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Oscars 2011: Final Award is Anti-'Social,' But There's a Lot to Like as 'King' Gets Crowned
February 28, 2011  | By David Bianculli

Even if you were hoping for the timeliness of The Social Network to upset the staidness of The King's Speech at Sunday's 83d Annual Academy Awards, the ABC telecast provided drama until the end -- and lots of nice moments, and story angles, and even some welcome changes to carry over for next year...

Regarding the awards themselves, they were spread around rather liberally. King's Speech claimed four, all big ones: Best Picture, Actor (Colin Firth), Director (Tom Hooper) and Original Screenplay (David Seidler). Social Network got three, headed by Aaron Sorkin winning his first Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

As for the other major acting awards, Natalie Portman won Best Actress for Black Swan, and The Fighter claimed both Supporting Actor (Christian Bale) and Supporting Actress (Melissa Leo).

In other award categories, Inception won four (Cinematography, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing and Visual Effects), Alice in Wonderland two (Art Direction, Costume Design), and Wolfman one (Makeup). Toy Story 3, which won for Original Song, also won as Best Animated Film.


Regarding the Oscar show itself, which was co-hosted by Anne Hathaway and James Franco, most of the best touches came last.

Instead of repeating last year's time-wasting, momentum-killing trick of bringing out a quintet of actors to toast the various Best Actress nominees, and a similar number of actresses to toast the nominated actors, this year's show relegated those duties to last year's winners.

Jeff Bridges, therefore, last year's Best Actor winner for Crazy Heart, had something nice (and sometimes funny) to say about this year's Best Actress nominees. And Sandra Bullock, last year's winner for Best Actress for The Blind Side, had something funny (and sometimes nice) to say about this year's Best Actor nominees. It's an approach that worked nicely -- and next year, I hope we'll get to see and hear how Colin Firth and Natalie Portman will handle similar duties.

I also adored Steven Spileberg's introduction to the Best Picture category. It's worth repeating, and --especially if your favorite film did not win -- worth remembering.

"In a moment," he said, "one of these 10 movies will join a list that includes On the Waterfront, Midnight Cowboy, The Godfather and The Deer Hunter. The other nine," he added, his voice rising with excitement, "will join a list that includes The Grapes of Wrath, Citizen Kane, The Graduate and Raging Bull.

"Either way, congratulations. You're in very good company."

Loved it. And I found other things to love, too, including these scenes from my 2011 Oscars photo album:


When David Seidler won his first Oscar, for his decades-long labor of love King's Speech screenplay, his opening joke about his father predicting he would be "a late bloomer" was funny.

What was touching, though, was that Seidler himself, like the subject of his film, stuttered as a young man -- yet accepted his Oscar, on live TV, with a grace the King himself would have envied.


When Tom Hooper won his Oscar for directing that same film, he thanked his mother -- but for a much more specific reason than usual. She had attended, in Australia, the very first reading of The King's Speech when it was being workshopped as a play, and called her son to tell him she may have just found his next movie. Amazing.

And the moral of the story, as he explained to about a billion people worldwide: "Listen to your mother."


Luke Matheny, the NYU graduate student who won the Live Action Short Film Oscar for his God of Love short, thanked HIS mom -- "who did craft services for the film." That got a big laugh from the black-tie crowd -- as did the bushy-haired, lanky young filmmaker's opening remark, "I should have gotten a haircut."

There was a strange sort of reverse-field synergy going on when Jennifer Hudson, the American Idol singer turned Oscar-winning actress, introduced Gwyneth Paltrow, the former Oscar-winning actress who was there to sing one of the nominees for best song.


And speaking of best song, Randy Newman made me laugh, accepting his award after performing his "We Belong Together" number from Toy Story 3. It was his 20th nomination, but only his second win -- and when his acceptance speech threatened to run long, he apologized for always screeching the show to a halt, and added sarcastically, "I want to be good television so badly." This time, he was.

Good television, that is.


Other unexpected treats: After presenter Kirk Douglas hijacked the Oscars temporarily by pausing before announcing the winner and saying, "You know..." and taking a big pause, one of the next presenters, Justin Timberlake, impishly said the same thing and paused and smiled, making Mila Kunis laugh loudly. Me, too.

Co-hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway earned a split decision: Loved her, wasn't overly impressed by him. Her solo song, an attack on former Oscar host Hugh Jackman, was a belt-to-the-rafters winner.


And she was even better in the seven-minute film-parody opening, especially with her Boston accent for The Fighter and her "brown duck" costume for Black Swan.

And as a TV historian, two things made me especially warm. One was the salute to Oscar's most prolific host, Bob Hope, with accompanying clips. The other was Sorkin, whose TV work for The West Wing remains some of that medium's best screenwriting, proudly accepting an Oscar for writing The Social Network -- especially since, as he pointed out, a TV writer named Paddy Chayefsky had previously won an Oscar for another movie with Network in the title. (AS the title, actually.)

Nice nod to history, and to the past. Which reminds me of one final Oscar moment I liked this year: the annual obituary film reel, for once, was NOT interrupted by applause, which in previous years always had made that segment feel like one final, funereal popularity contest.

I don't know how producer-director Don Mischer got the live audience to sit on its hands -- but I applaud their lack of applause, and hope THAT becomes another annual Oscar tradition.




Tausif Khan said:

Before the Oscars people were saying that they knew James Franco was funny but were worried for Anne Hathaway. I thought the complete reverse. While Franco has done comedic movies I feel his humor (in his public appearances) is generated mostly from his awkwardness in public settings. Anne Hathaway on the other hand is funny because she tries to generate laughter. She has great comic chops. Last nights Oscars supported my claims. Anne Hathaway's unscripted asides were brilliant especially her commentary on her own dress. James Franco looked like someone should have sent him to bed.

Also David what did you think of the PS22 choir? Do you know if they had pre-taped the song (if they hadn't it must have felt like midnight to them)?

[The song wasn't pretaped - and if you hurry, you can see them right now on Oprah. -- DB]

Comment posted on February 28, 2011 11:14 AM

Phillip R. Crabb said:

Hello Dave,

The highlight for me was when Eli Wallach came out on stage. Even my 13 year old knew he was Tuco from "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly". For me it was one of those classic,"I'm glad your still alive" moments.

Too bad they couldn't have had him present with Clint Eastwood and had him yell out "Hey! Blondie! You know what you are? You are a sonofa - eeeeeyiiiieeeeeyiiiiiyaaaaaaaaaa!"

Franklin, NJ

Comment posted on February 28, 2011 12:39 PM

Sarah said:

After reading a couple of negative reviews I'm happy you pointed out only positive high points in the ceremony. I couldn't have said it any better so I am speechless and will only add a congrats to the nominees, winners, presenters and hosts.
Although I did love Sandra Bullock's ("making mothers late to pick up their kids because of James Franco on GH") and Jeff Bridges's intro to each nominee.
I'm not sure about hip and young but it did seem to fly by. In the end it doesn't matter what anyone else said, I enjoyed every minute. Only 364 days left before we do it again.

Comment posted on February 28, 2011 1:55 PM

David said:

Thanks for an intelligent and educated review of the Oscars. I'm old enough to remember many of the references made during the show including some of Bob Hope's hosting duties, and I enjoyed almost everything about last night's show. So much for appealing to a "younger demographic." Would you provide some perspective on the plethora of smart-assed, negative commentaries appearing elsewhere on the web and the TV? From where do these opinions come and are they genuine or designed to service some agenda? It's like the clothes. I've never been able to understand why one dress is b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l and another ghastly. Yet those judgments are pronounced with such flair and venom one would think there was something personal going on. Anyway, love your comments and your contributions to Fresh Air. Keep up the good work.

[My take on all the venom is, snark is easier to generate than perspective. Sort of what I hope makes this website stand out. -- DB]

Comment posted on February 28, 2011 7:56 PM

Sally W. said:

Personally, I thought Oscars night was nice, even if a little unsurprising or a tad dull (if only because it had rather unsurprising results: I kept hoping that my sentimental favored movie, "True Grit" would have won something, even if I did like "The King's Speech").

I thought that a lot of reviews about the Oscars broadcast was way too negative and hard on the presentation. Thus, I'm glad that you, David, and the other commenters on your blog did highlight the interesting and golden moments!

I loved director Tom Hooper's "Listen to your mother" bit! And, I thought Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi singing the song from "Tangled" was sweet (when I saw "Tangled," I kept wondering if that was really Zachary Levi's voice; so I'm pretty impressed - tv's Chuck is talented!; and I really liked that they kept it simple; simple can go a long way).

The no applause of the "In Memoriam" portion was respectful and Lena Horne's quote at the end of it was fitting and powerful.

I was charmed by Colin Firth's acceptance speech (but - as a disclaimer - I, like so many others, have a crush on him since "Pride and Prejudice"!).

I also like this new tradition of acknowledging all the nominees for their acting before announcing the winner. Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock did such nice jobs of it and I do think that people should be acknowledged for their amazing efforts (even if they don't get that statuette).

And, I agree: Speilberg's saying that the nine non-Oscar winners were in good company was solid. The video of the speech from "The King's Speech" as a foundation/background for the clips from all the ten Best Movie nominees was also nice. I think the Oscar folks really did a good editing to match the right clips to the king's words (words that observed the eve of World War II and concerned a changing world and desire for better and hope for peace in the face of danger - kind of timeless stuff, actually).

I liked that Anne Hathaway put in a lot of effort and spirit. I kind of wanted more from James Franco, but then again: I'm not sure how much to expect from actors who usually aren't in the position of hosting three hours of stuff (and I wasn't sure how much guidance were they given about their task).

The pacing of the whole thing was probably a bit off (but no worse than usual from past years - Billy Crystal was so right about that, when he came out on the stage and said as much). I thought the auto-tuning "musical" gag ran too long; it would've been funnier if it was tighter (but the gag did make the scenes from the Harry Potter and Twilight movies hilarious).

I was really touched to see all the winners come out at the end with the PS 22 kids' singing "Over the Rainbow." That was a great moment to end the night, with a great song. (even if a little late for the kids...!)

[I agree totally, on every point. I intended to mention both Zachary Levi and the Staten Island kids' choir in my review, but stopped short. I also didn't mention the "Modern Family" 2nd annual movie Charades promo, which may have more laughs per second than any promo ad in history. -- DB]

Comment posted on March 1, 2011 12:58 AM

wilberfan said:

Based on his brilliant SNL appearances, I'd say offer Justin Timberlake the hosting job next year. He could do no worse than the earnest (but sparkless) hosts this year.

[Great idea. I've been saying this, too. Even his minute as a presenter was funnier, and had more spontaneity, than almost anyone else in that role. -- DB]

Comment posted on March 1, 2011 2:14 PM

Neil said:

David, PS 22 is in, and the kids are from, Staten Island, not Brooklyn. Allow them their moment.

[Ah, another correction. Mea culpa AGAIN. I'll fix -- and thanks. -- DB]

Comment posted on March 1, 2011 3:24 PM
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