The most sincere Oscars ever? Or, really, just the thriftiest? Here’s a record of my liveblogging of the 81st Annual Academy Awards.
Though I’m feeling as lacking in Oscar predictive mojo as I’ve ever in my life, let’s go ahead and put these out there anyway:
Best picture: “Slumdog Millionaire.” Director: Danny Boyle.
Lead actor: Mickey Rourke. Lead actress: Anne Hathaway. Supporting actor: Heath Ledger. Supporting actress: Penélope Cruz. Animated feature: “WALL-E,” unless God is angry. Doc: “Man on Wire.” Foreign language film: “The Class.” Adapted screenplay: “Slumdog Millionaire.” Original screenplay: “Milk.”
12:00: All in all, the ceremony was warm and well done, a practically frugal three and a half hours, and I love Jackman’s opening number even as he scarcely seemed on stage after that except for that odd bit of insistence that the musical has lurched, George Romeroesquely, back from the dead. But while my heart was toasty and all, giving the prize to “Slumdog Millionaire” kind of misses the point of the whole Oscars, no? Aren’t they there to award Hollywood for being Hollywood? In which case we shouldn’t be saluting a scrappy underdog semi-indie, we should be applauding Serious Acting by the heavily Botoxed. Feh! Curse you, new sincerity!
11:54: Steven Spielberg presents BEST PICTURE to “Slumdog Millionaire,” and the people I’m watching with get completely distracted with arguing over “Schindler’s List” and sentimentality and almost don’t notice as billions of lovable Indian cast-members gather on stage to accept the award.
11:38: I love the weird logic with which each previous winner is assigned to introduce which nominee. Robert De Niro razzes Sean Penn (costar in “We’re No Angels”) and actually looks like he’s having a good time, while Penn looks extremely red. And Ben Kingsley intros Mickey Rourke because… they’re both crazy? BEST LEAD ACTOR goes to Sean Penn (?!), cruelly denying the world another gorgeous Rourke digression. Penn calls the crowd “Commie, homo-loving sonaguns” for giving him the prize, says his assistant is his best friend and admits in general “I know how hard I make it to appreciate me, often.” He thanks America for electing an “elegant man” president. For Penn, it’s a pretty slick presentation.
11:22: BEST DIRECTOR goes to Danny Boyle. He compares himself to Tigger, and thanks Mumbai.
Again, five past best actresses present the award. “You’re not afraid to show both your light and your dark side,” Shirley MacLaine says to Anne Hathaway. C’mon now, just because she took a role that involved not washing her hair? Sophia Loren is terrifying and fabulous and all-over a very burnt sienna. And the Oscar goes to Kate Winslet for “The Reader,” and I don’t begrudge her a win, finally, but did it have to be for the ridiculous sexy Nazi movie? She calls for her dad, and he whistles so that she can see where he is, and it’s adorable and makes up for her strange helmet hair.
11:08: FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM goes to “Departures”?! But why? Of the three people I’ve found who’ve actually somehow seen it, not one of them has even liked it. Blargh! This category is permanently fucked up. Let’s just get rid of it. If you can’t do something right, why do it at all? Next year, let’s just replace it with Rob Lowe and Snow White doing a number from “High School Musical.”
And now it’s In Memoriam, my favorite part of the whole Oscars — Queen Latifa sings us through, and the camera won’t. Just. Stay. On. The Screen. Now — Ledger or Newman for final look? Ah, Manny Farber makes it in the montage — film critics deserve love after all. Newman for the end, and no Ledger at all, was he in last year’s? It makes one wonder about the rules of the death montage, and if you fall into the Feb gap, that means you can’t make the cut. Plan ahead.
11:02: BEST SCORE goes to A.R. Rahman for “Slumdog Millionaire,” “God is great” in Tamil closing his speech out. Song noms are all clumped together, rather than the performances being scattered throughout the ceremony, because there are only three and two are from the same movie. It’s an ethnic explosion! Why are there taiko drums? No M.I.A., she must be home nursing. BEST SONG goes to “Jai Ho” from “Slumdog.”
10:43: “Academy Award nominee Eddie Murphy” just sounds wrong. Murphy intros the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for Jerry Lewis, “from one Nutty Professor to another.” Why is the montage of cross-eyed Lewis slapstick set to Coldplay again? And will they show a clip from “The Day the Clown Died”? Holocaust! Oscars! Lewis: “To all of you people in the movie business, it’s such a joy to be a part of you and what you do.”
10:27: Will Smith intros the special effects prize, looking extra-sparkly himself. SPECIAL EFFECTS goes to “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” as you do. How far back do they keep the effects people? It look like they had to leap over a barricade to get to the stage. “Boom goes the dynamite,” says Smith, as he flubs a line. SOUND EDITING goes to “The Dark Knight,” because, as someone here observes, the prize always go to the loudest movie. SOUND MIXING to “Slumdog Millionaire.” Wow, Will Smith got stuck with all the techy awards. EDITING goes to “Slumdog Millionaire.”
10:15: Werner Herzog! I love you, Werner Herzog. And so does the Academy, which is why he gets to bookend the clip segment, cut together by Albert Maysles. Bill Maher (!) intros the category, and self-deprecatingly mentions his own (crappy) doc, which has made, I’d guess, more money than all of the nominees together. BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE goes to “Man on Wire.” Unsurprise! Philippe Petit runs up to the stage through the crowd: “YES!” And then he does a magic trick! And balances the Oscar on his chin! Smashing.
SHORT SUBJECT DOCUMENTARY goes to “Smile Pinki.”
10:09: Five (five!) support actor winners present the next award, including Cuba Gooding Jr., who basically imploded after his win. Christopher Walken gets to intro Michael Shannon, as they’re both the weird ones, which leaves Kevin Kline to intro Heath Ledger, which is who BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR goes to, of course. Word is the inevitable heartwrenching nature of the acceptance speech, from Ledger’s family, is why the award was left later in the ceremony. And it is totally heartwrenching.
9:55: Hugh, if you must insist on singing “Grease” snippets, you’re going to destroy my new goodwill toward your hosting abilities.
9:46: Does it seem like “The Reader” had ended up the butt of most of the jokes? Sexy Nazis can only take you so far. Apatow-scripted “Pineapple Express” segment is the highlight of the ceremony BY FAR. Just turn the TV off until the In Memoriam montage — a Janusz Kaminski joke, amazing! BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT goes to “Spielzeugland (Toyland),” because it’s about the Holocaust and despite making fun, we all know that Holocaust movies must be awarded with Oscars.
9:36: Jackman’s back, finally! Hurries through the cinematography intro. Another Joaquin Phoenix spoof, this one with Ben Stiller — but whoops, the Spirit Awards already did it last night. On top of that, I don’t know that you earn the right to make fun of someone at the Oscars when he’s been nominated twice, you’ve kind of already bet on that pony. BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY goes to “Slumdog Millionaire,” with its wild slumrunning camerawork.
Jessica Biel was this year’s sacrificial Sci-Tech starlet.
9:27: Let me just say it: Robert Pattinson is funny-looking. And so smirky! And his head is abnormally big, even for an actor! And this ode to movie love set to the silky sounds of Coldplay isn’t working for me, mostly because it seems a desperate bid to include footage in the ceremony that the general public actually saw. Final clip: WALL-E and EVE, doomed by their lack of lips to having to settle for a forehead tap.
9:18: For the record, three other people in the room with me are also liveblogging these awards. ART DIRECTION goes to “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” drat, I’d picked “Revolutionary Road.” That movie had to be good for something, no?
Ooh, awkward pause before the nomination announcements for COSTUME DESIGN, which goes to “The Duchess” for all its corsetry. Michael O’Connor, the winner, is really not looking well. Some, please, get that man a glass of water and an Airborne.
MAKEUP to “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” though no one actually knows where the make-up ends and the CGI begins there.
9:05: “I’m so sorry, Mr. Katzenberg, I don’t know why we let him out of the house,” Jennifer Aniston says of Jack Black when he slags off Dreamworks. BEST ANIMATED FEATURE goes to “WALL-E,” and the world won’t be destroyed by 40 days and 40 nights of rain. I do wish the film had been up for Best Picture, it deserved it. Stanton thanks his high school drama teacher for casting him as Barnaby in “Hello, Dolly!” and inspiring his career.
BEST ANIMATED SHORT goes to “La Maison en petits cubes,” which was actual my favorite of the batch. “Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto,” says director Kunio Kato, brilliantly. I hope that fulfilled a bet of some sort.
8:54: Tina Fey gets more applause than Steve Martin as they head up to present the screenplay awards. And damn right, with “The Pink Panther 2” memories fresh in our mind. I wonder what the “WALL-E” screenplay looks like, sans dialogue for so much of it. BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY goes to Dustin Lance Black for “Milk.” “God does love you,” he assures everyone smarting from the passing of Prop 8.
BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY goes to… “Slumdog Millionaire.” Thank God. No Eric Roth. No “The Reader.” “Repressed English writers have to write love stories because they can’t actually say what they mean.”
8:41:To Mickey Rourke: “We have a seven second delay, but if you win, we switch to a 20 minute delay.”
Five Oscar-winning supporting actresses! Another standing ovation already! Viola Davis is truly gifted at crying. BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS goes to… Penélope Cruz. Oh, no, now she has to kiss everyone on stage! She’ll never get to her speech! Cruz thanks Pedro Almodóvar. “I grew up in a place called Alcobendas, where this was not a very realistic dream.” It’s actually quite good, as early acceptance speeches go.
8:30: Oh. Yes. Let’s do this. Leave your troubles outside. So the economy is disappointing, forget it! In here life is beautiful.
Jackman swedes his own opening number. There’s something very off about seeing an straight-on working actor attempting hosting duties. Who will hire all the professional “personalities” now? They have no other skills, people. “Ladies and gentlemen, your Craigslist dancers!” did make me giggle. And now it’s becomes a Nixon/Frost slash fanfic musical. And now he’s doing the Ram Jam speech? This is amazing. I have no words for this. “I’ll RENT ‘The Reader’!” he promises at the climax. I’m sorry I ever doubted you, Hugh Jackman.