What a drag of predictability. A few minutes before the Oscars began, I shot an e-mail to Bold Life movie critic Marcianne Miller, predicting The Hurt Locker for Best Picture, Kathryn Bigelow for Best Director, Jeff Bridges for Best Actor (Crazy Heart), Sandra Bullock for Best Actress (The Blind Side), Christoph Waltz for Best Supporting Actor (Inglourious Basterds) and M’onique for Best Supporting Actress (Precious). Four hours later—after my outburst of Criswellism proved that I could have saved myself four hours—I found it unfortunate that money was not riding on this (like movie reviewers ever have any money). If ever an Oscar show needed an appearance by Sacheen Littlefeather, a streaker or even someone reading a message from the Viet Cong, this was that show.
When the best thing about an Oscar show is the show itself and not the eternity of suspense surrounding who will win, you’re in trouble. Instead of an eternity of suspense, it’s just an eternity. OK, so Neil Patrick Harris’ opening production number was pretty good, but it should serve as a lesson: If you come out of the closet, the Oscar folks will dress you up like Liberace and make you do a song and dance. Then too—and I’d been dreading this like a Martin and Lewis reunion—Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin made for surprisingly funny, occasionally downright edgy hosts. They helped make it an agreeable four hours, but they couldn’t make it a dramatic four hours.
The kindest thing to be said about the results is that it was a relief to see Avatar not get Best Picture and an even bigger one to see that The Blind Side rush stopped with Sandra Bullock. It’s not that I agreed with the choices made. (Out of the nominated films and directors, I’d have gone with Inglourious Basterds and Quentin Tarantino.) It’s simply that I didn’t—and don’t—find them embarrassing choices. There’s something to be said for that, but exciting it’s not. From a purely sociological standpoint, yes, it was high time that a woman was named Best Director—and that’s probably the biggest news of this year’s awards—but I’m not convinced it was fully deserved in this case.
This probably marks the first year where I’d actually seen all of the nominated short films—both animated and live action. Even when the nominated shorts have gotten some theatrical play in the past, it’s been after the fact. This year was different, and it supplied two of the evening’s only surprises. I never thought for a moment that Wallace and Gromit in “A Matter of Loaf and Death” would get passed over in favor of the snarky Logorama, but I’m kind of glad it did, even if Logorama goes on too long for its own good. I might have preferred to see the live-action short Instead of Abracadabra win out over The New Tenants. But the latter wasn’t a bad choice. At least the award didn’t go to the overbearingly self-important Kavi—a movie with all the subtlety of an old Sally Struthers’ “adopt a child” commercial.
I can never tell which way the Academy is going to go when it comes to Best Musical Score, but I was delighted to see Michael Giacchino win for Up. I would have voted the same way—and since he was up against Alexandre Desplat for Fantastic Mr. Fox and Hans Zimmer for Sherlock Holmes, that’s saying something. All of those were terrific scores.
I suppose I should feel pleased with myself for having pegged all the big awards, but I don’t. I would have loved to have been wrong. An upset would have made the evening memorable. The flurry of e-mails of the “Can you believe they got it right?” variety that came my way last year were a joy. Even the outpouring of “What on earth were they thinking?” messages that accompanied Crash beating out Brokeback Mountain in the 2005 awards gave us something to chew on and kvetch about. This year, about the best we’re getting is a resounding, “Meh,” and “Gee, Martin and Baldwin were actually funny.” Somehow that’s just not enough.