Monday, March 6, 2006

The 78th Annual Academy Awards

Okay, let's face it. The Academy Awards don't always nominate what is truly the best picture of any given year for the Best Picture award. As a case in point, the movie that won the award for Best Picture of 1933 was Calvacade, a film that has long since been forgotten by all but film historians and trivia buffs. Of what were truly the two best movies of that year, 42nd Street was nominated for best picture, but did not win. King Kong, regarded as one of the greatest films of all time alongside 42nd Street, was not even nominated! This year was no different. Peter Jackson's remake of King Kong was in my mind absolutely the best picture of the year, yet it was not nominated for Best Picture (superior even to the original), Best Actress (for Naomi Watts), and a number of other awards that it should have won. I find this a bit ironic as it was the only film from 2005 that the Academy saw fit to feature in their montage of epic films! At least King Kong did better than Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith, another one of the best films from 2005. It was nominated for only one award (for makeup). It should have been nominated for Best Picture as well.

Anyhow, enough of my diatribe on the Academy snubbing Peter Jackson this year, I suppose I should address the Awards themselves. I must say that I am happy that King Kong at least managed to win three of the four awards for which it was nominated. It won for Visual Effects, Sound Mixing, and Sound Editing. It did not win the award for Art Direction, which rightfully went to Memoirs of a Geisha. I must say that they did a good job of recreating 19th century Japan.

As to the other awards, I must say that I was a bit unhappy to see Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit take the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. I am a huge Wallace and Gromit fan. They are the best thing to happen in animated shorts in a long time. But in my humble opinion the best animated feature of the year is The Corpse Bride. This is a delightful bit of black comedy from the mind of Tim Burton, with some truly striking visuals and great music. Anyhow, I suppose I should mention that out of the three Best Animated Feature nominees this year, none of them were computer animated. The Corpse Bride and Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit are both stop motion animation, while Howl's Moving Castle was cel animation. So much for CGI overwhelming traditional animation techniques...

While I'm talking about The Corpse Bride, I must question why none of its songs (all of which were written by Oingo Boingo veteran Danny Elfman) were nominated in the Best Song category? Personally, I think both "According to Plan" and "Tears to Shed" deserved to be nominated. They were certainly better than the songs which were nominated, all of which I hated (although I must admit that Three 6 Mafia certainly know how to accept an Oscar).

I must say that I am happy to see they awareded Robert Altman a Lifetime Achievement Award. Altman is one of my favourite directors of all time. Indeed, I honestly believe he should have won more Oscars than he has in his career. I was also happy to see George Clooney receive the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Syriana. That having been said, I do wish his film Good Night and Good Luck (which he directed and co-wrote) would have picked up more awards. I think it should have won Best Original Screenplay and David Straitharn should have won the Best Actor award as Edward R. Murrow in the film. Here I should point out that I don't have any real objections to Philip Seymour Hoffman winning for Capote. He was impressive as well, but not as impressive as Straitharn in my mind.

As to the other awards, it seems to me that there were some real surprises. I thought for certain that Felicity Huffman would win the Best Actress award for Transamerica. I was rather surprised that Reese Witherspoon won for playing June Carter in Walk the Line. I was happy she did win, however, as she did do a very good job in the part. The biggest surprise for me, however, came when Crash won the award for Best Picture. For literally months it seems like Brokeback Mountain was considered the odds on favourite to win the award. When Ang Lee won the Best Director award, I thought for certain that Brokeback Mountain would take the Best Picture award as well. Well, it turns out I was wrong. I can't say I am unhappy that Crash won. Really, if it was up to me, King Kong would have won the wasn't even nominated. *grumble*

As to the ceremony itself, it seemed to moved more briskly than many Oscar ceremonies have in the past. I was shocked when I looked at the clock and realised it was over by 10:30 PM CST! I also thought the opening clip, in which previous hosts turned down this year's job, was hilarious. I think Jon Stewart was an acceptable host (despite what some critics have said). Some of his jokes fell flat (okay, a lot of his jokes fell flat...), but he was also very funny at times. My favourite moments came with spoof commercials in which various actresses campaigned for the Best Actress award. I thought the one for Keira Knightley ("Acting While Beautiful") was brilliant. Of course, the funniest people on the whole show were Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep, who did a marvelous impression of a Robert Altman film while presenting the Lifetime Achievement Award to the director. For anyone familiar with Altman's movies, which always feature overlapping dialogue, half finished sentences, and interruptions to the dialogue, I imagine this was absolutely hilarious. If I do have one complaint about this year's Oscars, it is that they should have had Kate Beckinsale as one of the presenters. Every awards ceremony should have Kate Beckinsale as a presenter....

Anyhow, it seems to me that in some respects this year's Oscars differed little from any other year. Some of the odds on favourites won in their categories. There were some surprises. And what was the best film of the year wasn't even nominated for Best Picture...

Good night and good luck, everyone.

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