As I’m sure you’re aware, last night’s Academy Awards belonged (and rightly so) to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – it won a record-tying eleven times, including Best Picture. It wasn’t a huge surprise but it’s nice to see the final chapter of one of film’s greatest screen adventures ever completed with all those Oscars.
Of course, the Oscars are still one of the cheesiest TV events of the year and this year didn’t let me down – the humour was a touch edgier than it had been in the past, but Billy Crystal’s singing really has to stop. When your best expression of musical talent is serenading Clint Eastwood, you know something’s wrong. Stick to humour, please! Moreover, while this year’s Oscars were more upbeat than the past two years’ shows – 2002’s show was right off the heals of 9/11, 2003’s show was really dark and political due to the war in Iraq – where was the drama? The insanity? The surprises? Jack Nicholson? Where were these things? One upside: the length of the Oscars wasn’t nearly as long as it had been in the past – it clocked in at about 3.5 hours, which is better than when it ran an appalling 4.5 hours in the early 1990s.
Sean Penn’s victory in the Best Actor category is well-deserved. Who would have thought Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgmont High would win an Oscar one day? Ditto Charlize Theron for her role in Monster, which is a truly remarkable performance.
Probably the best part of the evening was the music. Annie Lennox won for Into The West but all the musical performances – especially Allison Krauss and Sting for the Cold Mountain theme song, You’ll Be My Ain True Love – were terrific. The most surreal moment was when Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara showed up as their characters from A Mighty Wind to perform their Grammy-winning track, A Kiss At The End of the Rainbow. The hyper-kenetic Belleville Rendez-vous from The Triplets Of Belleville was fantastic, although it had no realistic chance of winning given that the Oscars went through its’ 1920’s infatuation with Chicago last year. Still, go scour the web for that song – it’s loads of fun. Thankfully, all the dance numbers that sent the Oscars into cheesy hyper-space in the past are now banned for good.
This year was also marked by the absence of Cold Mountain in the Best Picture category, given that it was given glowing reviews. The real reason? Harvey Weinstein, the Executive Producer for Miramax Pictures. Rumour has it that the date of the Oscars was moved up a month in order to prevent Miramax from lobbying Academy voters to vote for Cold Mountain due to Weinstein’s less-than-savoury attempts to lobby for previous Best Picture awards (think Shakespeare In Love and Gangs Of New York). I suppose this was the year Weinstein was put in his place, so to speak.
But the best moment was when the brilliant beyond words Quebec-based director Denys Arcand won in the Best Foreign Language Film category for The Barbarian Invasions – the best post-9/11 film released thus far. He’s finally gotten the recognition he truly deserves, given he’s made some of the best Canadian films of the past decade, including Jesus of Montreal (if you haven’t seen this film, go rent it tonight and rent The Barbarian Invasions when it comes out on DVD next month – it’s really worth it). If you can handle subtitles, of course.
So all in all, the 76th Academy Awards was a good one. And if you can enjoy a show that features Joan Rivers, Michael Moore and Jim Carrey all at once, the self-indulgent acceptance speeches and the appearance of an obvious, pandering Barbara Walters Special, you can handle just about anything.