves to be a master class in the art form, but it was completely robbed come Oscar night, as “Hugo” took the prize.

“Midnight in Paris,” one of Woody Allen’s best films in recent years, was one of my personal favorites, won Best Original Screenplay.

Starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams, “Midnight in Paris,” was an amazing and charming film about what it might be like if we were transported into a different era and if the grass really is greener on the other side.

The film was imaginative, transporting Owen Wilson’s character, a writer, into the Roaring ‘20s, where he meets some of his idols in Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Some of the major upsets of the night happened in the Film Editing category, as well as the Best Visual Effects category. In the former, “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” David Fincher’s sleek and dark oil slick of a film, beat both heavy favorites “Hugo” and “The Artist” to win this category and as it should.

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” the film based off the first novel in Steig Larrson’s bestselling “Millennium” series, weaves two different stories together at the same time.

Daniel Craig’s Blomkvist begins investigating the cold case of a family who’s relative was murdered forty years ago.

At the same time, punk, genius computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (played with an astounding amount of reckless bravery by Rooney Mara) is trying to put herself back into control of her personal finances as the state deemed her incapable of controlling it herself.

The only connecting link between the two characters is that Lisbeth was commissioned to do a background check on Blomkvist before he was would be approved to conduct the cold case investigation.

The two disparate storylines take a very long time before they are weaved together, but the film’s editing keeps the film sharp and focused.

Finally, the other surprise of the night (beside’s the ridiculous speculation of Jennifer Lopez’s nipple slipping during her presentation of an award), was the Visual Effects category, which usually is ruled by the summer blockbusters.

This is the only time something like “Transformers 3” would ever receive some kind of award for its technical achievement.

This year, the surprisingly wonderful “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” starring James Franco and resident ape screen capture god Andy Serkis, was easily the favorite to win. However, the Academy also has the precedent of giving this award to a film that is nominated for Best Picture.

Very rarely has a film that is not nominated for Best Picture won against a film that is nominated.

Keeping this precedent in mind, it was no surprise the Academy went with “Hugo,” even though “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” was much more deserving of the award.

“Hugo” and “The Artist” were both the big winners of the night, garnering a total of five awards each, but with “The Artist” edging ahead of its competitor due to the amount of major awards it won (Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Director).

“Hugo” swept most of the technical categories, but it is not one of Scorsese’s most memorable films. Indeed, it is not a typical Scorsese film to begin with, but it is a magical and charming film nonetheless.

Other notable features of the show this year was the amazing “In Memoriam” tribute was extremely moving powered by the chorus and the singer accompaniment.

One of my favorite parts was the interviews with the actors talking about their first experience on the movie set and why they love movies.

It perfectly summed up why I love movies—that everyone can find a little piece of themselves in movies, they give audiences a chance to escape, and every once in awhile, they can actually find the truth.

While the Oscar telecast was a throwback to old Hollywood glory, this year was record-breaking. Christopher Plummer, at 82, is the oldest person to ever win an Oscar.

The little-seen, little-known about “Beginners” was an absolutely wonderful, quirky film about a father (Plummer) who reveals two very important secrets to his son (played by the always reliable Ewan McGregor).

Plummer’s youthful and spry performance was filled with just a touch of infectious mischief that made it one of my favorite performances of the year.

Octavia Spencer was the only fourth African-American woman in history to win an Oscar, following Hattie McDaniels in “Gone with the Wind” in 1939, Halle Berry in 2001’s “Monster’s Ball,” and 2006’s “Dreamgirls” performance by American Idol castoff Jennifer Hudson.

“The Artists” winning the top prize marks the first time in Oscar history a French film has ever taken the top prize. France usually dominates the foreign language categories, but not the Best Picture one.

The Oscars may be criticized for its glitz, glamour, and glorification of excess, and that it may not really matter in the scheme of things which movies were the best that year, it’s a celebration of what movies can do for audiences—in times like these, everyone needs an escape, the ability to lose yourself in fantasy and magic, or even something to make you think about the world a little bit more.

It’s the movies that offer us just that.


Whitney Cyr can be contacted at wcyr@keene-equinox.com

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